How Skeptical are Magicians?

In 2010, renowned sociologist Dr. Peter Nardi published a study of magicians' beliefs about the paranormal. He was particularly interested in learning to what extent magicians believed various paranormal phenomena were possible. Nardi hypothesized that magicians would make a very interesting research sample because they are either true believers of paranormal phenomena, or because they are essentially "in on the secrets", the biggest skeptics of all.

Nardi administered a web-based survey in various magician Websites, discussion boards, and Internet chat rooms and was able to obtain a sample of 227 responses. I contacted Dr. Nardi and requested his data. I used the Rating Scale Model to analyze survey responses and rescaled the item logit values to fit a continuum from 1 to 10. Items located at the bottom of the scale (1) are the easiest for magicians to endorse (i.e., Life after Death). Items located at the top of the scale (10) are the most difficult for magicians to endorse (i.e., Channeling). As one might expect, items pertaining to religious notions are not very difficult to endorse, as magicians are a cross-section of the general public. However, what is especially interesting is that magicians believe UFOs, the Loch Ness Monster and Bigfoot are more plausible than astrology or channeling spirits. Perhaps the lesson here is to beware of card readers and psychics!

Kenneth D. Royal

Nardi, P. M. (2010). Magic, skepticism, and belief: An empirical study of what magicians believe about the paranormal. Skeptic Magazine, 15(3), 58-64.

(Most skeptical about ....)  
Channeling (spirit controlling a person in a trance)10.00.45
Communication with the Dead9.08.40
Bigfoot (Sasquatch)9.05.41
Loch Ness Monster8.87.42
Clairvoyance (Predict the Future)7.81.36
Haunted Houses6.83.33
ESP (Extra Sensory Perception)5.52.32
Creationism or Intelligent Design3.63.32
Life After Death1.01 .36
(Least skeptical about ....)  

How Skeptical are Magicians?, K.D. Royal ... Rasch Measurement Transactions, 2010, 24:3 p. 1291

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