Belief in the paranormal and magical thinking

This work examines the formation, maintenance, and impact of belief in the paranormal and magical thinking.

Some of this work has examined the stratagems employed by professional magicians and fake psychics to fool observers.

As part of this research, Prof Wiseman collaborated with Dr Peter Lamont (University of Edinburgh), interviewing leading magicians about the psychology used during their performances and publishing their findings in the book Magic In Theory.

Other work examines the reliability of eyewitness testimony for trickery, fake psychic phenomena and alleged miracles. Some of this research, again carried out with Dr Peter Lamont and published in Nature, has illustrated the processes involved in eyewitnesses exaggerating their accounts over time.

A third strand of research has involved examining participants’ perception and memory of videotapes containing alleged psychic phenomena. Some of these studies have investigated the role that belief in the paranormal, demonstrating that believers tend to exhibit less accurate recall than disbelievers.

Other work has focused on the relationship between such beliefs and verbal suggestion.  Prof Wiseman has collaborated with Prof Matthew Smith (Liverpool Hope University) and Dr Emma Greening to examine the role of verbal suggestion during demonstrations of fake psychic phenomena, with results showing that believers tend to be more suggestible than disbelievers.