Why people continue to believe in psychics

(ORDO NEWS) — Why didn’t the visionaries predict the coronavirus pandemic? The answer is obvious: for the same reason they don’t win the lottery. Psychics simply don’t know the future. However, this fact is not obvious to most of those who believe in mysticism. Let’s figure out why people do not pay attention to such simple contradictions and unconditionally trust psychics when their predictions begin to coincide with reality. Spoiler alert: It’s not a lack of education.

Although in it, of course, too. But this reason is so obvious that we will not touch on it. Moreover, there are many examples around of how people with a sufficient knowledge base still believe in esotericism, the supernatural, or conspiracy theories. By the way, any of these “beliefs” probably have the same roots in our psyche. But first things first.

A star named Vanga

To understand all the curiosity of the psychic abilities of famous clairvoyants, it is enough to read their biographies fluently. We will not delve into the gray times of Nostradamus or the semi-legendary Trojan princess Cassandra – information about them is steeped in myths and is lost in the centuries. Let’s take those who are closer. For example, Wang, who is considered one of the most “hyped” clairvoyants of our time. The publicized – in the literal sense, it is not for nothing that “Baba Vanga” was supported by the Minister of Culture of Bulgaria himself. Still: such tourist flows into the country thanks to some blind old woman!

The well-known Russian physicist and Chairman of the Commission for Combating Pseudoscience and Falsification of Scientific Research Evgeny Aleksandrov described the fortuneteller phenomenon as follows: “Vanga is a well-promoted state business, thanks to which the provincial land has turned into a place of pilgrimage for crowds from all over the world. Do you know who prays to Wang the most? Taxi drivers, waiters in cafes, hotel staff are people who, thanks to the “clairvoyant”, had excellent stable earnings.

All of them willingly collected preliminary information for Vanga: where the person came from, why, what he hopes for. And Wanga then laid out this information to clients as if she saw them herself. They helped with the dossier on clients and special services, under whose cover the state brand worked. It was possible to get an appointment only with the permission of the special services, “the academician said in one of his interviews (dated April 17, 2015) to the independent Boston almanac” Swan “, which specializes in investigative journalism.

A curious confirmation of this is the case about which they wrote in the journal “Science and Life” (article “The Phenomenon of Yuri Gorny”, 2004, No. 3). The illusionist and mentalist Yuri Gorny once suggested to his friend – a well-known journalist, whose name he did not name for ethical reasons (they will be clear below) – to check the psychic abilities of the Bulgarian seer, and at the same time the quality of the work of her “agents”.


Before meeting with Vanga, the journalist was invited to a sauna, before visiting which Gorny advised his friend to seal part of his scrotum with a plaster and not answer questions if any followed, making it clear that he did not want to talk about this topic. A week later, the journalist met with Wanga, and she described his biography quite accurately – which is not surprising, because he was a famous person. But about the future, Wang said: “You will be fine at work, but personal relationships will not develop very well. Unfortunately, serious problems with reproductive organs will not allow you to create a full-fledged family. ” “My friend later told what efforts he had to keep from laughing…” – says Yuri Gorny.

In the article “Vangu was promoted by the special services to obtain information about her clients” (dated August 7, 2014), Komsomolskaya Pravda published the memoirs of a correspondent who worked in Bulgaria in the late 1980s. In addition to a detailed description of the “shoals” of the seer, of which she made a great many, in fact, poking her finger into the sky every time, it is also said that Vanga’s mistakes were not made public (and at the KGB level – this is evidenced by the retired lieutenant colonel of the State Security Committee Evgeny Sergienko).

And her “prophecies” basically came true only in hindsight: if something happened, a prediction unknown to anyone would immediately surface. This was beneficial to everyone – from relatives who received huge profits from their “brand”, and ending with the tourism department and the KGB, because for the KGB, a blind grandmother served as a good way of obtaining information, since people of the highest rank were sent to her.

But the involvement in the “organs” of the Soviet pop artist and mentalist Wolf Messing, who allegedly helped solve the crimes, is a myth. A study by the Russian lawyer and criminalist Nikolai Kitaev (published in the Bulletin in Defense of Science in 2008) showed that in the police archives there is absolutely no mention of the artist’s help. This is unanimously confirmed by the employees of the court and the prosecutor’s office. The only case confirming Messing’s involvement in the investigation occurred in 1974 in Irkutsk. But, as it turned out, the “testimony” of the artist was needed by the investigator not because of his lack of foresight and resourcefulness – quite the opposite. In this original way, he simply “legalized” intelligence information, the source of which was not subject to disclosure.

But sometimes Wanga prophesied “in advance” and, as usual, was wrong. Here are just the most striking of these mistakes. In 2010, the seer “saw” the beginning of the world war, and in 2014 – its end. In the same 2016, there was a new attack, which, probably, should have been the result of the first: my grandmother predicted the death of almost all people in Europe. As we can see, nothing of the kind happened. But for some reason she missed the global Covid-19 pandemic …


There is progress

It would seem that the above arguments and the simple fact that not a single psychic, as far as we know, predicted the current pandemic, should be enough to forever throw the idea of ​​the existence of paranormal abilities out of my head. But no: if you turn on the TV, you can hear that “they predicted after all” – and how. The same Wang.

Simply, as usual, no one knew about it, and this fact surfaced “only now”. To understand for yourself the absurdity of such statements, you do not need to have the skills of a detective: you just need to use Google and the simplest tools for finding information – for example, Wikipedia. The question is that many of those who believe in such things, not so much cannot, but do not want to do it.

