UFO Sightings
The truth is out there. Reuters

In 2015, there are still purported sightings of Bigfoot and UFOs along with claims about the New World Order, and denials of global warming. The Web has only made it easier to share these beliefs despite the many attempts to debunk them. In an effort to understand why people believe in the paranormal or conspiracy theories, psychologists evaluated thinking styles and found that intuitive thinkers are more likely to have these convictions.

Sander van der Linden, a social psychologist and lecturer at Princeton University, wrote an excellent post for Scientific American explaining our long-held beliefs in the unknown. Recent polls show the majority of Americans believe in miracles and 42 percent believe in ghosts. A government cover-up of aliens was a popular belief in another poll, while 28 percent of individuals believed in a New World Order conspiracy. In regards to climate change, 37 percent of those polled said it was a hoax while 51 percent said it was real.

A recent psychology study concluded people who believed in, say, Bigfoot were more likely to believe in the NWO. It makes sense that a person who believes in one paranormal phenomenon would believe in another conspiracy, but van der Linden notes an individual's thinking style also is factor. A recent study used tests to determine if a person was an intuitive thinker (quicker to react) or a reflective one (more cautious and skeptical) and also measured their paranormal beliefs. Intuitive thinkers were more likely than reflective thinkers to believe in the paranormal.

The reason intuitive thinkers were more likely to believe in the paranormal may be the conjunction fallacy -- where two specific things are believed to be more probable than a single general item. Van der Linden uses the scenario of a woman who can predict the future or that same woman being able to predict the future and read minds. The conjunction fallacy leads some people to say the latter description is more likely to be true, according to van der Linden, even though the latter situation can't have a higher probability of occurring than the singular item (predicting the future). For van der Linden and other psychologists, the "and" is extremely important.

It turns out that people who are more likely to answer with the conjunction fallacy were more likely to believe in the paranormal and conspiracy theories. For van der Linden, explaining the unknown is important because these beliefs affect our acceptance of science and other positive social interactions.