The Evil Eye

by Meg Suttle

I often hear people around me deflecting compliments given by others. Is this because they don’t want to come off as cocky? Or is there a deeper, more sinister root to why people feel they can’t just take the compliment? If you consult the Skeptic’s Dictionary written by Robert Todd Carroll, it will tell you that a compliment from another person, or even an envious look, could make you fall victim to the “evil eye”. The “evil eye” is an ability given to few, for unknown reasons. It can be provoked or accidental and the curse of the “evil eye” can affect the victim in a number of ways. An article in Life Science titled “The Evil Eye: A Closer Look”, written by Benjamin Radford, states that the pain inflicted from the “evil eye” can range from something small like a flat tire, to a major medical issue, or even death. Examples given in the article are vomiting, depression, hiccupping, and insomnia. Humans are not the only victims of the “evil eye”- plants and animals can be affected too. Radford gives the examples of a cow’s milk drying up or crops dying as a result of an attack from the “evil eye”. As crazy as it sounds, some people believe the power of the “evil eye” can put them in grave danger.

In complete honesty, the “evil eye” theory has little to no true scientific evidence; however, this doesn’t mean it lacks an effect to its true believers, according to Armando De Vincentiis. This psychotherapist believes that the true believers become prey to suggestion. Those who are looking especially close at negative suggestion can fall prey to this bad luck. In an article posted by the Committee of Skeptical Inquiry, written by Massimo Polidro, says, “one could almost say that believing in the evil eye can bring bad luck.” Despite the lack of “evil eye” evidence, there are certain tests that, self-proclaimed, psychics use to convince their clients they have the curse, effectively swindling them into doing whatever that psychic suggests. Many of these sacred rituals involve simple objects like eggs, salt, or a photograph, and they are rigged to always somehow result in the presence of the “evil eye” (Polidro). The evidence against the “evil eye” is pretty strong considering there isn’t any scientific evidence for it. There is no reasoning behind who has the ability to give the evil eye, zero proof of what exactly brings the curse on (different articles say it’s intentional or unintentional), and there is no correlation between a “look” and a certain event. No matter how hard some have tried the “evil eye” has never been scientifically proven.

Historically, the “evil eye” theory goes way back. Carroll believes the “evil eye” belief began in Sumeria and while the belief isn’t universal, it is still present today in the Mediterranean (Carroll). Radford highlights references made to the “evil eye” in influential historical texts such as the Bible, the Koran, and even some of Shakespeare’s plays. When considering the “evil eye’s” ancient background, it is very easy to assume this was an old wives tail of the past. This assumption is incorrect. The belief in the “evil eye” can even turn deadly. Life science’s article included a quote from a Folklorist named Alan Dundes’ book, The Evil Eye: a Casebook in which he stated, “…keep in mind that the evil eye is not some old-fashioned superstitious belief of interest solely to antiquarians. The evil eye continues to be a powerful factor affecting the behavior of countless millions of people throughout the world.” True believers of the “evil eye” have attacked people based off of nothing more than the suspicion that someone possess its power.

How could the “evil eye” belief have such a vast historical background and still be held as truth by some? There are a few different theories on why the “evil eye” has such a hold on some people. The Skeptics Dictionary cites a case of post hoc reasoning being the driving force behind the theory. As we discussed in class, post hoc reasoning is when event A happens which is followed by event B and it leads people to believe event A caused event B. In the case of the “evil eye”, people believe that once the eye has been given (event A), then any negative thing that happens (event B) is a result of the “evil eye”. Another theory given by Carroll is that the theory of the “evil eye” stems from a general social anxiety and distrust of strangers. The last cause of the “evil eye” theory that I found was that behaviors stemming from primate biology. Eye contact is a way that animals assert dominance in the animal kingdom. Some folklorists believe the evil eye is extrapolated from this behavior.

I’m sure you’ve received a dirty look from someone at some point in your life and thought nothing detrimental would happen to you. This is not the case for the true believers of the “evil eye” theory. Despite having absolutely zero scientific evidence backing this claim, some people really believe people on this earth have the ability to curse you with misfortune with just a look. Post hoc reasoning has a lot to do with the “evil eye” theory still being around today. In the true believer’s eyes, because they were cursed, any bad thing that happens was a result of the curse. The next time you receive a glare from someone, you might want to watch your back.

Psychic Mediumship

by Tiffany Posey


Psychic mediumship is the belief that people with special, also known as supernatural, abilities can contact the dead and deliver messages from loved ones from “beyond the grave”. Psychic mediumship mostly consists of doing hot and cold readings on people. A cold reading is when the medium makes a very general statement or inference that applies to everyone, like horoscopes, and hot readings are inferences that mediums makes when they have knowledge about a person either from investigation or past encounters. It also consists of retreats to the supernatural, tarot card readings, palm readings, crystal ball usage, promising the impossible, and seances where the medium summons a ghost for a group of people. There are many reasons why people go to mediums or are mediums but the popular reasons are to make money, receive fame, bring or offer comfort, and to bring closure. Information on psychic mediumship can be found online, including what it is, who performs it, where to find them or how to contact them. Medium “shops” can be found just about anywhere in the city and there are also television and phone psychics, so accessibility is not an issue.

