Saturday, November 6, 2010

Mind Games: Spirits Within Us? (Part I)

Dear friends, Spooky Kine Investigations remains dedicated to helping people resolve paranormal related issues wherever they occur.  We believe this can best be accomplished by the scientific and the spiritual working together.  The following article focuses on paranormal studies from a scientific standpoint.  It is our hope to supply readers with a more intimate knowledge of existing scientific theories through which to filter possible evidence of paranormal activity.  Please note that never in the following article will you hear an absolute explanation for every possible situation.  We believe that when it comes to the supernatural, anything is possible.   ~ Wayne

Part I: Introduction

Do you believe in spirits?  Have you ever seen or heard something that logic just could not explain?  From the unexplainable bump in the night to the shadow you thought you saw out of the corner of your eye, everyone experiences odd occurrences like these once in a while, yet many dismiss them as simple tricks of the mind.  The believers out there feel that denying these types of experiences is a mistake, and urge us to trust in our instincts.  In fact, many believers use these occurrences as valid evidence of the existence of the supernatural.  However, unfortunately for them, many of these claims are potentially explainable from a  psychological standpoint.

We are going to be looking at two of our main senses: sight and sound, and how our minds might make us think we've seen or heard something otherworldly.  It is important to note that never in this article will you hear an absolute explanation for every possible situation.  As we will be looking at the paranormal from a scientific standpoint, it is important for us be practicing good science, and one of the most important aspects of a good scientist is being open to new ideas and concepts.  Therefore the biggest issue we want to avoid is confirmation bias.  Confirmation bias is “a tendency for people to confirm their preconceptions or hypotheses, independently of whether or not they are true.  People can reinforce their existing attitudes by selectively collecting new evidence, by interpreting evidence in a biased way or by selectively recalling information from memory” (Oswald & Grosjean, 2004, p. 79-80).  Unfortunately, both believers and skeptics alike fall victim to this extremely important concept.  Whereas they interpret every minuscule event as evidence towards their own theories and ideas, often twisting words and evidence to make it seem like it supports their claims.  However, as good scientists, we strive to not fall prey to this trap.  We must acknowledge the fact that there are things modern science has yet to explain.  By understanding and knowing how the human mind works, we will be able to make better conclusions to such events we encounter.  Furthermore, by filtering evidence through this critical psychological evaluation filter, occurrences that do pass become even more valid and note worthy.

When discussing such a controversial topic such as this, it is often easy to misinterpret terms that have not been clearly defined.  That is why we are first going to define several key terms that will be used throughout this article.  The first and perhaps most important term to be defined is the term “spirit.”  There are many synonyms affiliated with the term, including: ghost, entity, essence, apparition and specter.  For all intents and purposes, spirit(s) as used within this article will be defined as a supernatural essence transcendent in nature.  In other words, an unexplainable essence that is independent from our own physical world.  The reason for such an ambiguous definition is because the point of this article is to not argue whether or not spirits exist, or even explain what they are.  Instead, we are here to discuss possible psychological explanations for occurrences that might otherwise be misinterpreted for paranormal in nature.  The second term we will be defining is “believer.”  In this article we define a believer as a person who believes spirits exist in one form or another.  Conversely, the definition of a “skeptic” will be a person who does not believe in the existence of spirits in any way, shape, or form.  With these definitions in place, let us move forward and discover the spirits within us...

WRITTEN BY: Matthew Terada
for Spooky Kine Investigations
*  Matthew Terada is studying as a psychology major at the University of Hawai‘i.

Annotated Bibliography

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Hines, T.  (2003).  Pseudoscience and the paranormal.  Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books.

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Rüdiger, P. (2004).  Cognitive illusions: a handbook on fallacies and biases in thinking, judgement and memory.  Hove, UK: Psychology Press.

Smith, E.E., & Kosslyn, S.M. (2007).  Cognitive psychology: mind and brain.  Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.

Wynn, C.M., & Wiggins, A.W. (2001).  Quantum leaps in the wrong direction: where real science ends and pseudoscience begins.  Washington, DC: Joseph Henry Press.

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