Exploring Cognitive Styles: How Psi Researchers and Skeptics Think Alike

A recent study published in Frontiers in Psychology offers intriguing insights into the cognitive styles of psi researchers compared to skeptics and lay believers in the dynamic field of parapsychology. The study compares the thinking styles of academic researchers who study these phenomena, skeptics who doubt them, and ordinary people who either believe in or doubt such phenomena.

Study Objectives

The primary goal of the study, conducted by researchers at the Division of Perceptual Studies, Department of Psychiatry and Neurobehavioral Sciences, University of Virginia School of Medicine, was to compare cognitive styles, specifically actively open-minded thinking (AOT) and the need for closure (NFC), among four distinct groups: academic psi researchers, lay psi believers, academic skeptics, and lay skeptics. Understanding these cognitive patterns provides a deeper look into how different groups approach the concept of psi phenomena.


To achieve its objectives, the study involved 144 participants divided into four target groups. Each participant completed self-report questionnaires designed to measure their levels of AOT and NFC, along with their beliefs in psi phenomena. The analysis then focused on identifying significant differences in cognitive styles among these groups.

Key Findings

The study uncovered several key findings:

  • Actively Open-Minded Thinking (AOT): Academic psi researchers demonstrated high levels of AOT, akin to both academic and lay skeptics. This suggests that psi researchers are as critically minded and open to new evidence as skeptics.
  • Need for Closure (NFC): No significant differences in NFC were found among the groups, indicating a uniform need for certainty and quick decision-making across the board.
  • Psi Belief: Despite their similarities in critical thinking with skeptics, academic psi researchers exhibited high psi belief levels comparable to lay believers.

Implications for Parapsychology

These findings hold significant implications for the field of parapsychology. They suggest that researchers’ belief in psi phenomena does not stem from cognitive deficits but rather from a critical, open-minded approach to unconventional evidence. This challenges the stereotype that psi belief is inherently irrational and underscores the value of maintaining a balanced, inquisitive perspective in scientific inquiry.

Moving forward, this study opens several avenues for further research. Investigating how cognitive styles influence other areas of parapsychological research or how they evolve over time could provide valuable insights.


In conclusion, this study bridges the gap between belief and skepticism in parapsychology, highlighting the critical and open-minded nature of psi researchers. By doing so, it paves the way for a more nuanced understanding and acceptance of parapsychological research within the scientific community.

Pehlivanova, M., Weiler, M., & Greyson, B. (2024). Cognitive styles and psi: Psi researchers are more similar to skeptics than to lay believers. Frontiers in Psychology, 15, 1398121. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2024.1398121

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