Gary Schwartz, a psychologist who graduated and received his PhD from Harvard, believed in this matter after he completed a series of experiments. He “witnessed” certain individuals speaking to the dead during his experiments and later concluded that “gifted psychics” did exist and could in fact talk to the dead. Others who believe this are those who just lost loved ones and are looking for comfort and advice. Usually, people who read horoscopes and are looking for the meaning of life believe in psychic mediumship because they want there to be something “more” out there. Psychic mediumship arose around the 19th century and is still popular today, though there are many people who believe mediums are just exploiting people and taking their money (Lamont, 2013). This belief is extraordinary because it seems impossible to most based on the current human knowledge of how the universe works, which is when people pass they are gone and there is no way to contact them again. This belief is important because even though it has been disputed generation after generation, people continue to believe it, despite all the contradictory evidence. Peter Lamont, author of “Extraordinary Beliefs” said “…in constructing and maintaining particular beliefs about particular phenomena, we have been in the business of constructing ourselves.” What people believe in constitutes who they are and how they behave, and if people base this on a lie, this pseudoscientific practice, then they will not adhere to the well-established knowledge that everyone else follows and believes in already and will believe in nonsense and not actually understand how the universe works. If they hold these pro-supernatural beliefs, then their knowledge of the world is very different.

The evidence for psychic mediumship is that psychics get things right, as seen in the series of studies performed by Garry Schwartz and the Canyon Ranch Experiments. This is due to the fact that psychics usually use cold readings and make very general statements that give them a good chance of guessing right. Also, mediums were shown to be right about half the time in all studies, which is chance level (The Guardian). In addition, results from experiments claiming they proved the supernatural exists could not be replicated. Even though there is little evidence that Psychic mediumship is real there is evidence that it does help people and if something helps enough people, then who’s to say they should not believe in it. It provides people with positive feelings and that death is not the end, which can be comforting, and is why people believe in it. People who believe in psychic mediumship are being misinformed and driven to believe that these things are really happening. Those who believe in it misattribute paranormal causation to experiences that have a natural explanation which can be due to poor cognitive abilities and poor probability judgement (Wiseman).

Humans are social creatures and we make deep connections and relationships with each other which contributes to our desire to hold on to the ones we are close to, even if they are gone. When people have such a close relationship or deep connection with someone it is hard to just let them go because they were the “normal” way of life. Humans are creatures of habit and do not like change which is why people hold on to this belief. A contextual contribution is if the person had an unsatisfactory last experience with the deceased. If someone feels like their last ever experience with that person was bad they want to believe they have a chance to fix it or make amends instead of feeling guilty and being grief stricken over the experience.

Even though there is no evidence to support psychic mediumship people believe in it because there is a desire to stay connected. When a person passes, people do not want to believe they are gone which is why they turn to psychic mediumship. Due to the fact that mediums seem like they know a person and their life people continue to believe in it, thinking they are actually contacting the dead. People who believe in psychic mediumship are being misinformed in this way, leading people to believe in it.

Works Cited

Lamont, P. (2013). Extraordinary beliefs: a historical approach to a psychological problem. Cambridge:

Cambridge University Press.

French, C. (2009, May 12). Scientists put psychics paranormal claims to the test. Retrieved March 01, 2018, from

What Kind of People Believe in Psychic Phenomena? (2015, August 23). Retrieved March 01, 2018, from








by Sara Pierce

For thousands of years, people have widely accepted the extraordinary belief that is astrology. Astrology is the correlation of matching traits and life events to the position of the sun and astronomical objects upon the exact time of your birth[i]. Many different types of astrology exist, dependent on the individual culture in which it develops. Though used extensively in ancient times beginning with the Babylonians, it is still often practiced today in an attempt to predict the future or understand one’s self and interpersonal relationships more effectively. Analyzing one’s natal chart, a chart outlining the position of all the astronomical objects in the solar system at the time of a person’s birth, reveals your personal astrological signs[ii]. These signs are a tangible description that astrologists use to correlate with traits or circumstances.

It is easy for confirmation bias to play a role in studying astrology. Descriptions tend to be general and could be applied in many different ways with people, which makes it easier for a hit to be experienced rather than a miss. Astrologists and those who follow it tend to embrace and internalize the descriptions in a way that fits them best. Any cognitive dissonance that may arise through descriptions that don’t seem to fit can be solved by pointing to the alternative astrological signs that a person holds, other than the standard sun sign. Astrology may also establish a false sense of control in its claims of being able to properly interpret ourselves and our surroundings. Although there is little factual basis for astrology, it is easy to get caught up in this false sense.

Despite a lack of a known mechanism of action that doesn’t contradict basic scientific principles, it has been argued that a lack of a proper mechanism does not necessarily act as a justification for dismissal[iii]. Lodestone compasses were used successfully for centuries before Earth’s geomagnetic field was understood. Despite an understood mechanism of action for so long, these compasses were relied upon for navigation. Though this can be considered a valid point in favor of astrology, the argument falls apart when one looks at the results of experimental testing to see if astrology can be considered truly reliable. One such experiment was carried out by Shawn Carlson in the early 1980s[iv]. In this double-blind experiment, highly esteemed astrologers were tested to see if they could correctly assign the proper natal chart to a subject based on their respective personality traits. Specifically, these astrologists were being examined to see if they could correctly assign the individual natal chart at a significantly higher rate than by chance alone. The results of this study showed that respected astrologists failed to succeed at assigning the correct chart to the subject at a rate higher than chance. Not only is there an unknown mechanism of action by which astrology operates, but it is highly unlikely that there is a mechanism at all to be discovered.

