This article appeared in a journal published by Elsevier. The attachedcopy is furnished to the author for internal non-com...
Authors personal copy                                                    cortex 44 (2008) 1291–1298                       ...
Authors personal copy1292                                                    cortex 44 (2008) 1291–1298 Table 1 – Selected...
Authors personal copy                                                 cortex 44 (2008) 1291–1298                          ...
Authors personal copy1294                                              cortex 44 (2008) 1291–1298have ourselves described ...
Authors personal copy                                                    cortex 44 (2008) 1291–1298                       ...
Authors personal copy1296                                                cortex 44 (2008) 1291–1298that such a requirement...
Authors personal copy                                                        cortex 44 (2008) 1291–1298                   ...
Authors personal copy1298                                                   cortex 44 (2008) 1291–1298Nicholls MER, Orr CA...
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The paranormal mind how the study of anomalous experiences and beliefs may inform cognitive neuroscience (brugger & mohr 2008)


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The paranormal mind how the study of anomalous experiences and beliefs may inform cognitive neuroscience (brugger & mohr 2008)

  1. 1. This article appeared in a journal published by Elsevier. The attachedcopy is furnished to the author for internal non-commercial researchand education use, including for instruction at the authors institution and sharing with colleagues. Other uses, including reproduction and distribution, or selling or licensing copies, or posting to personal, institutional or third party websites are prohibited. In most cases authors are permitted to post their version of the article (e.g. in Word or Tex form) to their personal website or institutional repository. Authors requiring further information regarding Elsevier’s archiving and manuscript policies are encouraged to visit:
  2. 2. Authors personal copy cortex 44 (2008) 1291–1298 available at journal homepage: issue: EditorialThe paranormal mind: How the study of anomalousexperiences and beliefs may inform cognitiveneurosciencePeter Bruggera,* and Christine MohrbaDepartment of Neurology, University Hospital Zurich, Zurich, SwitzerlandbDepartment of Psychology, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK1. Why should the neurosciences be 2. What are ‘‘paranormal’’ beliefs?interested in paranormal beliefs? What, then, are ‘‘paranormal’’ beliefs? The literature is‘‘Nothing appears more remote from the current frontiers of neuro- plagued by the absence of a definition which would bescience than the circuits underlying the fixation and mutation of universally accepted. Unfortunately, single studies usually de-human beliefs’’ (Bisiach et al., 1991, p.1029). More than 15 years fine ‘‘paranormal belief’’ in terms of the measurement instru-have elapsed since Italian neurologist Eduardo Bisiach’s com- ment used and the dozens of such inventories haveplaints, yet the study of human beliefs is far from forming considerable variation (Wiseman and Watt, 2006; Dagnalla proper subject area within cognitive neuropsychology. The et al., 2007). We like the recommendation of the Americangoal of this special issue is to change this. There are essen- ‘‘Parapsychological Association’’ that defines paranormal phe-tially two reasons why we determined to focus on paranormal nomena as ‘‘apparent anomalies of behavior and experience thatbeliefs. One is that we were particularly interested in the neu- exist apart from currently known explanatory mechanisms thatropsychological underpinnings of belief formation in the account for organism–environment and organism–organism infor-healthy brain. The cognitive-neuropsychiatric approach to mation and influence flow’’ (Irwin, 1999, p. 1). This definitionbelief formation has directed the spotlight of attention in too covers those apparent anomalies of perception and actionfocused a manner on a particular subset of delusional beliefs most prototypical for parapsychological research, i.e., extra-that have no correspondence in the healthy mind (Coltheart, sensory perception (ESP; comprising telepathy, clairvoyance2007). Paranormal ways of experiencing and reasoning seem and precognition) and