U.K. paranormal survey shows rise in belief

Ghosts are popular. Who knew? Yeah, we all knew that.

Who you gonna call? Belief in ghosts is rising – Telegraph.

There may have been centuries of sightings with no proof of their existence, but a new study suggests belief in ghosts is growing in the UK.

More than half of those taking part (52 per cent) said they believed in the supernatural, a marked increase on the two previous comparable studies, in 2009 and 2005, which both found a level of around 40 per cent.

The survey also found that one in five claimed to have had some sort of paranormal experience.

The new study was carried out for the Association for the Scientific Study of Anomalous Phenomena (Assap), for its annual conference.

The head of ASSAP seemed surprised at the large numbers for ghost belief. I can’t tell if the survey was good or not but it seems sound (was not done for a media company at least) and this number is not surprising. They also note how the paranormal is big business with many MANY TV shows and paranormal tourism on the rise. It seems very plausible that the popularity in culture of these stories does influence people’s interest in them and if the tale is culturally available, more people are apt to accept it as true (availability heuristic). However, the interest in UFOs is falling in the U.K.

“We have felt that a belief in UFOs has been declining for some time. I think a belief in ghosts is easier to sustain. Most people will know someone they respect who claims to have some sort of experience. That is no longer the case with UFOs.”

Ghosts are more fun. And profitable.

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  8 comments for “U.K. paranormal survey shows rise in belief

  1. Chris Howard
    September 16, 2013 at 12:22 PM

    The content (paranormal) has an emotional component that is lacking in the skeptic communities content.

    It creates emotional responses that the audience can bond over, via paranormal societies. This strengthens the convictions of the believers, and creates a sense of community.

    Until we (skeptics) can learn to make entertaining content that, simultaneously informs, and creates emotional impact we’ll never generate the same kinda of numbers that paranormal content provides.

  2. spookyparadigm
    September 16, 2013 at 2:00 PM

    UFOs don’t lend themselves to tourism. Also, their primary public reading (spaceships) feeds off an increasingly distant interest in outer space and high-end physical sciences (the atomic and space ages, which didn’t last all that long). And there is the icky abduction business. And the weird politics. And so on.

    Ghosts are better made for easily packaged simulation entertainment. They only require a backstory and atmosphere. The UFO is a guy pinning strings together on a map surrounded by newspaper clippings and other signs of obsession.

  3. spookyparadigm
    September 16, 2013 at 2:19 PM

    Chris, I’m not so sure I entirely agree. I increasingly think that pseudosciences best work repackaging already existing emotional impulses and interests, including religious ones. In the last year or two, two pop stars (Megan Fox, Katy Perry) both went on in interviews about their love of Ancient Aliens. They’re also both Pentecostals living in a pop celebrity community that almost certainly would not be very accepting of such a conservative faith. But Ancient Aliens? That just becomes “California New Age whatever.” Others have also made the connection that Ancient Aliens becomes a handy compromise between a materialist view of the world, and wanting to trust ancient scriptures (this is something of the argument Brian Regal makes about Bigfoot killing the Wild Man/Werewolf after Darwin, come to think of it).

    Science can easily have an emotional component like occulture does. But it won’t to most people, because for most people, their relationship with such topics will be based on previous emotional needs already set by the culture. In fact, I would wager a lot of pop culture representations of science feed paranormal investigation. Most pop culture representations of science either depict the scientist as an evil naysayer in league with uncaring or dangerous bureaucracies, or as a steampunkish or otherwise pre-modern rogue.

    In my experience, many to most “Bigfoot skeptics” are those who had such impulses, but at some point asked too many questions of the data and its proponents, and became more entranced by the real power of real answers and how they are derived.

    I think the only way to really cultivate a sense of scientific wonder, a generation in advance, is to have positive and smart examples of science pervading a child’s experience from a very early age, and preferably in the home and family activities (library trips, museums, interests of older family members, etc.). Sure, there are plenty of other roads there, but this is one of those places I’d bet you’ll find multigenerational effects of and on education.

  4. Chris Howard
    September 16, 2013 at 6:21 PM

    Education is most definitely the way to go.

    My point is that a tv program, or movie has to have an emotional element to hold the audiences attention (human interest).

    “Will the lady with cancer succumb to the lies of the snake oil salesman in Houston, or will she be cured by the good doctors using science-based medicine?”

    Protagonist: Nice Lady. Antagonist: Snake oil salesman, Obstacle/Challenge: cancer, Conflict: Snake oil vs. science based medicine, her life hangs in the balance! Her loved ones are in anguish!

    In other words you have to make the story of science (not to be confused with actual science) accessible, and concrete, and less abstract in peoples minds or it becomes cold, tangential, and is perceived as out of touch, and not rooted in reality i.e., “ivory tower.”

    1st act = background, roughly a quarter of the content of the story. 2nd act = conflict which should be building to a confrontation, and solidifies emotional investment via familiarity and empathy with the characters i.e., emotional investment by the audience. 3rd act resolution, “return with the elixir” (to use monomyth nomenclature) The End. FTB. It’s really that simple.

    We’re always trying to teach via video. That’s a mistake. People do not watch TV to learn, they watch TV to be entertained. School is where one learns.

    TV, at its best, can accurately represent science, and serve as a catalyst that piques the interest, and it can inform, but it can’t educate, not in the way necessary for true scientific understanding, and literacy.

    In order to grow the audience beyond the skeptic demographic we need to give the consumer what they want, while still maintaining the integrity of our message.
    That has to be this: “Hook them emotionally, and leave them with something to think/be concerned about.”

    Ghost hunting shows, and paranormal groups do just that. They personalize the experience, while creating a sense of community. It’s this formula that creates strong bonds, strong beliefs, and overall better mental health.

  5. September 16, 2013 at 8:21 PM

    I remember growing up in England that the show Most Haunted was all the rage. Practically everyone watched it. It was hosted by that really annoying psychic, Derek Acorah and his trusty team of sidekicks. When ratings went down (because every episode was essentially the same) they started doing a live version, which for some reason lasted for quite a few seasons.

    The funny thing is, everyone I knew who watched it all pretty much said, “It’s bullshit, there’s no such things as ghosts but it’s a pretty amusing show”. Acorah and his crew thought they were fooling everyone, but people were only watching it because it was absurdly and bluntly fake to the point of being a kind of satirical form entertainment.

  6. September 16, 2013 at 10:49 PM

    The ghost genre can indeed be more fun than the UFO community, or at least different. In 2012 I attended the Ozark UFO Con in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. When it wrapped up, I moved headquarters to “America’s most haunted hotel”, the Crescent. Night and day.

  7. neko
    September 16, 2013 at 11:49 PM

    The ghosts are rising, and the UFOs are falling. Sounds like the premise of Quatermass and the Pit.

  8. September 17, 2013 at 5:26 AM

    Surely the idea of Ghosts is as old as mankind (perhaps two hundred thousand years). Like superstition and religion it is rooted in our subconscious. Unidentified flying phenomena are just a comparatively recent fad, which has waned in the same way that fairies did for an earlier generation.

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