Urban Legends and Paranormal Beliefs: The Role of Reality Testing and Schizotypy

Neil Dagnall, Andrew Denovan, Kenneth Drinkwater, Andrew Parker, Peter Clough

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)


Recent research suggests that unconventional beliefs are locatable within a generic anomalous belief category. This notion derives from the observation that apparently dissimilar beliefs share fundamental, core characteristics (i.e., contradiction of orthodox scientific understanding of the universe and defiance of conventional understanding of reality). The present paper assessed the supposition that anomalous beliefs were conceptually similar and explicable via common psychological processes by comparing relationships between discrete beliefs [endorsement of urban legends (ULs) and belief in the paranormal] and cognitive-perceptual personality measures [proneness to reality testing (RT) and schizotypy]. A sample of 222 volunteers, recruited via convenience sampling, took part in the study. Participants completed a series of self-report measures (Urban Legends Questionnaire, Reality Testing subscale of the Inventory of Personality Organization, Revised Paranormal Belief Scale and the Schizotypal Personality Questionnaire Brief). Preliminary analysis revealed positive correlations between measures. Within schizotypy, the cognitive-perceptual factor was most strongly associated with anomalistic beliefs; disorganized and interpersonal produced only weak and negligible correlations respectively. Further investigation indicated complex relationships between RT, the cognitive-perceptual factor of schizotypy and anomalistic beliefs. Specifically, proneness to RT deficits explained a greater amount of variance in ULs, whilst schizotypy accounted for more variance in belief in the paranormal. Consideration of partial correlations supported these conclusions. The relationship between RT and ULs remained significant after controlling for the cognitive-perceptual factor. Contrastingly, the association between the cognitive-perceptual factor and ULs controlling for RT was non-significant. In the case of belief in the paranormal, controlling for proneness to RT reduced correlation size, but relationships remained significant. This study demonstrated that anomalistic beliefs vary in nature and composition. Findings indicated that generalized views of anomalistic beliefs provide only limited insight into the complex nature of belief.
Original languageEnglish
Article number942
Number of pages13
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Publication statusPublished - 8 Jun 2017
Externally publishedYes


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