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Why Do People See Ghosts?

You live and then you die and then you rot in a hole—or so say the elites, with their glasses, and their PhDs in neuroscience. This bummer reality has never appealed much to Americans, 72 percent of whom believe in some kind of afterlife. It’s a comparatively rarer, though still sizable, breed of American who believe in some spectral middle ground, in which, instead of rotting or going to hell, you float around and freak out your kids, or the new residents of the house where you were brutally murdered a hundred years ago. According to Pew Research Center, close to one-fifth of Americans believe they’ve seen a ghost—a somewhat surprising statistic, given all the other ancient beliefs we’ve mostly jettisoned (bloodletting, for instance, has largely fallen out of vogue). For this week’s Giz Asks, we reached out to a number of psychologists and neuroscientists to figure out why this might be—and in the process learned that, given the number of ways our brain has of tricking us into seeing things, it’s a wonder that that statistic isn’t higher. Christopher French Founder of the Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit at Goldsmiths, University of London
Most of the time, when people think they’ve had a ghostly encounter, they haven’t necessarily actually seen something. Very often you’ll find that what people are referring to is a bit vaguer than that—a very strong sense of presence, for instance. Bereaved people might think that they smell the perfume that the deceased used to wear, or the tobacco they used to smoke. People tend to assume, when you suggest that maybe they were hallucinating, that you’re saying that they’re crazy, and this just isn’t true—hallucinations are much more common amongst the non-clinical population than is generally appreciated. We can all hallucinate under appropriate conditions.
Read More Opinions: Gizmodo

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