Conference Abstracts 2010

The programme and abstracts from the 34th International Conference held in Sheffield, September 2010
 
 
Ben L.H. Roberts & Ian R. Hume
 
Chris A. Roe, Callum Cooper & Hannah Martin
 
David Luke et al.
 
Rachel Browning
 
Ann R. Winsper
 
Hannah Gilbert
 
Elizabeth C. Roxburgh
 
Tamlyn Ryan
 
Hannah Martin, Sophie Luise Drennan & Chris A. Roe
 
Glenn A. Hitchman, Chris A. Roe & Simon J. Sherwood
 
Adrian Ryan & Eugene Subbotsky
 
Simon J. Sherwood
 
Steven T. Parsons
 
Michael Potts
 
David Rousseau
 
Richard S. Broughton
 
Paul Rogers, Pam Qualter & Helen Sumner
 
Christopher C. French et al.
 
Chris A. Roe & Lesley-Ann Smith
 
Göran Brusewitz, Adrian Parker & Lynn Cherkas
 
Shane McCorristine
 
 
 
Sender-receiver relationships, sex pairing and ESP task success
 
Ben L H Roberts & Ian R Hume
Coventry University
 
Extra-sensory perception (ESP) research examining the relationship and sexes of the 'sender' and 'receiver' has suggested that task success is greater with more closely bonded pairings, and that mixed sex pairings perform better than same sex pairings. However, these findings are far from conclusive. The present study therefore aimed to test these ideas, using Ganzfeld methodology. Thirty pairs of participants took part, including pairings of strangers, friends, siblings and romantic couples. Non-stranger pairings completed a questionnaire of emotional connectedness to obtain a more precise measure of their relationship quality. Each pairing performed two trials, with each member acting as sender in one trial and receiver in the other. Following a short relaxation procedure the receiver spent thirty minutes in the Ganzfeld environment, while the sender viewed a randomly selected target picture in a separate room. The receiver then ranked four pictures, one of which was the target, based on their resemblance to their impressions during the trial. The number of direct hits (ranking the target picture first) was above mean chance expectation (MCE) but not significantly so. The number of binary hits (ranking the target picture first or second) was significantly above MCE at the 0.05 level, although correcting for multiple analyses subsequently rendered this finding non-significant. Results were suggestive of more closely bonded pairings having greater task success, with romantic pairings performing best and an overall negative relationship between connectedness scores and target ranking, but these results were not significant. Female sender-male receiver pairings were more successful than the other sex pairings, partially supporting previous research, but again no significant results were found. Overall findings offer some support for the occurrence of ESP, while further research is required regarding the effects of sender-receiver relationship and sex pairing upon task success.

 

Testing for Precognition Using Remote Viewing and Ganzfeld Methods: A Comparison[1]
Chris A. Roe, Callum Cooper & Hannah Martin
Centre for the Study of Anomalous Psychological Processes
University of Northampton, UK
 