psychokinesis (PK), as a form of ‘‘actionpredestined to link abnormal to normal ways, and their study at a distance’’ (Table 1). Here, nothing is to be explained butmay thus be ideally suited to bridge major gaps between (neu- the beliefs themselves. It arises from false inferences drawnro)psychology and cognitive neuropsychiatry. The other, from ‘‘normal’’ experiences. These ‘‘normal’’ experiences arerelated reason is the Janusian face of at least some paranor- frequent, commonplace, and exceedingly mundane. Coinci-mal beliefs, i.e., their double relevance for (a) understanding dences, for instance, just happen. Loved ones do call whenpathologies of belief, and (b) elucidating at the same time the most ardently thought of, dreams do come true, and bookscognitive bases of some of the most adaptive forms of human do fall from shelves. For sure, it is impossible to calculatereasoning, i.e., creativity. Investigating the paranormal mind any precise probability of occurrence in the single case, but co-may serve to substantiate the perennial idea about common- incidences beautifully serve to separate the scientifically-alities between genius and madness. minded from the believer; while the former at least attempts * Corresponding author. Department of Neurology, University Hospital Zurich, 8091 Zurich, Switzerland. E-mail address: (P. Brugger).0010-9452/$ – see front matter ª 2008 Elsevier Srl. All rights reserved.doi:10.1016/j.cortex.2008.05.008
  3. 3. Authors personal copy1292 cortex 44 (2008) 1291–1298 Table 1 – Selected examples of paranormal beliefs based on normal versus anomalous experiences (a) Beliefs based on a misinterpretation of normal experiences Cognitive factors involved in belief formation Extrasensory perception (telepathy, clairvoyance, precognition) Misinterpretation of coincidences, based on: Psychokinesis * Base rate fallacy ‘‘Feeling of being stared at’’ * Selective remembering,confirmation bias Astrology * Egocentric bias * Misconceptions of randomness Divination by ‘‘reading’’ configurations in liquids, smoke, clouds, Projective aspects of perception; pareidolias; suggestibility animal organs or surface structures of objects Dowsing and pendulum divination Illusions of alien control; non-accessability of ideomotor Trance channeling, table rapping movements to conscious control Spirit communication by automatic writing (b) Beliefs based on a misinterpretation of anomalous experiences Type of anomalous experience Life after death Near-death experiences, out-of-body experiences Previous lives, reincarnation ´ ` Deja vu, multiple personality Ghosts, fairies, various entities that do not directly interfere with own self Hallucinations (e.g., in the context of hypoxia or migraine) Existence of ‘‘frightening others’’, who interfere with one’s body Sleep paralysis, dissociative experiences, ‘‘sense of presence’’an approximate calculation of odds and probability (Alvarez, have a correspondence in the healthy mind: automatisms1965), the latter is simply overwhelmed by the ‘‘meaningful- are actions in need of an agent. Because they are experiencedness’’ of the coincidence, even if he might judge the same not as deliberately initiated, we are quick to identify an out-instance as trivial had it happened to someone else (Falk, side force (Spence, 2002; Wegner, 2002). Depending on the1989). The meaningfulness of a coincidence is in the brain of context, this force or energy is identified as emanating fromthe beholder, and while ‘‘meaningless coincidences’’ do not the water one is dowsing, from the object over which oneinvite explanatory elaborations, those considered meaningful swings a pendulum, or from the spirit conjured up while one’shave often lured intelligent people into a search for underlying hands are resting on a Ouija board. Carpenter (1877), Vogt andrules and laws (Kammerer, 1919, for a case study). To be fair, Hyman (1959) and Spitz (1997) provide a highly informativewe emphasize that parapsychology is not the only enterprise introduction to the ideomotor theory of these and related illu-whose search for a theory has been nourished by coincidence. sions of alien control in a paranormal context. However, wePopular branches of psychology have flourished based on little should be wary of unilaterally blaming the para-sciences formore than analyses of coincidences (Adler, 1905; Jung, 1991). being duped by ‘‘alien’’ forces. Less than 20 years ago,A joint paper by an analyst and his psychotic client