Does paranormal activity exist in our world? Or is it all in our heads?
Have you ever had a supernatural experience that you just know was too real for any worldly explanation? According to a HuffPost/YouGov Survey from 2012, more people believe in ghosts than don’t — 45 percent voted yes, while only 26 percent voted no (21 percent of people were unsure). So you aren’t alone.
But despite our personal ghostly beliefs and experiences, scientists and critics declare there’s no such thing. So what is it that makes us stubbornly believe that paranormal entities exist in our world?
Barry Markovsky, a sociologist at the University of South Carolina, told Business Insider that the way our brains work plays a key role in our supernatural beliefs. Although some of us would like to think so, our brains aren’t flawless. When we’re just waking up or falling asleep, they don’t perform up to par, and the same goes for poor lighting. The outcome? Our brains try to make sense of ambiguous information by making patterns, says Markovsky. It’s probably not a coincidence that most people report seeing ghosts in dimly lit places or right before bed.
Plus, if your mind is looking for something, you’re more likely to find it. Halloween is just around the corner, so it’s the time of year that people take it upon themselves to seek out the spookiest haunted houses or visit notorious abandoned insane asylums. When your brain is focused on ghost hunting, you’re more likely to interpret that strange shadow in the corner as a ghost.
Benjamin Radford, deputy editor of Skeptical Inquirer magazine and author of Scientific Paranormal Investigation: How to Solve Unexplained Mysteries told Business Insider that a belief in ghosts is also closely linked to religion or belief in an afterlife. Ghosts have been a popular belief for millennia — they appear in the Bible and even date all the way back to ancient Egypt, where it was commonly believed that death was merely a transition to some type of underworld.
Believing in an afterlife is a principle of most religions, so naturally, the belief that spirits transcend death goes hand in hand. Radford also explained that we’re hardwired to seek explanations for what happens around us, and believing in the supernatural can help us make sense of the random, uncontrollable events that occur in our lives.
Essentially, there’s never been hard evidence that ghosts exist. Stories of encounters with the supernatural can be explained by psychological phenomena and misconceptions — so the science behind ghosts says they aren’t real.
However, that doesn’t change the fact that many people cling to their supernatural experiences, declaring that the encounters were too real to be interpreted by any scientific explanation. But the mind works in mysterious — at times unexplainable — ways, perhaps just as mysterious as all of the world’s elusive ghosts.
H/T: Business Insider