There are some key principles that investigators of the paranormal should be aware of, including confirmation bias, the power of suggestion, and the placebo effect. By understanding these principles, investigators will be able to ensure that the evidence they present is the most compelling by avoiding errors in reasoning and interpretation.
These principles will help you avoid common pitfalls, which ultimately leads all of us to a better understanding of the true nature of the phenomena being investigated.
The Principle Of Replication
The principle of replication is arguably the most important principle on this list when conducting a paranormal investigation. It states that a scientific claim is more credible if it can be independently replicated by multiple researchers using different methods. For example, if an investigator captures a spirit’s voice in an audio recording, the principle of replication would require that other investigators are able to independently replicate this claim by capturing similar voices using a different recorder or equipment. Claims of paranormal activity are often difficult or impossible to replicate, but attempting to replicate them can help investigators to avoid jumping to conclusions based on a single occurrence or experience and to instead evaluate the evidence in a more rigorous and systematic manner.
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Illusory correlation refers to the perception of a relationship between two variables when no such relationship exists. In the context of an investigation, this might mean linking an unexplained sound to the presence of a ghost, when in reality there is no causal relationship and the noise actually has a natural explanation, such as a door slamming due to a draught. This can of course lead to inaccurate conclusions and a lack of understanding of the true nature of the phenomena being investigated. To avoid illusory correlation, investigators should carefully evaluate the evidence and try to measure and quantify the strength of any possible correlation.
The Barnum Effect
The Power Of Suggestion
The power of suggestion refers to the ability of leading questions or suggestions to influence a person’s experience, memory, perceptions, or judgments. This can happen unconsciously, and people may not even be aware that their perceptions or memories have been influenced. The power of suggestion can influence a paranormal investigation when investigators or witnesses have had exposure to information about the haunting prior to the investigation. For example, they may have been told that cold spots are commonly reported, resulting in them reporting the phenomenon themselves. A leading question such as “are you feeling cold?” might also lead to the same chilly sensation due to the question’s subconscious influence. To avoid the power of suggestion, investigators should avoid leading questions and use neutral and unbiased language when interviewing witnesses or participants. So for example, instead of saying “are you feeling cold?” ask “how are you feeling at this moment?”
The Placebo Effect
The Double-Blind Protocol
The double-blind protocol is a research method used to minimise bias and increase the validity of an experiment. A blind experiment on an investigation would involve sending one group of investigators into a room with the foreknowledge of the paranormal activity reported there, followed by a control group who are not aware of the reports relating to the room. Both groups would be asked to document any experiences or observations that they have, without knowing what the other group has experienced. This can be done through audio or video recordings, or through written notes. After the vigils, the findings are compared to see if there are any differences in the experiences between the two groups. This experiment is actually a single-blind experiment. In a double-blind experiment, neither the participants nor the researcher in charge of the experiment would know which group is the experimental group and which is the control group, this would avoid further bias when comparing the reports from each group.