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Measuring beliefs in the paranormal: The Australian Sheep Goat Scale

Monday, July 7, 2014
posted by Douglas Keene

sheep-goatsSeriously. Sheep are believers and goats are doubters. In the paranormal, that is. The Australian Sheep Goat Scale is not a measure we’d ever heard of prior to writing about skepticism as a narrative tool in convincing others of a paranormal event. Perhaps it never really caught on. But we knew you would want to know about it, so, like the Spitefulness Scale, the Guilt and Shame Proneness Scale, the Depravity Scale, the Comprehensive Assessment of Sadistic Tendencies Scale, and the Islamophobia Scale, here it is. Besides, we would have published this blog post  just so we could share that adorable photo.

The Australian Sheep Goat Scale is a simple tool for assessing your beliefs in the paranormal. If you endorse a high number of statements on the 16-item scale as true, you are a sheep (a believer) and if you endorse a high number of statements as false, then you are a goat (a doubter) when it comes to the paranormal.  Here are a few sample items:

I  believe  I  have  had  a  personal  experience  of  ESP.

I  have  had  at  least  one  dream  that  came  true  and  which  (I  believe) was  not  just  a  coincidence.

I  believe  that  it  is  possible  to  gain  information  about  the  future before  it  happens,  in  ways  that  do  not  depend  on  rational prediction  or  normal  sensory  channels.

I  have  had  at  least  one  vision  that  was  not  an  hallucination  and from  which  I  received  information  that  I  could  not  have  otherwise gained  at  that  time  and  place.

I  believe  that  inexplicable  physical  disturbances,  of  an  apparently psychokinetic  origin,  have  occurred  in  my  presence  at  some  time in  the  past  (as  for  example,  a  poltergeist).

As you can see, a positive response to the item indicates support of the existence of paranormal experiences and negative responses indicate rejection of the paranormal. A ‘true’ response merits a score of ‘1’ and a ‘false’ response gets a zero score. This is a fairly dated scale at more than twenty years old.

There are newer measures. Here is one from 2004: The Revised Paranormal Belief Scale. It has more interesting questions (26 items in all) than the Sheep Goat Scale but the name is not as evocative. Here are some samples from the Paranormal Belief Scale.

Your mind or soul can leave your body and travel (astral projection).

The abominable snowman of Tibet exists.

Witches do exist.

If  you break a mirror, you will have bad luck.

The Loch Ness monster of Scotland exists.

A person’s thoughts can influence the movement of a physical object.

Through the use of formulas and incantations, it is possible to cast spells on persons.

It is possible to communicate with the dead.

Overall, we cannot see a single way either of these measures might find their way into a litigation setting, but we suppose it is possible if your case involved alleged paranormal events. And if it does, you read it here first! But insofar as we are in the business of figuring out why people believe in their verdict choice, it isn’t entirely out of place in The Jury Room. Well, maybe. But at least it’s fun. And that photo…

Thalbourne, MA, & Delin, PS (1993). A new instrument for measuring the sheep-goat variable: Its psychometric properties and factor structure. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 59, 172-186

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