Talking to the dead in the classroom. How a supposedly psychic event impacts beliefs and feelings

Lesaffre, Lise; Kuhn, Gustav; Jopp, Daniela; Mantzouranis, Gregory; Ndéyane, Cécile; Rochat, Déborah and Mohr, Christine. 2021. Talking to the dead in the classroom. How a supposedly psychic event impacts beliefs and feelings. Psychological Reports, 124(6), pp. 2427-2452. ISSN 0033-2941 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

Paranormal beliefs (PBs) are common in adults. There are numerous psychological correlates of PBs and associated theories, yet, we do not know whether such correlates reinforce or result from PBs. To understand causality, we developed an experimental design in which participants experience supposedly paranormal events. Thus, we can test an event’s impact on PBs and PB-associated correlates (Mohr, Lesaffre, & Kuhn, 2018). Here, 419 naïve students saw a performer making contact with a confederate’s deceased kin. We tested participants’ opinions and feelings about this performance, and whether these predicted how participants explain the performance. We assessed participants’ PBs and repetition avoidance (PB related cognitive correlate) before and after the performance. Afterwards, participants rated explanations of the event and described their opinions and feelings (open-ended question). Overall, 65% of participants reported having witnessed a genuine paranormal event. The open-ended question revealed distinct opinion and affect groups, with reactions commonly characterized by doubt and mixed feelings. Importantly, paranormal explanations were more likely when participants reported their feelings than when not reported. Beyond these results, we replicated that 1) higher pre-existing PBs were associated with more psychic explanations (confirmation bias), and 2) PBs and repetition avoidance did not change from before to after the performance. Yet, PBs reminiscent of the actual performance (spiritualism) increased.

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Identification Number (DOI):


belief, supernatural, magic routine, cognition, affect

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10 September 2020Accepted
5 September 2020Published Online
December 2021Published

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Date Deposited:

18 Sep 2020 14:32

Last Modified:

22 Nov 2021 13:52

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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