neatly ‘‘facilitated communication’’, an ethically shocking variantillustrates the conceptual equivalence of coincidence-triggered of spirit communication, was introduced to autism researchassociations originating from both on and beside the couch and the broader community of psychotherapists (Biklen,(Prince and Reiss, 1990). Although not explicitly listed in 1990). Here, patients suffering from a pervasive communica-Table 1, the definition of ‘‘paranormal’’ offered above also tion disorder were abused as writing devices. By holdingcovers these non-parapsychological, ostensible anomalies a patient’s hand over a spelling board, therapists claimed torooted in everyday coincidence. induce, in their clients, a sudden release of literacy. Yet, Related to the process of attributing meaning to temporal empirical research has shown that the written messages orig-coincidences is the urge to perceive meaning in auditory and inate in the therapist’s and not in the client’s brain (Burgessvisual noise or in random spatial configurations (Table 1). et al., 1998; Wegner et al., 2003; Brugger, 2001, for an overview).The projection of an individual’s fate onto the Zodiac signs Over and above identifying mechanisms responsible for theis an illustrative example. This urge to attribute meaning to formation of individual beliefs, it is one of the foremost tasksrandom configurations is culture-invariant (Koch-Grunberg,¨ of a ‘‘neuropsychology of belief’’ to uncover the biological1905) and at the heart of both creative pattern detection and bases of such hauntings in the buildings and social structuresdelusion-like beliefs about ‘‘messages’’, premonitions, and of science (Brugger, 2001).advice. Again, these borderlands of creativity and delusionare not inhabited exclusively by flimflam scientists and eso-teric minds. While patients may project meaning onto the 3. What are ‘‘paranormal’’ experiences?unstructured stimuli of projective tests, psychologists oftendo so in the face of test data (Chapman, 1967; Lilienfeld Table 1 also lists some examples of paranormal beliefs thatet al., 2000). ‘‘Seeing things’’ is a quite general consequence can emerge when healthy individuals encounter an ‘‘anoma-of scientists’ propensity to conclude what their theories lead lous’’ experience. These are infrequent experiences that defythem to expect (Webb, 1957; Scharf, 1990; for a neurological commonly established scientific explanation and that some-context see Schott, 1993). times give rise to concerns about the presence of a mental Some paranormal beliefs arise not from a misinterpretation disorder. Investigating this sort of belief is equivalent to inves-of coincidence and randomness but from an erroneous inter- tigating the experiences themselves. For instance, althoughpretation of quite normal experiences perceived as outside a variety of factors may underlie and modulate the belief inforces that allegedly control our motor actions (Table 1). The an afterlife (Bering, 2006), the illusory experience of observingpsychiatric symptoms labeled as ‘‘delusions of alien control’’ one’s self apart from one’s body is key to the conviction that
  4. 4. Authors personal copy cortex 44 (2008) 1291–1298 1293the soul can do it without a brain (Metzinger, 2005) and that, sensitivity to a mismatch between expectancy and outcomeby further inference, it will survive bodily death. Reports of was strongly negatively correlated to self-rated delusion se-such out-of-body experiences (OBEs; see the Discussion verity in first-episode schizophrenic patients (Corlett et al.,Forum on OBEs to appear in a forthcoming issue of Cortex) 2007).are as old as mankind itself and probably known to all cultures Violations of more abstract expectancies are addressed by(Sheils, 1978). Healthy individuals’ occasional OBEs differ in Lindeman et al., 2008, this issue. They argue that a superordi-content from those reported by persons with a neuropsychiat- nate property of the belief in paranormal phenomena is theric disorder, but the core element of perceiving a separation confusion of domain-specific knowledge about physical, bio-between self and body is described in much the same words logical, and mental events. Mind-over-matter beliefs, for in-(Blackmore, 1986). Other anomalous experiences are more de- stance, confuse mental and physical laws. There is in factpendent on time and culture. Obviously, prior to the space- evidence from previous work that modern paranormal beliefage, nobody would have