The relationship between anomalistic belief, misperception of chance and the base rate fallacy

Toby Prike, Michelle M. Arnold, Paul Williamson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


A poor understanding of probability may lead people to misinterpret every day coincidences and form anomalistic (e.g., paranormal) beliefs. We investigated the relationship between anomalistic belief (including type of belief) and misperception of chance and the base rate fallacy across both anomalistic and control (i.e., neutral) contexts. Greater anomalistic belief was associated with poorer performance for both types of items; however there were no significant interactions between belief and context. For misperception of chance items, only experiential (vs. theoretical) anomalistic beliefs predicted more errors. In contrast, overall anomalistic belief was positively related to the base rate fallacy but no specific subtype of anomalistic belief was a significant predictor. The results indicate misperception of chance may lead people to interpret coincidental events as having an anomalistic cause, and a poor understanding of base rates may make people more prone to forming anomalistic beliefs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)447-477
Number of pages31
JournalThinking and Reasoning
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2020


  • Anomalistic belief
  • base rate fallacy
  • misperception of chance
  • paranormal belief
  • probabilistic reasoning

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