Tag Archives: Psychology Today

Hypnosis showed I was a killer

If you ask me, this looks and sounds like a classic case of false memory or planted memories.

Mason I. Bilderberg (MIB)

Also see “False Memories” at Psychology Today or Wikipedia


Janet ‘forgot she shot rapist’ in 1976
Relieved ... Janet is grateful hypnosis helped her remember

Relieved … Janet is grateful hypnosis helped her remember

By GRAEME CULLIFORD and SASKIA MURPHY The Sun | News

SHOCKED Janet Holt has told how hypnosis revealed she KILLED a farmer who she believes raped her — more than 30 years ago.

Janet, 64, had buried the horrific memories until she went for therapy.

In 1976 Fred Handford, 56 — her business partner on the farm — vanished. Despite a huge police search he was never found.

For more than 30 years Janet, who worked with him on the farm, had no clue what happened to him.

Young farmer ... Janet

Young farmer … Janet

But she had repeated unexplained nightmares about Fred. So she underwent therapy to see if there was something locked deep in her mind.

She was unprepared for the memories that flooded back.

Janet said the recollection was terrifyingly clear — she shot Fred after he twice raped her, then put his body in a wheelbarrow and buried him on their farm.

She said: “There are no words to describe how I felt when I realised. I gave myself in to police.”

Janet was arrested and showed cops where she believed she buried the body. But after extensive searches of the 50-acre site, he was never found and she was released.

Back in 1976, Janet — aged 26 — had been a worker on Ball Beard Farm, Buxton, Derbyshire — where Fred lived — for more than ten years. She felt her relationship with him was like a father and daughter.

But one March day she had a blackout. She woke at her parents’ house and could not remember the previous four days.

Janet said: “I had this urge to go to the farm because I had a feeling something had happened.

“I took my mother with me but Fred was nowhere to be seen. After a while we called police.”

Fred was declared missing. Janet was quizzed but freed. She thought he might have killed himself.

Then Janet heard of a form of psychotherapy called Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) — used to recall memories and eliminate trauma.

She said: “The therapy involved me trying to relive the lost four days and moving my eyes from side to side to stimulate the memories.”

After four hours, Janet believes she recalled everything. She said: “Four days before Fred vanished, he raped me twice. I had clear visions of it.

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VeganThink

Dr. John McDougall Tries to Explain the Death of Steve Jobs

By Dr. Kaayla T. Daniel, Ph.D., C.C.N. via Psychology Today

apple jobsSteve Jobs lived more than 30 years after developing pancreatic cancer thanks to his vegan diet.

That’s the preposterous claim made by Dr. John McDougall in a lecture that has been viewed by more than 52,500 people on YouTube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=81xnvgOlHaY  and widely touted in the vegan community as a scientifically sound example of VeganThink.

McDougall speculates that Jobs first developed cancer in his twenties, which might well be the case given that most cancers develop years before diagnosis.  But by that line of thinking, anyone diagnosed with cancer who has made it to mid life could be living thirty years past the initial cancer cell divide.  Most of those people will have been on Standard American Diets, high in sugar, starch, factory-farmed animal products and all American junk food.  Somehow McDougall holds that animal products caused those cancers but Jobs’s nearly lifelong obsession with veganism could only have prolonged his life!

So why did Jobs develop cancer despite what McDougall himself concedes was a “strict vegan diet” with few lapses over his lifetime?  1108 McDougall’s position — and he’s sticking to it!  —   is vegan diets prevent and cure cancer.   Therefore, it must have been bad luck — the equivalent of “being struck by lightning” or “hit by a car” –  that caused Jobs’s cancer and fueled its progression.  How else to explain the fact that Steve Wozniak (an overweight fast-food junkie), Bill Gates and other computer pioneers are alive despite similar exposure to carcinogenic lead and cadmium from soldering computer parts, long-term bombardment from radiation and EMFs, and other lifestyle risk factors that would have put all of them at increased risk for cancer?   The reason those things caused cancer in Jobs but not the others must have been luck of the draw because Jobs’s vegan diet “could only have helped him.”

