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Perceptual Biases in Relation to Paranormal and Conspiracy Beliefs.

van Elk M - PLoS ONE (2015)

Bottom Line: Previous studies have shown that one's prior beliefs have a strong effect on perceptual decision-making and attentional processing.In the second experiment, it was found that skeptics showed a classical 'global-to-local' interference effect, whereas believers in conspiracy theories were characterized by a stronger 'local-to-global interference effect'.The present study shows that individual differences in paranormal and conspiracy beliefs are associated with perceptual and attentional biases, thereby extending the growing body of work in this field indicating effects of cultural learning on basic perceptual processes.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Department of Psychology, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, the Netherlands; Amsterdam Brain and Cognition Centre, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

ABSTRACT
Previous studies have shown that one's prior beliefs have a strong effect on perceptual decision-making and attentional processing. The present study extends these findings by investigating how individual differences in paranormal and conspiracy beliefs are related to perceptual and attentional biases. Two field studies were conducted in which visitors of a paranormal conducted a perceptual decision making task (i.e. the face/house categorization task; Experiment 1) or a visual attention task (i.e. the global/local processing task; Experiment 2). In the first experiment it was found that skeptics compared to believers more often incorrectly categorized ambiguous face stimuli as representing a house, indicating that disbelief rather than belief in the paranormal is driving the bias observed for the categorization of ambiguous stimuli. In the second experiment, it was found that skeptics showed a classical 'global-to-local' interference effect, whereas believers in conspiracy theories were characterized by a stronger 'local-to-global interference effect'. The present study shows that individual differences in paranormal and conspiracy beliefs are associated with perceptual and attentional biases, thereby extending the growing body of work in this field indicating effects of cultural learning on basic perceptual processes.

No MeSH data available.


Example stimuli used in the experiment representing faces (upper row) or houses (lower row) with increased levels of visual noise from left to right.
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pone.0130422.g001: Example stimuli used in the experiment representing faces (upper row) or houses (lower row) with increased levels of visual noise from left to right.

Mentions: As stimuli a selection of pictures was used from the original stimulus set that has been developed to study the neural correlates of perceptual decision making [17]. The set consisted of 38 black and white pictures of faces and houses (131 x 156 pixels), to which different levels of random visual noise had been added (see Fig 1 for example stimuli). For the present study stimuli representing 40%, 50%, 60% and 70% of visual noise were selected. In a previous study it has been found that the average threshold for 82% correct was at 45% visual noise [17]. Accordingly, by using the range from 40–70% it was ensured that for the lowest level of visual noise most participants would be able to correctly classify most stimuli, whereas with an increased level of visual noise perceptual categorization would become more difficult.


Perceptual Biases in Relation to Paranormal and Conspiracy Beliefs.

van Elk M - PLoS ONE (2015)

Example stimuli used in the experiment representing faces (upper row) or houses (lower row) with increased levels of visual noise from left to right.
© Copyright Policy
Related In: Results  -  Collection

License
Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC4482736&req=5

pone.0130422.g001: Example stimuli used in the experiment representing faces (upper row) or houses (lower row) with increased levels of visual noise from left to right.
Mentions: As stimuli a selection of pictures was used from the original stimulus set that has been developed to study the neural correlates of perceptual decision making [17]. The set consisted of 38 black and white pictures of faces and houses (131 x 156 pixels), to which different levels of random visual noise had been added (see Fig 1 for example stimuli). For the present study stimuli representing 40%, 50%, 60% and 70% of visual noise were selected. In a previous study it has been found that the average threshold for 82% correct was at 45% visual noise [17]. Accordingly, by using the range from 40–70% it was ensured that for the lowest level of visual noise most participants would be able to correctly classify most stimuli, whereas with an increased level of visual noise perceptual categorization would become more difficult.

Bottom Line: Previous studies have shown that one's prior beliefs have a strong effect on perceptual decision-making and attentional processing.In the second experiment, it was found that skeptics showed a classical 'global-to-local' interference effect, whereas believers in conspiracy theories were characterized by a stronger 'local-to-global interference effect'.The present study shows that individual differences in paranormal and conspiracy beliefs are associated with perceptual and attentional biases, thereby extending the growing body of work in this field indicating effects of cultural learning on basic perceptual processes.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Department of Psychology, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, the Netherlands; Amsterdam Brain and Cognition Centre, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

ABSTRACT
Previous studies have shown that one's prior beliefs have a strong effect on perceptual decision-making and attentional processing. The present study extends these findings by investigating how individual differences in paranormal and conspiracy beliefs are related to perceptual and attentional biases. Two field studies were conducted in which visitors of a paranormal conducted a perceptual decision making task (i.e. the face/house categorization task; Experiment 1) or a visual attention task (i.e. the global/local processing task; Experiment 2). In the first experiment it was found that skeptics compared to believers more often incorrectly categorized ambiguous face stimuli as representing a house, indicating that disbelief rather than belief in the paranormal is driving the bias observed for the categorization of ambiguous stimuli. In the second experiment, it was found that skeptics showed a classical 'global-to-local' interference effect, whereas believers in conspiracy theories were characterized by a stronger 'local-to-global interference effect'. The present study shows that individual differences in paranormal and conspiracy beliefs are associated with perceptual and attentional biases, thereby extending the growing body of work in this field indicating effects of cultural learning on basic perceptual processes.

No MeSH data available.