ascribed hallucinatory perceptions is associated with animism, a magical world view in whichduring sleep paralysis to abduction attempts by extraterres- the borders between the living and non-living are notoriouslytrials! Identifying the core elements of what is experienced blurred (e.g., Frazer, 1963; Lindeman and Saher, 2007). In theduring sleep paralysis will help to disentangle the hardware authors’ present experiment, subjects had to judge the literalcomponents of an experience from the software components truth of sentences of the type ‘‘flowers love the sun’’ or ‘‘apredominantly shaped by culture. foot wants to move’’. Compared to disbelievers, believers in paranormal phenomena (from telepathy to lunar effects to the efficacy of feng shui) showed a more pronounced N4004. Paranormal experiences and beliefs: the amplitude (over central and parietal electrode sites) on pro-current special issue cessing sentences with violations of core knowledge (relative to normal sentences or sentences containing semanticThe tendency to ‘‘neurologize’’ all aspects of healthy human anomalies such as ‘‘flowers knit in summer’’). These resultsaffairs, from theology to economics and politics, may render are taken as evidence for a cognitive basis of paranormal be-neuropsychologists skeptic about any neural correlates of liefs, which involves an extended overlap between the repre-paranormal belief. Nineteenth century experimental psychol- sentations of living and non-living things, of physical andogists’ fear of overinclusive scientific thought (Coon, 1992) mental states and, we may add, of self and non-self.seems reflected in current day concerns about a trend towards Blurred representations between self and non-self as theyneuromythology. For the current special issue we have might relate to paranormal ideation are also the topic of theavoided overly trendy speculations about the nature of the study reported by Fyfe et al., 2008, this issue. They investi-‘‘paranormal brain’’. This policy has let to a rather heteroge- gated ‘‘overmentalizing’’ in healthy subjects, who tended tonous collection of papers that on first consideration appears attribute intentions to computer-generated figures movingbeyond the usual scope and remit of Cortex. However, even if around a screen in random or apparently ‘‘goal-directed’’too multi-faceted to allow the formulation of a unifying neu- movements. High scorers on a scale assessing inclination to-roscientific theory, the contributions as a whole may pave ward delusional ideation assumed more purposeful motionthe way for a cautious, but fruitful use of the prefix ‘‘neuro’’ in random figure movements than did low scorers. Therein connection with the cognitive correlates of a category of was little effect of a ‘‘theory of mind’’ manipulation consistinghuman belief that is both extremely widespread in the normal in one figure apparently reading the other’s mind to plan itspopulation and also largely resistant towards education own trajectories. This finding would probably be interpreted(Brugger, 1994). as the consequence of an incomplete separation of animate Bressan et al., 2008, this issue focused on subjects’ ten- and inanimate representations by Lindeman et al., 2008, thisdency to attribute meaning to everyday coincidences. They issue. However, Fyfe et al., 2008, this issue discuss two mech-found it correlated with a measure of surprise in a simple re- anisms possibly responsible for overmentalizing in the con-action time task. Specifically, the sudden violation of expecta- text of their tasks: a defective causal reasoning andtions in a series of relatively monotone visual stimuli apophenia. Apophenia is the tendency to perceive unrelateddisrupted subjects’ motor performance, and more so for those events as meaningfully connected. It was first described inindividuals believing in a non-chance determination of coinci- the context of a phenomenology of the earliest manifestationsdences and who also considered themselves religious. Nota- of schizophrenia (Conrad, 1958), and was primarily conceivedbly, believers’ conscious awareness of the presence of any of as a disturbance of associative processing. It is reportedlyviolation was less pronounced, indicating a neglect or even accompanied by an imbalance in the healthy spectrum be-an active suppression of events incompatible with their belief tween mechanistic and mentalistic cognition (in favor of thesystem – whether on the level of ideologies or short-term