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
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
Slide 3: My hypothesis: The level of paranormal belief in college students will be influenced by
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
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).
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
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