None of us, of course, can say for certain what caused the pancreatic cancer that led to Steve Jobs’s death, or what, if anything could have saved him.   Dietary, lifestyle, environmental and genetic factors all must have come into play.   But McDougall’s failure to even consider the role that Jobs’s vegan diet –  and frequent fruitarianism — may have played in his death is unhelpful at best and irresponsible at worst.

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Your Sixth Sense

Perhaps you’ve lived this moment before. Perhaps you’re seeing yourself at a distance, as never before. Anomalous experiences are real and life-changing. That doesn’t mean they occur outside your own head.

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By Matthew Hutson via Psychology Today

Chances are, at some point in your life, you’ve felt someone staring at you. Maybe you were at the grocery store.looking-back-over-my-shoulder_300px Maybe walking along the sidewalk. Maybe sitting on a bus. And sure enough, when you turned your head to look, the suspect’s eyes met yours.

You just had an anomalous experience.

The job of the conscious mind is to form a story out of all our sensations and reflections. Life as we experience it is not just a series of unconnected thoughts and events; it’s a coherent narrative unfolding in an orderly universe. But sometimes we have experiences that don’t fit our expectations and may even contradict what science has taught us is possible. In our attempts to accommodate such outlier phenomena, we often turn to unproven forces or entities. We start to believe in the paranormal.

Anomalous experience of this sort ranges from sensing a strange vibe in a room to feeling outside your own body. We often explain such experiences using concepts related to spirits, luck, witchcraft, psychic powers, life energy, or more terrestrial (and extraterrestrial) entities. Such explanations are often more appealing, or at least more intuitive, than blaming an odd experience on a trick of the mind.

astralt_250pxOne of the most common anomalous experiences is the sense of being stared at. When you see someone gazing directly at you, emotions become activated—it can be exciting or comforting or creepy—and this visceral charge can give the impression that gazes transfer energy. Further, if you feel uncomfortable and check to see whether someone is looking at you, your movement may draw attention—confirming your suspicions.

Another common experience is déjà vu, a phenomenon two in three people report. Most of us shrug it off as a mental hiccup. Indeed, researchers propose it’s a sense of familiarity without a recollection of why something is familiar, or perhaps a timing issue in the brain where thoughts are experienced twice because of a slight wiring delay, lending the second occurrence an odd sensation of repetition. But some people believe it’s a glimpse into a past life.

While anomalous experiences may be associated with stressful circumstances, personal pathologies, or cognitive deficits, the experiences themselves may not always be so bad, and may actually be healthy inventions. They’re just our attempts to make sense of a weird situation. After all, there’s nothing the mind likes better than a good story.

Meaningful Coincidences

photoalbum_250pxAlex and Donna Voutsinas were leafing through family photo albums a week before their wedding in 2002 when one picture caught Alex’s eye. In the foreground was Donna, five years old, posing at Disney World with one of the Seven Dwarves. Behind them was Alex’s father pushing a stroller. And in the stroller was Alex. The boy’s family was visiting from Canada, and the two children would not meet until 15 years later. When he saw the photo, Alex said, “I got chills. It was just too much of a coincidence. It was fate.”

Nearly anyone would get chills in such a situation, but it takes a lot less—hearing the same new word twice in an hour, meeting someone who shares our birthday—to make us pause and say, “Well, how about that!” Such moments occur when we spot patterns, an ability (and compulsion) built into the brain from the earliest stages of perception. Pattern-finding lets us make sense of sensory input (those four legs are part of a table) and to predict regularities in our environment (apples fall down, not up; they’re often tasty; and throwing them makes people mad).

