An Introduction to the Psychology of Paranormal Belief and Experience by Tony Jinks

Lance Storm

Abstract


Readers of Dr. Tony Jinks’s first major literary offering to the world of parapsychology might be surprised that, in his Preface, he makes two salient points that are not to be taken lightly: First, he criticizes as “facile” and witless the skeptical assumption that paranormal beliefs and experiences can simply be attributed to drunkenness, stupidity, gullibility, or emotionalism, and second, he claims that he is not an expert writing for experts. Regarding the former comment, it does justice to the book to state that Dr. Jinks is not only accusing lay persons of making these casual assumptions, but he targets professionals (e.g., clinicians) who base those same inaccurate diagnoses on mainstream psychological theory. My experience from over a decade in the field suggests that this form of “professionalism” is not only generally manifest in the aims underpinning the psychology of parapsychology, but I also see a new form of radical skepticism surfacing that is bent on pathologizing, in a growing number of creative ways, those who profess paranormal beliefs, or avow paranormal experiences. I believe this trend is part of a bigger movement, and is a form of defense on the part of academia, and an indictment of the competitive times in which we live. While Dr. Jinks does not quite “go there” so to speak, in terms of fully addressing the sociodynamic forces that guide academia in its trajectory, one sees the writing on the wall as one journeys through the highly eloquent and erudite (one might even say entertaining) pages of Dr. Jinks’s book. And if it isn’t so apparent to the reader, the quote from another Australian parapsychologist, Professor Harvey Irwin, says it all when he points out that the “implicit objective” of psychological research into paranormal belief is to demonstrate “that believers . . . are grossly deficient in intelligence, personality, education, and social standing” (p. 62). Actually, nothing could be further from the truth (for evidence, see the review by Thalbourne, 2010).

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