In the video above, well-known skeptic Chris French (Professor of Psychology at Goldsmiths, University of London) introduces the field of ‘anomalistic psychology’, and how it can be of use in understanding strange beliefs in the paranormal and conspiracies.
Ever since records began, in every known society, a substantial proportion of the population has reported unusual experiences many of which we would today label as ‘paranormal’. Opinion polls show that the majority of the general public accepts that paranormal phenomena do occur. Such widespread experience of and belief in the paranormal can only mean one of two things. Either the paranormal is real, in which case this should be accepted by the wider scientific community which currently rejects such claims; or else belief in and experience of ostensibly paranormal phenomena can be fully explained in terms of psychological factors. Chris French provides an introduction to the sub-discipline of anomalistic psychology, which may be defined as the study of extraordinary phenomena of behaviour and experience, in an attempt to provide non-paranormal explanations in terms of known psychological and physical factors.
There’s plenty in the talk that a smart Fortean should take on board when evaluating evidence for strange phenomena, even if sometimes the full skeptical viewpoint can wear a little. Overall, a great little talk though.