Why are some people inclined to believe in various conspiracies and paranormal phenomena with no regard for skepticism?
“Our findings suggest that part of the reason may be that many people do not view it as sufficiently important to form their beliefs on rational grounds,” notesTomas Ståhl, a University of Illinois at Chicago social psychologist.
While previous work in this area has indicated that people with higher cognitive ability – or a more analytic thinking style – are less inclined to believe in conspiracies and the paranormal. Ståhl wanted to know if other factors might influence a person’s tendency toward skepticism.
Working with Jan-Willem
van Prooijen of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, he conducted two online surveys
with more than 300 respondents each to assess analytic thinking and the
reliance on logic to form beliefs.
survey found that an analytic cognitive style was associated with weaker
paranormal beliefs, conspiracy beliefs and conspiracy mentality. However, this
was only the case among participants who strongly valued forming their beliefs
based on logic and evidence (Ståhl et al., 2017).
“Reasonable skepticism about various conspiracy theories and paranormal phenomena does not only require a relatively high cognitive ability, but also strong motivation to be rational,” explains Ståhl.
motivation to form your beliefs based on logic and evidence is not there,
people with high cognitive ability are just as likely to believe in
conspiracies and paranormal phenomena as people with lower cognitive ability”
In the second
survey, Ståhl and his team examined whether these effects were uniquely
attributable to having an analytic cognitive style or whether they were
explained by more general individual differences in cognitive ability. Results
were more consistent with a general cognitive ability (Ståhl et al., 2017).
Ståhl notes that despite a century of better educational opportunities and
increased intelligence scores in the U.S. population, unfounded beliefs remain
pervasive in contemporary society. Moreover, from linking vaccines with autism
to climate change skepticism, these widespread conspiracy theories and other
unfounded beliefs can lead to harmful behavior, according to Ståhl.
“Many of these
beliefs can, unfortunately, have detrimental consequences for individuals’
health choices, as well as for society as a whole,” he explains.
Whether in balancing theories that vaccines cause autism or in decreasing our tendency to endorse the paranormal, skepticism is what keeps our thinking checked by logic and free from unhinged, and in many cases, damaging beliefs.
Related Online Continuing Education (CE) Course:
The Power of Skepticism and Critical Thinking is a 3-hour online continuing education (CE/CEU) course that examines how positive skepticism and critical thinking are necessary in clinical practice.
The history of health care abounds with treatments that persisted (although they didn’t work) for many years without ever being seriously challenged. How did this happen? More to the point, how is it that this continues to happen today? At least a part of the answer can be found in a very long list of cognitive errors, fallacies, and biases that seem to be part of human nature. Human beings are endowed with the ability to reason and the need to find connections between things and events. The problem is that we have such a strong need to find connections that we sometimes see them even when they are not there. In health care, arriving at the wrong conclusion can be an error of life and death proportions.
This course defines and illustrates the many ways in which health professionals can fall prey to one or more thinking errors that can result in mistaken diagnoses, clinical errors, and reduced therapeutic success. Also reviewed are the powerful influences of propaganda, quackery, and pseudoscience. The antidote to thinking errors and pseudoscience is adherence to the sound principles of positive skepticism and critical thinking in clinical practice. This course offers the opportunity to uncover one’s own biases and learn new strategies and techniques for applying critical thinking skills. Included are how-to lists for evaluating new treatments, conference speakers, published studies, and internet content. Course #31-14 | 2019 | 56 pages | 20 posttest questions
Click here to learn more.
Professional Development Resources is a nonprofit educational corporation 501(c)(3) organized in 1992. We are approved to sponsor continuing education by the American Psychological Association (APA); the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC); the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB); the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA); the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA); the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR); the Alabama State Board of Occupational Therapy; the Florida Boards of Social Work, Mental Health Counseling and Marriage and Family Therapy, Psychology & School Psychology, Dietetics & Nutrition, Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology, and Occupational Therapy Practice; the Georgia State Board of Occupational Therapy; the New York State Education Department’s State Board for Mental Health Practitioners as an approved provider of continuing education for licensed mental health counselors (#MHC-0135); the Ohio Counselor, Social Worker & MFT Board and Board of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology; the South Carolina Board of Professional Counselors & MFTs; the Texas Board of Examiners of Marriage & Family Therapists and State Board of Social Worker Examiners; and are CE Broker compliant (all courses are reported within a few days of completion).
PDR offers over 150 accredited online CE courses for healthcare professionals.
Target Audience: Psychologists, School Psychologists, Counselors, Social Workers, Marriage & Family Therapists (MFTs), Speech-Language Pathologists (SLPs), Occupational Therapists (OTs), Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RDNs), and Teachers
Enjoy 20% off all online continuing education (CE/CEU) courses @pdresources.org! Click here for details.
Earn CE Wherever YOU Love to Be!