Pattern-finding is so central to survival and success that we see patterns everywhere, even in random data—a phenomenon called apophenia. We spot faces in clouds and hear messages in records played backward. And while we expect some level of order in the world, on occasion our pattern-spotting gets away from us and makes a connection we wouldn’t expect. When that happens, we demand, at least subconsciously, an explanation.

It turns out that our favorite kinds of explanations involve “agents”—beings capable of intentional action. The agent could be a person, a god, or a superintelligent robot. We’re biased to blame even simple events on agents—spotting them or their footprints allows us to manage them if they are dangerous: It is better to mistake a twig for a snake than to mistake a snake for a twig.

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Why the Human Brain Is Designed to Distrust

Conspiracy theories come naturally.

By Douglas T. Kenrick, Ph.D. via Psychology Today

paranoia 737_267pxWhat kind of person would have so little trust in his fellow man to believe that the U.S. president and the CIA conspired to fake the death of Osama Bin Laden, or that the news media is tightly controlled by a powerful cadre of wealthy extremists? If you peruse the psychological literature on belief in conspiracy theories, or read political commentaries on the topic, you’ll hear a lot of talk about paranoia, alienation, and anomie. You’ll learn that people who believe in one bizarre conspiracy theory are also likely to believe in others (it’s all connected to illuminati and the Kennedy assassinations, after all). You’ll find out that conspiracy beliefs have been linked to being poor, being a member of a downtrodden minority, having a general sense that one’s life is controlled by external factors, and other unfortunate circumstances.

But there’s another perspective that stems from thinking about the evolutionary background of our species: The human brain was designed for conspiracy theories. On this view, we’re all conspiracy theorists–you, me, and your aunt Ginger in Iowa.

Let’s put aside the particulars of the wacky conspiracy theory du jour, and consider this: Some alleged conspiracies have turned out to be quite real–Al Qaeda, the CIA, the KGB, and the Mafia have all involved real people getting together to plot real nefarious deeds.  Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get you. As evolutionary theorists such as Robert Trivers and Bill von Hippel have observed: a serious down side of communication is that it opens the doors for deception (Is that a tasty worm or an angler fish’s trap? Is the killdeer really injured or faking it?). Human beings are especially talented communicators, and pretty good deceivers as well. Researchers who study the psychology of lying find not only that the average person lies about something every day, but that we can’t do that much better than chance at distinguishing a prevarification from a truthful statement. 

False Flag Caveman_400pxOur ancestors had to worry about plots by members of their own group as well as plots by members of other groups (who had even less to lose and more to gain from doing them harm). Evolutionary psychologists such as Pascal Boyer and Ara Norenzayan have noted that the human brain has powerful mechanisms for searching out complex and hidden causes. The popularity of Sherlock Holmes, James Bond, and Harry Potter owed much to their authors’ talents for exercising those causal mechanisms in readers.

And as evolutionary psychologists Randy Nesse and Martie Haselton have argued, the mind is designed like a smoke detector, set to go on red alert at any possible sign of threat in the environment (rather than waiting till the evidence is so overwhelming that it is too late to put out the fire). Once we have accepted a belief, we have a host of cognitive mechanisms designed to bias us against rejecting it. One of my favorite such studies was done at Stanford psychologists Charlie Lord, Lee Ross, and Mark Lepper. They presented their very bright students with a careful balance of scientific evidence for and against the benefits of capital punishment. After hearing that balanced evidence, the students who initially favored the death penalty were even more convinced they were right, whereas the antis became even more convinced in the opposite direction. What happened was that students selectively remembered weaknesses in the other side’s argument, and strengths of the evidence favoring their own side.  Sound familiar?  (and remember, these were Stanford students, not members of an extremist group holed up outside Two Dot, Montana).

