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ESP: Extrasensory Perception or Effect of Subjective Probability?

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This paper consists of two parts. In the first, we discuss the neuropsychological correlates of belief in a 'paranormal' or magical causation of coincidences. In particular, we review experimental evidence demonstrating that believers in ESP and kindred forms of paranormal phenomena differ from disbelievers with respect to indices of sequential response production and semantic-associative processing. Not only do believers judge artificial coincidences as more 'meaningful' than disbelievers, they also more strongly suppress coincidental productions (i.e. repetitions) in their generation of random sequences. These findings illuminate the cognitive mechanisms underlying the formation and maintenance of paranormal beliefs for which the right cerebral hemisphere is hypothesized to play a central role. These same right hemispheric semantic-associative processing characteristics are centrally implicated in the creative thought process as well as the genesis of delusional (pathological) beliefs (e.g. ideas of reference).

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Neuropsychologische Abteilung, Neurologische Klinik USZ, Frauenklinikstrasse 26, 8091 Zurich, Switzerland., Email:

Publication date: January 1, 2003


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