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The Experimental Psychology of the ‘Unexplained’

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The Experimental Psychology of the ‘Unexplained’

Post  YSPR on Wed Mar 06, 2013 12:59 pm

Interesting article, kind of long so I only posted a small portion. The link to the entire article is included. FYI this will take you to the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry web site.

http://www.csicop.org/si/show/eyewitness_to_the_paranormal_the_experimental_psychology_of_the_unexplained/

Eyewitness to the Paranormal: The Experimental Psychology of the ‘Unexplained’

Feature
Matthew J. Sharps
Volume 36.4, July/August 2012
Research in experimental psychology has shown that many paranormal sightings fall directly within the realm of eyewitness memory. Experiments reveal that such “sightings” derive from the psychology of the observers rather than from supernatural sources. Experiments show these proclivities.

“Experiments in Context

These studies showed us two things. First, people with identifiable psychological profiles are not only more likely to believe in the paranormal or supernatural, but their psychological tendencies may also be used to predict the exact types of “unexplained” phenomena in which they are likely to believe.

Second, one of these psychological characteristics—a tendency toward dissociation—allows us to predict individual proclivities toward seeing a given stimulus item as a paranormal creature, whether Bigfoot or an alien.
Seeing Is Not Believing

It should not be surprising that the influence of psychological factors on perception is different from that influence on belief. Beliefs in the paranormal can be “gestalt” (Sharps 2003, 2010), lacking immediate direct challenge from the physical environment; people can believe in Bigfoot, for example, without actually expecting to see one. However, perception of a given paranormal being is much more immediate and feature-intensive; therefore, some psychological tendencies that influence belief may not be powerful enough to alter feature-intensive perception of immediate reality—to actually transform a bear into a foraging Sasquatch. Only dissociation, we found in our experiments, is sufficiently powerful to influence both belief and perception, to propel a real-world stimulus into the realm of the paranormal. “
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Re: The Experimental Psychology of the ‘Unexplained’

Post  CMcMillan on Wed Mar 06, 2013 3:16 pm

You should have posted this:

My students and I (Sharps et al. 2006) focused on three specific psychological characteristics—depression, dissociation, and tendencies toward attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD)—in a study of seventy-eight adults. This study employed standardized instruments for the measurement of ADHD, dissociation, and depression in each respondent and evaluated these measurements against respondents’ self-ratings of paranormal beliefs of various types. We chose these characteristics for two reasons

that is the key to that research and doesn't explain the people that do not have any of those psychological problems.
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Re: The Experimental Psychology of the ‘Unexplained’

Post  YSPR on Wed Mar 06, 2013 3:37 pm

I think you may have skipped over something in the article. It explains that these psychological characteristics exist in almost everyone, and the people used in the experiment were not suffering from a clinically diagnosable issue.
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Re: The Experimental Psychology of the ‘Unexplained’

Post  CMcMillan on Wed Mar 06, 2013 3:58 pm

No I didn't skip over it.
I read it and its not a really a valid study in my opinion.
It doesn't take in account real experiences that you can not explain by anyone of these traits.
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Re: The Experimental Psychology of the ‘Unexplained’

Post  YSPR on Wed Mar 06, 2013 4:25 pm

I like to keep an open mind, especially when it comes to gaining insight into what may explain some of the more fantastic claims that float around.

No one is immune to their own psyche.
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Re: The Experimental Psychology of the ‘Unexplained’

Post  Squatchmaster G on Thu Mar 07, 2013 12:58 am

If people are interested in further reading along these lines I can recommend "How We Know What Isn't So: the fallibility of human reason in everyday life" by Thomas Gilovich.



CMcMillan wrote:that is the key to that research and doesn't explain the people that do not have any of those psychological problems.
It clearly says in the introduction that it's not talking about people with psychological problems:
In short, many of these witnesses—in fact, probably the majority of them—are neither lying nor mentally ill. They have normal nervous systems, and they are convinced that they have experienced something extraordinary.
Dissociation, to pick one of the psychological traits from the article, covers a continuum reaching from pathological disorders all the way to nonpathological psychological mechanisms. Daydreaming is a type of dissociation and that's a normal part of everyday human life.