Remote viewing (RV) can be defined as ‘the ability to perceive and to be able to describe what would be experienced if one were at some specified distant location’ (after Hansel, 1989, p. 160), and although the method can vary in practice (cf. Utts & May, 2003, p. 60), experimental work typically involves a protocol in which senders immerse themselves in the target material by being at, and attending to the features of, the remote location, and participating in activities that are appropriate to the site (see Targ, 1994, for a more detailed description). From its inception at SRI as a means of testing for ESP the method seems to have been remarkably successful (cf. Utts, 1996). However, early work was criticized on the grounds that the randomization and editing of transcripts may have left cues to the order in which sites served as targets (Marks & Kamman, 1980). These concerns were addressed in later, successful replications (e.g., Schlitz & Haight, 1984), which took great care to ensure that neither the order of target selection nor of the transcripts could be inferred from material they contained, but part of that solution involves either editing the transcripts, which itself can be grounds for criticism (e.g., Marks & Kamman, 1980, p. 16), or deferring feedback about target identities until the end of the series, which may be demotivating (see, e.g., Tart, 2007). Of course, these concerns only apply to studies in which the same participant serves as viewer for a number of trials in the series, and thus is potentially able to refer in their transcripts to earlier targets and later planned sessions. This would not be possible if one were to adopt a design in which a larger number of participants contributed just one trial each.
We adopted this approach in an earlier study (Roe & Flint, 2007) in which 14 sender-receiver pairs of novice participants each contributed one trial. In order to facilitate psi performance receivers underwent a ganzfeld induction procedure before attempting to describe a randomly-selected target site at which the sender was located. On completion of the trial the sender returned to provide feedback about the nature of the target. An independent judge ranked all 8 possible locations against each mentation, producing 12 binary hits across the 14 trials and a combined sum of ranks that was significant (SOR = 42, p = .008), suggesting that this approach might overcome the weaknesses just outlined.
However, although the study was successful, it was not clear that this was a consequence of incorporating ganzfeld stimulation for our novice participants, since we did not have a comparison condition in which those participants attempted to generate impressions about a target location without the assistance of ganzfeld stimulation. The primary aim of the present study, therefore, was to compare performance in a remote viewing and ganzfeld conditions using a repeated measures design. Replication also offered us an opportunity to simplify the procedure by adopting a precognitive design so that a copy of the mentation could be saved before the target location was even selected, thus improving precautions against fraud and sensory leakage.
Finally, the present study offered an opportunity to consider individual differences factors that might be associated with psi performance. There is relatively little material from the RV literature that bears on this issue, but some authors (e.g. Utts & May, 2003) have drawn parallels with ganzfeld research so that elements of the so-called four factor model proposed by Honorton (1997) could be applied productively here, and so, following the recommendations of Roe, Jones and Maddern, we planned to consider as potential predictors: practice of a mental discipline; personal psi experience; belief in the paranormal; FP personality type, extraversion; and self-reported creativity.
One further manner in which participants might vary is in how they respond to ganzfeld stimulation (see Roe, 2009, for an extended critique of the ‘one size fits all’ tendency in ganzfeld research) and so we planned to include Pekala’s (1991) Phenomenology of Consciousness Inventory (PCI) to gauge any effects upon performance of shifts in consciousness brought about by sensory habituation.
Study design
The experiment adopted a related design in which a convenience sample of 40 volunteers (28F, 12M; Mean age: 26.2, range: 18-54 years) completed a ganzfeld stimulation and a remote viewing trial, with the order counterbalanced across participants. On each trial the participant’s task was to generate impressions that would be related to a geographical location they would later be shown. A description of their impressions was written down. On completion of the trial a target location was selected for them at random from an array of 40 sites in the target pool and the participant received feedback by viewing and interacting with the site using Google Earth. The participant’s description was later used by an independent judge to rate four locations (the target and three decoys) for similarity. The primary outcome measure was pre-specified to be sum of ranks allocated to target sites. Exploratory analyses were planned that would look for associations between individual differences measures and z-scores of target similarity ratings using a correlational design.
Results & Discussion
A full account of the results from this study will be given in the presentation. Here we will refer to just two interesting features: overall success rate and covariation of ganzfeld performance with perception of state of consciousness.
The ranks given to the actual target location on each of the 40 trials is presented in Table 1. In terms of our pre-specified outcome measure (sum of ranks), performance in the ganzfeld condition was significantly better than chance (z = 1.768, p = .038) and performance in the remote viewing condition was suggestively better than chance (z = 1.627, p = .052). This suggests that there is only a modest advantage to using ganzfeld stimulation with novice participants, since the waking state control was almost as successful.
 
