About three in four Americans profess at least one paranormal belief, according to a recent Gallup survey. The most popular is extrasensory perception (ESP), mentioned by 41%, followed closely by belief in haunted houses (37%). The full list of items includes:
Extrasensory perception, or ESP
That houses can be haunted
Ghosts/that spirits of dead people can come back in certain places/situations
Telepathy/communication between minds without using traditional senses
Clairvoyance/the power of the mind to know the past and predict the future
Astrology, or that the position of the stars and planets can affect people’s lives
That people can communicate mentally with someone who has died
Reincarnation, that is, the rebirth of the soul in a new body after death
Channeling/allowing a ‘spirit-being’ to temporarily assume control of body
A special analysis of the data shows that 73% of Americans believe in at least one of the 10 items listed above, while 27% believe in none of them. A Gallup survey in 2001 provided similar results — 76% professed belief in at least one of the 10 items.
Number of paranormal items
people believe in
The “cumulative percent” column shows that more than one-fifth of all Americans, 22%, believe in five or more items, 32% believe in at least four items, and more than half, 57%, believe in at least two paranormal items. Only 1% believe in all 10 items.
Three other items included in the survey, but which do not necessarily reflect paranormal beliefs, include beliefs in “psychic or spiritual healing or the power of the human mind to heal the body,” “that people on earth are sometimes possessed by the devil,” and “that extra-terrestrial beings have visited earth at some time in the past.”
The healing powers of the mind have been demonstrated empirically, reflected in the power of placebos, among other examples. More than half of Americans, 55%, believe in this connection.
The poll shows that 42% of Americans believe that “people on this earth are sometimes possessed by the devil.” However, it is unclear how many people treat that statement literally, and how many interpret it in metaphorical terms. Thus, for purposes of this analysis, that item was excluded.
Strictly speaking, visits from aliens are not part of paranormal beliefs. Although definitive scientific evidence of such visits is lacking, in principle the existence of extra-terrestrial beings and their ability to visit earth are subject to empirical verification.
All of the other 10 items listed above require the belief that humans have more than the “normal” five senses.