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Your Dream World

Don’t go through life unaware you are
projecting the inner world onto the outer.

by William Berry via Psychology Today

This article isn’t about dream interpretation, though the analogy is apt. The post is about how projection, which is a staple in dreaming, occurs in waking life and affects what you see. It is about no longer walking through life in a dream like state, and taking the time to delve inside of yourself, and to interpret your life.

medium 840_250pxIn Gestalt dream analysis, everything in the dream is you. Other theories, though not outright stating everything in the dream is subjective, recognize that projection is apparent. After all, it is your mind creating the images, not an actual person invading your dream. Your unconscious projects an image. The real meaning of the image lies within you, not outside in another.

Dream interpretation is very interesting, and can provide clues to the unconscious. The purpose of this post is to discuss how the waking hours can do the same. There are aspects of reality we all agree upon: the weather; who won which bowl game; there is little about these aspects of reality anyone will argue. There is a great deal of room in daily interactions and activities, however, for one to have their own truth, their own perception of reality. In fact, it could be contended that the vast majority of occurrences in a day have a large element of projection.

Projection is when an individual attributes something within him or herself onto another. Basically, you see what you are. This is not new, there are numerous quotes that impart this meaning: Anaïs Nin stated, “We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.” Henry David Thoreau proclaimed, “It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” Carl Jung said, “Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.” These quotes, and likely many others, point to the theory that humans project their unconscious onto others. Simply, what one finds in the world is a reflection of one’s unconscious.

Who Are YouThe idea that one is projecting much of what he or she perceives maybe difficult to accept. People rely on their thinking beyond reproach. This is understandable; one has more access to his or her thoughts than any other material. One’s thinking has likely served him well. The thought of not relying on thinking could be terrifying. However, the alternative is to walk through a dream world never interpreted.

In previous posts I have touched on the theme of subjective reality. One of my more popular posts is “The Truth Will Not Set You Free.” The suggestion is similar here: question thinking. Evaluate it. Step outside of thought, look at it objectively and with an inquisitive mind, and evaluate it. Could all of these learned and insightful people, some of whom developed theories around projection, others who use the theories to assist others to increase happiness, have been wrong? Isn’t it possible or perhaps likely that what one sees is affected by their unconscious, by their experience, by their history? As such, how is projection affecting your vision?

To approach this differently, it is not being suggested that one simply cease having confidance in every thought and question everything. Nothing would get done. Automatic thinking serves the human race well. It helps discern between dangerous and benign situations. It allows for much more productivity. It eases living immensely. To be without it would be to become infantile.

Always functioning and trusting thinking, nevertheless, has its costs.

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A Conspiracy of One

by Joachim I. Krueger, Ph.D. via Psychology Today

TheTruthIsNotThere_05_400pxConspiracy theories thrive at the fringes of polite discourse. They have the smell of paranoia if they get out of hand. Some conspiracy theories are true and being on one’s guard is a good idea. Caesar dismissed warnings about Cassius and Brutus plotting and paid with his life. Other conspiracy theories are so far-flung that the question of whether they are true is not even meaningful. These theories are not testable. They are deaf to the sound of evidence—at least on the disconfirmatory side. In a German-language paper, I explored what I call The Grand Conspiracy Theory (Krueger, 2010). The GCT suggests that a small group of individuals controls every aspect of the world that matters: the economy, the media, war and peace, what have you. The governments and their representatives that we see are not really in charge; they are front pieces of darker and stronger forces that remain out of view, and they may not even know it. With a bit of googling you can find examples of this sort of thinking. Amazon is not above selling books on the matter. Try Illuminati as a key word.

According to the GCT, there are no accidents in world affairs. Everything that happens is part of a grand design to put and keep the masses in material and spiritual bondage, and to further increase the power of the cabal (This idea is problematic because if their power were already as great as claimed, there would be no room for further increases—but I digress). Believers in the GCT claim that they are on to the cabal—that is a necessary part of the theory itself. They further claim that the conspiracy might fail, and that indeed such a collapse may be imminent, if only enough people awakened to the stark facts. This basic arrangement can go on and on over many generations, with the presumed identity of the conspirators changing with the times (Templars, Jews, Freemasons, aliens, and reptiles being favorites).

