Skepticism: Genuine unbelief or implicit beliefs in the supernatural?

Research paper by Marjaana M Lindeman, Annika M AM Svedholm-Häkkinen, Tapani T Riekki

Indexed on: 05 Apr '16Published on: 05 Apr '16Published in: Consciousness and Cognition


We examined whether skeptics hold implicit supernatural beliefs or implicit cognitive underpinnings of the beliefs. In study 1 (N=57), participants read a biological or a religious story about death. The story content had no effect on skeptics' (or believers') afterlife beliefs. Study 2 examined the relationships between religious and non-religious paranormal beliefs and implicit views about whether supernatural and religious phenomena are imaginary or real (n1=33, n2=31). The less supernatural beliefs were endorsed the easier it was to connect "supernatural" with "imaginary". Study 3 (N=63) investigated whether participants' supernatural beliefs and ontological confusions differ between speeded and non-speeded response conditions. Only non-analytical skeptics' ontological confusions increased in speeded conditions. The results indicate that skeptics overall do not hold implicit supernatural beliefs, but that non-analytically thinking skeptics may, under supporting conditions, be prone to biases that predispose to supernatural beliefs.