Measuring beliefs in the paranormal: The Australian Sheep Goat Scale
Seriously. 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