The British Psychological Society online journal Research Digest published “Why do so many people believe in psychic powers?” On February 18, 2016. This article notes that over a quarter of the US public believes in paranormal phenomena, and reviews a recent research study that looks for cognitive differences between believers and skeptics. The study found many similarities between the two groups, but also found that paranormal believers have a “lack of analytical skills.”
The BPS article includes,
The results don’t prove that relatively poor analytical thinking skills cause people to become believers in psychic phenomena, but they are certainly consistent with the idea that a lack of these skills may leave people more prone to developing such beliefs, for example by undermining their ability to scrutinize whether last night’s dream really did predict today’s events (unlike a sceptic, a believer might not take into account all their dreams that didn’t appear to foretell the future, nor realize that the dream was influenced by the same past events that also shaped the future). A lack of analytical skills might be especially pertinent for people who are in regular contact with others who endorse the idea of psychic phenomena. Indeed, 70 per cent of believers said their beliefs were in line with those held by their friends and family.
The research also found that believers in paranormal score higher on life satisfaction measures, and comments, “This makes sense – after all, if you’re gullible/ open-minded enough to believe in psychic phenomena, it’s not such a leap to believe that super heroes walk the earth, which must be a fun outlook to have.”
The BPS article has links to other studies about differences between paranormal believers and skeptics.