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Confirmation Bias & Testing a Superstition

Confirmation Bias & Testing a Superstition and other paranormal phenomena

Last weekend, while at a friend’s party, we began talking about ghosts, bizarre dreams, and other paranormal phenomena. This went on for about an hour or so at one in the morning. I myself don’t believe in paranormal phenomena because, as it happens, there isn’t much evidence for it. What many consider “hard evidence” turns out to be grainy or distorted photos, blurry videos, and stories by unreliable sources. But I listened attentively, trying to see if I could explain some of the things they said using psychology. As it turns out, they did say something that can be explained by psychology and even tested with a simple experiment.

The Superstition

One of my friends (let’s call her Lily) said that whenever she thinks of another friend (let’s call her Jasmine), she ends up getting a call from Jasmine, as if she’s able to predict when Jasmine is going to call. Jasmine said the same thing happens to her: she always gets a phone call from Lily whenever she thinks of calling her.

This same phenomena is responsible for other superstitions, most notably “bad luck” superstitions. And, be honest with yourself: you, too, have fallen victim to this way of thinking at one point or another. Have you ever reasoned that every time you think or dream of someone, you end up seeing that person or getting a phone call from them? Have you ever thought you had “bad luck” after walking under a latter, breaking a mirror, or spilling salt?(This mentality can also include other things.)Personality Psychology, Biopsychology, influence of biology

For example, as a child I sometimes thought the weather reflected my mood. Whenever I was mad or feeling down, dark clouds would appear outside, or harsh winds and rain. When I was joyful, the sun was always out, and the wind was genital and fresh.

The Psychological Answer

This way of thinking is a form of confirmation bias. Simply put, confirmation bias is the tendency to “notice and to look for what confirms one’s beliefs, and to ignore, not look for, or undervalue the relevance of what contradicts one’s beliefs.”

In my case, for example, my mood did not control or predict the weather—obviously. I just tended to remember more the times when I looked out the window and noticed that the weather matched my mood because it confirmed my beliefs. Conversely, I usually ignored and forgot about the times when the weather and my mood did not match because it did not fit into this same belief. In short, I always remembered the instances when the weather reflected my mood but forgot the instances when it did not.
The same thing is happening with my friends.

There are times when Lily thinks of Jasmine and then, soon enough, she gets a phone call from her (and vise-versa); but there are other times when she thinks of Jasmine and doesn’t receive a phone call. Yet, because she believes that they have some sort of “psychic-connection,” she will most likely remember the times when she got a phone call and forget the times when she did not.Making a Simple Experiment
Of course, you don’t have to take my word for it.

If you think this has a paranormal explanation, there is a way to test it out. If you (or a friend) believe to have a “psychic-connection,” try the following: every time you think of that person, write down his or her name on a small notebook. If you get a phone call from that person shortly after thinking of him or her, draw a “check-mark” next to their name. If the person doesn’t call, mark an “x.” Do the same if you accidentally bump into that person later that day. “Check-marks” for yes, “x’s” for no.

At the end of the week or month, check your results. If you really do have a “psychic-connection” with your friend, then there will be many, many more “check-marks” in your notebook than “x’s.” If, however, you have about the same amount for both (as should be expected by chance), or less, then you probably don’t have a “psychic-connection.”

Being able to come up with (and carry out) these simple experiments to verify things is, I think, much cooler than believing you have a “psychic-connection” with no solid evidence to back up your belief. But that’s just me and my geeky love of science!Jun 22, 201316 notes #psychology #confirmation bias #superstitions #self-deception

Can you tell me more about basic pyschology? I’m a college student who did not take Psychology as a course, but I have a psychology subject and we have this homework about what basic psychology is and is not, I have to fill the whole short bond paper with one paragraph only. Please help me? 🙁

Well, the textbook definition is: “Psychology is the scientific study of behavior and mental processes.” Introduction to Psychology courses usually cover a bit of the field’s history and then a small glimpse into every subfield of psychology. One subfield, Developmental Psychology, is concerned with both positive and negative changes that occur in the human lifespan. These changes can be in almost anything: perception, biological changes, memory, etc.

A second subfield is Biological Psychology (sometimes called Biopsychology, Psychobiology, or Behavioral Neuroscience). This subfield is concerned with the influence of biology (including the physical state of the brain, neurotransmitters, and genes) on behavior.Another subfield is Social Psychology, which deals with our interpersonal relationships and how we behave in social situations. Topics in social psychology include: stereotypes, prejudice, and discrimination; conformity and social norms; social interactions and romantic relationships; and group decision-making.And then there’s Personality Psychology, which deals with aspects of the entire person.

This includes personality traits, goals and motivation, and how a person arranges his or her life memories to create an identity of the self.There’s also Cognitive Psychology, which deals with perception, memory, learning, language, attention, and other thinking-processes.And then there are other things, like Abnormal Psychology, Positive Psychology, Comparative Psychology, and others. All these subfields always interact with each other at one point or another; you can’t have a complete understanding of human behavior by looking at only one of these subfields.

 

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