Because of its deeply rich history, the use of astrology has been observed all over the world. Regardless of cultural background, the belief that the time of one’s birth has a role in who you are has connected people in all walks of life. While evidence has been shown that astrology does not work in interpreting the world around us, it still is heavily engrained in modern culture. Perhaps one of the reasons why astrology still continues is because of an appeal to tradition. Because this field has lasted for so long, people are willing to more readily accept its claims without much scrutiny. Because it is such a widely accepted phenomenon, astrology is frequented in the media, notably used as a placeholder for quickly explaining the character’s personality. The portrayal of astrology within various forms of media exposes developing generations to a modernized take on an ancient belief. The commonplace use of astrological archetypes and the widespread appreciation of the belief have contributed to its continual popularity.

In short, astrology continues to exist despite a lack of working evidence. Because the traits of the astrological signs are so generalized, it is not difficult for almost anybody to connect an easily dismissible belief into their personal life. Even though astrologists accept that this phenomenon does not have a known mechanism of action and has been shown to be no better than chance, they still argue in saying that there is a causational relationship between one’s natal chart and their destined personality. With such a dedicated international following, no matter how varying from culture to culture, astrology has remained ever present throughout history.







The Existence of Mermaids

by Joy Pan

It is fairly common knowledge that the world is made up of mostly water and of all the oceans and bodies of water in the world, we have only been able to explore less than 5% of it. This fact has led many people from conspiracy theorists, normal people, and even scientists to believe in the existence of mermaids. Athough they may not believe that there are typical fairy tale mermaids with beautiful hair and long tail swimming around in the ocean, they do believe there is some sort of human-like creature that exists in the ocean. This belief was popular in the 70s and 80s with the rise of the “aquatic ape theory” and later died but recently, a lot of information about this belief can be widely found on the internet and there seems to have been an increase in popularity of “conspiracy videos” on YouTube and many YouTubers have touched on this subject. Animal Planet also has come out with a documentary recently that raised awareness to the possibility of the existence of mermaids called Mermaids: The Body Found and increased the popularity of this belief. This is considered an extraordinary belief because it contradicts our current belief that humans evolved from primates which are land animals and are not adapted to live in the sea so how could there be human-like creatures living in the ocean?

The most important piece of “evidence” for this belief in mermaids is a theory called the “aquatic ape theory” which essentially states that millions of years ago the primates that preceded humans were competing for food so some evolved to find food on land instead of trees which is why we walk on two legs, but even then there was too much competition and because the Earth is made up of so much water, some had to start finding food in the water. Those who started hunting in the water and eventually some of those humanoids adapted and evolved to live in the water, i.e. the mermaids. This theory seems to be supported by many of our characteristics on our bodies. For example, we have very little body hair which helps us swim faster, we can hold our breaths underwater longer than other land animals, we are pretty good swimmers, our fingers shrivel up in the water which makes it easier to grip things in water, and we seem to have a little bit of webbing in between our fingers and some people are even born with completely webbed hands. Also there are been many instances in which people have put their babies in pools or water and they instinctively know to hold their breaths and swim. While all these characteristics could support the theory, there are other explanations for them as well so they are not concrete evidence. Dogs are also born with the ability to swim and our fingers shriveling could just mean that in the past we had to fish with our bare hands and it made it easier for us to grab fish.

Despite the contradictions in the “evidence” those with this belief will still believe that mermaids exist. One factor that contributes to this is the idea of confirmation bias. Believers will only look for evidence that confirm their beliefs or interpret it in a way that goes with their beliefs even if there are other reasons for that evidence. Therefore, while they might not be misinformed, they could have done all the right research, but they could be misinterpreting evidence in a way that purposely confirms their beliefs. One reason for these believers to stick with their beliefs despite the lack of evidence is that this theory of mermaids existing is unfalsifiable. There is no way at this moment to be able to search every corner of the ocean looking for mermaids so there is no way to prove that mermaids don’t exist.

Believers of mermaids come from many backgrounds some big supporters of this are actually scientists who study evolution. Because these avid supporters are scientists it appeals to authority which causes more people to believe as well. Many see these people as experts in their fields, so they will use what they say regarding the existence of mermaids and the ape aquatic theory to further sustain their beliefs. Also those who never really put much thought into whether or not mermaids exist could be persuaded by these scientists because they are using peripheral messages because in this situation they are the “person of authority.” Their explanations also have an outward appearance of science since they are explaining it in terms of evolution which is a widely accepted scientific theory. Also with release of the Animal Planet “documentary” about mermaids many new people and potential believers are exposed to this belief.

Although most people would think someone was crazy for believing in mermaids there are actually many psychological explanations for why they believe in them and how they sustain those beliefs. There is some evidence that could support this belief there is no way to test it and therefore there is no way for the believers to be proved wrong which is why unfalsifiable claims are very appealing. Even with contradictions in the evidence confirmation bias further sustains their belief because they will ignore those contradictions and look for more evidence that confirms it. Also since many supporters are actual scientists they appeal to authority which creates more supporters and helps supporters confirm their belief. Because of these psychological reasons, it is very difficult to convince supporters of extraordinary beliefs that their beliefs could be wrong.

