Reducing Pseudoscientific and Paranormal Beliefs in University Students Through a Course in Science and Critical Thinking

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Abstract

This study measured the relationship between student’s religion, gender, and propensity for fantasy thinking with the change in belief for paranormal and pseudoscientific subjects following a science and critical thinking course that directly confronted these subjects. Student pre-course endorsement of religious, paranormal, and pseudoscientific beliefs ranged from 21 to 53%, with religion having the highest endorsement rate. Pre-course belief in paranormal and pseudoscientific subjects was correlated with high scores in some fantasy thinking scales and showed a gender and a religion effect with females having an 11.1% higher belief across all paranormal and pseudoscience subcategories. Students’ religion, and frequency of religious service attendance, was also important with agnostic or atheist students having lower beliefs in paranormal and pseudoscience subjects compared to religious students. Students with either low religious service attendance or very high attendance had lower paranormal and pseudoscientific beliefs. Following the critical thinking course, overall beliefs in paranormal and pseudoscientific subcategories lowered 6.8–28.9%, except for superstition, which did not significantly change. Change in belief had both a gender and religion effect with greater reductions among religious students and females.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)183-210
Number of pages28
JournalScience and Education
Volume27
Issue number1-2
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 1 2018

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Religion
science
student
gender
superstition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education

Cite this

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title = "Reducing Pseudoscientific and Paranormal Beliefs in University Students Through a Course in Science and Critical Thinking",
abstract = "This study measured the relationship between student’s religion, gender, and propensity for fantasy thinking with the change in belief for paranormal and pseudoscientific subjects following a science and critical thinking course that directly confronted these subjects. Student pre-course endorsement of religious, paranormal, and pseudoscientific beliefs ranged from 21 to 53{\%}, with religion having the highest endorsement rate. Pre-course belief in paranormal and pseudoscientific subjects was correlated with high scores in some fantasy thinking scales and showed a gender and a religion effect with females having an 11.1{\%} higher belief across all paranormal and pseudoscience subcategories. Students’ religion, and frequency of religious service attendance, was also important with agnostic or atheist students having lower beliefs in paranormal and pseudoscience subjects compared to religious students. Students with either low religious service attendance or very high attendance had lower paranormal and pseudoscientific beliefs. Following the critical thinking course, overall beliefs in paranormal and pseudoscientific subcategories lowered 6.8–28.9{\%}, except for superstition, which did not significantly change. Change in belief had both a gender and religion effect with greater reductions among religious students and females.",
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