Fate, fortune and flying saucers : a survey of popular beliefs.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
An exploratory analysis of popular beliefs was undertaken in Christchurch. New Zealand Self-administered questionnaires were distributed to a random quota sample of 247 subjects, of whom 226 replied. It was found that paranormal beliefs are very prevalent in Christchurch, and that these beliefs seem to cluster around three underlying themes: divination, psychic phenomena and other beings (UFOs and monsters). An attempt was made to identify the “audiences” to whom these belief clusters appealed. It was found that, apart from sex and age, few social and demographic variables were reliable correlates of paranormal belief. Three specific hypotheses were examined, each representative of a major theoretical perspective in the relevant literature: (1) the marginality hypothesis, which views paranormal beliefs as coping mechanisms for people who are “down and out”; (2) the information exposure hypothesis, which views paranormal beliefs as mass-mediated popular misconceptions; and (3) the alternative religion hypothesis, which views paranormal beliefs as alternative cosmologies. All three hypotheses were poorly supported by the data, although correlations were found between divination beliefs and subjective marginality, and between paranormal beliefs and friends’ beliefs. It was concluded that paranormal beliefs and their “audiences” cannot be identified in terms of single-variable explanations.