Flat Earth Theory

by Lucas Nuzzo

Flat earthers believe that the earth is not a sphere but that it is actually flat. They believe that the world wide scientific community and the Government doesn’t want the public to know that the earth is flat and is protected by a barrier called “the firmament” 1. Flat earthers report that in order to keep the truth hidden from the public the government creates fake agencies, like NASA ,to provide “evidence” and to keep the general public fooled 1. The flat earth theory is becoming more popular among celebrities, one such celebrity is an NBA star named Kyrie Irving or rapper B.o.B. This belief is extraordinary because there is a large body of scientific evidence that shows the earth is not flat and this belief requires an incredibly high level of cognitive dissonance to accept that the flat earth theory is true.Flat earthers believe that the earth is not a sphere but that it is actually flat. They believe that the world wide scientific community and the Government doesn’t want the public to know that the earth is flat and is protected by a barrier called “the firmament” 1. Flat earthers report that in order to keep the truth hidden from the public the government creates fake agencies, like NASA ,to provide “evidence” and to keep the general public fooled 1. The flat earth theory is becoming more popular among celebrities, one such celebrity is an NBA star named Kyrie Irving or rapper B.o.B. This belief is extraordinary because there is a large body of scientific evidence that shows the earth is not flat and this belief requires an incredibly high level of cognitive dissonance to accept that the flat earth theory is true.

The flat earthers believe that everything is a government conspiracy. I have had conversations with flat earthers and they have justified the flat earth theory by stating that if the government can keep this big secret under their control they can also control the people of the world. The evidence for this theory is very hard to find because one must accept numerous bizarre beliefs that make up the foundation of the flat earth theory. You must believe the government is lying about the shape of the earth, that the government has created fake agencies to fool the general public, gravity is not real, and the earth is always moving 9.8 meters per second upwards through space. The evidence that the earth is not flat is substantial and you can tune into NASA’s 24/7 broadcast of the earth from the ISS, you can view the earth from footage of the moon missions and you can believe that gravity is real by simply dropping an object and watching as it falls to the ground.

There have been numerous attempts at trying to figure out why people believe in conspiracy theories. Some research suggests that individuals who are already ostracized from society are more likely to buy into conspiracy theories. There is also some evidence that states people turn to conspiracy theories when they feel they are powerless or have a lack of sociopolitical control. Belief in these theories, especially within online communities, may also offer a sense a belonging to those individuals who have already been alienated. Another reason people may believe in conspiracy theories such as flat earth may be because there several instances in history where the government has hidden information from the general public, this may contribute to the skepticism and paranoia flat earthers have towards the government and its agencies 2.   The vast majority of flat earthers are people who distrust the government, this is demonstrated by the fact that they believe the government has created fake agencies to produce false evidence to show the earth is not flat. Flat earthers are also people who distrust established narratives, have already been alienated from society,and have found a community that shares their “reality”. In my experience the communities that harbor flat earthers are mainly conspiracy driven groups or are heavily religious organizations. The conspiracy theory groups love the flat earth movement because it plays into their narrative of the government is hiding something, while religious groups believe the flat earth movement because of bible verses that declare the earth as flat and the center of the universe.The most prominent social influence helping to sustain the belief of flat earth theory is celebrities. Celebrities who believe in flat earth theory often results in news agencies will cover their statements on this belief which in turn allows more people to be exposed to the flat earth theory.
In order to believe in flat earth theory, one must be already skeptical or paranoid about the government, be alienated from society and/or be a part of a very conservative religious group. The belief in flat earth theory may give the individual a sense of power and a sense of wonder in the normal day to day life, it may also give them a sense of belonging to be a part of a community that shares the same reality as themselves. It may be empowering for flat earthers to believe that they are on the cutting edge of science or that they are outsmarting the scientific community and government by not believing their supposed lies. Celebrities believing in flat earth theory allows for  more and more individuals to be exposed to the flat earth theory as well as people who don’t do their research may just take the celebrities word at face value and cause this belief system to continue to exist. All of these factors combined may explain why flat earth is a popular conspiracy theory and assist in better understand the individuals who buy into conspiracy theories as a hole.



by Shannon Novak

Aromatherapy is a therapeutic method that uses plants, particularly the essential oil of plants, other scented oils, and ointments to promote health benefits. The use of these plant-based materials, especially oil, originates back to the ancient people of Egypt, India, and China approximately around 1800 B.C. These ancient civilizations used aromatic oils to embalm the dead and promote healing in the living by massaging people with specially chosen oils depending on the ailment that needed treatment (Part Two: The History and Use of Aromatherapy). Throughout time and across the globe, aromatherapy has been used to promote countless positive effects in both the living and the dead. For the dead, aromatherapy is used to not only embalm the body and preserve organs, but also to encourage a healthy and fruitful afterlife. Some of the things that aromatherapy promotes in the living include cleansing of the soul, better digestion and circulation, the reduction of depression and anxiety, a strengthened immune system, a sharper mind and senses, and the elimination of toxins in the body (Barrett). One claim of aromatherapy even goes as far as saying that it can reduce travel-induced excitement in dogs (Wells).