Looking at conspiracy theories, and the grand one in particular, I noticed certain similarities with judeo-christian ideation. There is the idea of the all—or at least very—powerful force that is hidden, that has a plan, and that moves the world toward a cataclysmic end. The major differences are that the god of monotheism has no one with whom to conspire and that the human-based GCT has fewer good things to say about the power that be.

Given the similarities in the psychological pattern, I felt that mundane conspiracy theories might be derivatives of religious belief. This is not a new idea. Sir Karl Popper suggested that “The conspiracy theory of society…comes from abandoning God and then asking: What is in his place?” Umberto Eco noted . . .

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Field Guide to the Conspiracy Theorist: Dark Minds

When does incredulity become paranoia?

Radio personality and filmmaker Alex Jones believes
an evil cabal of bankers rules the world.

By John Gartner, Ph.D. via Psychology Today

Alex Jones is trying to warn us about an evil syndicate of bankers who control most of the world’s governments and stand poised to unite the planet under their totalitarian reign, a “New World Order.” AlexJonesLunaticWhile we might be tempted to dismiss Jones as a nut, the “king of conspiracy” is a popular radio show host. The part-time filmmaker’s latest movie, The Obama Deception, in which he argues that Obama is a puppet of the criminal bankers, has been viewed millions of times on YouTube.

When we spoke, Jones ranted for two hours about FEMA concentration camps, Halliburton child kidnappers, government eugenics programs—and more. When I stopped him to ask for evidence the government is practicing eugenics, he pointed to a national security memorandum. But I found the document to be a bland policy report.

Jones “cherry picks not just facts but phrases, which, once interpreted his way, become facts in his mind,” says Louis Black, editor of the Austin Chronicle, who knows Jones, a fellow Austin resident. When I confronted Jones with my reading of the report, he became pugnacious, launching into a diatribe against psychologists as agents of social control.

Conspiracy thinking is embraced by a surprisingly large proportion of the population. alexjones_animated_2Sixty-nine percent of Americans believe President John F. Kennedy was killed by a conspiracy, and 42 percent believe the government is covering up evidence of flying saucers, finds Ted Goertzel, a professor of psychology at Rutgers University at Camden. Thirty-six percent of respondents to a 2006 Scripps News/Ohio University poll at least suspected that the U.S. government played a role in 9/11.

We’re all conspiracy theorists to some degree. We’re all hardwired to find patterns in our environment, particularly those that might represent a threat to us. And when things go wrong, we find ourselves searching for what, or who, is behind it.

In his 1954 classic, The Paranoid Style in American Politics, historian Richard Hofstadter hypothesized that conspiracy thinking is fueled by underlying feelings of alienation and helplessness. Research supports his theory. New Mexico State University psychologist Marina Abalakina-Paap has found that people who endorse conspiracy theories are especially likely to feel angry, mistrustful, alienated from society, and helpless over larger forces controlling their lives.

Jones insists he had a “Leave It to Beaver childhood.” I couldn’t confirm such an idyllic past. alexjones_animated_3When I asked if I could interview his family or childhood friends, he insisted his family was very “private” and he had not kept in touch with a single friend. When I asked if I might look them up, he became irritated. He doubted he could “still spell their names,” and besides, I’d already taken up enough of his time. “I turned down 50 or 60 requests for interviews this week,” he wanted me to know.

The number sounded wildly inflated. Conspiracy theorists have a grandiose view of themselves as heroes “manning the barricades of civilization” at an urgent “turning point” in history, Hofstadter held. Jones has a “messiah complex,” Black contends. Grandiosity is often a defense against underlying feelings of powerlessness.

Even well-grounded skeptics are prone to connect disparate dots when they feel disempowered. In a series of studies, Jennifer Whitson of the University of Texas and Adam Galinsky of Northwestern demonstrated that people primed to feel out of control are particularly likely to see patterns in random stimuli.

