People who were primed to feel like they have little control over their lives were more likely to change their individual views and believe in supernatural or paranormal beings, a new study suggests.
Psychologists from the University of Queensland found that when people felt a lack of control in their lives, they were more likely to believe in the so-called "psychic abilities" of the famous Paul the Octopus, an "octopus oracle" that became famous the 2010 soccer World Cup for correctly “predicting" the winner of all games in the competition.
Dr. Katharine Greenaway primed half of the 40 participants to feel a sense of high control and the other half to feel in low control by having them recall and write about an incident in their lives where they either felt like they had control or had no control.
Afterwards, participants were asked to indicate the extent to which they thought Paul would have made all those correct decisions based on chance alone.
While 40 percent of people in the low-control category believed that the octopus had psychic abilities, only 5 percent of people with a condition of high control were believers.
“The people with a low sense of control believed Paul must have precognitive ability – in other words, the ability to predict the future,” Greenaway said in a university news release. “It seems that belief in precognition is one way that people can ‘trick' themselves to feeling in control in situations they have no control over.”
Greenway noted that psychologists had always known that control was important to people, but she said that her latest research provided insights into the lengths people would go to maintain the feeling of control in their lives.
“The bottom line is that people don't like feeling out of control, so they go through a series of psychological ‘gymnastics' to help maintain the perception that they are in control of their lives - and it seems to work,” she said.
Greenaway had previously looked at how "in control" people felt when in a threatening situation like being exposed to terrorism or to a global financial crisis and found that people who felt low control were more likely to become hostile and prejudice toward other people, particularly to foreigners.
“This research highlights how when people feel threatened and out of control they take it out on others in an effort to make themselves feel better,” she said.
Researchers concluded that the findings suggest that loss of control had a profound psychological impact that caused people to change their original individual beliefs and opinions toward others.
Published by Medicaldaily.com