Why The Power Of Suggestion Matters In Paranormal Investigations

The power of suggestion is when a person believes something or behaves in a certain way due to being influenced by someone else’s suggestion or expectation. It plays a significant role in the paranormal world because it can shape what people think they see, hear, or feel during ghost hunts.

The power of suggestion comes into play when someone mentions that others have seen a ghostly figure in the corner of a particular room. Your mind might start looking for that figure. The suggestion has primed your brain to expect something paranormal. Even subtle sensory cues like shadows or strange noises can then be misinterpreted as something ghostly because of this preconception.

This priming isn’t always as obvious as someone telling you that a certain phenomenon has been experienced. If one person with you perceives something, others in a group might start feeling the same. For example, if one person claims to feel a temperature drop, others might also start feeling colder, even if the temperature hasn’t actually changed. Similarly, if someone says they see a shadowy figure, others might start looking for similar shadows and convince themselves they see the same thing, influenced by the first person’s suggestion.

These cues don’t even need to be spoken. It might be that one person in a group shows visible signs of fear or displays uncertainty or discomfort with a certain area of a location. Others can subconsciously react to this, heightening their own senses and leading them to feel uneasy about the same stimuli.

Of course, how much someone is affected by the power of suggestion depends on their level of suggestibility and how easily they can be influenced by others. On top of this, people experiencing heightened emotions, like fear or excitement, tend to be more suggestible. This is because intense emotions can reduce critical thinking, making them more receptive to suggestions from others.

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In ghost hunting teams, dominant personalities or those perceived as more knowledgeable might have a strong influence. If they suggest that a particular room is especially haunted, other team members may be inclined to interpret any unusual sensations or sounds in that room as evidence of the supernatural.

It’s good practice to avoid making statements or assumptions that could influence others during investigations. For instance, instead of saying, “Did you hear that voice?” ask a more neutral question like, “Did you hear anything unusual?”

Before entering a haunted location, ghost hunters often discuss the site’s history and previous encounters. These discussions can plant suggestions in the minds of the participants. For instance, if they hear about footsteps or voices heard in a specific area, they may be more likely to hear similar things, influenced by the prior suggestion.

The idea of entering a location with pre-existing beliefs about its haunted reputation touches on another concept in psychology called confirmation bias. This principle also impacts ghost hunting, but there are subtle differences. While the power of suggestion involves being influenced by external cues, comments, or insinuations, confirmation bias is where people favour information that confirms their pre-existing beliefs or expectations. For example, a ghost hunter who strongly believes in paranormal activity might focus on evidence that supports their beliefs while disregarding or minimising evidence that contradicts them. Confirmation bias is more about how our own beliefs influence our interpretations and less about external suggestions.

One element of ghost hunting where suggestion is particularly powerful is in the interpretation of data from paranormal equipment, especially when listening to potential Electronic Voice Phenomena (EVPs) or voices through a spirit box.

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EVPs are believed by some to be voices of spirits captured in audio recordings. The sounds captured are often faint, distorted, or ambiguous. When listening to these voices, there’s a tendency to allow the context of the recording to influence you. For example, if a question is asked before the voice, such as “How did you die?” then the person listening might be more likely to interpret an ambiguous sound as a word like “murder” than someone listening who wasn’t primed with the contextual question.

Similarly, when using a spirit box, a device that rapidly scans radio frequencies, the power of suggestion can heavily influence interpretation. It’s believed that spirits can use the static noise and fleeting bursts of radio broadcasts to communicate words or phrases, but the listener may be influenced by the questions asked prior to the sound.

In both cases, the power of suggestion can shape what ghost hunters believe they hear. This can be amplified by one team member claiming to hear a certain word or phrase, making others more likely to believe they hear the same thing. When a specific word or phrase is suggested, the listener’s brain works to match the ambiguous sounds to those suggestions.

For methods like EVP analysis, use a blind testing approach where the person analysing the recordings is unaware of the context. This helps reduce the influence of suggestions when interpreting potential voices or sounds. You could also ask multiple team members to independently analyse recordings. If multiple investigators reach the same conclusion independently, it reduces the likelihood that the suggestion influenced their interpretations.

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By following these tips, ghost hunters can avoid being influenced by suggestions and make their paranormal investigations more reliable.

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