Might people be especially responsive to Jones’ message in today’s America, marked by economic uncertainty and concerns about terrorism and government scandals?

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What About Alien Abductions?

by Erich Goode, Ph.D. MORE via Psychology Today

Believing that a pile of debris from a military surveillance nuclear-testing device found in the New Mexico desert in 1947 was the wreckage of an extraterrestrial aircraft—well, it’s a plausible belief. alien_47b610_300pxYou’d have to ignore a great deal of very persuasive disconfirming evidence and believe in an extremely large and extremely secretive government conspiracy, but, hey, a lot of people think along similar lines. Looking up at the night sky and seeing alien ships when others see Venus, unconventional aircraft, odd stellar formations, northern lights, blinking towers—or any other visual manifestations from a potpourri of earthly phenomena—hey, that’s not too strange. Some people have more imagination than others; they fill in the blanks where the rest of us stick pretty close to what their eyes tell them.

But alien abductions are another kettle of fish altogether. This is not a matter of perceiving ambiguous stimuli in a certain way or believing in conspiracies. And remember, some conspiracies do happen. But do alien abductions? Extraterrestrials kidnapping humans, taking them to their space ships, performing experiments on them, cutting them open, raping them, forcing women to bear hybrid babies? Thousands of people believe they have been abducted by aliens. Their memories of these experiences are vivid, painful, and terrifyingly real. What’s up here? Should we believe their stories?

Tales of alien contact have been narrated for centuries. Francis Godwin‘s The Man in the Moone (1638) and Ralph Morris’ A Narrative and the Life and Astonishing Adventures of John Daniel (1751), are taken today as intended fiction. However, in 1758, in Concerning Earths in Our Solar World, Emanuel Swedenborg made the claim that he had actually visited all the then-known planets, which he described in great detail, all inhabited by creatures who had devised ideal societies. aliens1_933_250pxWe now know of the existence of planets that were not described by Swedenborg (Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto—the last of which astronomers have declassified as a planet), and we know the ones he described bear no relation to his accounts, and of course, all the evidence we have says they’re uninhabited. And how was Swedenborg to know that half the planets in the solar system were gaseous and can’t support the weight of solid objects, such as humans? Or that Venus is a toxic hothouse of sulphuric acid that could support no conceivable life whatsoever. The truth is, he knew virtually nothing about what was on our solar system’s planets—and he couldn’t have.

The pre-1947 literature on alien contact usually has the contactee visiting another planet. These narratives include an account given in 1890 by Helen Smith of Martians speaking a language that sounds very much like French; in 1906 by Sarah Weis, who described nonexistent Martian canals in great detail; in 1918 by Aleister Crowley, who describes contact with “Lam,” an inhabitant of a distant constellation who has a bulbous head and tiny, beady eyes; and in 1930 by one Willard Magoon, who described Mars as a beautiful, lush planet of forests, parks, and gardens.

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Narcissistic People & the Lost Art of Conversation

This is so apropo given the upcoming holiday conversations😉
by Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. via Psychology Today

Most people are narcissistic.

I’m not using that word in the clinical diagnosistic way, nor in the everyday sense of vain or conceited. What I mean is that most people are almost exclusively focused upon themselves, their personal interests and their own emotional needs for attention. A certain amount of preoccupation with oneself is normal and healthy; it becomes a problem when you’re not truly interested in other people or ideas and only want to talk about yourself.

Here’s a fairly common experience for me: I’m at a party or social gathering, speaking to someone I’ve just met, or an acquaintance I haven’t seen in a long while. I’m asking questions, inquiring about the person’s background or catching up since we last met. Fifteen, twenty minutes pass…we’re still talking about the other person. I get the feeling that I could be anyone; I’m just a receptacle, a mirror or an audience. I provide needed attention to the other person; he or she has no interest in getting to know the man who’s listening.

