Can atheists believe in the paranormal?

A Meta-Analysis of Gender Differences in Belief in Paranormal Phenomena

Brunmair, Matthias Christian (2014) A Meta-Analysis of Gender Differences in Beliefs in Paranormal Phenomena.
Diploma thesis, University of Vienna. Faculty of Psychology
Supervisor: Voracek, Martin

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Abstract in German

In intercultural studies, the paradoxical phenomenon emerged that gender differences become greater the more developed a country is. There are various explanatory models for this. With regard to belief in the paranormal, the social marginalization hypothesis predicts an opposite development to the gender equality paradox. The more women are supposed to believe in the paranormal, the more they are marginalized. The study aims to test and compare the plausibility of biological, artificial and social explanatory models for the emergence of gender differences. For this purpose, the development of the gender differences in belief in the paranormal and its dimensions was examined on the basis of k = 540 samples with N = 584,343 people from 100 different nations across cultures, time, age and test conditions. Country-specific moderators such as gender equality, level of development, Hofstede's cultural dimensions and atheism, as well as sample-specific moderators such as middle age and survey-specific moderators such as the quality of the measuring instrument were surveyed. Mixed-effect meta-regressions showed a major influence of gender equality in accordance with the gender equality paradox. Gender equality is dominant over other influences and can explain 47.62% (β = .6496) of the variance in the gender differences between the samples for the overall effect. There were significant interactions between the moderators. The analyzes showed that the influence of the Gender Inequality Index depends on cultural influences. Previous explanatory models for the gender equality paradox cannot adequately explain the results found, or they contradict them. Therefore a dual process model was developed to explain the results. According to the model, gender differences arise because, with increasing gender equality, women respond more intuitively and stereotypically, but less analytically, conformally and socially desirable.

Keywords in German

Gender differences / gender equality paradox / paranormal belief / dual-process theory / meta-analysis

Abstract in English

Intercultural studies showed that against expectation sex differences in many personality traits, interests and behavior advance with gender equality. This phenomenon is known as the gender equality paradox, with different theories to explain it. In case of belief to paranormal activity the social marginality hypothesis predicts that the stronger the marginalization the stronger people believe in the paranormal. However, no study so far has systematically analyzed changes of sex differences in paranormal belief between cultures with low and high gender equality. The goal of this study was to compare different theories to explain variation of sex-differences across nations. Therefor I analyzed sex differences in various dimensions of paranormal believes using data from N = 584,343 participants of k = 540 samples across 100 nations. I analyzed nationwide indicators of gender equality, human development, culture dimensions and atheism. Mixed-effect meta-regression showed a very high impact of gender equality according to the gender equality paradox. Gender equality dominated other predictors across all analyzes. It could explain 47.62% (β = .6496) of variation between samples of the main effect. Furthermore the effect of gender equality on sex differences interacted with cultural indicators. Currently existing theories cannot explain the result sufficiently. For this reason I suggest a dual-process model to explain the results. This model implies that sex differences change with gender equality because of a changing response bias, whereby women behave in testing situations more intuitively and stereotypically with advancing gender equality but less analytically, compliant and socially desirable.

Keywords in English

sex-differences / gender equality paradox / paranormal belief / dual-process / meta-analysis

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