Carlos S. Alvarado, PhD, Visiting Scholar, Rhine Research Center

Here is a new sociological study of psychic experiences: Madeleine Castro, Roger Burrows and Robin Wooffitt, “The Paranormal is (Still) Normal: The Sociological Implications of a Survey of Paranormal Experiences in Great Britain” (Sociological Research Online, 2014, 19, DOI: 10.5153/sro.3355).

Here is the abstract:

Historically, there has been limited sociological interest in the paranormal and no systematic study of reported paranormal experiences. There are also few medium-to-large-scale survey results with nationally representative populations focusing on paranormal experiences. This paper provides details of an exploratory survey conducted in 2009 with a nationally representative survey of 4,096 adults aged 16 years and over across Great Britain . Our findings show that 37% of British adults report at least one paranormal experience and that women, those who are middle-aged or individuals resident in the South West are more likely to report such experiences. These results establish incidence levels of reported paranormal experiences in contemporary Britain. We argue also that they merit a more sustained sociological consideration of the paranormal. In this respect we renew and update the robust justification and call for serious research positioning the paranormal as a social phenomenon, originally proposed well over thirty years ago by Greeley (1975).

The authors state in their conclusion:

“We began this paper with reference to the work of Andrew Greeley . . . more specifically his suggestion that the paranormal is ‘normal’. In light of the results presented here, we would certainly argue that this is the case for several reasons. Firstly, we revealed that a significant minority of the British population reports paranormal experience and that there are some sociological variables that appear to facilitate these experiences (region, age, gender). Secondly, however, there is no evidence of social marginality; that is people who report paranormal experiences are ‘normal’ (in that there is very limited socio-structural variation between those who do and those who do not report paranormal experience). However, we have not been able to get a sense of how is the paranormal perceived by British culture at large and whether there has been a normalising of the paranormal to the British public. It is likely that the paranormal is more acceptable to certain groups and individuals within contemporary society. Other research suggests for instance, that there are those for whom these experiences are more commonplace and ‘everyday’ . . . As for Greeley’s suggestion that individuals who report these kinds of experiences may be have greater mental wellbeing, this is not something our research addressed. Getting a sense of how ‘normal’ the paranormal is for individuals and exploring more qualitatively their subjective assessments of wellbeing is certainly one possible route.”