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Good morning, my name is Robert Hampton and I am a senior at Ark. Tech majoring in
psychology and I am here to present my ...
beliefs is not new (see Mailer & Lundeen, 1932), but it appears to have become more prevalent
since the rise of television...
Descriptive statistics showed an average age of 20 years and an average paranormal score of
58.22 (or a moderate belief).
...
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  1. 1. Good morning, my name is Robert Hampton and I am a senior at Ark. Tech majoring in psychology and I am here to present my research on the effect of the media on paranormal belief. There has recently been an increase of interest in paranormal phenomenon, particularly among college aged individuals. This could possibly be attributed to the increase of media attention on the subject matter. This study investigates college students’ beliefs in the paranormal and what affect the media can exert on it. My research has shown that paranormal beliefs are affected by the exposure to media influences. One hundred thirty-seven upper and lower division college students completed a survey based on the Revised Paranormal Belief Scale, which was designed to measure the extent of belief in the paranormal, after viewing a four minute YouTube presentation depicting various paranormal events. Slide 1: In order to understand the influence of the media on levels of belief in the paranormal, we need to know what paranormal means. The term paranormal is reserved for claims made about the existence of a wide range of extraordinary phenomena that includes such things as ESP (extrasensory perception), haunted houses, ghosts, devils, spirits, reincarnation, telekinesis (the ability of the mind to move objects just by thinking), UFOs (unidentified flying objects), astrology, and astral projection (one’s spirit leaving its body, traveling some distance, and then returning). (Sparks, 1997). Some researchers have included religiosity, because by definition, religion is paranormal. Some extraordinary phenomena take place in the Bible. The origins of psychology's involvement in the belief of the paranormal can be traced to the eminent Harvard psychologist William James in the late 1800’s. In 1928, J. B. Rhine, another notable psychologist, established a laboratory to attempt to test paranormal phenomena, but he failed to provide convincing support for the phenomena was investigating but he was the first to apply the scientific method and statistical analysis to this area. Many researchers’ observations suggest an increase in paranormal content recently. (Sparks, 1997). The assumption that the media plays a crucial role in influencing paranormal beliefs is not new (see Mailer & Lundeen, 1932), but it appears to have become more prevalent since the rise of television. According to some research, at least 50 newspapers, including The Los Angeles Times and The Indianapolis Star, published disclaimers next to the daily horoscope column. (Gersh, 1987). In another study done by Sparks, Sparks, and Gray (1995), it was confirmed that subjects who view a program depicting UFOs may subsequently tend to increase the tendency to express beliefs in the existence of UFOs. Some researchers have included religiosity, because by definition, religion is paranormal. Some extraordinary phenomena take place in the Bible. Gallup and Newport (1991) reported that paranormal beliefs are widespread, with nearly 50% of the respondents reporting belief in ESP and almost 30% reporting belief in haunted houses. There is also speculations that between 73% and 76% of Americans have a paranormal belief that is not based in religious belief. This could be based on the ever-increasing amount of media depiction of paranormal events in the guise of entertainment. Slide 2 It is now well documented that such films as “Poltergeist” can dramatically elevate levels of physiological arousal and create post viewing effects such as bad dreams, haunting images, fear of being alone, and the fear of going into certain rooms of a house (for example, the basement or attic). The assumption that the media plays a crucial role in influencing paranormal
  2. 2. beliefs is not new (see Mailer & Lundeen, 1932), but it appears to have become more prevalent since the rise of television.According to some research, at least 50 newspapers, including The Los Angeles Times and The Indianapolis Star, published disclaimers next to the daily horoscope column. Presently, television viewers can turn the channel to witness dramatic testimonials about how psychics predict future and change people's lives. Viewers are encouraged to call in immediately in order to speak with psychics and get their lives on the right track. Certain times of year, such as Halloween, show an increased exposure of paranormal subject matter by way of the media and advertising for Halloween related products. And by the way, my experiment was conducted on the day before Halloween to maximize the media effect on belief in the paranormal. Slide 3: My hypothesis: The level of paranormal belief in college students will be influenced by media. Slide 4: 137 participants in the experimental study. 85 females, 52 males 71 participants saw the video, 66 did not. Participants were divided using random assignment into two groups. One group asked to step out and hall. The group that did not see the video was returned to class and both groups completed revised paranormal belief scale and demographics. Slide 4: The other group watched a 4 min. YouTube video depicting still shots of paranormal events and creatures. The video contained 40 images presumably not related to television or movies. Slide 5: Some of the creatures presented to the students as part of the experiment were: Bigfoot Slide 6: The Figi Mermaid Slide 7: And the Loch ness monster Slide 8: a mean scale, that was developed from a 3 point Likert scale that consisted of agree, neutral, and disagree, was used to determine the extent of paranormal a score of 26-44 was considered High belief, a score of 45-59 was considered a Moderate belief, and a 60-78 was considered Low belief. Slide 9: The results show the paranormal beliefs were affected by viewing the YouTube video. A t-test found a significant difference between those who watched the video and those who did not (p=0.042) On average, those who did not see the video scored 60.05 (or a low belief), while those who did see the video scored 56.52 (or a moderate belief).
  3. 3. Descriptive statistics showed an average age of 20 years and an average paranormal score of 58.22 (or a moderate belief). No correlation was found between age and paranormal score. ANOVA showed no difference between class standing (freshmen and seniors) and paranormal belief. Males scored slightly higher in paranormal belief than females, No significant difference noted. Slide 10: Also present in the 1920’s was Harry Houdini, a famous magician who actively worked to “debunk” spiritualist mediums who he suspected of using sleight-of-hand to increase belief in spiritual activity and thereby increase their moneymaking potential by extracting money from grieving families. Another more modern-day “debunker” is the master magician, James Randi. Randi is probably the most outspoken modern-day skeptic, and he maintains an offer of $1 million to anyone that can demonstrate paranormal abilities under laboratory conditions. There have been no claims as yet. The media itself could be considered an “authority” figure. The power to influence the masses is the job of the media. That influence translates into money. Unsure about gender differences because another study found that women had higher paranormal beliefs.

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