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Valuation of rationality and paranormal belief
#1
I'm hesitant to post this, as the paper isn't available online (except for an exorbitant fee) and the abstract poses more questions than it answers, but in the thought that it may stimulate some debate ...

Courtesy of the SPR Facebook page, a forthcoming paper finds that scepticism towards "unfounded beliefs" (including belief in the paranormal) depends not only on cognitive ability but also on the value placed on rationality. It's not clear from the abstract what paranormal beliefs were considered, or on what basis they were thought to be unfounded. It would be ironic if the statement that belief in the paranormal was unfounded was itself an unfounded belief!

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/art...6917306323
Epistemic rationality: Skepticism toward unfounded beliefs requires sufficient cognitive ability and motivation to be rational
Tomas Ståhl and Jan-Willem van Prooijen (University of Illinois at Chicago and VU Amsterdam/The NSCR)
Personality and Individual Differences, 122 (1 February 2018), 155–163.
Why does belief in the paranormal, conspiracy theories, and various other phenomena that are not backed up by evidence remain widespread in modern society? In the present research we adopt an individual difference approach, as we seek to identify psychological precursors of skepticism toward unfounded beliefs. We propose that part of the reason why unfounded beliefs are so widespread is because skepticism requires both sufficient analytic skills, and the motivation to form beliefs on rational grounds. In Study 1 we show that analytic thinking is associated with a lower inclination to believe various conspiracy theories, and paranormal phenomena, but only among individuals who strongly value epistemic rationality. We replicate this effect on paranormal belief, but not conspiracy beliefs, in Study 2. We also provide evidence suggesting that general cognitive ability, rather than analytic cognitive style, is the underlying facet of analytic thinking that is responsible for these effects.
"There are more things in philosophy than are dreamt of in heaven and earth."
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#2
I notice one of the comments on the SPR page uses the word "skeptard". Ugh.
"There are more things in philosophy than are dreamt of in heaven and earth."
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#3
(11-14-2017, 10:28 AM)Chris Wrote: It's not clear from the abstract what paranormal beliefs were considered, or on what basis they were thought to be unfounded. It would be ironic if the statement that belief in the paranormal was unfounded was itself an unfounded belief!

Hmm, this quote seems to demonstrate muddled or irrational thinking on the part of the authors:
Quote:"In Study 1 we show that analytic thinking is associated with a lower inclination to believe various conspiracy theories, and paranormal phenomena, but only among individuals who strongly value epistemic rationality."

In my view these topics don't belong in the same category, and lumping them together may illustrate something else, for example an unwillingness to consider actual evidence, or maybe the degree of willingness to believe in something simply because it is part of the status quo.
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#4
(11-14-2017, 12:26 PM)Typoz Wrote: Hmm, this quote seems to demonstrate muddled or irrational thinking on the part of the authors:

In my view these topics don't belong in the same category, and lumping them together may illustrate something else, for example an unwillingness to consider actual evidence, or maybe the degree of willingness to believe in something simply because it is part of the status quo.

Yes, it's not really possible to judge the paper from the abstract. For example, I wonder whether open-mindedness contributes towards their measure of "inclination to believe". You can believe something, or you can disbelieve it, or you can keep an open mind about it. I'm not sure how those three options can be adequately characterised by a single "inclination to believe" criterion. It would be interesting to know how the number of "don't knows" varies with cognitive ability and valuation of rationalism.
"There are more things in philosophy than are dreamt of in heaven and earth."
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#5
Conventional opinions fit so comfortably into the dominant paradigm as to be seen not as opinions but as statements of fact, as 'the nature of things.' The very efficacy of opinion manipulation rests on the fact that we do not know we are being manipulated. The most insidious forms of oppression are those that so insinuate themselves into our communication universe and the recesses of our minds that we do not even realize they are acting upon us. The most powerful ideologies are not those that prevail against all challengers but those that are never challenged because in their ubiquity they appear as nothing more than the unadorned truth.”


“Radical views that are outside the mainstream generally (but not always) are more reliable than the dominant view because they are more regularly challenged and tested against evidence. They do not get to float freely down the mainstream; they must swim against the current. They cannot rest on the orthodox power to foreclose dissent, and they are not supported by the unanimity of bias that passes for objectivity.”

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           - Michael Parenti
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#6
The term 'unfounded beliefs' is an interesting one. In whose opinion are they unfounded? Do they say anywhere what the criteria are for something to be unfounded for the purposes of their report? 

I am sure there are plenty of people who have beliefs which are unfounded but I'd say most people who have an opinion that psi is real usually have some reason for it - either personal experience or research/study.
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#7
(11-14-2017, 07:51 PM)Obiwan Wrote: The term 'unfounded beliefs' is an interesting one. In whose opinion are they unfounded? Do they say anywhere what the criteria are for something to be unfounded for the purposes of their report? 

I am sure there are plenty of people who have beliefs which are unfounded but I'd say most people who have an opinion that psi is real usually have some reason for it - either personal experience or research/study.

In the second study the results for belief in the paranormal apparently differed from those for belief in conspiracies. But as the abstract is written, I can't tell whether the difference arose because belief in conspiracies wasn't (negatively) correlated with cognitive ability, or because it wasn't (negatively) correlated with the valuation of rationality.
"There are more things in philosophy than are dreamt of in heaven and earth."
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#8
I have come to the opinion that rationality, as the word is used by skeptics, is a loaded term. What I mean is that it is used as a validation of their own worldview and that if they can claim rationality for that worldview then others must be irrational. Calling themselves rationalists along with other self-validating descriptors such as freethinkers, critical thinkers and, of course, Brights, is like saying at the outset, "no matter what you think, if you disagree with me you must be wrong".
"I shall not commit the fashionable stupidity of regarding everything I cannot explain as a fraud.” ― C.G. Jung
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#9
(11-14-2017, 08:19 PM)Kamarling Wrote: Calling themselves rationalists along with other self-validating descriptors such as freethinkers, critical thinkers and, of course, Brights, is like saying at the outset, "no matter what you think, if you disagree with me you must be wrong".

I just had a look at the Wikipedia page on "Brights". I always think it's funny when supposed sceptics swallow popular misconceptions uncritically. In this case Daniel Dennett swallowed the one about "the highly successful hijacking of the ordinary word "gay" by homosexuals". The word "gay" may not always have meant homosexual, but it certainly wasn't the childlike, innocent word that some people assume. It has had connotations of sexual promiscuity since medieval times - for example in the 15th century morality play Everyman:

"Take this, body, for the sin of the flesh;
Also thou delightest to go gay and fresh,
And in way of damnation you did me bring ..."
"There are more things in philosophy than are dreamt of in heaven and earth."
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#10
The idea that a large group of people, could conspire to"hijack a word" strikes me as rather irrational.
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