Wednesday 26 July 2017

Do you believe in ghosts? Leading psychologist claims it's all 'in the brain'

Anita McSorley

It’s fast approaching that time of the year when spirits and souls of the dead supposedly roam the earth.

Many claim to have experienced paranormal encounters, but are they really what they seem?

A leading British psychologist has opened up about the paranormal, claiming that it's all "in the brain".

Chris French, head of the Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit at the University of London explained that the feeling of a presence nearby is common.

“Sometimes people say to me, why are you so interested? I personally don’t believe in the paranormal but I might be wrong,” he told Jonathan McCrea on Newstalk this morning.

“Lots of people do believe and lots of people say that they have had personal experiences. I think that we can learn a lot about human psychology by looking at these experiences.

“That sense of a presence being nearby is a fairly common experience for most of us – many of whom don’t believe in ghosts and will just shrug it off.

“There are lots of different ways people experience it ranging from the fairly mild like from feeling a presence right up to an apparitional experience,” he added.

He believes that it is all psychological.

“That paranormal feeling can be induced artificially when brain surgery is carried out," he said.

"Different parts of the cortex when stimulated produce experiences like that and that for me is very strong evidence that it’s something in the brain rather than something out there.

“If you say they’re hallucinating - seeing something that isn’t there - they get offended. But hallucinations are very popular and we could all have them under appropriate circumstances.

“If you’re in a reputedly haunted place and someone says they hear footsteps someone will believe them.

“When we are uncertain of things we take our queues from others around us and then people then end up genuinely believing they’ve seen something that wasn't there before," he added.

Despite this, he acknowledged that he believed in paranormal activities until he became more aware of the psychology behind why people believe.

“I used to believe in all this paranormal stuff up to being a young adult and learning about psychology," he said.

"It does give you an insight into why people might believe," he added.

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