Table 1.
Sum of ranks for target locations for ganzfeld and remote viewing trials
 
 
 
Rank
Sum of Ranks
 
z-score
 
p value
1
2
3
4
Ganzfeld trials
14
(35.0%)
10
(25.0%)
11
(28.5%)
5
(12.5%)
87
1.768
.038
Remote Viewing trials
12
(30.0%)
16
(40.0%)
4
(10.0%)
8
(20.0%)
88
1.627
.052
 
We were also interested to see whether individual differences in shifts in consciousness brought about by ganzfeld stimulation might have a bearing on success of the session. PCI subscale scores were correlated with z-scores from ganzfeld trial similarity ratings. These data are given in Table 2. Variables that were expected to correlate negatively with psi performance are shaded. We can see that 3 of the 12 sub-dimensions gave rise to significant associations; greater success was achieved by participants who reported greater absorption in their subjective experience, who reported lower arousal and who experienced less internal dialogue. Associations with other sub-dimensions are small and do not approach significance. We recommend that further work is undertaken to determine in what ways people respond to ganzfeld stimulation and to explore which of these might be psi conducive.
 
Table 2.
Pearson correlations between ganzfeld trial outcome and participants’ ratings for PCI dimensions of Body Image (BI), Time Sense (TS),Direction of Attention (DR),Absorption (AB), Imagery Amount (IA), Imagery Vividness (IV), Self-Awareness (SA), Altered State of Awareness (AS), Arousal (AR), Rationality (RA), Volitional Control (VC) and Internal Dialogue (ID)
 
 
PCI Dimension
BI
TS
DR
AB
IA
IV
SA
AS
AR
RA
VC
ID
Ganzfeld trials   r
.017
.169
.034
.337
-.096
.103
-.048
.035
-.338
-.062
.028
-.416
p
.920
.310
.841
.039
.567
.537
.775
.835
.038
.710
.865
.009
 
References
Hansel, C.E.M. (1989). The search for psychic power: ESP & parapsychology revisited. Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books.
Honorton, C. (1997). The Ganzfeld novice: four predictors of initial ESP performance. Journal of Parapsychology 61, 143-158.
Marks, D., & Kamman, R. (1980). The psychology of the psychic. Buffalo, NY: Prometheus books.
Pekala, R.J. (1991). Quantifying consciousness: An empirical approach. New York: Plenum Press.
Roe, C.A. (2009). The role of altered states of consciousness in extrasensory experiences. In M. Smith (Ed.), Developing perspectives on anomalous experience. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co.
Roe, C.A., & Flint, S., (2007). A remote viewing pilot study using a ganzfeld induction procedure. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 71, 230-234.
Roe, C.A., Jones, L., & Maddern C. (2007). A preliminary test of the ‘four factor model’ using a dream ESP protocol. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 71, 35-42.
Schlitz, M., & Haight, J. (1984). Remote viewing revisited: An intrasubject replication. Journal of Parapsychology, 48, 39-49.
Tart, C.T. (2007). Letter to the Editor. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 71,
Utts, J. (1996). An assessment of the evidence for psychic functioning. Journal of Scientific Exploration, 10, 3-30.
Utts, J., & May, E. (2003). Non-sensory access to information: Remote viewing. In W. B. Jonas & C. C. Crawford (Eds.), Healing, intention and energy medicine: Science, research methods and clinical implications (pp. 59-73). Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone.

 

The witching hour on the graveyard shift:
A preliminary study into psi and circadian rhythms
 
David Luke*, Karolina Zychowicz, Olga Richterova, Inna Tjurina & Jelena Polonnikova
Department of Psychology and Counselling, University of Greenwich
 
Research has shown that 33-68% of spontaneous cases of ESP are reported to occur during dreams (Van de Castle, 1977) and free-response dream ESP research has tended to produce positive results overall (for a review see Sherwood & Roe, 2003). Most of this research, however, has tended to overlook neurochemical factors despite Roney-Dougal's (1991, 2001) suggestion that dream psi is mediated by the pineal gland neurochemicals that are specualted to be responsible for sleeping and dreaming: melatonin and dimethyltryptamine (DMT) (Callaway, 1988; Luke & Friedman, 2010). Survey research and accounts occurring elsewhere in the literature from those who have ingested DMT supports this hypothesis, although the experimental evidence is lacking (Luke, 2008; Luke & Kittenis, 2005). However, some tentative experimental support for the notion that ESP performance is directly predicted by pineal gland activity is evident from research which demonstrated that prepubescent children score better on forced-choice ESP tests at 3am, when the pineal gland’s nocturnal chemicals (e.g., melatonin) are at peak concentrations in the brain, rather than at 9pm, when they are typically lower by a magnitude of 5-10 times (Satyanarayana, Rao, & Vijaylakshmi, 1993).
 
