by Mark Banta
This study looked at three groups of people: those with high confidence in the existence of sasquatch, those with medium confidence, and those with low confidence. Each participant completed a coping strategy inventory that determined whether their preferred coping style was problem solving, social-support seeking, or avoidance. In this study, there were no significant differences between the three groups' average scores on a preferred coping strategy. This suggests that a high belief or reported experience with sasquatch is not related to an avoidance of reality or escape-type behavior. An example of an avoidant coping strategy is fantasizing about better times or identifying with characters on television and getting lost in their reality. Interestingly, such a relationship has been found in research on paranormal believers, but the researcher in this area is quite thin and lacks empirical support. The one significant finding in this study was a relationship between income level and avoidance. On average, the lower the income level that was reported, the higher the score was on avoidance. This suggests that those with low income are more likely to use avoidant strategies to deal with problems and stress. This finding is not strongly backed by research and has received little attention from academia.
Casually perusing the paper mill of academia is not likely to uncover a lot of information on sasquatch, which is more commonly referred to as Bigfoot. The few academics that have taken the time to research this cryptic corner of science are anthropologists and anatomists. They usually refer to the creature as a possible descendant of Gigantopethicus blacki.
The late Dr. Grover Krantz is one of the few academics to have thoroughly studied the phenomenon of sasquatch. Krantz was a professor of anthropology at Washington State University and is widely known for his reconstruction of a Gigantopethicus blacki skull (see, Krantz, 1987). Krantz (1999) comprehensively reviewed the evidence to date, including footprints, film, and the fossil record. Krantz was a believer and felt that what people were witnessing was most likely Gigantopethicus blacki, which was thought to have gone extinct 300,000 years ago.
Krantz summed up the resistance of science to serious study sasquatch when he stated:
Older scientists who have made their names can afford to indulge in the luxury of exploring a subject like this. Some of the younger scientists who have not yet realized how the Scientific Establishment works might also extend themselves along this line until they learn better. Most scientists know the criteria that are used for granting tenure and making promotions, and they are understandably cautious about being involved in any investigations that are not in the mainstream of acceptance or in recognized specialties. (p. 236)
After Dr. Krantz passed away, the proverbial torch, as well as his collection of track casts, were passed to Dr. Jeffrey Meldrum, who is an associate professor of anatomy and anthropology at Idaho State University. Meldrum (2006) used his considerable experience and applied hard science to the phenomenon of sasquatch. A scientist to a fault, Meldrum does not claim that sasquatch exist. Instead, he lets the evidence, which includes the largest tracks cast collection in existence, speak for itself.
The field of psychology has understandably had little to say about the existence or mythology of sasquatch. However, there has been considerable study into the psychological profiles of those who report belief and experience outside the normal. This category is usually referred to as paranormal belief. Wilson and French (2006) examined false memories and dissociativity related to paranormal belief and experience. They found that those reporting false memories scored higher on paranormal belief, experience, and ability than those who did not. Critical thinking ability has also been examined with some evidence suggesting lower reasoning abilities in those who report beliefs and experiences with the paranormal (see, Hergovich & Arendasy, 2005). Research into possible personality traits related to paranormal beliefs showed some evidence for higher levels of aggression and defedence in paranormal believers (See, Auton, Pope, and Seeger, 2003). Several studies have examined schizotypy and its relation to paranormal beliefs. Results indicate healthy schizotypy in those with high paranormal beliefs (e.g., Goulding, 2004; Genovese, 2005).
Many of these studies have used the Paranormal Belief Scale (PBS) as an independent measure of belief. The PBS does include a question about the existence of Bigfoot. However, the majority of questions have little or nothing to do with belief and experience with sasquatch. It therefore would not be scientific to assume that results from paranormal studies would translate to believers in sasquatch.
Callaghan and Irwin (2003) conducted a study that examined paranormal believers and the coping mechanisms they utilized. The purpose of the study was to determine whether the activation of paranormal belief is an avoidant response to dealing with sources of distress. They found a weak correlation between paranormal belief and a combination of avoidant coping and lack of task-oriented coping.
No studies to date have examined the possible relationship between a belief and experience with sasquatch and preferred coping strategies. At the outset, there is no empirical evidence that paranormal belief can be compared with a belief in sasquatch. In fact, paranormal belief has been loosely defined, including anything outside the bounds of scientific discovery. By examining the relationship between coping strategies and the level of confidence in the existence of sasquatch, the present study hopes to determine whether a relationship exists similar to that found in paranormal studies. A relationship between avoidant coping strategies and belief in sasquatch would indicate the possibility that such beliefs are no more than a diversion that enables believers to escape life stressors.
