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Paranormal Belief and Personality Traits Essay

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This study looks at the relation between the belief in the paranormal and different personality traits. There are two ways of looking at belief in the paranormal this study will look at the people who believe and those who somewhat believe and analyze their personalities traits.


This study examined two contrasting views of paranormal belief which suggest, in one camp, that belief in the paranormal is indicative of psychopathology. On the other hand, a number of researcher have disagreed with this viewpoint, suggesting that such a belief is not an indicator of psychopathology, but the fulfillment of some other underlying need.

This study was designed to assess the personality traits of those we would we would consider to be high and low believers in parapsychology.


The participants in this study were undergraduate college students mostly freshmen and sophomores who were enrolled in introductory level psychology classes. There were 105 students involved in the study with an age range from 18 to 44 the gender breakdown of participants consisted of 46 men and 59 women whose average age was 20.

19 years old. The participants were administered the Paranormal Belief Scale (Tobacyk & Milford, 1983), The Anomalous Experience Inventory (Kumar, Pekala, & Gallagher, 1994), the Personality Research Form (Jackson, 1984), and a general questionnaire. The questionnaire consisted of basic questions about demographics and any experience or preconceptions about the paranormal.

The coefficient alphas for the Paranormal Belief Scale were .93 and .91. Alphas for the subscales range from .69-.85 and .49-.74. Using the Paranormal Belief Scale participants were broken into groups of high and low believer’s base on a scale of 25-125 with high believers obtaining a score of 80 and low believers obtaining a score of 63. Each scale was administered in a class room setting and was untimed although the study took approximately 60 minutes to complete. Upon completion each participant was released and received a debriefing letter after the study.

Results and Discussion:

The results of this study showed that the high believers of the paranormal were more than likely to have friends with similar beliefs; they also are more likely to watch shows and read books based on paranormal subjects. The study also showed that more of the high believers had imaginary friends as they were growing up. Also high believers attended church less than those in the low believer’s category and didn’t look at themselves as very religious in comparison to low believers. The test also shows a distinct difference in gender with females scoring significantly higher than males on the (PBS) scale. There was also a series of ANOVAs (analysis of variance) that revealed a significant difference on four of the PRF scales Abasement, Aggression, Defendence, and Sentience these finding represent that there was not a strong enough relationship between these scales and the PBS to suggest a significant difference when examining high vs. low believers. However women scored higher than the men on Aggression and Defendence while men scored higher on Abasement.


When initially reviewing this study to make a determination on which research example that I was going to focus on for my paper. I found that I was really interested in what the outcome of this research would be based on the amount of research that I am aware of that has been done on the study of the paranormal. This particular research was really interesting to me as it attempted to assess the personality traits of those who could be considered either high and/or low believers in parapsychology. According to other studies a person who believes in the paranormal is considered psychologically dysfunctional.

This study used what I feel was a small segment of the population for such a broad subject that seems to have so many followers. The fact that they used 105 undergraduates from the age of 18 – 44 makes me think that they may have limited themselves when it comes to the broad perspective of people that they could have used. If I were conducting the study I would have opened it up to males and females with age not being a factor in the study. I also would have went outside of the classroom to get my participants by looking for people who were of all different walks of life and backgrounds, from those with a high school education only to those in under graduate and graduate programs. I would have also attempted to recruit people from different professions from warehouse worker to executive.

Another thing that I would have looked into would be the ability to get people to participate with whom I knew where members of the Wiccan community and also some people who believe in Psi, Esp., and others who believe in poltergeist. I feel this would have produced some validity to base the answers of the non-believers against the answers of the known (or high) believers to form some sort of median to the answers instead of just basing the answers off of people with whom are just here for their extra credit in their Psychology class. Another factor of the test that could have affected the outcome was the fact that it was administered in a class like setting. I feel that while the test should be structured maybe they should have administered it in a less formal manner.

When looking at the different tests that were administered to the participants there seemed to be one consistent outcome on all of them. This outcome was that there was very little or no difference in the personality traits of believers compared to those of non-believers. The only measurable differences between the groups were the fact that females scored significantly higher than males when it came to the PBS Psi scale and on aggression and defendence. Males scored higher than females on abasement. Once again I believe other than the gender based scores that the other scores could have been affected by the fact that all the participants in this study were college students in the same program at the same school. Even though there was an age difference and there were students of opposite genders the scores seem to close to me to rule out any relevance to this argument.