Aromatherapy works by having a patient inhale or ingest the “essential oil” of plants or by having these oils massaged into his or her skin. This essential oil refers to the scented parts of a plant that make up the “essence”, “soul”, or “spirit” of the plant, and it is obtained by extracting it from particular plants (Barrett). Aromatherapy as a practice has been popular for centuries in all parts of the world, and it is still believed in and practiced today. In fact, countless businesses exist for the sake of promoting this practice. One major business is Aroma Vera, and they thrive on selling products that facilitate aromatherapy including essential oil diffusers, shampoo, lotions, candles, and so much more (Aroma Vera). The belief in aromatherapy is important because this practice has been commonly used in medicinal settings with the intent of curing diseases. Aromatherapy is an extraordinary belief because it is thought of as a miraculous practice and promises the impossible people. Aside from the claimed benefits of aromatherapy mentioned earlier, some of the more impossible and wilder claims that proponents of this practice have made include the fact that essential oils are “electronegative and electropositive” and therefore have “yin and yang qualities”, essential oils are able to pass through a person’s blood-brain-barrier, and that this practice changes your blood from red to blue, which creates many health benefits in the body (Buchbauer).

Some compelling evidence for belief in this practice is that there is success found in certain situations. Additionally, aromatherapy has been a practice that has been around for centuries. Therefore, some people may have adopted the mindset that since it has been around for so many years that it must be effective. On the other hand, even though aromatherapy has the outward appearance of science, there seems to be little to none peer-reviewed, replicated scientific research done on the effectiveness of the impossible claims that firm aromatherapy believers have made. For example, one study from the journal of Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine finds that aromatherapy has the potential to relieve depressive symptoms, yet does not show actual results themselves (Sánchez-Vidaña). Additionally, some of the claims of aromatherapy, including the fact that it can cleanse your soul, are un-falsifiable.

The main cognitive contribution to this belief system is the placebo effect. Some people really do experience positive effects and have even been “healed” of certain diseases by using this practice. However, the reason for why this may be is that the fragrances, massages, and other methods of the aromatherapy practice make patients more comfortable and relaxed. Additionally, if people are told that the treatment they are receiving will work, they are likely to believe it and fall victim to confirmation bias of whether or not they are experiencing symptoms of their disease anymore. Furthermore, with a lowered stress level about the healing process, confidence in the authority figure that is administering this therapy, and a comfortable environment, the body’s immune system is able to heal itself more quickly and without stress interfering with the process. Therefore, people really might be experiencing positive benefits from aromatherapy, however the reason for their healing is not the therapy itself, but the placebo effect experienced fostered by the relaxing environment this practice creates for people.

Since aromatherapy has been around for centuries, it has become ingrained in certain societies’ structures and medicinal practices. Aromatherapy believers can come from all communities across all walks of life, however those with the most devout belief in aromatherapy are typically from communities that place a large emphasis on “holistic” and “alternative” medicine. These people might also really value and feel connected to Earth and nature. One large reason that these people have such a firm belief in and positive view of aromatherapy is because they think that natural drugs are the only ones in which people can have full confidence that there will be no side effects to be afraid of (Buchbauer). Some social influences that help them sustain their beliefs are the testimonies that people provide about their positive experiences with this practice, the immense industry that has built itself around this practice, and the fact that this practice is an enjoyable experience that can be shared with others.

In conclusion, even though aromatherapy does create a comfortable and relaxing environment for people, it has not been proven to achieve all of the other impossible claims about its positive effects. The placebo effect and confirmation bias are the two biggest contributing cognitive factors that lead to the continued belief in aromatherapy. These two psychological explanations have allowed people to justify the positive effects found when practicing aromatherapy.


Aroma Vera,

Barrett, Stephen. “Aromatherapy: Making Dollars out of Scents.” Quackwatch,

Buchbauer, G., and L. Jirovetz. “Aromatherapy – Use of Fragrances and Essential Oils as

Medicaments.” Wiley Online Library,

Part Two: The History and Use of Aromatherapy.

Sánchez-Vidaña, Dalinda Isabel, et al. “The Effectiveness of Aromatherapy for Depressive

Symptoms: A Systematic Review.” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine : ECAM, Hindawi Publishing Corporation, 2017,

Wells, Deborah. “Aromatherapy for Travel-Induced Excitement in Dogs.” Shibboleth

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The Loch Ness Monster

by Kayla Nist

The Loch Ness Monster, often referred to as Nessie, is a prehistoric water creature that is said to live in the waters of Loch Ness in the Scottish Highlands. Nessie is described as having a long neck with multiple humps on its back. While the legend of the monster is considered anecdotal in nature, there are a few photos of what is said to be Nessie and a few sonar readings that have turned up minimal evidence (1). The legend of the Loch Ness Monster became popular in the 1900s and is still popular today. Many tourist travel to the Loch in scores to see if they might catch a sighting of the monster (1). The elusive Loch Ness Monster can be considered extraordinary due to the fact that the evidence on it being real is minimal, but many believe there might be something hiding in the depths of Loch Ness.

There is evidence on both sides of the belief. No real proof has been found to show that the Loch Ness Monster is real. Many doubters say that the reported sightings of the monster are obstructed objects or other sea life. Only a few pictures have been taken and none are clear enough to prove there to actually be a monster. Eye witness testimonies are the only so called proof that anyone has to say there is actually a monster in the Loch. The most infamous photo of the Loch Ness Monster came from a London-based doctor. It later turned out that, while the doctor’s status made the photo credible, it turns out that the picture was falsified (2).

