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Why do people see ghosts
10-30-2017, 10:01 AM
Post: #1
Why do people see ghosts
Most of the time, when people think they’ve had a ghostly encounter, they haven’t necessarily actually seen something. Very often you’ll find that what people are referring to is a bit vaguer than that—a very strong sense of presence, for instance. Bereaved people might think that they smell the perfume that the deceased used to wear, or the tobacco they used to smoke.

People tend to assume, when you suggest that maybe they were hallucinating, that you’re saying that they’re crazy, and this just isn’t true—hallucinations are much more common amongst the non-clinical population than is generally appreciated. We can all hallucinate under appropriate conditions.

One of the phenomena that we’re particularly interested in is something called sleep paralysis. In its most basic form, sleep paralysis is very common. Estimates vary, but typically it’s estimated that about 8 percent of the general population suffer from basic sleep paralysis at least once in their lives, and a couple of groups—psychiatric patients and students—show it at a much higher rate.

What I mean by basic sleep paralysis is: You’re half awake and you’re half asleep—either going into sleep, or maybe coming out of it—and you get a period of temporary paralysis. It typically lasts a few seconds before you snap out of it. Most of the time it’s not a big deal—it’s a little bit disconcerting, that’s all.

For a smaller percentage of people, you get associated symptoms that can make for a much scarier experience—typically, a very strong sense of presence. Even if you can’t see or hear anything in the room with you, you get a very strong sense that there is something there. You might actually also hallucinate; you might hear voices, or footsteps, or mechanical sounds, or you might see dark shadows moving around the room, or lights, or monstrous figures, or shadow people. You might get tactile hallucinations—you might feel as if you’re being held, or you might feel someone breathing on back of your neck. And bear in mind that throughout all of this, you can’t actually move.

So it’s not too surprising that lots of people who have this experience, if they’ve never heard of sleep paralysis as a scientific and medical concept, end up reaching for some kind of supernatural interpretation. And because it’s such a common experience, you only need a small percentage

There is some research to indicate that people who are prone to paranormal beliefs are especially likely to attribute human characteristics to ambiguous stimuli, and researchers have suggested that a spooky context or the suggestion of a paranormal situation can prime people to be more likely to interpret ambiguous stimuli as ghosts or poltergeists.
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