Relationship of the study to personality theory:

The central relationship which was studied came in chapter 4 of our textbook, titled Jung: Analytical Psychology. Carl Jung, in my opinion, seemed to be open to many things that could be considered paranormal. Jung related dreams and past experiences to paranormal thoughts as well as ESP and he also associated levels of a person’s personality traits to different levels of the paranormal. Carl Jung was a strong believer in paranormal activity like spirits, e.s.p., and the occult. Jung was raised around religion and the occult from an early age, many members of his family were pastors and his mother’s family practiced spiritualism and mysticism. Jung’s grandfather was a believer of the occult, so much so that he kept a chair for the ghost of his dead wife and would often have intimate talks with her. One might conclude that these childhoods encounters shaped Jung’s beliefs lead him to associate personality traits and paranormal beliefs with one other.

Jung’s theories were largely based around his study of the interpretations of dreams, both regular and paranormal. “Jung was puzzled by paranormal dreams. He could not classify them the way normal dreams could be, but the mystery did lead him to expound on his principle of synchronicity. This concept is that events occur together in time but are not linked through cause and effect connections. For instance, a clock might stop at the moment of its owner’s death, but these are purely synchronistic and unrelated events. Jung concluded that perhaps there is some sort of order in the universe, where a manifestation appears psychically while the related manifestation in physical reality happens at the same time.” (Carl Jung) Jung theorized that there were people, based on personality traits that were more likely to be influenced by paranormal thought and ideologies and came to the conclusion that introverts tend to have the best link to the paranormal.

“Besides the levels of the psyche and the dynamics of personality, Jung recognized various psychological types that grow out of a union of two basic attitudes-intro-versions and extraversion-and four separate functions-thinking, feeling, sensing, and intuiting.” (Feist, 2009) Intuiting, in general, is often most associated with the paranormal, as illustrated in our textbook on page 120 Table 4.1, introverted intuition is associated with prophets, mystics and religious fanatics. Hurst states that “Introverted intuitive people are guided by unconscious perception of facts that are basically subjective and have little or no resemblance to external reality. Their subjective intuitive perceptions are remarkably strong and capable of motivating decisions of monumental magnitude. Introverted intuitive people such as mystics, prophets, surrealistic artist, or religious fanatics, often appear peculiar to people of other types who have little comprehension of their motives.

Actually, Jung believed that introverted intuitive people may not clearly understand their own motivations, yet they are deeply motivated by them.”(Feist, 2009) It is my opinion that these personality theories prove that paranormal belief is not something that is only suffered by psychopaths. The study states, “Paranormal belief is indicative of psychopathology, as suggested by the current study.” (Auton, Pope, Seeger) I think that Jung’s theories illustrate that though a person may experience a paranormal instance it does not necessarily mean that there is a mental disorder present. Paranormal experiences may rather be a result of one’s social environment, as often people who believe in the paranormal have acquaintances that share in that belief. It was also referenced that people with such beliefs tend to watch more television and read more books that are based on the paranormal and occult.

Relationship of the study to your own life and personality:

Paranormal belief is something that has intrigued me ever since I was a young child. You might say that I am a skeptical believer, as I like to think that everything that happens has a reason for taking place and there is usually a way to explain any situation that people might consider paranormal. I have had many strange experiences throughout my life that one might call paranormal and some I have had explanations for and others I have not. When I began reviewing the article, Paranormal Belief and Personality Traits, for this assignment I was in complete disagreement with the portion that stated that paranormal belief was synonymous with” psychological dysfunction ( i.e. psychotic, neurotic, and depressive.) (Auton, Pope, Seeger) I found myself identifying with Carl Jung’s theories regarding the paranormal which are a sharp contrast to those presented in this article.

I feel and have been categorized by the Big 5 assessment as an extrovert and I feel that this may be the reason why I am so skeptical about paranormal experiences. I tend to look for the rhyme and reason of things that I have experienced in my life and am very skeptical about everything including ghosts, ESP and religion. Whether my paranormal experiences have affected my life or personality has yet to be said, though, I feel that these experiences were most certainly not a symptom of psychopathology.

Feist, J. & Feist, G. (2009). Theories of Personality (7th Edition).
McGraw Hill. Carl jung; his theories on archetypes, dreams, and the collective unconscious. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.ucmeta.org/Pages/Articles/Dreaming/Carl-Jung-His-Theories-Archetypes-Dreams-Collective-Unconscious.php

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