Who Believes in ESP: Cognitive and Motivational Determinants of the Belief in Extra-Sensory Perception


  • Marija Branković


Many people believe in extra-sensory perception, e.g. the ability to communicate with thoughts, to sense future events or locate radiation with the help of a V-shaped piece of wood. Addressing a gap in research specifically focused on ESP beliefs, we investigated cognitive styles and basic motivations related to these beliefs in two survey studies. The findings suggest that a propensity to use intuition is the best predictor of ESP beliefs in terms of cognitive style. ESP belief is positively related to fear of death, and this relation is partly mediated by fatalism, i.e. the belief that chance controls one’s life. ESP beliefs do not seem to be perceived as irreconcilable with a rational view of reality however, they do not necessarily provide psychological protection from existential concerns. The implications of the findings in terms of costs and benefits of these beliefs and the possibility to change them are discussed.