Do you believe in ghosts?
Everyone has been asked this question and if you answered yes then someone has likely scoffed at you.
But research suggests people who believe in things like hauntings and clairvoyance are not necessarily less intelligent or more illogical than people that don’t, they just have a different way of thinking.
This is according to a new review of 71 studies examining links between paranormal beliefs and cognitive functions which include memory, attention, and language.
The paper was written by a team of researchers from the University of Hertfordshire who examined studies across four decades.
“The difference between believers and sceptics seems to come from how flexible their thinking style is, and how they approach novel or abstract problems,” said lead researcher Charlotte E. Dean.
“It’s not that believers are less intelligent. It’s to do with the application of their problem-solving skills.”
Most of the studies reviewed were of a good methodological quality, though the authors noted areas of improvement, for example, many studies lacked a discussion of their limitations and undergraduate students made up a large segment of participants.
Majority of the findings are aligned in that these types of beliefs are associated with cognitive differences, so it does seem a lot depends on the way your brain is wired.
The studies consistently found there is a significant association between paranormal belief and an intuitive thinking style, characterised as being more quick thinking and guided by emotion.
There were more mixed results in the studies concerning the links between paranormal beliefs and an analytical thinking style, which is thought to be more effortful and driven by logic.
A positive relationship between paranormal beliefs and analytical thinking was found in two studies, but two others found no relationship and a further four reported negative relationships.
“Sceptics tend to be characterised by an analytical thinking style,” Dean said.
“If you give them an abstract problem, they think of all the different ways to solve it and pick the one most likely to work. Believers are characterised by an intuitive thinking style and go with their instinct.”
So, if you believe in ghosts, you can now make your sceptical friends eye roll even more by telling them it’s because you are intuitive.