A recent study that analyzes the fear of the supernatural among different communities has revealed that when compared to other racial and ethnic groups, Asian Americans are more likely to fear zombies and ghosts.
Sociologists Tony Silva and Ashley Woody published their Socius paper titled “Supernatural Sociology: Americans’ Beliefs by Race/Ethnicity, Gender, and Education” on March 10. In their study, Silva and Woody analyzed the 2020–2021 Chapman University Survey of American Fears, which asked 1,035 Americans about their fears, including “corrupt government officials, “murder hornets,” “a devastating earthquake” and “corporate tracking of personal data,” among others. Silva and Woody focused on data concerning supernatural and paranormal phenomena.
“This research examines how supernatural beliefs vary by race/ethnicity, gender, and education after adjustment for other demographic characteristics and religiosity. … The results highlight how gender, education, and race/ethnicity are strongly related to complex belief systems, including supernatural phenomena,” they wrote in their abstract.
The Chapman survey showed that when compared to members of other racial and ethnic groups, such as “non-Latinx white,” “non-Latinx Black” and Latinx, Asian Americans are more likely to be afraid of ghosts and zombies.
Silva and Woody believe that cultural traditions could explain the differences in supernatural or paranormal beliefs among those who participated in the survey, mentioning members of the Black community in one example.
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“Historically, superstitions and stories of ghostly visitations were prominent within African American folklore, which may shape the belief systems of some Black Americans today,” they wrote.
For members of the Asian American community, Silva and Woody explained that the idea of the dearly departed paying a visit to the living is “deeply embedded in some racial/ethnic cultural traditions such as Lunar New Year, which is widely observed throughout the East Asian and Southeast Asian American diasporas.”
One of the traditions observed during the eve of Lunar New Year is offering food to ancestral spirits to show respect. Family members place offerings such as meat, wine, joss sticks and joss paper in front of the shrine or grave of their ancestors.
“Even outside of prominent holidays, ancestor worship is a daily spiritual practice for groups such as Vietnamese Buddhists,” the sociologists noted.
Interestingly enough, even though the Asian American respondents scored high in their beliefs in ghosts and zombies, they scored lower than the survey’s Black participants when it comes to the fear of haunting.
Among all the participants, Asian Americans also scored higher when it came to their beliefs in the Lost City of Atlantis and Bigfoot or Sasquatch.