Due to the lack of empirical evidence or study in the area of sasquatch, the present hypothesis is that the null hypothesis will be confirmed and no significant relationship will exist between preferred coping strategy and level of confidence in the existence of sasquatch.
A total of 238 individuals voluntarily participated in an online survey. Of these, 96 (74 men and 22 women) filled out all required fields necessary to be included in this study. Eighty-three reported their ethnicity as White, while there were four Native Americans, three Hispanics, and six reporting other. Twenty-six reported high school as their highest level of education, while 38 reported college and 32 reported graduate school. Fifty percent of participants reported an income of more than $60,000 per year, while the five lower levels comprised the other 50%. Household sizes ranged from one to seven, while 70% of the distribution fell between two and four person households.
All participants completed an online survey through surveymonkey.com. Participants were solicited through the websites sasquatchonline.com and bigfootresearch.com. These websites are connected to the Alliance of Independent Bigfoot Researchers (AIBR) and the Sasquatch Research Initiative (SRI), respectfully. The survey consisted of six parts. Respondents first gave their informed consent. Next they answered three questions on their level of belief in sasquatch, followed by three questions on their level of experience. Next, participants answered a partially structured attitude measure. The following section gathered demographic information. Finally, participants completed the Coping Strategy Indicator (CSI) as a dependent measure. The CSI is a 33-item, 3-point rating scale developed by Amirkhan (1990). The participant chooses a recent stressful event and answers questions with that event in mind. Based on these scores the subject is scored and it is determined whether their preferred coping strategy is problem solving, seeking social support, or avoiding the event.
Design and Procedure
Data was gathered through the online survey for a three month period of time. Before each participant filled out the survey, they were first instructed to read the consent form and agree to the terms of the survey. Next, three questions determined their level of belief in sasquatch. Each question was rated by the participant on a scale from one to three. A score between three and six was considered low belief, while a score between seven and nine was considered high belief. Three more questions were used to determine the level of experience with sasquatch. The same scoring procedures used with belief were used on experience. Participants that had a low belief, low experience result were placed in the low confidence group. Participants that had low belief, high experience or high belief, low experience were placed in the medium confidence group. Participants that had a high belief, high experience result were placed in the high confidence group.
Participants were then given a small vignette to read. This vignette was ambiguous in nature and described the experiences of a man named Paul and his belief or lack thereof in sasquatch. Participants answered three questions on a scale from 1 to 7 and were given a total score from 3 to 21. This partially structured attitude measure was developed by the author and used as a manipulation check. Vargas, Von Hippel, and Petty (2004) showed that partially structured measures work as well as implicit measures in predicting behavior. Therefore a correlation should exist between the scores on the partially structured attitude measure and the level of belief rating. If not, it could indicate a significant amount of participants weren’t being honest on the survey.
Next participants were asked to provide demographic information. This information included ethnicity, gender, education level, household size, and income.
Finally, participants completed the CSI. The CSI asks participants to write down a stressful event they have experienced in the past 6 months and recall this event as they answer questions. Answers are scored from one to three points each. There are 10 questions for problem solving, 10 for social support seeking, and 10 for avoidant scattered within the measure. Totals are graphed and a preferred coping strategy is identified.
A total of three groups were formed according to preferred coping strategy: problem solving, social support seeking, and avoidant. A total of 23 participants fell in the low confidence group. Forty-four fell within the medium confidence group. Twenty-nine fell within the high confidence group.
All data on the CSI was converted to z scores. A one-way ANOVA showed no significance between groups on preferred coping strategy (figure 1), which confirms the null hypothesis and the author’s prediction. All data was run using Spearman’s rho and a significant correlation at the .01 level was found between income level and avoidant coping strategies. An ANOVA revealed significance at the .001 level. Linear regression showed a positively accelerated decreasing function. The lower the income level dropped, the higher the total became on the avoidance score (see figure 2). The manipulation check worked as predicted, showing a .01 correlation between belief and the partially structured attitude measure.
The results of this study indicate that there are no significant differences in the coping strategies preferred between the three groups. This result is inconsistent with Callaghan and Irwin (2003) study on paranormal believers and indicates that an individual’s belief and experience with sasquatch is not related to an avoidant coping strategy to deal with stressful life events. It also lends credence to the idea that sasquatch research should be studied separately from the paranormal.
Data from the partially structured attitude measure indicates that participants were truthful as to their actual belief in creatures known as sasquatch. However, correlations were not found between the partially structured attitude measure, experience, and overall confidence rating. Belief, experience, and confidence all correlated on a .01 level. This may indicate a need for further study of belief and experience separately. It also may indicate some dishonesty on reported experiences. Further study into this phenomenon needs to be explored, but is beyond the scope of this study.