latter; Crespi and Badcock, 2008, this issue). Fyfe et al., 2008,expectations about a sequence of remarkably trivial events. this issue emphasize the healthy side of mentalizing as a so-Evidently, the simple paradigm employed by the authors cial cognitive style characterized by heightened empathylends itself to further applications within neuropsychology and pronounced mental state attributions that come at thethat will allow pinpointing the cross-sections between circuits price of a susceptibility to merge self and others and to projectmediating attentional and ideological expectation. One core meaningfulness and intentionality where only coincidenceregion might be (right) prefrontal cortex, which was found to and chance are most sensitive to violations of expectations established Both empathy and apophenia have been described as func-by associative learning (Fletcher et al., 2001) and whose tions predominantly mediated by the right hemisphere. We
  5. 5. Authors personal copy1294 cortex 44 (2008) 1291–1298have ourselves described right hemisphere processing biases system development as it may relate to the emergence ofas a correlate of belief in the paranormal (Mohr et al., 2003; paranormal belief. They administered various behavioral lat-Taylor et al., 2002) and would even propose that right hemi- erality tasks to healthy subjects. These tasks included hand,sphere contributions to language may be among the most eye, and ear dominance assessments, a line bisection, dichoticprominent causative factors of the belief in a paranormal ori- listening and chimeric faces test, and the monitoring of conju-gin of coincidences (Brugger, 2007). However, we are well gate lateral eye movements. The authors also obtained mea-aware of the dangers inherent to a superficial left-right dichot- sures of body asymmetries, which are known as markers ofomy. After early neuropsychiatry had found lunatics’ right early developmental instability and later cognitive and emo-cerebral hemisphere heavier than the left (Crichton-Browne, tional signs, specifically the relative lengths of left and right1879), the right half of the brain rapidly degenerated during fingers and of the left and right half of the face (Koehlerthe first half of the previous century from the cradle of fantas- et al., 2004; Dongen, 2006 for review). No association wastic and mystical abilities into a dustbin for the sick, deviant, found between paranormal belief and performance on anyand occult aspects of behavior (Harrington, 1995). With of the functional laterality tasks. This is not a surprise in therespect to paranormal experiences and beliefs, the ‘‘Skeptical case of hand motor skills because recent research showedInquirer’’, the official organ of the ‘‘Committee for the scien- that the disproportionately high incidence of ambidextrous-tific investigation of claims of the paranormal’’, reminded its ness in paranormal believers (Barnett and Corballis, 2002) isreadership to be wary of unilaterally dragging everything eso- only found as long as questionnaire measures of handednessteric to the ‘‘dark side of the brain’’ (Fig. 1). are used, but not when handedness is determined by perfor- Schulter and Papousek, 2008, this issue criticize the global mance measures (e.g., Grimshaw et al., 2008; Nicholls et al.,left hemisphere versus right hemisphere approach. They set 2005). The non-replication of other associations, especiallyout to get a more fine-grained picture of asymmetric nervous with reference to leftward biases in perception and attention, comes as a surprise because it is inconsistent with previous research (e.g., Luh and Gooding, 1999; Mohr et al., 2003; Weinstein and Graves, 2002). Perhaps this represents varia- tion in paranormal belief assessment and the wide range of educational backgrounds of subjects. Intriguingly, a measure of intra-individual variability in the degree (but not direction) of lateralization as determined by the different tasks proved to be a valid predictor of paranormal belief, as did the degree of fluctuations in finger length asymmetries. These findings indi- cate that neurodevelopmental instabilities during very early ontogenesis may affect later chances to endorse beliefs in paranormal phenomena. Schulter and Papousek, 2008, this issue’s contribution is an important one, because it shows the fragile nature of previous findings relating functional hemispheric asymmetries to paranormal belief and thus cau- tions us from hastily attributing all