The current project aimed to extend this scant research into psi and the peak melatonin production period by investigating forced-choice precognition and also free-response dream precognition as well. The latter aspect was explored to discern whether dream recall from periods of peak melatonin production (and therefore also DMT production, according to theory) provide greater psi scores compared to dream recall from a period in the morning of much lower melatonin production. Performance on the different psi tests was compared by time of day. The following pre-planned hypotheses were investigated:
 
H1 – Psi test scores will be significantly higher at 3am than at 8am.
H2 – Scores on the free-response psi task will be greater than scores on the forced-choice task.
H3 – There will be a significant interaction between time of day and psi task.
 
Further, a number of exploratory hypotheses were examined investigating psi scores in relation to individual differences (e.g., belief in psi) and other factors, such as length of dream recall and confidence of target judgement, as in previous dream psi research (e.g., Luke, 2002).
 
Ten participants slept at home on ten experimental nights with the intention of dreaming the target clip in each trial. At 3am and the following 8am they performed the experimental tasks, waking up as necessary. First, participants immediately recorded the mentation of any dreams they had just had. These were word processed and emailed to the experimenter upon completion. Then participants watched the selection of four video clips for that trial and selected the clip that they thought most closely resembled their dream, they then emailed their selection to the experimenter. The target was then selected by pseudo-RNG by the experimenter. Participants also performed 10 runs of an automated forced-choice precognition task on their computer and emailed the output to the experimenter. The findings and implications of this research are discussed.
 
References
 
Callaway, J. C. (1988). A proposed mechanism for the visions of dream sleep. Medical
Hypotheses, 26, 119-24.
Luke, D. P. (2002). A further exploratory investigation of dream precognition using
consensus judging, dynamic targets and post-judging target dramas. Abstracts of papers of the 26th International Conference of the Society for Psychical Research, 35-36.
Luke, D. P. (2008). Psychedelic substances and paranormal phenomena: A review of the
research. Journal of Parapsychology, 72, 77-107.
Luke, D., & Friedman, H. (2010). The neurochemistry of psi reports and associated experiences.
In S. Krippner and H. Friedman (Eds.), Mysterious minds: The neurobiology of psychics,
mediums and other extraordinary people (pp.163-185). Westport, CT: Praeger.
Luke, D. P., & Kittenis, M. (2005). A preliminary survey of paranormal experiences with
                psychoactive drugs. Journal of Parapsychology, 69 (2), 305-327.
Roney-Dougal, S. (1991). Where science and magic meet. London: Element Books
Roney-Dougal, S. (2001). Walking between the worlds: Links between psi, psychedelics,
shamanism, and psychosis. Unpublished manuscript, Psi Research Centre, Glastonbury.
Sherwood, S.J., and Roe, C.A. (2003). A review of dream ESP studies conducted since the
                Maimonides dream ESP programme. Journal of Consciousness Studies, 10, 85-109.
Satyanarayana, M., Rao, P. V. K., & Vijaylakshmi, S. (1993). Role of pineal activity in ESP
                performance: A preliminary study. Journal of Indian Psychology, 11, 44-56.
Van de Castle, R.L. (1977). Sleep and dreams. In B.B. Wolman (Ed.), Handbook of
parapsychology (pp. 473-499). Jefferson, NC: McFarland
 
 
Gratitude is expressed to the Perrott-Warrick fund for their financial support of this project.

