Risk Perception and New Age Beliefs


*Address correspondence to Lennart Sjöberg, Stockholm School of Economics, Box 6501, 11383 Stockholm, Sweden; lennart.sjoberg@hns.se.


This is a study of risk perception in relation to New Age (NA) beliefs, including traditional folk superstition and belief in paranormal phenomena, as well as use of alternative healing practices. Data were also obtained on trust dimensions and on personality and psychopathology variables, as well as religious involvement. It was found that four factors accounted for the investigated NA beliefs, which were termed higher consciousness beliefs, denial of analytic knowledge, traditional superstition, and belief in the physical reality of the soul. NA beliefs were strongly and positively related to religious involvement, and negatively to educational level. These beliefs were also positively related to maladjustment and to concerns over tampering with nature. In regression analyses, it was found that NA beliefs explained about 15% of the variance of perceived risk, and that the most powerful explanatory factors were higher consciousness beliefs and beliefs in paranormal phenomena. Traditional superstition and use of healing practices did not contribute to explaining perceived risk.