A Revised Paranormal Belief Scale
Jerome J. Tobacyk
Louisiana Tech University1
1: Request reprints from the author, Department of Psychology and Behavioral Sciences,
Box 10048, Ruston, Louisiana 71272. e-mail: Jerryt@vm.cc.latech.edu
Reference: Tobacyk, J. (2004). A revised paranormal belief scale. International Journal of
Transpersonal Studies. International Journal of Transpersonal Studies, 23, 94 – 98.
A 26-item Revised Paranormal Belief Scale is introduced which provides a
measure of degree of belief in each of seven dimensions: Traditional Religious Belief,
Psi, Witchcraft, Superstition, Spiritualism, Extraordinary Life Forms, and Precognition.
Improvements from the original 25-item Paranormal Belief Scale include adoption of a
seven-point rating scale, as well as item changes for three subscales: Precognition,
Witchcraft and Extraordinary Life Forms. These improvements provide greater reliability
and validity, less restriction of range, and greater cross-cultural validity.
A Revised Paranormal Belief Scale
A major emphasis of current theory and research in transpersonal psychology is
the investigation of spirituality—its nature, phenomenology, and assessment
(MacDonald, 2000; MacDonald, Friedman, & Kuentzel, 1999; MacDonald, Kuentzel, &
Friedman, 1999; MacDonald, et. al., 1995). An essential requirement for the empirical
investigation of spirituality is the articulation of the structure or dimensionality of this
construct. MacDonald (2000) has reported a factor analytic investigation of the structure
of spirituality that demonstrates five robust dimensions: Cognitive Orientation Towards
Spirituality, Experiential/Phenomenological Dimensions, Existential Well-Being,
Religiousness, and Paranormal Beliefs. This article reports the development of a Revised
Paranormal Belief Scale that can be used to assess paranormal and religious beliefs,
allowing the researcher to examine the nature of these beliefs and their implications for
Considerable research concerning paranormal beliefs has employed the original
Paranormal Belief Scale (PBS; Tobacyk & Milford, 1983), a measure of self-reported
degree of belief in paranormal phenomena. Much evidence supports the reliability and
discriminant validity of the PBS and its subscales (Tobacyk, 1983a; 1983b; Tobacyk,
1984a; 1984b; Tobacyk & Jones, 1984; Tobacyk & Milford, 1984; Tobacyk, 1985a;
Tobacyk, 1985b; Tobacyk & Mitchell, 1987a; 1987b; Tobacyk, Nagot, & Miller, 1987;
Tobacyk et al., 1987; Tobacyk, 1988).
Paranormal phenomena are defined as those that, if genuine, would violate basic
limiting principles of science (Broad, 1953). An example of a basic limiting principle is:
It is unlikely that a mental event can directly affect a physical event except for one in the
experient’s own brain. Thus, psychosomatic and hypnotically induced phenomena are not
classified as paranormal, but psychokinetic phenomena, if authentic, would be so
The PBS provides a separate score on each of seven factorially-derived subscales,
with each subscale reflecting a major dimension of paranormal belief. The PBS subscales
are: Traditional Religious Belief, Psi, Witchcraft, Superstition, Spiritualism,
Extraordinary Life Forms, and Precognition. Respondents indicate degree of belief for
each of 25 items by using a five-point rating scale.
Although the original PBS shows satisfactory reliability and validity, this article
reports construction of a Revised Paranormal Belief Scale (R-PBS) with changes in the
rating scale and in item content for three subscales. More specifically, these changes
involve: (1) use of a seven-point rating scale, (2) construction of a new Precognition
subscale, (3) replacement of two of four Witchcraft subscale items, and (4) replacement
of one of three Extraordinary Life Forms subscale items. These changes were made to
lessen restriction in range and to improve subscale reliability and validity, particularly
Seven-point rating scale
Some restriction in range occurred on the original PBS, particularly on the
Traditional Religious Belief and Superstition subscales. To reduce restriction in range, a
seven-point rating scale is used with the R-PBS. Table 1 lists the means, standard
deviations, and maximum and minimum scores for both the original PBS and the R-PBS.
