Daily Archives: November 30, 2010

Belief in the supernatural creates false memories in kids.

By, Adam K. Fetterman
In my previous post I gave a possible explanation of why so called “paranormal researchers” or “ghost hunters” attribute randomness to the paranormal. I also mentioned that I would have an upcoming post on why people are motivated to believe in the paranormal. However, I came across an article about the memories of supernatural experiences in children, so that post will be put on the backburner for now. The reason this article struck me is because I recently have been watching a spin-off (?) of Paranormal State called Psychic Kids. The show employs “psychic” Chip Coffey to help “psychic” children develop and embrace their “psychic abilities” in order to not be afraid anymore. In the episodes of this show, and others such as Paranormal State, the children and adults are quite convinced that what they have seen in the past was real, and paranormal. This is because they probably have created false-memories of these events based on their supernatural beliefs.

According to the research of Principe and Smith (2007), children who hold beliefs of the supernatural are more likely to construct memory errors that comport with their paranormal beliefs. Specifically, they found that children who believe in the tooth fairy were more likely to recall supernatural experiences surrounding the loss of a tooth, than those that do not believe. That is, they have constructed “real” memories, falsely. These findings likely explain why the children and adults from these paranormal shows appear completely convinced that their experiences were real.

It may not seem harmful to believe in the tooth fairy or some paranormal activity in a way that does not affect one’s life or when it is an adult making their own choices. However, it may seem a little more worrisome if the children show some psychological distress as a result. As Skepchick and PZ Myers have pointed out, these shows and psychics, such as Psychic Kids and Chip Coffey, may be preying on children with blatant psychological problems. That is, they seem to be feeding these problems by unscientifically “confirming” these false memories, which could increase their anxiety, fear, and social isolation. All of this for our entertainment(?).

Still coming: Why people are motivated to believe in the paranormal.

A&E’s Psychic Kids website.

Psychic Kids. By, Jen at Skepchick.org

Bad move A&E. By, PZ Myers at Pharyngula

Principe, G. & Smith, E. (2007). The tooth, the whole tooth, and nothing but the tooth: How belief in the Tooth Fairy can engender false memories. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 22, 625-642

On the effectiveness of intergroup apologies

By Kevin R. Betts

A common theme of my previous posts concerns intergroup conflict and its resolution. Some conflicts I have examined include clashes in Bangkok between anti-government protestors and the Thai government, relations between the LAPD and bicycle commuters, immigrant relations in Arizona, conflict on the Korean peninsula, and reciprocal determinants of terrorist and counterterrorist actions. The nature of these conflicts is complex, and accordingly, the interventions I proposed have sometimes been complex as well. But a recent article by Blatz and Philpot (2010) suggests that some of these conflicts may not require complex solutions. Rather, a simple public apology may sometimes be all that is needed to restore peace.

Blatz and Philpot (2010) suggest that intergroup apologies can improve intergroup attitudes, restore trust, and promote forgiveness. Additionally, they identify nine moderators (intentionality, time since harm, severity, privity, costliness, time since apology, trust, power, and identification) and four mediators (remorse, sincerity, empathy, and assigning responsibility) that influence apology-outcome relationships. Although it is beyond the scope of this brief post to examine all of these factors, one can imagine how each might relate to the conflicts discussed above. Take whether or not the perpetrators intended to harm the victim (intentionality) as an example. This past summer, I wrote about an incident where an LAPD officer was filmed kicking a bicycle commuter during the monthly mass bicycling event Critical Mass. As an organization, the LAPD reacted to this incident by condemning the actions of the officer and expressing their support of lawful bicycle commuting. Framing this incident as unreflective of the LAPD as an organization (unintentional) may have aided their attempt to restore relations with bicycle commuters in the city. In contrast, intergroup apologies should be less effective when transgressions are clearly intentional. For example, the North Korean government openly takes credit for their recent attack on the South Korean island of Yeonpyeong. Although an official apology is certainly warranted for this attack, it is unlikely to be effective in achieving the immediate forgiveness of South Koreans.

Clearly, not all intergroup conflicts can be resolved with an apology. What should be taken from this research is that when certain conditions are met, the power of a simple public apology for improving intergroup attitudes, restoring trust, and promoting forgiveness should not be underestimated.

Read more

Blatz, C.W., & Philpot, C. (2010). On the outcomes of intergroup apologies. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 4, 995-1007.

Destruction on island at center of Korean barrage (CNN)

View other posts by Kevin R. Betts