Research in Higher Education

, Volume 35, Issue 4, pp 443–453 | Cite as

Normal science and the paranormal: The effect of a scientific method course on students' beliefs

  • Dean Morier
  • David Keeports


A nonequivalent control group design was employed to test the effectiveness of an interdisciplinary course on the scientific method in increasing students' skepticism toward the paranormal. The course explored legitimate methods of scientific inquiry and compared them to faulty, and often fraudulent, methods of pseudosciences. Topics included elementary logic, logical fallacies, statistics, probability, the scientific method, characteristics of pseudosciences, and the prevalence and persistence of pseudoscientific theories and beliefs. Students enrolled in a psychology and law class served as a control group for the “Science and Pseudoscience” class (the treatment group). At the start of the term, students in both groups completed the Belief in the Paranormal Scale (Jones, Russell, and Nickel, 1977) and a measure of beliefs in their own psychic powers. At the end of the semester, students completed these same measures. Results demonstrated that while there were no initial differences between the control and treatment groups in their belief in the paranormal, students in the “Science and Pseudoscience” class demonstrated substantially reduced belief in the paranormal relative to the control class. There were no changes in students' beliefs in their own paranormal powers. Implications for science education and research on teaching thinking are discussed.


Critical Thinking Scientific Method Control Class Normal Science Critical Thinking Skill 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Human Sciences Press, Inc 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dean Morier
    • 1
  • David Keeports
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyMills CollegeOakland

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