 
A study of EVP phenomena, reported in séances with
the Furzey Hill Physical Circle
 
Rachel Browning
 
The aim of my research was to determine the source and validity of voices obtained on digital recorders during séances and to investigate their concurrance with sitters’ reports of visual phenomena in our physical home circle. Previous and ongoing research within the circle demonstrated the consistent nature of the phenomena. However, we had not been able to find any specific origin, and began actively investigating all recognised potential sources of energy that could possibly duplicate our findings.
In July 2009, I was awarded a Gilbert Roller grant to support ongoing research into as-yet-unexplained voices. The primary focus of the study was to determine the nature of the voices and to explore the relationship between sitters’ reports of visual phenomena and concurrently captured digital auditory phenomena. The secondary focus of the study was the recording environment and its effects on the phenomena.
The Furzey Hill Physical Circle was formed in 2005 and, soon after formation, sitters reported significant, if not consistently similar, physical phenomena. From 2005 to 2008 members changed intermittently and consequently the phenomena varied from sitting to sitting. Whilst very occasionally a materialisation was seen and transfiguration was reported regularly, it was not until May 2008 that a digital Dictaphone was first introduced. We then began to obtain consistent digital audio phenomena. We share a common basic methodology with many experimenters for obtaining Electronic Voice Phenomena, but unlike other groups our recordings of sittings frequently contain numerous examples of strikingly clear speech uncharacteristic of most EVP sessions.
During the period from May 2008 to October 2008, voices rarely made any sense and the context of comments would not hold relevance for conversations taking place in the séance room. Since November 2008 there has been a progression to increased acknowledgement of sitter’s comments and an improved rate of direct responses to questions and relevance to the context of our discussions. From Autumn 2008, there has been a steady increase of visual phenomena such as transfiguration and moving lights reported that coincide with seemingly pertinent messages on the recording.
 
For each sitting at least one digital Dictaphone is used to record the séance. We have three Dictaphones, duplicate Olympus VN2100’s and a high definition Olympus LS10. After the recording period has finished the data is downloaded to one or two laptops and reviewed using an easily accessible piece of open source software, Audacity. Depending on the amount of data contained in the downloaded file, review and clipping can take anywhere from a day to two weeks for a two hour sitting. I routinely spend an average of 15 to 30 hours a week, reviewing séance recordings and clipping voices for our archive.
 
When all three Dictaphones were used in previous sittings, the two VN2100’s had identical phenomena and the LS10 had some but not all of the same clips. Until December 2008, I was using a second laptop to review in parallel, recordings made on different Dictaphones and was successful in obtaining evidence that the same phenomena was captured by all devices. Unfortunately, this elderly machine has now broken and I am no longer able to demonstrate that the digital phenomenon is not idiosyncratic to one device. Should I secure funding, I would be able to once again resume reviewing in parallel, with an additional variant Dictaphone.
 
An independent analysis of recorded clips is currently being undertaken and the findings will be summarised in the paper.
 

 

The effect of paranormal belief and positive schizotypy on response bias in an auditory Electronic Voice Phenomenon task
 
Ann R. Winsper
Department of Psychology, Liverpool John Moores University, Liverpool, UK
 
Electronic Voice Phenomena, or EVP, is a phenomenon that was first fully described in the 1950’s (Irwin, 1999), and describes the apparent presence of anomalous voices appearing on magnetic tape recordings (Barušs, 2001). The phenomenon was described in detail by Raudive, and as well as technical details of how to obtain these voices, he describes how the voices obtained on tape by this method apparently belong to deceased persons (Raudive, 1971).
Raudive’s techniques have drawn criticism, as on investigation the techniques appear to be flawed. The role of suggestion involved in Raudive’s method could be quite significant – Young et al (1987) showed that participants with a predisposition to hallucinate were more likely to report hearing sounds that had been suggested to them than control participants.
 
Research in this field has continued over the years, expanding to include communication via other electronic means, the phenomenon now more commonly being called Intstrumental Transcommunication. However, in the last couple of years, EVP has been seized upon by amateur paranormal investigators, and no “ghost hunt” appears complete without at least one attempt to communicate via EVP. Modern ghosthunters however do not use the traditionally prescribed methods for obtaining EVP, and now use such gadgets such as “Ghost boxes”, which simply consist of a radio set on a permanent channel sweep.
 
