The Phenomenon of Ghosts

Elijah Robinson, Opinion Editor

There’s this episode of Black Mirror that I watched named “Playtest” that briefly touched upon how before the advent of technology, people would widely believe in ghosts. The idea of ghosts was that it was a trick the brain did in absence of stimulation. There’s evidence to back this up.

When we’re in a high stress environment, a presence is created to cope with the increase of cortisol. It is known as the “sensed presence.”

A ghost, a late relative or a god may appear as a result of little physical and social stimulation, as well as low temperature.

Paranormal beliefs are typically held by fearful individuals. Those with less education are more likely to be afraid of more things.

This is an explanation used when people claim they got sick from a demon, or when a bad storm happens, for example.

This is a way of explaining the unexplainable, or a way of gaining some control over the universe.

Some of these instances in life, however, can be explained.

There are many ways people can get sick. Something that some people wouldn’t think of is the effects of suburbanization.
Fragmented landscapes drastically impact the biodiversity of a habitat. Important animals in the ecosystem are wiped from their natural habitat, leaving room for creatures, like mice, to reproduce without a predator to control the population. Wild animals can also be brought in through the wildlife trend, not understanding this spreads disease and ignites and outbreak of viruses.

Over time, climate change has increased the severity of storms, making them more disastrous and deadlier each year.

Paranormal activity may be an effect of your eyes deceiving you. It is possible to remember what you imagined as opposed to what actually happened. These testimonies can even influence other participants into believing what you believe.

This can happen as result of bad memory, or a result of an hallucination, caused by sleep paralysis. We have a natural tendency to trust our instincts or gut feeling when we feel a presence is there.

There is also the theory that humans have evolved to find patterns. This can lead to an illusion of agency where there is something controlling the outcome of an environment or activity. However, it could be genetic or learned.

People who believe in ghosts have stronger confidence in their abilities, because they believe in the supernatural, as well as superstitions, they are more likely to feel more in control.

It is also possible to convince skeptics that ghosts are real. If you prime people into believing in hope, they are able to believe in the supernatural. Hope itself is uncertainty, loss of control. However, it is a positive feeling that drives people to do something they thought was impossible.

So those images and sounds you experience could be a cognitive creation, or a mouse crawling in your walls. What do you want to believe?

Maybe the belief in ghosts is part of our evolutionary disposition toward connection. Who knows?