By Signe Dean via ScienceAlert
To a conspiracy theorist, the world is not what it seems. Invisible threads link seemingly unrelated concepts, and there’s no such thing as a random coincidence.
Researchers have been scratching their heads for years over what makes some people more conspiratorially inclined. Now a recent study has finally tracked down one of the faulty thinking patterns. As it turns out, we all use it – but these people use it too much.
A team of psychologists from Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam in the Netherlands and the University of Kent in the UK has determined that conspiracy theorists are hooked on something called ‘illusory pattern perception’.
“People often hold irrational beliefs, which we broadly define here as unfounded, unscientific, and illogical assumptions about the world,” the team writes in the study.
“Although many irrational beliefs exist, belief in conspiracy theories and belief in the supernatural are particularly prevalent among ordinary, nonpathological citizens.”
In other words, conspiracy theorists are not “nuts”. They’re totally sane, which makes their beliefs all the more puzzling – until we realise that they actually see the world quite differently.
Illusory pattern perception is a pretty simple concept. It happens whenever we find a meaningful pattern in random stimuli, drawing correlations and even causation where none has actually occurred.
For example, you might have a dream about an elderly relative, and then receive news the following day that the relative has passed away. For some people that would be enough to conclude that their dreams can predict the future.
Even though reincarnation stories can never really be proven true, some of them have elements that are genuinely mind-boggling, especially when the stories come from children too young to have much knowledge of the world.
10 • Edward Austrian
Patricia Austrian’s four-year-old son Edward had a phobia of drizzly, grey days. Then he developed a problem with his throat and started to complain of severe pain. Whenever he had a sore throat, he said that his “shot was hurting.” Edward told his mother very detailed stories about his previous life in the trenches in what was apparently World War I. He told her that he had been shot in the throat and killed.
At first doctors could not find a cause for his sore throat and removed his tonsils as a precautionary measure. A cyst developed in his throat and doctors did not know how to treat it. As soon as Edward was prompted to tell his parents and others more about his previous life and talk about how he was killed, the cyst disappeared. Edward’s doctors never found out why the cyst had vanished.
9 • The Dutch Clock
Bruce Whittier had reoccurring dreams of being a Jewish man hiding in a house with his family. His name had been Stefan Horowitz, a Dutch Jew who was discovered in his hiding place along with his family and taken to Auschwitz, where he died. During and after the dreams, he felt panicked and restless. He began to record his dreams, and one night he dreamed about a clock, which he was able to draw in great detail upon waking.
Whittier dreamed about the location of the clock in an antiques shop and went to look. The clock was visible in the shop window and looked exactly like the one in his dreams. Whittier asked the dealer where it had come from. It transpired that the dealer had bought the clock from among the property of a retired German major in The Netherlands. This convinced Whittier that he really had led a past life.
8 • John Raphael And The Tower Tree
Peter Hume, a bingo caller from Birmingham, England, started having a very specific dreams about life on guard duty at the Scottish border in 1646. He was a foot soldier of Cromwell’s army and his name was John Raphael. When put under hypnosis, Hume remembered more details and locations. He started to visit places he remembered with his brother and even found small items that appeared to have come from the era in which he had lived, such as horse spurs.
With the help of a village historian in Culmstock, South England, he even managed to positively identify details about a church that he had known—he was able to tell her that the church used to have a tower with a yew tree growing from it. This was not a published fact, and it startled her that Hume knew it—the church tower had been taken down in 1676. In local registers, John Raphael was discovered to have been married in the church. A civil war historian, Ronald Hutton, investigated the case and asked Hume very era-specific questions while under hypnosis. Hutton was not satisfied that Hume was totally in tune with the era of his past life, as he could not answer all his questions in a satisfactory way.
7 • Who’s Your Grandad?
Gus Taylor was 18 months old when he started to say that he was his own grandfather. Young children can be confused about their own identity and those of their family members, but this was different. His grandfather had died a year before Gus was born and the boy totally believed they were the same person. When shown some family photographs, Gus identified “Grandpa Augie” when he was four years old.
There was a family secret that nobody had ever spoken about in front of or around Gus—Augie’s sister had been murdered and dumped in the San Francisco Bay. The family were perplexed when the four-year-old child started to talk about his dead sister. According to Gus, God gave him a ticket after he died. With this ticket he was able to travel through a hole, after which he came back to life as Gus.
6 • The Case Of Imad Elawar
Five-year-old Imad Elawar from Lebanon started talking about his life in a nearby village. The first two words he spoke as a child were the names “Jamileh” and “Mahmoud,” and at the age of two he stopped stranger outside and told him they had been neighbors. The child and his parents were investigated by Dr Ian Stevenson. Imad made over 55 different claims about his previous life.
The family visited the village that the boy had been spoken of, together with Stevenson, and found the house where he claimed he had lived. Imad and his family were able to positively identify thirteen facts and memories that were confirmed as being accurate. Imad recognized his previous uncle, Mahmoud, and his mistress from a former life, Jamileh, from photographs. He was able to remember where he had kept his gun, a fact verified by others, and was able to have a chat with a stranger about their experiences during their army days. In total, 51 out of 57 of the experiences and places mentioned by Imad were verified during the visit.
MORE – – – Listverse
- 10 Interesting Cases Of Supposed Reincarnation (listverse.com)