Experiences perceived as paranormal are not uncommon, according to Richard Wiseman, a University of Hertfordshire psychologist and author of “Paranormality,” (Macmillion, 2011), which delves into the science (or lack thereof) of hauntings, psychics, telepathy and other supposedly inexplicable phenomena.
The thrust of the book was to figure out why people have these weird experiences despite spirits and psychics and ghosts not existing, he said.
“There’s also the notion that these beliefs are very comforting. So if you’re ill, then the idea of the psychic healer is a nice idea,” Wiseman told LiveScience in July. “And then there’s the influence of the paranormal industry. The books, the television shows, the psychic hotlines all have a vested interest in getting the public to believe this stuff.”
As for who believes, a small study published in the Skeptical Inquirer magazine in 2006 showed that seniors and grad students were more likely than freshmen to believe in haunted houses, psychics, telepathy, channeling and a host of other questionable ideas. So higher education seems to lend itself to belief in the supernatural. In additon, Gallup Poll in 2001 found younger Americans far more likely to believe in the paranormal than older respondents. A 2009 Pew Research Center survey revealed that about half of Catholics and black Protestants believed in or had experienced at least two of a list of supernatural phenomenon. The list included: belief in reincarnation, belief in spiritual energy located in physical things, belief in yoga as spiritual practice, belief in the “evil eye,” belief in astrology, having been in touch with the dead, consulting a psychic, or experiencing a ghostly encounter.