Prof: Popular belief in the paranormal makes it seem like Halloween year-round
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Vampires, zombies, witches and ghost hunters are haunting movies, television and books more than ever because of their entertainment value and today's realistic special effects, says a Purdue University expert.
"People's belief in the paranormal has remained fairly constant over the decades, but the offerings of paranormal programming are unprecedented, and that has the potential to affect viewers' interests and beliefs as well as how they talk about the paranormal with others," says Glenn Sparks, a professor of communication who studies media effects and belief in the paranormal. "Because of this prevalence in pop culture, Halloween themes are celebrated year-round."
Part of the attraction of zombies, ghosts, vampires and other supernatural beings or experiences may be related to the use of realistic special effects in movies and television shows that are designed to convince viewers that what they're seeing just might be possible.
"These visual depictions are very compelling, and the level of realism they are able to introduce is like nothing we've seen before," Sparks says. "Hollywood deliberately tries to blur the line between fantasy and reality and that sometimes makes it difficult to tell if footage is real, doctored in some way or simply a media recreation designed for maximum impact. And research shows that if something is portrayed in a realistic way, such as in a documentary format, people are likely to believe that what they see is real."
Sparks says some media depictions of the paranormal can have consequences for unsuspecting viewers. For example, if a ghost hunter show presents fuzzy recordings of background noises and suggests that the sounds are made by ghosts, some viewers may find themselves wondering if common household noises in their own homes might be evidence that their homes are haunted.
Writer: Amy Patterson Neubert, 765-494-9723, email@example.com
Source: Glenn Sparks, 765-464-9536, firstname.lastname@example.org