While there are no true cognitive contributions to society that this belief can make, it does make for a fun anecdote. Those who do believe in Nessie might not be misinformed, they could just be misinterpreting what they are seeing. It could lie in their perception of what they are seeing. It is a large possibility that they are seeing something that isn’t Nessie at all. Their desire for there to be something unknown in the waters of Loch Ness could be driving their perception of what they are seeing.

There have been many reports of monsters and other large creatures throughout the lochs in Scotland, but Nessie is by far the most famous of the monsters. The high number of sighting reports could be the reason behind the belief. If anything, the wide popularity of the legend is the reason why people still believe it might be out there.

The prehistoric monster of Loch Ness is a popular extraordinary belief around the world. People from all over come to the Scottish Highlands in hopes of a chance sighting of Nessie. While there is no scientific evidence to prove that it actual exists, it is still a widely held belief that it is real.




Emotional Freedom Technique

by Jackie Musci

Many pseudoscientific beliefs stem from medical and therapeutic fields because people love an easy solution, especially when it has to do with their health and well-being. One such pseudoscientific technique is the Emotional Freedom Technique – commonly known as “tapping”. This technique was founded in the 1990’s by Gary Craig, a Stanford Engineer who worked for the founder of Thought Field Therapy, Dr. Roger Callahan. Craig developed the Emotional Freedom Technique from Thought Field Therapy and aimed to make improvements in his field with this sort of therapy. Tapping works by stimulating the body’s energy meridian points by tapping them continuously in order to relieve emotional problems, stress, chronic pain, addictions, phobias, post-traumatic stress disorder, and physical diseases. Proponents of this technique believe that the human body is full of energy, and when one is sick or distressed, his/her energy is disrupted. They believe that tapping on meridian points while simultaneously focusing on these negative emotions will restore the body’s energy balance and decrease negative emotions, which is at the heart of mental and physical sickness (Ortner & Ortner, 2018).

Many people believe in this technique wholeheartedly, and it is still used today to treat stress, anxiety, and illness. It has been implemented in classrooms to calm students down and reduce bullying, it has been used by athletes to calm their nerves, and it has been used by war veterans suffering from post-traumatic-stress disorder. Although tapping has not been approved by the American Psychological Association, several psychologists have used this technique, and many EFT/tapping practitioners exist and are actively sought out. Detailed information on what tapping is, why it is beneficial, research on its success, where to find a practitioner, and much more can be found on the EFT official website called “The Tapping Solution”. Gary Craig, the founder of EFT, also has his own official website where one can learn about EFT, receive EFT certification, and take an EFT course (Ortner & Ortner, 2018). The belief in tapping as a legitimate medical treatment is extraordinary because it relies on anecdotal successes and stories despite research against it. It employs many aspects of pseudoscience such as the mantra of holism, absence of boundary conditions, and reliance on anecdotal evidence. It is important to analyze pseudoscientific claims and treatments such as tapping in order to prevent harm, lies, and the absence of effective treatment in people who need legitimate help with their sufferings.

The official website for the “Tapping Solution” lists several studies and points of evidence that support EFT and its ability to reduce negative emotions. The website cites research done at Harvard Medical School, which found that the amygdala’s stress and fear response could be lessened by stimulating the body’s meridian points with acupuncture and tapping. Research by Dr. Dawson Church was also sited. Church’s research used a randomized controlled trial to look at the stress levels in 83 individuals before and after an hour long tapping session. He found an average level of 24% cortisol level decrease in those who underwent tapping and no significant difference in cortisol levels in those who underwent traditional talk therapy. Tapping seems to have a calming effect for people, which might be shown in these experiments (Ortner & Ortner, 2018). However, these studies have flaws, such as a lack of adequate control group, and there is ample research showing the ineffectiveness of tapping as well. For example, one study by Waite and Holder assessed the effectiveness of EFT for anxiety and fear. The researchers split participants into an applied EFT group that administered tapping on meridian points, a placebo group that tapped on the wrong places, a modeling EFT group that administered tapping on dolls, and a control group that did nothing. Every group except the control group also implemented the positive verbal self-assurance that EFT employs. All groups except the control group saw a significant decrease in fear after treatment. This suggests that is it not the tapping on the actual meridian points or anywhere on the body that has the calming effect, but instead it might be the reassuring words patients repeat to themselves to combat negative emotions during the tapping (Waite & Holder, 2003).

Although EFT is a questionable technique that is backed by questionable research and not endorsed by the American Psychological Association, many people still use this technique, and it is very popular among a wide variety of people. These believers are not necessarily misinformed; rather they are misled into thinking this treatment is effective and guaranteed to heal any illness or condition. First, they are misled by seemingly solid research, which is actually flawed. For example, many of the supporting studies had weak p values, had a lack of double-blinding, did not control for placebo effects, had tiny sample sizes, and had inadequate control groups (Langford, 2014). However, many believers do not know how to assess research and do not notice these flaws in the study design. Proponents of tapping like to use fancy, scientific words which add fluff to the technique and convince ordinary people of its effectiveness even further. In addition, there are many cognitive contributions and errors in human thinking that lead people to accept this therapy as effective and scientific. One such error is the placebo effect, which is when a person experiences positive effects from the treatment, but not because the treatment is effective or working. An individual might believe in EFT so strongly, that the treatment works solely because of his/her belief. Furthermore, people might not realize they are seeing improvements in their negative emotions due to something other than the actual tapping. EFT includes tapping the meridians, focusing on the negative emotions, and verbally reciting encouraging and positive messages to one’s self. The positive messages alone, which is similar to traditional psychotherapy, might be causing the improvements in mental health. Additionally, proponents of EFT might be experiencing confirmation bias, in which they only seek confirming evidence; and the availability heuristic, in which they only remember confirming evidence. Both of these cognitive errors are common and can cause one’s beliefs to be even stronger. Lastly, individuals undergoing tapping deeply want it to work and might experience cognitive dissonance if it is not effective. As a result, they might convince themselves their negative emotions and symptoms have been cured.