CMcMillan wrote:It doesn't take in account real experiences that you can not explain by anyone of these traits.
That's exactly what the article is discussing.
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Re: The Experimental Psychology of the ‘Unexplained’

Post  CMcMillan on Thu Mar 07, 2013 7:42 am

I read the stupid Article.
Its like the same old Lab tests that Oh Such and such is bad for you.
Then Next week Well its not bad for you because this other Lab did this test.
It the same old stupid tests to try to fit the resaults they get into the hypothesis they wanted.
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Re: The Experimental Psychology of the ‘Unexplained’

Post  YSPR on Thu Mar 07, 2013 8:15 am

Code:
If people are interested in further reading along these lines I can recommend "How We Know What Isn't So: the fallibility of human reason in everyday life" by Thomas Gilovich.

I actually read a couple of chapters from that book a few months ago, pretty good stuff. I may have to go back and read the whole thing.
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Re: The Experimental Psychology of the ‘Unexplained’

Post  Squatchmaster G on Thu Mar 07, 2013 8:51 am

YSPR wrote:I actually read a couple of chapters from that book a few months ago, pretty good stuff. I may have to go back and read the whole thing.

Learning about cognitive, motivational and social determinants of questionable beliefs is really handy. It also applies equally as well to skepticism as to Bigfoot advocacy, if people were wondering. Wink


If people are thinking that dismissing anecdotal evidence of Bigfoot encounters is just something that skeptics do remember that there's a long history of Bigfoot advocates doing the same thing when the reports feature details that don't fit into their idea of what Bigfoot is. The TV show 'Finding Bigfoot' has had a bunch of examples: in one instance someone allegedly got a close look at a Bigfoot but Matt Moneymaker dismissed the report because the witness' description of the Bigfoot's facial features didn't match up with what he expected a Bigfoot to look like.
I've also noticed that many Bigfoot researchers will also dismiss reports that features supernatural elements: Bigfoots coming out of UFOs, Bigfoots suddenly disappearing or fading away, etc.. Certain other supernatural elements seem to be accepted much more readily: Bigfoots being shot at close range but not being affected by the bullets, Bigfoots speaking to people telepathically, Bigfoots having glowing red eyes and so on. Some researchers will accept those reports and others will chuck them out, even if there's other corroborating evidence. When Henner Fahrenbach wrote his 1998 paper on the size and scaling of Sasquatch based on all the known Bigfoot footprints (which was featured prominently in the 'Sasquatch: Legend Meets Science' documentary) he only exluded "reports with preternatural content" from his dataset even though the data on the footprints from those reports would have been exactly the same as from the non-preternatural reports. There seems to be a (largely unspoken) agreement in Bigfoot research that a certain percentage of reports are untrustworthy but the only apparent indicator is anomalous content and every report that isn't anomalous is usually accepted at face value.
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Re: The Experimental Psychology of the ‘Unexplained’

Post  YSPR on Thu Mar 07, 2013 9:14 am

The biases that are possessed by everyone based on their belief and experiences clearly skew the way they interpret all data input. Add to that the social and physiological dynamics of a particular individual and even the simplest explanation for an event can be perceived to be a fantastic claim for one and completely dismissed by another.

I personally attribute the majority of all sightings and claims to these factors. The only thing that really keeps me interested is the fact out of these thousand and thousand of claims, if even one of them is factual and true, how cool it will be if an actual Bigfoot is undeniably proved to exist.
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Re: The Experimental Psychology of the ‘Unexplained’

Post  paul830 on Sat Mar 09, 2013 4:25 am

I saw the 'Finding bigfoot' episode where Moneymaker dismisses the eyewitness report because the bigfoot's nose description was, according to him, wrong. So he threw out the whole report.

According to Matt, bigfoot's have black noses like dogs do. This is kind of funny considering that on Matt's own BFRO website the majority of eyewitness descriptions of bigfoots describe a human shaped nose where the skin is the same colour as the as the face and is more often grey or tannish in colour.

Also the eyewitness description of the forehead was inconsistent according to Matt. It should have had hair right down the forehead to the brow area. Instead the guy described it as having a balding head. Just how many bigfoot's has Matt seen? It would have to be hundreds if not thousands to warrant his evaluation.

I didn't know what he was on about in that episode and saw it commented on by several people afterwards, ' bigfoot's have dog noses?'. ( Like Chewbacca? ). The criteria bias struck a lot of people as a strange one.

I have my own biases. For instance, I don't believe they are paranormal, shape shifting, extraterrestrial beings that are inter-dimensional. I think bigfoots are human crossed with another, as yet unidentified, hominid. It doesn't bring me any closer to the truth, that's just my own personal tangent and it could be as wrong as these things existing at all.