As a therapist (by temperament as well as profession), I’m a good listener and adept at drawing people out. As a student of human nature, I’m genuinely curious and, for the most part, fascinated by the variety of people I meet. Sometimes I feel lonely, though. I used to be surprised and disappointed that the person I’d just met didn’t want to get to know me. Now I expect a lot less. Lack of genuine interest in others—that’s what I mean when I say I find most people to be narcissistic.

Even with friends, conversation tends to mean waiting your turn to launch into your own story, waiting for the gap or the conversational trigger that will make the transition over to you seem more or less natural. With some truly narcissistic people, the transition seems forced—they’ll use any excuse to change the subject. It can even seem funny if you look at it from the right point of view, although painful when you recognize the reasons for that kind of behavior.

[…]

With the holidays upon us, where parties and family gatherings are on the calendar, there’ll be plenty of opportunity to watch yourself and others at work. Is the conversation of the type I described? Are family and friends just waiting for their own turn to be the center of attention? Does one person tend to dominate? How about you? Do you ask questions? Do you take an interest in other people?

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Personality and Conspiracy Theories: What Your Beliefs Say About You

by Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, Ph.D. via Psychology Today

Personality and Conspiracy Theories: What Your Beliefs Say About You | Psychology TodayImagine that everything we think we understand about how the world works is, in fact, an elaborate hoax. Democracy is a sham designed to fool us into believing we are in control. That a small group of unknown, unaccountable elites is actually pulling the strings and pretty much deciding the course of history; everything from the world economy and the conduct of nations to the media and pop culture is under their complete control. Anyone who says otherwise has either been fooled by the conspiracy or is an agent of disinformation.

Does this seem plausible to you? Our latest test is designed to assess your belief in conspiracy theories.

Conspiracy theories are now a firm feature of popular culture – the recent furore around Wiki-leaks provided compelling evidence for this. But the popularity of conspiracy theorising dates back to the shocking assassination of American President J.F.K. in broad daylight and in front of dozens of onlookers on November 22nd, 1963. Immediately, many people claimed that there was more than one gunman, and conspiracy theories arose implicating everyone from the CIA to the communists. More recently, films like Oliver Stone’s JFK and T.V. shows like The X-Files brought conspiratorial themes further into the mainstream. The terrorist attacks of September 11th 2001 have become perhaps the most widely debated events of the current generation. Many people doubt the ‘official’ story, believing instead that the events were the result of a conspiracy.

So, what has psychological research told us about belief in conspiracy theories? Not much. Indeed, so far only a handful of studies have looked at the personality of conspiracy theory believers. This research has found that believers tend to be lacking in trust and higher in levels of anomie – the feeling that things are generally getting worse – when compared to people with low levels of conspiracy beliefs. However, these findings show correlation, not causation. On the one hand, it may indicate that people’s conspiratorial beliefs are a result of their underlying lack of trust; people who see conspiracies behind everything are simply be projecting their own jaded view of the world onto events. Alternatively, lack of trust may follow from the perception of a conspiracy, reflecting a rational response to the reality of living in a world of conspiracy.

Read More: Personality and Conspiracy Theories: What Your Beliefs Say About You | Psychology Today.

Tricks of the Psychic Trade

Published on January 30, 2012 by Karen Stollznow, Ph.D. via Psychology Today

Psychic mediums perform one-on-one sessions for sitters. Stage mediums typically offer personal readings, but they also perform short psychic readings to an audience. Unless the stage medium performs a hot reading, otherwise known as cheating, the main tool is cold reading. This involves observation, psychology and elicitation to provide the appearance of psychic powers. Let’s look at the typical formula used by stage mediums, and explore some commonly used linguistic and psychological techniques.

Naming is a fundamental part of any psychic medium reading. The medium mentions a common name, in order to find willing subjects for readings. Additional names or initials may be added, to narrow down the contenders to a single subject. I recently witnessed a different technique used by up-and-coming medium Rebecca Rosen at her Denver show. She began her performance by reading a list of names of spirits that had “lined up all day to leave messages for the audience.” This way, the audience was already drawing connections to the names and preparing for a reading. Her list included:

Keep Reading:  Tricks of the Psychic Trade | Psychology Today.