It has been shown that people who display high levels of paranormal belief show a higher level of misperception of events, and during signal detection theory experiments, they display a significantly different response bias than non-believers. This also appears to be linked to the personality construct of positive schizotypy, with positive schizotypes being more likely to report hallucinatory experiences and unusual cognitive and perceptual experiences (Fisher et al, 2004). Correlations have been found between belief in paranormal phenomena and positive schizotypy (Hergovich, Schott & Arendasy, 2008).
 
This study was set up to examine any differences in response bias between paranormal believers and non-believers (ie whether believers would be more likely to say they heard something when listening to researcher generated EVP sound files). The experiment was constructed as an EVP listening task, with participants being played a number of sound files which consisted of either white noise, or white noise with a signal (a male voice) overlaid on top. Half the participants were told the task was an EVP task, and were given a brief overview of what EVP is, and the other half were told that it was simply a listening task. Participants also completed paranormal belief and schizotypy scales.
It was hypothesised that paranormal believers who were told the task was an EVP task would adopt a liberal response bias and report hearing voices within the white noise, whether voices were present or not, and additionally that non-believers would adopt a conservative criterion and not reports voices within the white noise, even when there was a voice present.
 
Believers showed a greater sensitivity to discriminating between signal and noise trials, which suggests that the believers were more accurate at identifying signals than non-believers. There was a significant effect of belief on response bias, with the least conservative criterion being shown by the believers in the EVP group. However no group of participants showed a true liberal criterion.
 
A factorial analysis of variance suggested that being told that the experiment involved a possibly paranormal phenomenon seemed to increase the accuracy of response in participants, whether they were believers or not. This could be due to participants being more concerned about accuracy in the test when the possibility of the task being paranormal was introduced.
 
The expected effects were not displayed in this task, but the participant sample was from a fairly narrow section of the population (undergraduate students), and from work by other researchers different results might be obtained if participants are specifically selected to be strong believers or strong non-believers. The demographic that anecdotally appears to be reporting EVP is paranormal investigators, who obtain recordings in allegedly haunted buildings. The suggestion effect in the experiment may need to be less subtle than simply explaining to participants the concept of EVP. If the belief condition participants are selected to be EVP believers and told that the clips contain EVP voices recorded in an allegedly haunted building, the combination of belief and suggestion may be strong enough to produce the hypothesised effect.
 
Believers showed a higher mean hit rate than non-believers – this could just be an artifact of the population sampled, but may also point to a more unusual conclusion. Musch & Ehrenberg (2002) showed that paranormal beliefs may be correlated with lowered cognitive ability, however the results of this study may suggest that moderate believers possess greater cognitive skills than non-believers. Rather than paranormal belief being a trait regarded as incompatible with scientific cognition, it may be that only extremes of belief have this extreme trait, and milder belief is actually a cognitive advantage.
 
Barušs, I. (2001). Failure to replicate electronic voice phenomenon. Journal of Scientific Exploration, 15 (3), 355-367.
 
Hergovich, A., Schott, R. & Arendasy, M. (2008). On the relationship between paranormal belief and     schizotypy among adolescents. Personality and Individual Differences, 45, 119-125.
 
Irwin, H.J. (1999). An introduction to parapsychology (3rd ed.). Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland and Company.
 
Musch, J. & Ehrenberg, K. (2002). Probability misjudgment, cognitive ability, and belief in the paranormal. British Journal of Psychology, 93, 169-177.
 
Raudive, K. (1971). Breakthrough: An Amazing Experiment in Electronic Communication with the Dead. Gerrards Cross, Bucks: Colin Smythe Ltd.
 
Young, H.F., Bentall, R.P., Slade, P.D. & Dewey, M.E. (1987). The role of brief instructions and suggestibility in the elicitation of auditory and visual hallucinations in normal and psychiatric subjects. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disorders, 175 (1), 41-48.
 