Furthermore, there are several social and contextual contributions that may lead to this extraordinary belief. Many of those who use and believe in this technique are people who are tired of traditional medicine and mental health practices. They are people who have tried other options, such as antidepressants, surgery, or talk therapy. These people are drawn to the simplicity of tapping and the fact that it is a cure-all. They are drawn to the vast promises of healing that they are not used to in research-based treatments. They also are enthralled that this technique is free and can be done on one’s own. Many people in society are also drawn to natural and noninvasive treatments, such as tapping, because of the natural common place misconception. This misconception assumes that all things natural are effective and healthy. Furthermore, tapping proponents are heavily influenced by anecdotal evidence. Many people often make the mistake of believing if it works for one person, it must work for everyone. A strong, emotional personal story from a person who had success with EFT might convince numerous people that it will work for them too. A related contextual contribution that might cause a belief in tapping is the consensus heuristic. This is when a person assumes that if most people believe something works, it must work. However, this is often wrong and many people in our society can be swayed to believe an extraordinary belief all at once.

Although tapping and EFT seem like silly and ineffective treatments that could never cure the variety of symptoms and diseases it claims to cure, many people still passionately believe in this treatment and are large proponents of its effectiveness. Much of the research on tapping and EFT has focused on proving its effectiveness, and there has been little research done by unbiased researchers. In addition, many of the studies in support of EFT have been flawed in the research design, such as inadequate control groups. Further studies are needed to assess the effectiveness of EFT – specifically the actual tapping of the meridian points carried out with this technique. Those who believe in tapping or who have found it effective might have fallen victim to the placebo effect or cognitive dissonance in their deep hope that it works. Others might be experiencing confirmation bias or using the availability heuristic and only seeking evidence that supports EFT working. In addition, tapping may only be working because of the positive messages people recite to themselves while they tap the meridian points. Social contributions may also play a role in this belief, such as society believing all things natural are healthy – also known as the natural common place. People might also be drawn to the simplicity, ease, and noninvasive aspects of the treatment, which is something society values as a whole. Lastly, personal anecdotes and stories from proponents of EFT might influence people and quickly convince them of its effectiveness. Although tapping may actually provide some benefits to people through the placebo effect, positive words, etc., it is important to analyze the effectiveness of the actual technique itself in a scientific way. This helps prevent psychological harm and ensures that those struggling with a variety of mental and physical diseases receive proper and adequate treatment.


Langford, A. (2014, January 16). Time to turn off the Tap: Why Emotional Freedom Technique is dangerous nonsense. Message posted to

Ortner, J. & Ortner, N. (2018) The Tapping Solution. Retrieved from

Waite, W. L. & Holder, M. (2003). Assessment of the Emotional Freedom Technique. The Scientific Review of Mental Health Practice, 2 (1). Retrieved from
















Therapeutic Touch

by Halima Mohamed

Therapeutic touch is when a medical provider or caregiver treats a patient’s by having their hand hover over the patient body. Although the practice is referred to as touch, it does not include any physical touching between the patient and the patient and the practitioner. It is believed that this practice balances out and correct a patient’s energy fields, and it comes from theory the body mind and emotions can form an energy field. Therapeutic touch suggest that a healthy individual has a well balanced energy field, while an unhealthy person does not have balanced energy fields. There is some studies that suggest that therapeutic touch can help heal wounds, reduce pain and decrease anxiety. 1

The practice became popular in the early 1970’s, when Dolores Krieger a Professor of Nursing at New York University along with Dora Kunz, a natural healer developed this practice. It was first only practiced at NYU where Krieger taught, but it grew in popularity after Krieger did research and wrote about the topic. It is now practiced by nurses in hospitals world wide. 1

This belief is extraordinary because it is uncommon for people like nurses who have an advanced understanding of medicine to be practicing a procedure that has no scientific research proving that it is effective in any way. There is also no research that proves that the energy field they are “balancing” actually exists.

Most practitioners admit that the specific reason why therapeutic touch works is unknown or unclear, but there are two main theories. The first theory suggests that illness and pain are caused by physical disruption such as an infection or an injury, or an emotional disruption such as having a difficult relationship; both of these disruption cause the cells in the body to not function properly which causes disease and practitioners believe that therapeutic touch can help decrease the disruptions and restore communication between cells in the body. The second theory is based on the idea that blood has iron in it, therefore it circulates a electromagnetic field around the body. It is believed that there was a time in which people could see these fields and they were called auras, and now only people who practice therapeutic touch can see them. 1

