Friday, April 06, 2007

Just what one would expect

Tendency could explain why some cling to implausible reincarnation claims
People who believe they have lived past lives as, say, Indian princesses or battlefield commanders are more likely to make certain types of memory errors, according to a new study.
The propensity to make these mistakes could, in part, explain why people cling to implausible
reincarnation claims in the first place.
Researchers recruited people who, after undergoing hypnotic therapy, had come to believe that they had
past lives.

Subjects were asked to read aloud a list of 40 non-famous names, and then, after a two-hour wait, told that they were going to see a list consisting of three types of names: non-famous names they had already seen (from the earlier list), famous names, and names of non-famous people that they had not previously seen. Their task was to identify which names were famous.
The researchers found that, compared to control subjects who dismissed the idea of reincarnation, past-life believers were almost twice as likely to misidentify names. In particular, their tendency was to wrongly identify as famous the non-famous names they had seen in the first task. This kind of error, called a source-monitoring error, indicates that a person has difficulty recognizing where a memory came from. (continued in article).

(a) It's good people are doing empirical investigations to things like this. Just meeting some of these people, you can tell they are generally "flaky", which is in part, a way of characterizing their flighty mentalities.

1 comment:

upinVermont said...

I am still a little less willing to eliminate the possibility of reincarnation (in one form or another). There is no doubt that much self-deception sorrounds these claims, but I have to wonder what exactly this study proves? For instance, these people were probably also more likely to have feelings of dejavous. Are we therefore to conclude that all such feelings are false? Clearly, not all episodes of dejavous are wihtout reason. I've had such feelings only to recall, much later, that they were well founded.

The only reason I remain open to reincarnation is through Dr Ian Stevenson's work. He himself does not assert that his studies are proof, only that they are suggestive. Having read them, I find the evidence collected by Stevenson to be compelling and very hard to dismiss. To dismiss the evidence would require an effort as rigorous and Stevenson's own effort, and no one has attempted this. Read the stuff for yourself. Skeptics have offered caveats here and there, but taken as a whole, the skeptical arguments are anemic at best.