• Ignorance is bliss? Exploring paranormal beliefs, coping and happiness in a UK and Singaporean sample

      Lasikiewicz, Nicola; University of Chester (2014-08)
      Previous research has indicated that belief in unusual phenomena and superstitious thinking may increase in times of stress (Keinan 1994; 2002). Further, believers in the paranormal often display avoidant coping strategies with little to no problem solving. These findings may, therefore, reflect a specific coping mechanism for stressful situations. However, little research has explored the possible interaction between the perception of stress and coping style on belief and further, an assessment of perceived happiness. Consequently, the current study aimed to explore possible associations between perceived stress and happiness, coping and paranormal belief. Further, these relationships were explored and compared in a sample of Western (UK) and South East Asian (Singapore) participants. Ninety-two male and female participants aged between 19 and 61 years (mean age=36.56 ± 11.74 years) from the UK and 145 male and female participants aged between 18 and 57 years (mean age=23.03 ± 5.51 years) from Singapore completed an online battery of psychological measures assessing paranormal belief (Revised Paranormal Belief Scale; Tobacyk, 1988), superstitious thinking (Superstitions Questionnaire; Zebb & Moore, 2003), perceived stress (Perceived Stress Scale, Cohen, 1994), coping (Ways of Coping Revised, Lazarus & Folkman, 1985) and happiness (Oxford Happiness Questionnaire; Hills & Argyle, 2002). Participants were predominantly students recruited using convenience sampling. Data were analysed using a series of backwards enter multiple regression analyses to determine the predictors of paranormal belief. For all participants, level of education (a higher score being indicative of a lower educational qualification), happiness and coping were significant predictors of global paranormal belief (R2=.22, F(6, 225)=10.787; p<.01). Specifically, a lower level of education (β=.20; p<.00) greater happiness (β=.16; p<.05) and coping in the form of low problem solving (β=-.16; p<.05) and greater positive reappraisal (β=.24; p<.00) were associated with greater belief. Further, a lower level of education (β=.13; p<.05) and coping (low problem solving (β=-.18; p<.05) and high distancing (β=.31; p<.00) were associated with significantly greater superstitious thinking (R2=.21, F(7, 224)=8.239; p<.01). In terms of crosscultural differences, paranormal belief was significantly greater in Singaporeans but no significant differences in happiness and perceived stress between the two nations were noted. In terms of predicting belief, level of education was a significant predictor of both global paranormal belief (β=.36; p<.00) and superstitious thinking (β=.25; p<.05) for participants in the UK (R2=.16, F(3, 85)=5.345; p<.01 and R2=.12, F(2, 86)=5.776; p<.01 respectively). For Singaporeans, greater happiness (β=.23; p<.00) significantly predicted greater paranormal belief in addition to low problem solving (β=-.19; p<.05), high avoidance (β=.21; p<.05) and greater distancing (β=.34; p<.00) coping strategies (R2=.22, F(5, 137)=7.832; p<.01). Further, the combination of high perceived stress and low problem solving was also a significant predictor of superstitious thinking in Singaporeans (R2=.27, F(5, 137)=9.919; p<.00; β=-.19; p<.00). The findings support the suggestion that belief in the paranormal may reflect a specific pattern of coping characterised by greater propensity for distancing and avoidance with low problem solving. Further, the combination of high stress and low problem solving may increase the propensity for belief and superstitious thinking, particularly in a South East Asian population. Further research is required to determine whether this apparent coping mechanism is protective or maladaptive in the long run and whether cultural differences may mediate this effect.