In general, therapeutic touch is based on the idea that the practitioners can sense the energy of a patient through their hands, and send the patient healthy energy back. It is reported that when most people are receiving therapeutic touch they feel warm, relaxed or relieved of pain. Therapeutic touch is said to be beneficial to those who suffer from chronic conditions such as heart disease and cancer because of its ability to lower anxiety. Practitioners also claim that with the help of medication it can help treat a number of complex physical illnesses such as Lupus, Alzheimer’s disease, Bronchitis and even allergies. 1

Although therapeutic touch is practiced in hospitals throughout the world, there is no statistically significant evidence that practitioners are able to sense one’s energy or that these energy imbalances are a cause of physical illness. The little evidence that is favorable towards therapeutic touch is largely based on patients’ feeling during their visit or soon after, but there is no significant physical benefits that can be tracked long term. What makes therapeutic touch unique is the fact that it is focused on the ability of the practitioner to heal their patient and does not take the placebo effect into account. 1

Since therapeutic touch is based on the idea that the practitioner is able to both sense and change a person’s energy, a research study tested 21 experienced practitioners, they were all blinded and asked to identify which hand the researcher was hovering over. On average only about 4.4/10 times were the practitioners right which is far closer to what would happen if a person was randomly choosing. This study suggests that most of the practitioners couldn’t truly feel a person’s energy field by hovering their hand over them. Many of the practitioners give explanations such as “their hands were too dry” or that “the presence of a Television crew made them uncomfortable”. But the results of the test did not make any of them question their belief in the practice. 2 3

What contributes to so many people both believing and practicing therapeutic touch is the legitimacy that Universities around the world have given this practice. When a student comes to a reputable university like NYU (where the practice first began), they expect that everything they are being taught has been vetted. Which leads to cognitive dissonance when research that suggests that therapeutic touch does not work is presented. 2 There is also a sense of overconfidence within the practitioners, even the ones that got 2 out of 10 right thought that the treatment was still very effective and they would continue doing it. Another reason many practitioners enjoy therapeutic touch is because it gives them a sense of control over the treatment of their patients, and it allows them to think they are contributing to the healing of a patient’s way more than they would be if they were not practicing it. The patients also very likely to believe in this practice because many of them are in a vulnerable state, being in a hospital causes a lot of stress and anxiety for most patients, especially ones suffering from a chronic illness or recovering from a surgery, use heuristics to overcome any skepticism since the treatment is being done by a licensed medical professional. 2

Work Cited:



The Alkaline Diet

by Tyea Miller-Ruble

Some people believe that an alkaline diet can prevent cancer growth. Basically, an alkaline diet consists of eating mostly fruits and vegetables, which are alkaline foods, while avoiding foods like meat, eggs, bread, and dairy, which are considered acidic foods. The idea is that the food you eat will change the pH of your body, making it more alkaline rather than acidic, making it harder for cancer cells to grow. 1 A lot of you have probably seen something about this in the past year on the internet as there was a meme going around about it and also many people posting about how the alkaline diet would be the cure to cancer. Some people have even said that Otto Warburg, a Nobel Prize winner, had claimed in 1931 that an acidic body causes cancer. People are now saying that the cure for cancer has been right under our noses for over 85 years and that it’s being hidden from us by our government, scientists, and pharmacy companies. 2 The fact is though that none of these things are true.

After some research I was unable to find any real scientific evidence proving that the alkaline diet actually can cure cancer, rather I found several articles and many webpages of doctors and scientists explaining how an alkaline diet has not been found to be an effective cancer treatment. While an alkaline diet isn’t considered to be dangerous for your health it also won’t cure you or prevent you from getting cancer. The scientist, Otto Warburg, that many people credit with the discovery that an acidic body causes cancer actually never said any such thing, rather his research is being misinterpreted. Warburg won the Nobel Prize for his research on cell respiration, in that research he includes that he found that normal cells can become cancer cells when they are damaged and can no longer derive energy from respiration. 3 At no point does Warburg say that an acidic body is the cause of cancer nor is that what he won his Nobel Prize for but yet people continue to spread this false information.

One of the biggest problems with this idea of an alkaline body preventing cancer from growing is that you can’t change your blood pH with the food you eat. The pH of your urine may change based on what you’re eating but your lungs and kidneys keep your blood at a pH between 7.35 and 7.45. 1 A simple google search for “alkaline diet and cancer” brought me to a page filled with articles debunking the alkaline diet. Many of these articles just simply stated what I have above that you cannot change your blood pH with the foods you eat. One article examined studies done about whether the alkaline diet actually can treat cancer and if an acidic diet can cause it and they found that there is no evidence that proves this and also no evidence to disprove it. 4 With no actual studies proving that an alkaline diet can help to treat or prevent cancer, why are so many people promoting it as an option?

I believe that the reason this idea is becoming popular with people on the internet has to do with people not fact checking the information they are receiving and also people desperately wanting there to be a cure for cancer. Many people don’t look into what they read on the internet and assume if they read an article about something than it must be true, this is part of the reason we have fake news now. So, I’m sure many people say that a scientist with a Nobel Prize discovered a cure for cancer and they just believed it. I also know that watching someone struggle with cancer or experiencing it yourself is heartbreaking and knowing that we don’t have a cure for it can be frustrating. I think these leads people to see somewhere that there’s a cure and see people saying that it works and you just really want it to be true so you believe it. The problem with people spreading this information is that while an alkaline diet may not be hurting them and a healthier diet may even make them feel better, it’s still not doing what people are claiming it does and instead it’s giving people false hope.