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Investigation into Gender Differences in Paranormal Beliefs within Society: Introduction

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Introduction

Introduction The late astronomer Carl Sagan once commented that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence (Sagan, 1980). Claims of paranormal phenomena are most certainly claims of an extraordinary nature, and the task of obtaining this extraordinary evidence is the job of the parapsychologist. According to the Journal of Parapsychology, the term paranormal describes "any phenomenon that in one or more respects exceeds what is deemed psychically impossible according to current scientific assumptions". The term encompasses such anomalous phenomena such as telepathy (the transfer of information between individuals by means other than known sensory channels), extra-sensory perception (the acquisition of information by means other than the known physical senses or deductions from past experience), ghosts and astrology amongst others. Such beliefs are incredibly prevalent in today's society, to an extent out of proportion with the evidence for such phenomena. Approximately 86% ('Worldwide Adherents of All Religions, Mid-2005', Encyclop´┐Żdia Britannica) of the 6.7 billion human beings on this planet collectively share and rejoice in different sets of paranormal belief systems, even though they are not traditionally considered as such due to the extent to which they are woven into the fabric of human nature. Adherents to these belief systems believe that humans in the past were capable of performing acts which defy that defy the laws of physics, disagree ...read more.

Middle

The Rhines found that the results were far beyond what would be expected from chance alone (Blackmore, 1995), and they claimed that they had established the existence of ESP. However, these claims faced considerable opposition within the scientific establishment. The degree of isolation between receiver and experimenter was questioned, thus it was claimed that information could have been passed unwittingly between the two and they questioned the precision of the checks performed on the data. When the Rhines tightened up their experimental procedure, these above chance results became much rarer, although they remained sufficiently common to constitute evidence for ESP. When psychologists without a belief in ESP tried to replicate these findings, they failed to produce any positive results. Another famous experiment which yielded positive results for the existence of paranormal phenomena was the ganzfeld experiments of 1974, conducted by Honorton and Harper. In a typical ganzfeld experiment, there is a receiver placed in a chair in a room with halved ping-pong balls placed over their eyes, with red light being shone on them. They also wear a set of headphones through which "white noise" (static) is played. During this time a sender observes a randomly chosen target and attempts to send this information to the receiver. ...read more.

Conclusion

Data was obtained from 1,765 people, including answers to questions including "Do you believe in ESP?", "Is there such a thing as psychic powers?" and "Do you believe miraculous healing sometimes occurs?" 64% of females indicate a firm belief in paranormal activity, whereas only 36% of males did so. This supported the hypothesis that sceptics of paranormal phenomena tend to males, and believers in the paranormal tend to be females. This was linked to a difference in the importance the two sexes's assigned to "spirituality". Is this really the case? Do females tend to believe in the existence of paranormal phenomena more than males? Aim: To ascertain the ubiquity of paranormal beliefs in contemporary Northern Irish society amongst a student population, and discover whether gender has a role to play in the development of such beliefs in humans. "Paranormal belief" referring to a belief in phenomena which cannot be explained by the laws of science, including unsubstantiated religious claims. This will be conducted via the design and distribution of questionnaires testing the degree of the individual's belief in paranormality. Alternate hypothesis: Significantly more female students will show paranormal belief than male students (one-tailed hypothesis). Null hypothesis: Significantly more female students will not show signs of paranormal belief when compared to male students. Any difference will be due to chance alone. ...read more.

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Summary

As an introduction to this particular topic the writer has included quite a lot of valuable information. A little more time however, needs to be spent of defining the paranormal with some historical references too. How religion is viewed should also be included. It would also be helpful to start by explaining the general consensus, if there is one, with regard gender differences and paranormal beliefs.

Rating 3*

Marked by teacher Linda Penn 26/07/2013

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