Modelling Supernatural Belief: Cognition and Personality
|Schofield, M., Baker, I., Staples, P. and Sheffield, D.
This study aimed to create and test a new model of supernatural belief based on cognition and personality. Two theories of belief in the paranormal were evaluated in two studies: the Cognitive Deficits Hypothesis and the Psychodynamic Functions Hypothesis. The first study examined the relationship between cognition, supernatural belief, critical thinking (how a person reasons and makes decisions), cognitive reflection (a person's ability to check for intuitive errors) and confidence, in particular when looking at different types of belief such as paranormal and religious. The second study incorporated the personality measures of dogmatism, schizotypy and the fifteen factors of personality alongside supernatural belief and cognition. Study two further extended the findings of study one by building a new model of belief, cognition, and personality. Study one recruited 179 participants. A MANOVA followed by a Discriminant Functions Analysis was used to examine cognition and revealed one profile, which was named "reflective thinkers". The profile was more likely to contain people who were sceptics, and believers in a range of phenomena, and least likely to contain paranormal believers. Study two recruited 152 participants and looked at personality alongside cognition. A MANOVA followed by a Discriminant Functions Analysis revealed two profiles that were interpreted as "sensitive and abstract thinkers" and "reflective metacognitive dogmatists". The "sensitive and abstract thinkers" profile was least likely to contain sceptics and religious believers, and more likely to contain people who believed in the paranormal alone, and believers in both religion and the paranormal. The "reflective metacognitive dogmatists" profile was most likely to contain religious believers, and believers in both religion and the paranormal, and least likely to contain paranormal believers. Following this analysis, Structural Equation Modelling was used to test seven different models of personality, cognition and belief. The model with the best fit to the data found that personality predicted belief, which in turn predicted cognition. Studies one and two found the "sceptics" and "religious believers" had remarkably similar profiles. The "believers" (people who believe in both religious and paranormal phenomena) and "paranormal believers" (people who believe in the paranormal only) were not reflective thinkers, and not metacognitively active. However, spiritual (religious and paranormal) and paranormal belief may require a more intuitive thinking style to be present. These two studies showed limited support for the Cognitive Deficits Hypothesis and Psychodynamic Functions Hypothesis. The Structural Equation Model showed that schizotypy was the main predictor of belief, and while belief predicted cognition, this relationship could be reciprocal.
|supernatural belief; religious adherents ; cognition; structural equation modelling
|Journal of the Society for Psychical Research
|84 (3), pp. 129-156
|Society for Psychical Research
|Web address (URL)
|01 Jul 2020
|Publication process dates
|28 Sep 2022
1views this month
0downloads this month