Still, some skeptic biases are even more to the extreme. I could see some disregarding what they actually see based on a small set of ideas that are fixed and unmovable not allowing them to be impartial in the face of actual experience. It's possible high functioning asperger's could be in part to blame for this. Rigid thinking is common with asperger's and a lot more people in the science and tech fields are suspected to be high functioning asperger's. This could just be me passing on a bias however, even regarding asperger's.

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Re: The Experimental Psychology of the ‘Unexplained’

Post  Squatchmaster G on Sat Mar 09, 2013 5:49 am

paul830 wrote:Still, some skeptic biases are even more to the extreme. I could see some disregarding what they actually see based on a small set of ideas that are fixed and unmovable not allowing them to be impartial in the face of actual experience. It's possible high functioning asperger's could be in part to blame for this. Rigid thinking is common with asperger's and a lot more people in the science and tech fields are suspected to be high functioning asperger's. This could just be me passing on a bias however, even regarding asperger's.

Oh I'm sure that both sides of the argument are rife with disorders*. I suspect that more that a few habituators are suffering from schizophrenia and guys like Rick Dyer seem to have some variety of narcissistic personality disorder.



* Note: I'm not claiming that cognitive disorders are a prerequisite for either Bigfoot advocacy or skepticism or that all or even most people in the field have a disorder.
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Multiple Witness Reports

Post  ***** on Sat Mar 09, 2013 11:10 am

Often sightings are by multiple witnesses, and some are multiple trained observer reports. What's more of a leap of faith---that most or all of of the tens of thousands bigfoot sighting reports are the result of mental illness, or fabrications of the mind, or that incidents with multiple trained observers witnessing, or multiple witnesses reporting the same creature exhibiting the same behavior have a high propensity of being valid? I think that's a distinct difference between some of us here. Some tend to have more faith in what witnesses or groups of witnesses have claimed to see. Some want to dismiss what police officers, forestry officers, and other trained observers have reported, and will find every reason under the sun to do so. Very Happy

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Re: The Experimental Psychology of the ‘Unexplained’

Post  Squatchmaster G on Sat Mar 09, 2013 12:03 pm

Yeah there's a bunch of eyewitness accounts that aren't easily dismissable, I've always said that. There's also thousands and thousands of reports that are dismissable and that article explains one way in which many of them could have occurred.

We should also note that it's also possible for mutliple witnesses to all be mistaken, or for them all to be making up a story for some reason, or for them to be fooled by a hoaxer in a gorilla suit and that just because something was witnessed by multiple people or by trained observers doesn't automatically make it genuine.

NobleSavage wrote:Some tend to have more faith in what witnesses or groups of witnesses have claimed to see. Some want to dismiss what police officers, forestry officers, and other trained observers have reported, and will find every reason under the sun to do so. Very Happy

Phenomena also reported by multiple witness and trained observers:
- ghosts/poltergeists
- UFOS/aliens
- psychic powers/levitation/telekinesis
- fairies
- the Loch Ness monster
- angels
Actually pretty much every paranormal phenomenon has been reported by multiple witnesses and trained observers and has often also been recorded via fuzzy video footage, blurry photos, crackly audio recordings and other types of secondary/indirect evidence. There's also been any number of hoaxes in each of those fields, often very involved and complex hoaxes. The other common factor between them all and Bigfooting is that no good, hard irrefutable empirical evidence has been collected for any of them.

NobleSavage wrote:What's more of a leap of faith---that most or all of of the tens of thousands bigfoot sighting reports are the result of mental illness, or fabrications of the mind, or that incidents with multiple trained observers witnessing, or multiple witnesses reporting the same creature exhibiting the same behavior have a high propensity of being valid?

I guess they're both a leap of faith of some sort, or at least a judgement of plausability based on necessarily incomplete information.
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Re: The Experimental Psychology of the ‘Unexplained’

Post  YSPR on Sat Mar 09, 2013 4:23 pm

I agree that not all sightings can be explained away just the majority IMO. This is just one more bit of information to help balance the probability scale when trying to put merit to a story.
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Mental...

Post  ***** on Sat Mar 09, 2013 5:13 pm

I grasp the point you were making YSPR, and this study could shed light on some experiences. We have to look at the eye witness experience and background in totality. I certainly don't believe every report I read or hear.

It's hard to follow how ADHD could cause someone to create an imaginary 8ft Bigfoot in their mind, any more readily than someone without ADHD. Mental Illness is another thing altogether. ADHD is not a mental illness. It's a bit discriminatory to box those with ADHD into the unbelievable category. That's just my opinion. I've know many to be high functioning and very successful.

