Can a restriction of working memory capacity explain the expression of belief in paranormal phenomena?
Henshall, Cailey. Dissertation.doc (754.5Kb)
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Previous theories and research have pointed to a possible cognitive deficit account which can explain the reporting of paranormal belief. Specifically Dudley (1999) found that restricting working memory can increase reported paranormal belief due to an inhibition to fully critically evaluate paranormal phenomena. The current investigation drew on Dudley’s (1999) study and adapted the original methodology in order to fully understand the reliability of a working memory account for explaining why certain people believe in the existence of paranormal phenomena. In total 84 female and 36 male participants either completed the Tobacyk (1988) Revised Paranormal Belief Scale or an experimenter version which included more reverse-formatted statements. The two questionnaires were either completed alone, or accompanied with a rehearsal of a 5-digit number sequence in a memory task condition. It was found overall that neither the questionnaire style nor the type of condition significantly affected reported paranormal belief. However it was found that significantly higher paranormal belief was reported when participants completed the reverse-coded version of the questionnaire in the memory condition. Therefore this study cannot conclusively agree with Dudley’s (1999) claims, but does provide suggestive evidence regarding how working memory and critical thinking can influence the extent of agreement with the existence of paranormal phenomena. Future research in this area could further clarify the working memory account.