By the way, about faith. In July 2019, VTsIOM presented the results of a survey of Russians about their attitude to the supernatural. Fortunately, over the past nearly 30 years, fellow citizens have become more critical in their thinking. So, only 22 percent of Russians believe in hypnosis treatment, compared to 63 percent in 1990. Ouija sessions are trusted by 13 percent – against 16 percent in 2015, and 20 percent believe in the existence of UFOs versus 25 percent the same five years ago.
Confidence in the “fact” of the existence of people with the ability to witchcraft and corruption has also declined, from 48 percent in 2015 to 31 percent last year. Yes, and today they rely less on signs: in 2000 – 57 percent, and in 2019 – only 33 percent.

Astrological forecasts are considered effective by 15 percent, while in 2000 this figure was 33 percent. The main contingent of “consumption” of such mysticism, as usual, remains women. Meanwhile, the share of those who have not decided on their opinion about such phenomena is growing rapidly. And the percentage of “believers” remains very high (by the way, if you think that the situation is fundamentally different in the West, then you are wrong: 19.4 percent of the US population, as shown by surveys of scientists from Chapman University for 2017, believe in fortune-tellers and psychics , and 52.3 percent believe that the spirits of the dead can inhabit their homes). Is it a lack of education?


Objectivity. No

And in education, of course, but not only and not even so much in it. A variety of studies show this. For example, an experiment by psychologists from the University of Chicago (USA), the results of which were published in the journal Memory and Cognition in October 2015. Having selected the most skeptical and gullible people using a questionnaire, the experts divided them into three groups of 50 people each. To move away from the notorious stereotype of lack of education, participants were selected with approximately the same academic performance and similar indicators.

Using various tests, scientists determined the sensitivity, memory and analytical abilities of the volunteers. The first two parameters were at about the same level for skeptics and gullibles, but the ability to analyze was markedly different. As expected, skeptics scored higher on tests of logic and analytical thinking. It is characteristic that they also turned out to be less inclined to believe not only in mysticism, but also in conspiracy theories.

Scientists concluded that it is not a low level of education that hinders those who believe in the paranormal, but a lack of logical abilities: they analyze the world around them worse and are less objective in assessing their own experience. However, belief in extrasensory perception, as psychologists believe, is a complex phenomenon and is supported not only by the analytical mindset, but also by the person’s environment. After all, about 70 percent of gullible participants reported that their relatives and friends adhere to similar views.

Cognitive distortion

As we said, the problem of belief in the paranormal is multilevel and has many causes. The results of surveys of scientists from Chapman University, which were mentioned above, found that, if we talk about the population of the United States, then the belief in all kinds of mysticism and conspiracy theories is influenced by indicators such as low income, classifying oneself as extremely religious people, female , conservative political beliefs, extramarital affairs or lack thereof, living in rural areas.

But this, it seems, is not all the reasons. One of them is cognitive distortions, which “fall” a huge number of people who are not “mutilated” by psychological literacy, and which are so successfully caught by their psychics. Such distortions are understood as systematic errors in thinking, and there are a great many of them. Let’s consider some.


For example, the Barnum – or Forer effect – is that people tend to see their own traits in general descriptions if they are sure that this characteristic is given to them. All astrological horoscopes and conclusions of palmists are based on this effect. If you read such “predictions”, you can easily make sure that they are all compiled according to very vague characteristics, under which absolutely any person can fall: “You are fair, but sometimes you are too critical of yourself”, “You are an emotional nature, but often laziness attacks you “,” Sometimes you notice that those around you underestimate what makes you upset “,” You need love and admiration, but disciplined and confident in appearance”, ” Sometimes you are very sociable, and sometimes you are very withdrawn “and so Further.

Another interesting bias is called the “marksman error”, when only those data that do not contradict the “hypothesis” are considered, and the rest are discarded. This cognitive bias is also known as the “Texas shooter’s mistake”, thanks to the story of a Texan who shot at the wall of a barn. In the places where the most holes were formed, targets are circled, stating that he was shooting at them. Not to mention the fact that our brain is generally inclined to systematize and identify patterns where they do not exist. Therefore, people perceive all the “come true” prophecies of psychics with a bang, and they simply forget about the unfulfilled ones.

Another misconception is to link two events as cause and effect. This is how homeopathy works, for example. If a person got sick, took a similar drug and felt better, he may think that he recovered because of this drug, while, in fact, there was no connection between these facts. Belief in omens and superstitions is based on the same effect: “I got into trouble because a black cat ran across the road.”

Another distortion that helps charlatans is the so-called confirmation bias (in the English-language literature – confirmation bias), when a person wants to find evidence only for what he believes. People prone to this type of distortion of thinking will only seek confirmation of their own beliefs and ignore everything that does not fit into their picture of the world. In the same way, they will approach the interpretation of certain knowledge, interpreting it in their own “favor”.

It is interesting that the same will happen with a person’s memories: he will remember only what he needs. On this distortion, conspiracy theories and even individual scientific conclusions are largely built, which are later recognized as erroneous. Those who come to see psychics are prone to a similar error in thinking. Those do not even need to try: the client is already absolutely sure that he was “jinxed” or imposed a “generic curse”. These are just a few of the mental tricks that all sorts of mediums and diviners work with – in fact, there are a great many.



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