A Slew of Suspects

Suspicion is a useful, even necessary, trait—up to a point. Even though we live in times that breed distrust, there is a line, however fine, between the healthy and the clinical.

By Stephanie Booth via Psychology Today
Published on November 01, 2011 – last reviewed on January 02, 2012

You walk into the conference room just as your coworkers halt their conversation: Were they talking about you? Or maybe you can’t help but notice that the same car has been behind you on the highway for the past few miles. Are you being followed?

At one time or another, everyone experiences the kind of insecurity that can give rise to suspicious thoughts. But when thoughts consistently veer toward the perception of threats, you’re not just being cautious—you may actually be paranoid.

Paranoia is a cognitive distortion, a consistent, unfounded view that others want to hurt us in some way. It’s marked by a tendency to interpret neutral situations with a negative slant and then—even in the face of information to the contrary—to treat those fears as fact. It’s a hallmark of severe mental illness, most notably schizophrenia.

But paranoia isn’t limited to those with severe psycho-pathology; it exists on a spectrum, affecting plenty of otherwise healthy individuals. In fact, a mild—but still maladaptive—shade of this cognitive distortion, known as nonclinical or “everyday” paranoia, affects about a third of the population, research shows. For people with everyday paranoia, believing that friends, acquaintances, or strangers are hostile or critically focused on them is a daily occurrence.

What sets apart clinical from nonclinical paranoia is how strongly the ideas are held, how distressing they are, and how much they interfere with daily functioning. As with most other mental health problems, there is no clear cutoff between clinical and nonclinical paranoia; it’s a judgment call reflecting how much distress and disability the problem causes.

Not only is everyday paranoia common, some experts believe it’s on the rise. Our current media environment, with its endless repetition of scary news, has the effect of magnifying threats, which gives rise to paranoia in the susceptible. Now more than ever, the stage is set for suspicious thinking.

Keep Reading: A Slew of Suspects | Psychology Today.

Hunting for Coincidences

via Psychology Today

Isaac Asimov asserted that advances in science do not start with “Eureka” moments. Rather, someone simply notes, “That’s funny.” Asimov’s observation also highlights the extremes with which people respond to the phenomenon of coincidence.

Our tendency to see patterns everywhere means that sometimes we discover wonderful truths about the world. Just as often, we are drawn into subjective cul-de-sacs. In this month’s cover story, The Unbearable Uncanniness of Being,” Matthew Hutson explores why people—some in particular—glorify anomalous experiences.

Our brains are pattern-seeking missiles that cannot help but notice coincidences; whether we imbue them with meaning is another matter. The tendency to learn a new word or concept only to “suddenly” encounter it everywhere strikes people as somewhere between notable and miraculous, even though it can be explained by our brain’s capacity for selective attention: We home in on novel stimuli while filtering out myriad unrelated data.

There’s an obscure term floating around that describes obscure terms or ideas that feel ubiquitous as soon as they are on our radar: the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon.

Funny, I thought, on first encountering the term. Is the Baader-Meinhof gang now obscure enough to headline a neologism about obscurity? (I lived in Germany as a child, so in my mind this defunct terrorist group was once on the order of Al-Qaeda). This disconnect actually captures a tricky element in coincidence: “Baader-Meinhof” is supercharged to those touched by them; mere trivia to everyone else.

We can pretty much agree on what constitutes coincidence, but not on when it’s meaningful. Two families who visit Disneyland on the same day are data points. When the families contain a boy and a girl who years later meet and marry, the couple in question calls it fate. If it happens to you: “Eureka!” To anyone else: “That’s funny.”

Keep Reading: Hunting for Coincidences | Psychology Today.

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