I have a question for those of us who desire more proof:

Those multiple eyewitness reports where law enforcement, or other trained observers were the witnesses, or where groups of eyewitnesses all passed polygraphs. I'm talking the best reports that have struck us all as very believable, based on the eye witness testimony of trained observers. Are there any of those that make you reconsider your judgement of eye witness reports in general? IN other words, does it affect your consideration of the totality of eye witness reports-----say change your estimates of probability from 1 in 10,000 to 1 in 5,000---being truthful and based on actual event?

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Re: The Experimental Psychology of the ‘Unexplained’

Post  Squatchmaster G on Sun Mar 10, 2013 12:24 am

See, this is exactly the type of discussion I'm here for. I genuinely want you guys to convince me that Bigfoot is real, I want you to shoot down all those doubts that have been nagging me these last few decades. I'm not here to attack your beliefs, I'm here to shake mine if possible.


NobleSavage wrote:Those multiple eyewitness reports where law enforcement, or other trained observers were the witnesses, or where groups of eyewitnesses all passed polygraphs. I'm talking the best reports that have struck us all as very believable, based on the eye witness testimony of trained observers. Are there any of those that make you reconsider your judgement of eye witness reports in general? IN other words, does it affect your consideration of the totality of eye witness reports-----say change your estimates of probability from 1 in 10,000 to 1 in 5,000---being truthful and based on actual event?

Do you have a few examples we can read over? If you have just the names of some cases I can track them down.


On the polygraph angle, I have zero doubt that people often really genuinely believe they saw what they reported.
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Re: The Experimental Psychology of the ‘Unexplained’

Post  YSPR on Sun Mar 10, 2013 9:31 am

I have no basic issue with most claims and stories that are told. I think most people give an honest account of what they remember and believe to have seen. The problem is that the human mind is easy to trick. Perception may become reality to that individual, but it does not mean it is a fact. Again I believe misidentification explains away 99% of all sightings. It is the 1% that keeps me intrigued.

Very few sightings or claims involve a close encounter during daylight with no obstructions in the field of view of the observer. Most are fleeting and or at distant in the trees, occur at dusk, dawn or night, just as most photos, and videos.

Ask yourself this, you seem to spend time in the woods (as do I) how many times have you misidentified something, or thought you saw something odd only to find out upon investigation it was a simple shadow, light reflection, tree stump or limb, or a common animal. I try to investigate if at all possible and so far those that I find are nothing out of the ordinary. Now imagine how people that spend little or no time in the woods will react to some of the things you have thought to have seen that turned out to be nothing. In their minds it could be anything and for them it would be a fact, because they saw it.

What stories do you feel are the most relevant?

I believe everyone desires more proof.
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Re: The Experimental Psychology of the ‘Unexplained’

Post  YSPR on Sun Mar 10, 2013 9:37 am

[quote="NobleSavage"]Often sightings are by multiple witnesses, and some are multiple trained observer reports. What's more of a leap of faith---that most or all of of the tens of thousands bigfoot sighting reports are the result of mental illness, or fabrications of the mind, or that incidents with multiple trained observers witnessing, or multiple witnesses reporting the same creature exhibiting the same behavior have a high propensity of being valid? I think that's a distinct difference between some of us here. Some tend to have more faith in what witnesses or groups of witnesses have claimed to see. Some want to dismiss what police officers, forestry officers, and other trained observers have reported, and will find every reason under the sun to do so. Very Happy [/quote

Do you have a link or name for the multiple trained observer reports? I do not recall coming across any, although it has been a while since I went back and skimmed the sighting data bases on different sites.
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Just google....

Post  ***** on Sun Mar 10, 2013 11:05 am

I just googled bfro report: trained observer, multiple witnesses, close encounters, police officer, hunter . Many reports popped up. I understand YSPR about misidentified animals, but you really should read some of these reports that are close encounters by multiple witnesses. It's hard to imagine mistaking another animal for what they describe. IMO they are either lying, or describing exactly what they saw. The details reported make many reports impossible to categorize as mistaken identity. Many describe facial characteristics, throwing objects, shaking trees, etc. Dismissing some individual reports is understandable and necessary IMO, but as Jeff Meldrum once said,

"The cumulative weight of all eyewitness reports on the
other hand are much more difficult to dismiss.
Obviously, once one has acknowledged the possibility
and/or probability that such things exist, then the
consistent and also the novel features of anatomy and
behavior, distribution, etc. recounted by eyewitnesses
are quite useful."