things paranormal to the right hemisphere. At the same time, the authors’ finding of fluctuating asymmetries as related to paranormal ideation de- serves to be followed up. Only Raz et al., 2008, this issue investigated possible roots of paranormal belief that reach even further back in ontogeny than those examined by Schulter and Papousek, 2008, this issue. This team investigated whether the genetic polymor- phism related to a gene known for its role in central dopamine activity is associated with paranormal belief. Although no such association could be established in a population of barely more than 100 undergraduate students, we have welcomed the exploratory study for two reasons. First, previous reports about the genetics of ‘‘god experience’’ as the ‘‘culmen of allFig. 1 – A popular 20th century view of the paranormal and paranormal experiences’’ (Persinger, 2001, p. 519) have hith-esoteric mind as associated with the ‘‘dark side of the erto been mentioned only in a popular book (Hamer, 2004)brain’’. While we welcome a skeptical attitude towards and await publication in peer reviewed journals. Second, thesuch sweeping overgeneralizations, we would caution not thoughts offered by Raz et al., 2008, this issue go beyond theto throw out the baby with the bathwater; abnormalities in usual attempts to establish connections between genes andfunctional lateralization remain among the prime pathologies like schizophrenia or schizotypy. In stressingneuropsychological determinants of paranormal belief as the important function of dopamine in modulating healthya conceptual link between psychotic development and subjects’ ability to separate signal from noise – both in a per-verbal creativity. Used with permission of the Skeptical ceptual and semantic context – the authors stimulateInquirer ( thoughts about a continuum of ‘‘seeing things’’ that spans
  6. 6. Authors personal copy cortex 44 (2008) 1291–1298 1295from the pathological context to issues of suggestibility and fi- report of an imagery event and suggest that future investiga-nally to creative pattern detection. We hope that our personal tions should compare ganzfeld-related imagery with halluci-threshold of seeing connections is not pathologically low nation-like experiences evoked by different methodologieswhen we conclude that the contributions of Raz et al., 2008, or occurring in a pathological frame. The issue of belief inthis issue and Schulter and Papousek, 2008, this issue are the paranormal is tangentially addressed in a discussion ofmeaningfully related. We predict that, to be successful, future ganzfeld studies of an ‘‘anomalous information transfer’’,studies of very early predictors of core paranormal beliefs (i.e., whose existence is taken for granted by believers in the para-the misattribution of meaningfulness to chance; Table 1) will normal, but critically commented on by the authorshave to combine the search for genes mediating dopamine themselves.regulation and those underlying atypical cerebral hemi- The final two papers of this special issue deal with twospheric asymmetries (e.g., Smalley et al., 2004). forms of experiences that vastly diverge from one another in An explicit differentiation between paranormal belief and the extent to which they may be considered ‘‘anomalous’’.paranormal experiences assessed by two respective question- Dubal and Viaud-Delmon, 2008, this issue describe an associ-naires is offered by Sumich et al., 2008, this issue. In an ation between magical ideation and hyperacusis, i.e., the ex-auditory oddball ERP paradigm these authors found the expe- cessive sensitivity to normal sounds. The authors suggestriential component associated with very early sensory that a hyperactivity of the auditory system predisposes toprocessing components (indexed by N100 and N200 ampli- both hypersensitivity to external sounds and to auditory hal-tudes). In contrast, paranormal belief was related to the late lucinations. Hyperacusis was not elevated in another subject(P300) components of the electrophysiological response. This group that consisted of healthy participants scoring exces-pattern of results and its modulation by the sex of the subject sively high on anhedonia, a personality trait characteristic ofis reminiscent of previous findings in patients with schizo- negative symptom schizotypy. Dubal and Viaud-Delmon’sphrenia. The complex interactions between sex and electrode findings point to the possibility that magical ideation as theplacement