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Conscious Cogn. 2017 Mar;49:313-321. doi: 10.1016/j.concog.2017.02.001. Epub 2017 Feb 23.

The self-attribution bias and paranormal beliefs.

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Department of Psychology, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands; Amsterdam Brain and Cognition Center, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Electronic address:


The present study investigated the relation between paranormal beliefs, illusory control and the self-attribution bias, i.e., the motivated tendency to attribute positive outcomes to oneself while negative outcomes are externalized. Visitors of a psychic fair played a card guessing game and indicated their perceived control over randomly selected cards as a function of the congruency and valence of the card. A stronger self-attribution bias was observed for paranormal believers compared to skeptics and this bias was specifically related to traditional religious beliefs and belief in superstition. No relation between paranormal beliefs and illusory control was found. Self-report measures indicated that paranormal beliefs were associated to being raised in a spiritual family and to anomalous experiences during childhood. Thereby this study suggests that paranormal beliefs are related to specific cognitive biases that in turn are shaped by socio-cultural factors.


Cognitive biases; Illusion of control; Individual differences; Paranormal beliefs; Self-attribution bias; Superstition

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