Insert Table 1 About Here
As indicated in Table 1, the minimum and maximum scores on the R-PBS subscales
indicate that respondents generally use the full seven-point rating scale. Also, as indicated
in Table 1, the standard deviations have approximately doubled for four subscales:
Traditional Religious Belief, Psi, Witchcraft, and Spiritualism. A seven-point rating scale
allows respondents to more precisely describe their beliefs, and will lessen restriction of
The original Precognition subscale had the lowest test-retest reliability of the
seven original PBS subscales (rtt = .60 over a four-week interval). The three PBS
Precognition subscale items are: Item 1 – Dreams can provide information about the
future; Item 2 – Some people have the ability to predict the future; and Item 3 – The idea
of predicting the future is foolish. Each of the PBS Precognition subscale items is
ambiguous and could be endorsed for reasons that do or do not reflect belief in
For example, regarding Item 1, a dream could provide accurate information about
the future simply due to coincidence or through normal cognitive processes (e.g.
“remembering” the location of a lost object in a dream). Thus, endorsement of Item 1
might or might not reflect belief in paranormal precognition. Concerning Item 2, trained
scientists (e.g. meteorologists, medical diagnosticians) use scientifically validated
procedures to predict future events. Thus, endorsement of Item 2 might reflect either
belief in paranormal precognition or belief in the accuracy of predictions made by such
scientifically validated prognosticators as medical diagnosticians or meteorologists. Item
3 is also ambiguous in meaning. For example, are all human attempts at predicting the
future foolish, including saving for retirement or purchasing insurance policies?
Alternatively, Item 3 might be construed as meaning that only paranormal methods of
predicting the future are foolish. Thus all three items comprising the Precognition
subscale on the original PBS are problematic.
In a study of the cognitive dimensions used in predicting future events (Tobacyk
& Nagot, 1987), 349 college students rated 60 beliefs about predicting future events. The
sixty items were intercorrelated and factor analyzed, revealing seven basic dimensions
used to predict future events. The two clearest marker items were selected from each of
the two largest paranormal precognition dimensions to form a new Precognition subscale.
These dimensions and items were: Paranormal Divinatory Systems (Astrology is a way
to accurately predict the future. The horoscope accurately tells a person’s future.) and
Psychically Gifted Persons (Some psychics can accurately predict the future. Some
people have an unexplained ability to predict the future.). These four new Precognition
items replaced the three original PBS Precognition items. The test-retest reliability of this
revised Precognition subscale over a four-week interval was .81, a substantial
improvement over the reliability of the original PBS Precognition subscale (rtt = .60).
Witchcraft and Extraordinary Life Forms subscales
Changes were made in the Witchcraft and Extraordinary Life Forms subscales to
improve cross-cultural validity in Western cultures. Research with the original PBS in
Finland, Germany, and Poland, showed that many European respondents were unfamiliar
with such ostensibly paranormal phenomena as voodoo and Bigfoot. Therefore, on the
Witchcraft subscale, the two items concerning belief in voodoo (Voodoo is a real method
to use paranormal powers. There are actual cases of voodoo death.) were replaced with
two items which more generally concerned witchcraft (Through the use of formulas and
incantations, it is possible to cast spells on persons. There are actual cases of witchcraft.)
It is noted that the two replacement Witchcraft subscale items were marker variables
defining the Witchcraft factor in the original factor analytic PBS study (Tobacyk &
Milford, 1983), loading .68 and .55 respectively on the Witchcraft factor. The test-retest
reliability of the revised Witchcraft subscale is .93 over a four-week interval, while that
of the original Witchcraft subscale is .69.
Also, to improve cross-cultural validity, the item Bigfoot does exist from the
original Extraordinary Life Forms subscale was replaced by the item There is life on
other planets. Although the item Bigfoot does exist had a stronger factor loading than the
replacement item in the original factor analytic study (.74 versus .41), the new item was
also a marker variable for the Extraordinary Life Forms factor. This change was
necessary because familiarity with the Bigfoot phenomena appears largely limited to the
United States. The revised Extraordinary Life Forms subscale has a four-week test-retest
reliability of .91, compared to .82 for the original subscale.
It is noted that Extraordinary Life Forms is the only paranormal belief dimension
that does not strictly conform to the paranormality criterion--violation of a basic limiting
principle of science (e.g., the mere existence of extraterrestrial life would not violate a
basic limiting principle). However, belief in extraordinary life forms is often considered a
component of a more general paranormal or occult ideology (Zusne & Jones, 1982) and
was therefore included as a paranormal belief dimension.
