The Ethics of Belief in Paranormal Phenomena


  • Harvey J. Irwin Manchester Metropolitan University
  • Neil Dagnall Manchester Metropolitan University
  • Kenneth Graham Drinkwater Manchester Metropolitan University



paranormal belief, Evidentialism, belief inflexibility, belief inconsistency, confirmation bias, disconfirmation effects


The philosophical school of Evidentialism holds that people should form, amend, and relinquish a belief wholly in accordance with the available evidence for that belief. This paper reviews the extent to which believers in paranormal phenomena respect Evidentialism’s so-called “ethics of belief.” The analysis focuses on several common violations of evidentialist principles, namely, those pertaining to belief formation as a moral issue, belief inflexibility, belief inconsistency, confirmation bias, and disconfirmation effects. Despite some gaps and methodological shortcomings in the available data, the empirical literature documents an association between paranormal beliefs and a broad lack of sympathy with evidentialist ethics, although the effect sizes of these relations typically are small. The possible basis of this characteristic is briefly explored.

Author Biographies

Harvey J. Irwin, Manchester Metropolitan University

Visiting Research Fellow, Department of Psychology, Manchester Metropolitan University, Brooks Building, 53 Bonsall Street, Manchester M15 6GX, UK

Neil Dagnall, Manchester Metropolitan University

Reader, Department of Psychology, Manchester Metropolitan University, Brooks Building, 53 Bonsall Street, Manchester M15 6GX, UK

Kenneth Graham Drinkwater, Manchester Metropolitan University

Senior Lecturer,Department of Psychology, Manchester Metropolitan University, Brooks Building, 53 Bonsall Street, Manchester M15 6GX, UK


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How to Cite

Irwin, H. J., Dagnall, N., & Drinkwater, K. G. (2022). The Ethics of Belief in Paranormal Phenomena. Journal of Anomalous Experience and Cognition, 2(1), 49–79.



Theoretical and methodological papers