shows once more that sex is an important variable core positive symptom equivalent in the normal populationin studies of paranormal belief (Goritz and Schumacher, 2000), may likewise be the consequence of a central hyperactivity.cerebral laterality (MacLean, 1996), and in the general field of The belief in telepathy, clairvoyance, precognition and otherneuroscience (Cahill, 2006). instances of illusory causations could then be conceptualized Two more contributions have focused on EEG measures as an excessive sensitivity to statistical noise, in whichin healthy subjects variably familiar with paranormal or un- ‘‘meaningful’’ coincidences would constitute the signal.usual experiences. Fleck et al., 2008, this issue examined the Dramatically more ‘‘anomalous’’ were the experiences ofresting EEG in healthy unselected adults varying in their the participants in the investigation by French et al., 2008,scores on a scale assessing ‘‘transliminality’’, a very broad this issue. They all claimed contacts with extraterrestrials;measure of the susceptibility to experiences such as hyper- most reported telepathic communications with aliens andesthesia, synesthesia, and manic and mystical forms of ex- more than a third believed that some bodily manipulationsperience but also comprising traits of fantasy proneness (marks, implants, removed foetuses) were inflicted duringand openness toward the interpretation of one’s own their alien encounters. French et al., 2008, this issue weredreams. Power spectra of predetermined frequency bands not interested in their subjects’ potential psychiatric and neu-during a 3.5 min eyes-closed resting condition differentiated rological diagnoses; instead they established the presence ofbetween the subjects scoring in the top third of translimin- a tendency toward high dissociativity and hallucination inality scores and those in the low third. Specifically, com- their special sample and a higher incidence of sleep paralysispared to low transliminality subjects, the high scorers compared to members of a control group. Contrary to the au-manifested lower alpha and beta power over left posterior thors’ predictions, participants with anomalous experiencesareas and over right superior temporal cortex (the latter did not perform significantly different from controls in a falsefinding restricted to high alpha/low beta frequency bands). memory task. There is a clear need for future research to elu-This result (and other group differences in EEG power) is dis- cidate the neuropsychological profiles of ‘‘abductees’’, who arecussed in relation to previous findings of structural abnor- otherwise healthy, and to compare their spontaneous confab-malities of specifically left posterior brain regions in ulations with those occurring in the context of circumscribedpatients with schizophrenia, but also with differences in brain lesions (e.g., Schnider et al., 1996).neural activity over right superior temporal areas as relatedto presence or absence of an Aha-experience during creativeproblem solving (Jung-Beeman et al., 2004). 5. Future directions The contribution by Wackermann et al., 2008, this issue re-views the phenomenology of hallucination-like experiences Although not all the major types of paranormal belief listed induring ganzfeld stimulation (and some related procedures), Table 1 have been addressed in the present issue, the contri-i.e., the prolonged exposure to a uniformly unstructured vi- butions in their entirety constrain neuropsychiatric theoriessual stimulus. Spectral analyses of the EEG collected during of delusion formation. Of particular current influence, thethis state of sensory monotony and during ganzfeld-induced two-deficit theory developed by Coltheart and colleaguesvisual imagery revealed clear differences to the hypnagogic (Langdon and Coltheart, 2000; Coltheart, 2007) proposes thatstate, in particular with respect to the alpha frequency do- anomalous perceptual experiences are a prerequisite for delu-main. The authors also describe the time course of the EEG sig- sional inferences. Consistent with recently published findingsnal changes immediately (i.e., 60–10 sec) preceding a subject’s (Bell et al., 2008), some of the papers presented here suggest