Last edited by NobleSavage on Sun Mar 10, 2013 11:28 am; edited 1 time in total

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I'll keep adding as I find them...

Post  ***** on Sun Mar 10, 2013 11:21 am

http://www.bfro.net/gdb/show_report.asp?id=36727


http://www.bfro.net/gdb/show_report.asp?id=33764

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Re: The Experimental Psychology of the ‘Unexplained’

Post  YSPR on Sun Mar 10, 2013 11:58 am

The plausibility that the majority of the sightings are factual goes against the amount of real proof and hard evidence available. But the lack of evidence goes along with the notion that most claims are simply wrong.

Everyone is predisposed to their own opinions. To try and discuss the sightings of other people as being credible with the intent of coming to a consensus on the validity of the masses of claims, is just not going to happen.

Basically we will believe what we want until proof is presented to change our belief. I just like to gather information to gain insight as to why so many people IMO make misidentifications that they call Bigfoot.

I will re read some of the BFRO sightings, thanks.
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Re: The Experimental Psychology of the ‘Unexplained’

Post  paul830 on Sun Mar 31, 2013 3:41 am

I think you have to take the data that you do have and compare that to other animals that are much lower in number that are infrequently seen. If the population number is in the 2,000 range then it is very unlikely to gather a great amount of concrete evidence ( bones, carcasses etc ).

The other side to it is the fringe element. If someone HAS come across evidence of some kind or even shot one, they might tend to want to leave well enough alone rather than get caught up in a firestorm of attention, accusation and responsibility. It would be a strange end to be on in that circumstance.

With the increasing popularity of bigfoot in culture, I think it is becoming more likely that someone would be willing to involve themselves. In the past, I think it's likely no one wanted to willingly be that pioneer if there was any evidence they could have produced.

I think it's possible that the scant evidence that may have been available, could be ignored, buried or locked away. Not necessarily in any conspiratorial kind of way but it isn't outside the realm of possibility either. You would have to entertain the idea that no one conspires regarding anything, which isn't at all realistic. People conspire routinely as a matter of business and more.
Again, it would likely not be a large amount of evidence regarding the low numbers. Not a widespread conspiracy of thousands and many different agencies but very small, isolated pockets of this happening could occur and are much more likely with scant numbers. Encouraged to say nothing on the basis of not being believed is a strong mediating factor.

There are more sides to consider as well. The possibility that these creatures don't travel alone and purposefully leave very little evidence behind them is another case to be made. We are dealing with an unknown species which we don't understand the behaviour of and all information about it seems to point to this as a behavioural trait.

If I was in a lab waiting for evidence of bigfoot to come in, and was for years told it would soon arrive and it never did, I most likely would say it was never going to happen and then surmise that it's not forthcoming because it didn't exist. Granted, never saw it, never was. Pretty simple. However, while the lack of evidence is daunting, the great number of credible eyewitnesses, multiple witness sightings, anthropological findings of many extinct closely related hominids creeping ever closer to our own time frame, tracks and recorded sounds are what keep me entertaining the possibility. While it could make no sense from an evidence perspective it makes a lot of sense from many others.
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Re: The Experimental Psychology of the ‘Unexplained’

Post  sasdave on Sun Mar 31, 2013 7:11 pm

CMcMillan your so to the point.
SquatchmasterG Why would you want some badly need of proof? Arent you the Squatch Master; I'd think you would be out to protect them.
YSPR so 99 percent to 1 are in the liar group. It amazes me how faith is not needed by witnesses to believe theses grand creatures exist. They end up having to fight themselves to retain the faith inside themselves for their fellow man&woman. Skeptics and trolls haven't partaken of this reality and with jelous heart lambaste those as liars etc. One theory is experiance of a reality does not make one a liar, it can get you a label of mentally disturbed; etc, even if you are not. Yes, I mentally and physically have been changed regarding my experiance(s) of the forest; yet, it has made me wiser and mentally awake to the truth. Belief is mine as the path takes me.

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"Disorders"

Post  Tzieth on Tue May 07, 2013 7:40 pm

Here is where I am not only a skeptic but a nay-sayer as well lol. Even if I did not believe in Bigfoot, I would still feel it more likely to exist than "Depression", "ADHD", "ADD" or any of these other "Disorders" that sprang out of oblivion. Where were these "Disorders" pre-FDA?

Just saying Wink
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Re: The Experimental Psychology of the ‘Unexplained’

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