The most significant finding in this study was a high correlation between income level and avoidant coping strategies. Linear regression confirmed that the lower the income level, the more preference that was shown toward avoidant coping strategies. This finding is not thoroughly explored in literature and warrants future study. Brantley, O’Hea, Jones, and Mehan (2002) explored income level and preferred coping strategies. They found a correlation between low income and emotion-focused coping strategies. They used the Ways of Coping Questionnaire (WCQ) by Folkman and Lazarus (1988). The WCQ and the CSI differ in the types of coping strategies identified. In this case, the emotion-focused coping strategy identified by Brantley and associates, which correlated to low income, includes escape/avoidance coping strategy. Therefore, in this respect, both studies are consistent in finding, however, this study is more specific in identifying avoidance as the primary correlate.
The findings of this study are clear and as predicted, the null hypothesis has been confirmed. In this population, there were no significant differences in preferred coping strategies between groups that held low, medium, and high levels of confidence in the existence of sasquatch. These results indicate that belief and experience with sasquatch is not directly related to a coping mechanism to deal with stressful life events. It further confirms that sasquatch beliefs should be studied separate from the paranormal, as the finding of this study are inconsistent with paranormal studies.
Although the manipulation check showed a significant correlation with level of belief, it did not correlate with experience. This could indicate some deception on reported experiences, but is beyond the scope of this study to determine. There were significant correlations between belief, experience, and confidence, confirming the validity of the design of this study.
Weaknesses of this study include the online survey being within the realms of manipulation. It is conceivable that a single person could complete the survey more than once from a different computer and thereby spoil the data. Security measures were used to track IP addresses. No surveys had to be deleted because of dual IP addresses, indicating either no effort at deception or very careful effort at deception by using multiple home computers. Further, the partially structured attitude measure did correlate to reported belief and is believed to be a reliable manipulation check.
As noted, the most significant finding of this study was the strong linear correlation between income level and avoidant coping strategies. This finding was not within the original purpose of this study, but is worthy of note and future research. As noted, it also is consistent with the findings in other research (see, Brantley, et al., 2002).
It is important to note that the results of this study do not indicate or endorse the existence of sasquatch, but merely indicate a belief or reported experience with sasquatch is not indicative of an avoidant coping strategy. Continued research into beliefs beyond the realms of known science could yield data and information germane to understanding the purposes of these beliefs, which could have implications in clinical settings. Future researchers may next want to focus on areas of misattribution and problem solving in understanding this unique belief system. Further, it would be irresponsible to rule out the possibility that such a creature does exist.
Amirkhan, J. (1990). A factor analytically derived measure of coping: The coping strategy indicator. The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 59, 1066-1074.
Auton, H., Pope, J., and Seeger, G. (2003). It isn’t that strange: Paranormal belief and personality traits. Social Behavior and Personality, 31, 711-720.
Brantley, P., O’Hea, E., Jones, G. & Mehan, D. (2002). The influence of income level and ethnicity on coping strategies. Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment, 24, 39-44.
Callaghan, A. & Irwin, H. (2003). Paranormal belief as a psychological coping mechanism. Journal of Society for Psychical Research, 67, 200-207.
Folkman, S. & Lazarus, R. (1988). Manual for the Ways of Coping Questionnaire. Palo Alto, CA: Consulting Psychologists Press.
Genovese, J. (2005). Paranormal beliefs, schizotypy, and thinking styles among teachers and future teachers. Personality and Individual Differences, 39, 93-102.
Goulding, A. (2004). Schizotypy models in relation to subjective health and paranormal beliefs and experiences. Personality and Individual Differences, 37, 157-167.
Hergovich, A. & Martin, A. (2005). Critical thinking ability and belief in the paranormal. Personality and Individual Differences, 38, 1805-1812.
Krantz, G. (1987). A reconstruction of the skull of Gigantopethicus Blacki and its comparison with a living form. Cryptozoology, 6, 24-39.
Krantz, G. (1999). Bigfoot sasquatch evidence. Blaine, WA: Hancock House Publishers.
Meldrum, J. (2006). Sasquatch: Legend meets science. New York, NY: Tom Doherty Associates.
Vargas, P., Von Hippel, W., and Petty, R. (2004). Using partially structured attitude measures to enhance the attitude-behavior relationship. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin,30, 197-211.
Wilson, K. & French, C. (2006). The relationship between susceptibility to false memories, dissociativity, and paranormal belief and experience. Personality and Individual Differences, 41, 1493-1502.