  7. 7. Authors personal copy1296 cortex 44 (2008) 1291–1298that such a requirement is unwarranted. Core paranormal 2006; Pessoa, 2008). In how far the model of temporal-limbicbeliefs of extrasensory information acquisition arise from hyperconnection (Bear, 1979) could account, not only for thea misinterpretation of coincidences, which for believers and schizophrenia-like episodes of temporal lobe epilepsy butdisbelievers are perceptually alike but worlds apart on the also for the formation and maintenance of paranormal beliefs,level of interpretation. Although a two-stage view could be remains to be explored.applied to cases where no obvious brain damage is apparent Still other topics of a future neuropsychology of paranor-(the ‘‘two-factor theory’’ of delusions; Coltheart, 2007, p. mal belief concern developmental aspects (what are the cog-1053), delusions of the paranormal have not been specifically nitive-neuropsychological correlates of healthy magicalconsidered. In fact, the types of delusions used to illustrate thinking in young children?) and the question of how paranor-two-stage views are almost exclusively delusions of misiden- mal beliefs or their correlates can be transiently altered (see,tification (related to face processing) or those targeting anom- for instance, Bell et al., 2007 and Mohr et al., 2005, for first at-alous perceptions of one side of the body (mostly the left). tempts; Miller and Ngo, 2007, for further suggestions). Al-That is why the notion of a right hemisphere deficit at the though not addressed in the present collection of papers,heart of delusion formation (Coltheart, 2007) is so remarkably tackling these questions may advance our understanding ofat odds with the view, summarized in several contributions to why people of all times and cultures have been and continuethe present issue, that delusion-like elaborations of coinci- to be attracted by the paranormal. By embracing the phenom-dental events may be a consequence of a right hemisphere enology of the paranormal brain, neuropsychology may gainoverproduction. While current theories of delusion formation insights into perceptual and cognitive mechanisms of beliefwill have to integrate the topic of paranormal cognition, theo- formation, which the sole study of the normal and the abnor-ries of paranormal belief implicating altered hemispheric pro- mal brain could not provide.cessing will have to proceed beyond the simple formula of theright hemisphere as the primary locus of paranormal ideation(see Fig. 1). Most promising appears a consideration of Acknowledgmentsdynamic reciprocal balance mechanisms between the twohemispheres (Regard et al., 1994; Early et al., 1989). According We thank Loren Pankratz (Portland, OR) for stimulatingto the model of functional inhibition and release, lesions in discussions and editorial advice. Alun Person’s (Bristol, U.K.)one hemisphere will not only produce a local hemispheric def- internet assistance is also greatly appreciated.icit, but also an anomalous over-compensation by corre-sponding regions of the contralateral cerebral hemisphere.In the domain of language processing, the absence of a regular referencesleft hemisphere superiority that accompanies psychoticthought (Crow, 1997) may be crucial for our understandingof a ‘‘Darwinian paradox’’, i.e., the persistence, over evolu- Adler A. Drei Psycho-Analysen von Zahleneinfallen und ¨tionary time, of alleles that predispose to harmful mental dis- obsedierenden Zahlen. Psychiatrisch-Neurologischeorders. Investigations of healthy people who endorse beliefs Wochenschrift, 7: 263–267, 1905. Alvarez LW. A pseudo experience in parapsychology. Science, 148:in the paranormal may complement previous studies of possi- 1541, 1965.bly adaptive effects of anomalous functional lateralization in Barnett KJ and Corballis MC. 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It does not come as a surprise, therefore, that Bering JM. The folk psychology of souls. Behavioral and Brainbelief in the paranormal is associated with a pronounced Sciences, 29: 453–462, 2006.hedonic capacity (Brugger, 1995). Here, a revival of some for- Biklen D. Communication unbound: autism and praxis. Harvardgotten concepts, such as the distinction between emotionally Educational Review, 60: 291–314, 1990. Bisiach E, Rusconi ML, and Vallar G. Remission ofbased and intellectually based beliefs (Sappington, 1990) could somatoparaphrenic delusion through vestibular stimulation.prove helpful. When it comes to the functional neuroanatomy Neuropsychologia, 29: 1029–1031, 1991.of emotional–cognitive interactions, we note that already 19th Blackmore S. Out-of-body experiences in schizophrenia. 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