The Making of Paranormal Belief: History, Discourse Analysis and the Object of Belief
White, Lewis. Undergraduate Dissertation. 2013.docx (147.8Kb)
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The present study comprises a discursive analysis of a cognitive phenomenon, paranormal beliefs. A discursive psychological approach to belief highlights that an important component of the cognitivist work has been how the object of paranormal belief has been defined in formal study. Using discourse analysis, as developed as a method in the history of psychology, this problem is explored through analysis of published scales. The findings highlight three rhetorical themes that are deployed in the academic discourse: how the relationship between science and the paranormal, the term used to denote the object of belief, is portrayed; how the validity and characteristics of belief are constructed; and how justification of the scope of the object of belief is presented. This comprises empirical evidence of the common rhetoric employed by believers and disbelievers to present their psychological knowledge as objective; and yet it would appear that distinct rhetorical strategies are deployed in order to construct the object of belief in ways that are reflective of researchers own beliefs. Consideration is given to the implications of the present findings, and it is argued that for psychology to be become increasingly valid and valuable, discourse analysts and psychological historians should be more strident in their critiques of mainstream psychology, with confidence in the implications of their empirical evidence.