Belief in the Paranormal

Instructor: Wayne Messer
High Point University

Inquiring Minds Home
About Inquiring Minds
Educational Materials
Events & Activities
Special Projects
Other Resources



Course Outline:

UNIT ONE: Introduction

  • Gilovich, Chapter 1: Introduction, pp.1-6
  • Hines, Chapter 1: The Nature of Pseudoscience, pp.1-20

UNIT TWO: Secondhand Information and the Media

  • Gilovich, Chapter 6: Believing What We Are Told - The Biasing Effects of Secondhand Information, pp.88-111
  • Sparks, G.G., Hansen, T., & Shah, R. (Summer 1994). Do televised depictions of paranormal events influence viewers' beliefs? Skeptical Inquirer, 18, pp.386-395
  • Kurtz, P. (Summer 1993). Exploring the television wasteland. Skeptical Inquirer, 17, pp.350-354

UNIT THREE: Spiritualism

  • Video: The American Experience: Spiritualism
  • Hines, Chapter 2: Spiritualism, pp.21-29

UNIT FOUR: The Emotional Way

  • Lett, J. (Summer 1992). The persistent popularity of the paranormal. Skeptical Inquirer, 16, pp.381-388
  • Gilovich, Chapter 5: Seeing What We Want to See - Motivational Determinants of Belief, pp.75-87



  • Hines, Chapter 3: Life After Death, pp.60-76
  • Hines, Chapter 2: Demonic Possession and Neuropathology, pp.54-59
  • Baker & Nickell, Missing Pieces, Chapter 4: Investigating Ghosts, Haunted Places and Things, Poltergeists, and Other Nonentities, pp.113-151

UNIT SIX: Psychic Powers

  • Video: Randi's Secrets of the Psychics
  • Hines, Chapter 2: Psychic Dreams, Psychic Predictions, and Psychic Crime Detection, pp.29-48
  • Gilovich, Chapter 10: Belief in ESP, pp.156-182
  • Sweat, J.A., & Durm, M.W. (Winter 1993). Psychics: Do Police Departments Really Use Them? Skeptical Inquirer, 17, pp.148-165
  • Hines, Chapter 12: Dowsing and the Magic Pendulum, pp.290-293
  • Baker & Nickell, Missing Pieces, Chapter 5: Investigating Amazing Powers, pp.152-182

UNIT SEVEN: Laboratory Investigations

  • Hines, Chapter 4: Laboratory Parapsychology, pp.77-108

UNIT EIGHT: Faith Healing

  • Hines, Chapter 10: Faith Healing, pp.234-251



  • Video: Farewell, Good Brothers
  • Hines, Chapter 7: UFOs I - Close Encounters of the First Kind, pp.165-183
  • Hines, Chapter 8: UFOs II - Photographs, Physical Evidence, and Abductions, pp.184-210
  • Baker & Nickell, Missing Pieces, Chapter 6: Investigating Things in the Sky and Alleged Abductions, pp.183-243

UNIT TEN: Getting at the Truth

  • Hines, Chapter 12: Graphology, pp.294-297
  • Lilienfeld, S.O. (Fall 1993). Do honesty tests really measure honesty> Skeptical Inquirer, 18, pp.32-41
  • Reich, J.R. (Summer 1993). The Eyewitness. Skeptical Inquirer, 17, pp.394-399

UNIT ELEVEN: Contemporary Example

  • Video: Facilitated Communication - Frontline
  • Mulich, J.A., Jacobson, J.W., & Kobe, F.H. (Spring 1993). Anguished silence and helping hands: Autism and Facillitated Communication. Skeptical Inquirer, 17, pp.270-279
  • Dillon, K.M. (Spring 1993). Facilitated Communication, Autism, and Ouija. Skeptical Inquirer, 17, pp.281-287


UNIT TWELVE: Health Fraud

  • Hines, Chapter 11: Health and Nutrition Quackery, pp.252-276
  • Gilovich, Chapter 8: Belief in Ineffective "Alternative" Health Practices, pp.125-145

UNIT THIRTEEN: The Cognitive Way

  • Gilovich, Chapter 2: Something Out of Nothing - The Misperception of Random Data, pp.9-28
  • Gilovich, Chapter 3: Too Much from Too Little - The Misinterpretation of Incomplete and Unrepresentative Data, pp.29-48
  • Gilovich, Chapter 4: Seeing What We Expect to See - The Biased Evaluation of Ambiguous and Inconsistent Data, pp.49-72



  • Gilovich, T. (1991). How We Know What Isn't So: The Fallibility of Human Reason in Everyday Life.
    New York: Free Press.
  • Hines, T. (1988). Pseudoscience and the Paranormal: A Critical Examination of the Evidence.
    Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books.
  • A Skeptical Inquirer Reader. Photocopied reproductions of 16 articles from the Skeptical Inquirer.
  • Photocopied chapters from Missing Pieces: How to Investigate Ghosts, UFOs, Psychics, and Other Mysteries, by Robert A. Baker and Joe Nickell (1992).