People who believe in ghosts tend to have a more fearful worldview in general.
You’re 100 percent sure your creepy encounter with a ghost was real. You have a feeling ancient aliens visited the Earth sometime in the past, and you’ve never quite recovered from that creepy Ouija board experience when you communicated with an evil spirit in your basement. Do you also fear the government, nuclear war, and natural disasters? A new survey of nearly 1,500 Americans found a link between paranormal beliefs and a fearful worldview.
The Chapman University Survey of American Fears revealed that those who hold beliefs of the supernatural — ghosts, psychics, Bigfoot — may be more afraid of real-life uncertainties like violent crimes, corruption in the government, and nuclear war. The study participants were questioned about 88 different possible fears, ranging from typical phobias like heights and clowns to less tangible fears like Big Brother and cyberterrorism.
Christopher Bader, a professor of sociology at Chapman University, told Live Science, “The reason we ask [about paranormal things] on the survey is that we're interested in finding out what kind of clusters of beliefs tend to be associated with fear.”
The two most popular paranormal beliefs among the survey participants were that spirits can haunt particular places (41.4 percent) and that the living can communicate with the dead in some way (26.5 percent). Many participants also said they believed in fortune telling and dreams that can foretell the future, and some expressed beliefs in the clairvoyance of astrologers and psychics, and even the existence of Bigfoot.
Interestingly, more than 20 percent of participants declared they thought aliens had visited Earth in an ancient past, but 18.1 percent said they believed aliens have visited us in modern times.
But all the peculiarity of the beliefs aside, Badar said the study found that the relationship between paranormal fears and all of the different kinds of fears explored in the research were “statistically significant.” He says the strongest correlation was between paranormal beliefs and fear of crime and natural disasters.
It’s not clear why this link between paranormal beliefs and a fearful worldview exists, but Badar says there is a link between education and people’s beliefs in the paranormal. "The educational effect is a really powerful one that we as a research team need to spend more time figuring out. It's related to all of the fears," Bader said. "Education even tells me something about your fear of things like clowns. If you have a lower level of education, you're more likely to be afraid of clowns."
There are a lot of intriguing factors that form or contribute to our fears, and it’s interesting to explore the complex interplay between our fears themselves. Our fears evolve with the evolution of society — today we don’t live in fear of being guillotined or burned alive at the stakes, instead the study found the most common fears are associated with the government, including corruption and tracking of personal data.
It’s not all that surprising that a fear of ghosts goes hand-in-hand with a fear of governments — they both seem to be able to watch over us and get away with mischief without being seen.