While many scoff at tales of the supernatural, academia has not fully dismissed them. Specialists, like Christopher French, a psychologist heading up the Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit at London’s Goldsmiths University, investigates seemingly paranormal experiences to find the non-paranormal explanations behind them.
He believes experiences are often wrongly misinterpreted as paranormal due to tendencies bred into us through thousands of years of evolution to help keep us alive. “Our brains almost seem prewired for what I would call weird beliefs,” he says.
French cites Daniel Kahneman’s theory that we have two ways of thinking, a reactionary thought process that comes to decisions quickly but is sometimes flawed, and a more accurate but slower process.
Though we may see ourselves as rational beings, the reactionary way is our preferred mode of thinking, thanks to evolution, he says.
Consider a Stone Age man hearing a rustling in the bushes: “He can either immediately assume it’s a threat, some kind of predator, and get the hell out of there to survive another day,” French explains. “Or he can rely on system two, the slower, reliant-on-evidence kind of approach, and he may end up as lunch,” French explains.
That way of thinking would have helped humans escape potential predators, but it also means events can be misinterpreted.