The Effect of Context and Supernatural Belief on Cognition | Malcolm Schofield

Dr. Malcolm Schofield of the Human Sciences Research Centre at the University of Derby England examines how contextual priming, as well as an individual’s implicit paranormal and religious beliefs, may affect their general cognition. This investigation is based on the theory of “alief” which finds that an individual’s explicit beliefs are not always reflected in their behavior and actions.

In the study, one hundred and seventy-two participants were surveyed regarding their paranormal and religious beliefs using a modified Brief Implicit Association Test to measure their implicit association. Based on the test results participants were divided into four groups: “skeptics”, “paranormal believers”, “religious believers”, and “believers” of both religion and paranormal. Following these surveys were also conducted to measure the participant’s explicit supernatural beliefs, their cognitive reflection, their metacognitive processes as well as their belief confidence. Participants were told the tests were either religious, paranormal, or neutral in nature, which acted as a contextual primer for their cognition.

The data from these tests was then analyzed as a whole and then analyzed separately for each believer group to see if there were any significant trends. The “believers” group stood out as they were found to contain “positive reflectors”, individuals low in metacognition and high in cognitive reflection and belief confidence. Individuals given the religious priming were most likely to be a positive reflector and the neutral primed group was the least likely. It was concluded that the priming operated on a moral basis, influencing the already open-minded to consider different beliefs and be more analytical and confident.

Presented at the “62nd Annual Convention of the Parapsychological Association” on July 4, 2019, Paris, France; program chaired by Ramsés D’León. Download the Abstracts at

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Published on December 3, 2021