Explaining the unexplained: warranting disbelief in the paranormal

P. Lamont, Claudia Coelho, A. McKinlay

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Psychologists have studied paranormal belief for over a century, but have been concerned with belief in the paranormal rather than disbelief. However, disbelief in the paranormal is a position in its own right and, for many, by no means a self-evident position. An avowal of disbelief is, therefore, a social phenomenon that may involve some interesting discursive work. This article examines the discourse of self-ascribed 'sceptics', and analyses how they warrant their expressed position when faced with an ostensibly paranormal event for which they cannot provide a 'normal' explanation. We show how, for example, through the use of 'definitely/something' constructions, they appeal to an explanation that exists in principle, though the details are not available to them. Such devices can be seen as social and discursive forms of belief maintenance, in that they are designed to maintain a social position established through an avowal of (dis)belief.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)543-559
Number of pages17
JournalDiscourse Studies
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2009

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • belief


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