This course will evaluate the psychological theories, phenomena, and explanations for paranormal experiences including but not limited to ghosts, possessions, aliens, demons, out of body experiences, and psychic/telekinetic abilities.
In this class, we will explore the psychological research relating to the paranormal, with a particular emphasis on the psychological explanations for such phenomena. This course is designed to examine how psychologists have conducted research with regard to such phenomena and consider the real-world impact of this research. Importantly, the goal of this class is not to change your mind or make you believe a certain thing (or not believe a certain thing) – the purpose is to educate you about how psychologists interpret paranormal phenomena.
As the instructor for this course, I have several goals that I hope you will accomplish this semester:
An appreciation of the theoretical, empirical, and applied sides to studying paranormal phenomena from a psychological perspective.
An ability to think critically about and analyze the theories, methods, and findings related to paranormal phenomena.
Cultivate a lasting awareness of the impact of the psychological research that has been conducted on paranormal phenomena in the real world.
There are a number of guiding principles central to my teaching philosophy. First, the purpose of this course is to gain a broad depth of knowledge. Therefore, an emphasis will be placed on learning and integrating concepts. Second, this course covers a very broad range of topics and draws from several different sub-disciplines of psychology. Because our emphasis is on how psychology interacts with these phenomena, most of the required materials for the course are focused on that. I provide more basic information (e.g., classifications of different types of aliens) as supplemental material so that everyone can be on the same page. I also provide other information that is psychological in nature but relatively less important as supplements as well. My hope is that this allows you to prioritize your time in the most efficient way possible.
We will be using the following textbook for this course:
Groome, D. & Roberts, R. (2017). Parapsychology: The science of unusual experience (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Routledge.
An electronic copy of this book is available in full through the Portland State University library’s website. I provide links to the book each time there is a chapter due (it’s the same link over and over again). However, I find it easier to just download a .pdf of the book and refer back to that (you can make annotations that way as well).