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The superstitious scholar: Paranormal belief within a student population and its relationship to academic ability and discipline

Robin A.F. Andrews (School of Psychology and Therapeutic Studies, University of South Wales, Pontypridd, UK)
Philip Tyson (School of Psychology and Therapeutic Studies, University of South Wales, Pontypridd, UK)

Journal of Applied Research in Higher Education

ISSN: 2050-7003

Article publication date: 14 February 2019

Issue publication date: 18 June 2019

Abstract

Purpose

The development and application of critical thinking skills are an important component of success at University. Such skills permit students to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of evidence, argument and theory. However research suggests that many students believe in paranormal phenomena (e.g. telekinesis). Such beliefs defy the basic principles of science and do not stand up to critical scrutiny. The paper aims to discuss these issues.

Design/methodology/approach

This study aimed to investigate paranormal beliefs within a student population: differences among gender, academic discipline and academic performance were explored.

Findings

Findings indicated that females expressed higher levels of paranormal belief than males, “hard” science students (e.g. Biology) and “soft” science students (e.g. Sociology) expressed lower levels of belief than arts students, and a significant negative correlation indicated that high achievers were less likely to endorse paranormal beliefs.

Originality/value

In light of these results the authors suggest that paranormal phenomena may be a useful tool for teaching critical thinking skills at university.

Keywords

Citation

Andrews, R.A.F. and Tyson, P. (2019), "The superstitious scholar: Paranormal belief within a student population and its relationship to academic ability and discipline", Journal of Applied Research in Higher Education, Vol. 11 No. 3, pp. 415-427. https://doi.org/10.1108/JARHE-08-2018-0178

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

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