Fake science: The impact of pseudo-psychological demonstrations on people’s beliefs in psychological principles

Lan, Yuxuan; Mohr, Christine; Hu, Xiaomeng and Kuhn, Gustav. 2018. Fake science: The impact of pseudo-psychological demonstrations on people’s beliefs in psychological principles. PLoS ONE, 13(11), ISSN 1932-6203 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

Magicians use deception to create effects that allow us to experience the impossible. More recently, magicians have started to contextualize these tricks in psychological demonstrations. We investigated whether witnessing a magic demonstration alters people’s beliefs in these pseudo-psychological principles. In the classroom, a magician claimed to use psychological skills to read a volunteer’s thoughts. After this demonstration, participants reported higher beliefs that an individual can 1) read a person’s mind by evaluating micro expressions, psychological profiles and muscle activities, and 2) effectively prime a person’s behaviour through subtle suggestions. Whether he was presented as a magician or psychologist did not influence people’s beliefs about how the demonstration was achieved, nor did it influence their beliefs in pseudo-psychological principles. Our results demonstrate that pseudo-psychological demonstrations can have a significant impact on perpetuating false beliefs in scientific principles and raise important questions about the wider impact of scientific misinformation.

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Mis-information, Belief formation, Priming, Magic trick, Deception

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1 November 2018Accepted
27 November 2018Published

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Date Deposited:

22 Nov 2018 10:35

Last Modified:

19 Nov 2020 10:38

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.



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