Revised Paranormal Belief Scale items
The remaining 18 items from the original PBS were retained in the R-PBS. The
four-week test-retest reliabilities for the remaining R-PBS subscales for a sample of forty
Insert Table 2 About Here
university students are: Full Scale .92, Traditional Religious Belief .95, Psi .71,
Superstition .89, and Spiritualism .91.
Although there has been some disagreement about the nature and number of the
belief dimensions assessed by the R-PBS (Lawrence, 1995a, 1995b, Lawrence, Roe, &
Williams, 1997; Tobacyk, 1995a, Tobacyk, 1995b, Tobacyk & Thomas, 1997), this scale
appears to be a conceptually and psychometrically satisfactory measure of paranormal
The original 25 item five-point PBS was modified into a 26 item seven-point
R-PBS. The changes include replacement of the three-item PBS Precognition subscale,
replacement of two of the four PBS Witchcraft subscale items, and replacement of one of
the three PBS Extraordinary Life Forms subscale items. In total, seven new items
replaced a total of six original PBS items. These changes are expected to improve
reliability and validity, reduce restrictions in range, and increase the cross-cultural
validity of the in the measurement of paranormal beliefs in Western cultures. It is
recommended that researchers in the areas of paranormal beliefs and spirituality consider
the use of the R-PBS in their investigations.
A comparison of norms on the Original and Revised Paranormal Belief for
university students in the Southern United States.
Belief Scale Belief Scale
Full Scale 72.9 11.1 41 104 89.1 21.9 40 165
M SD Min Max M SD Min Max
Belief 4.5 0.6 1.0 5.0 6.3 1.2 1.0 7.0
Psi 2.8 0.7 1.0 5.0 3.1 1.5 1.0 7.0
Witchcraft 2.5 0.8 1.0 5.0 3.4 1.7 1.0 7.0
Superstition 1.7 0.7 1.0 4.0 1.6 1.2 1.0 5.0
Spiritualism 2.4 0.7 1.0 5.0 2.8 1.4 1.0 7.0
Extraordinary Life Forms 2.4 0.8 1.0 5.0 3.3 1.3 1.0 7.0
Precognition 3.5 0.7 1.0 5.0 3.0 1.3 1.0 7.0
Revised Paranormal Belief Scale
Please put a number next to each item to indicate how much you agree or disagree with
that item. Use the numbers as indicated below. There are no right or wrong answers. This
is a sample of your own beliefs and attitudes. Thank you.
1=Strongly Disagree 2=Moderately Disagree 3=Slightly Disagree
4=Uncertain 5=Slightly Agree 6=Moderately Agree 7=Strongly Agree
1. The soul continues to exist though the body may die.
2. Some individuals are able to levitate (lift) objects through mental forces.
3. Black magic really exists.
4. Black cats can bring bad luck.
5. Your mind or soul can leave your body and travel (astral projection).
6. The abominable snowman of Tibet exists.
7. Astrology is a way to accurately predict the future.
8. There is a devil.
9. Psychokinesis, the movement of objects through psychic powers, does exist.
10. Witches do exist.
11. If you break a mirror, you will have bad luck.
12. During altered states, such as sleep or trances, the spirit can leave the body.
13. The Loch Ness monster of Scotland exists.
14. The horoscope accurately tells a person’s future.
15. I believe in God
16. A person’s thoughts can influence the movement of a physical object.
17. Through the use of formulas and incantations, it is possible to cast spells on
18. The number “13” is unlucky.
19. Reincarnation does occur.
20. There is life on other planets.
21. Some psychics can accurately predict the future.
22. There is a heaven and a hell.
23. Mind reading is not possible
24. There are actual cases of witchcraft.
25. It is possible to communicate with the dead.
26. Some people have an unexplained ability to predict the future.
Note: Item 23 is reversed for scoring.
Traditional Religious Belief = Mean of Items (1, 8, 15, 22)
Psi = Mean of Items (2, 9, 16, 23)
Witchcraft = Mean of Items (3, 10, 17, 24)
Superstition = Mean of Items (4, 11, 18)
Spiritualism = Mean of Items (5, 12, 19, 25)
Extraordinary Life Forms = Mean of Items (6, 13, 20)
Precognition = Mean of Items (7, 14, 21, 26)
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