 
 
 
Spirituality and spirit contact: Accounts of experience and identity in a Midlands Spiritualist church
 
Hannah Gilbert
University of York
 
Histories of Spiritualism generally cite its beginnings with the Fox sisters, although acknowledge the influence of earlier individuals, such as Emmanuel Swedenborg. Disturbances in the Fox family home in Hydesville, New York, cumulated in a specific incidence on the 31st March, 1848, where the two teenage girls devised a raps in response to question style of spirit communication, which was to subsequently launch spirit mediumship into the Western public arena. Five years later, in the Yorkshire town of Keighley, the foundations for Spiritualism - as a religious community – were laid with the establishment of the first Spiritualist Church by David Richmond.
 
The development of Spiritualism since this time has been well documented in many excellent historical examinations of its social significance during the late 19th to early 20th Century. Much of this literature tends to end its analysis around the end of WWII, concluding that, ultimately, Spiritualism suffered from its associations with mediumship and fraud, and a decline in public interest. However, this may not necessarily be the end of the story, and there is evidence that contemporary Spiritualism still holds a significant presence within Western society. The Spiritualist’s National Union, for example, lists a large number of active Spiritualist Churches, lyceums and centres spread all over the UK, and a recent repertoire of television programmes depicting the performance of mediumship demonstrate that there is still significant interest in Spiritualist ideology and practise.
 
This paper will provide a brief summary regarding the development of Spiritualism as a religious group in the UK, before exploring some of the themes raised in a focus group conducted with members of a Spiritualist Church located in a town in the Midlands. This paper will explore the significance of experience and identity articulated by contemporary Spiritualists, the kind of roles such individuals go on to occupy within their congregation, and how an affiliation and familiarity with Spiritualism and its religious ideology puts certain experiences, and their relationships with the dead, into context.
 
 
“It’s like a recording on a wonky tape”: Understanding spiritualist mental mediumship using interpretative phenomenological analysis
 
Elizabeth C. Roxburgh
Centre for the Study of Anomalous Psychological Processes,
The University of Northampton
 
There has been a fascination with mediumship as far back as Greek and Roman civilisations, with reports of mediumistic phenomena in archaeological, anthropological, biblical and historical literature. This interest is still evident today, as one can see a demonstration of mediumship or have a private one-to-one sitting with a medium at over 400 spiritualist churches attached to the Spiritualist National Union (SNU).
 
The emergence of Spiritualism paralleled the establishment of the Society for Psychical Research in 1882 and was accompanied by a wealth of research that furthered our understanding of mediumship. However, the majority of this research tended to focus on physical mediumship (e.g. Besterman, 1932) or trance phenomena (e.g. Myers, Lodge, Leaf, & James, 1889-1890) rather than mental mediumship. Additionally, recent investigations into mediumship have tended to focus on a proof-oriented approach intended to demonstrate whether or not an explanation of mediumship in terms of discarnate survival is tenable (e.g., Beischel & Schwartz, 2007; O'Keeffe & Wiseman, 2005) rather than exploring the subjective meaningsattributed by mediums for their claimed abilities by adopting a process-oriented approach.
 
While there have been recent attempts in the US to interview mental mediums to explore how their claimed abilities to communicate with spirits may have developed and how mediumship may function (e.g., Emmons & Emmons, 2003; Rock, Beischel, & Schwartz, 2008), relatively little is known about the phenomenology of modern-day spiritualist mental mediums in the UK. Therefore, the main aim of this research was to map mediums’ own understanding of their experiences regardless of the actual ontology of mediumship. For example, how do mediums perceive their abilities to have originated and developed? How do they explain and experience communication with spirits? What is the nature and role of spirit guides?In order toanswer these questions a qualitative methodology was employed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA; Smith, 1996). In-depth semi-structured interviews were conducted with ten spiritualist mediums who had gained either certificate (CSNU) or diploma (DSNU) awards from the SNU for demonstrating mental mediumship at spiritualist churches. In keeping with IPA tradition the analysis consisted of close textual readings of participants’ transcripts and a critical understanding based on interpretative activity.
 
Six super-ordinate (primary) themes were identified that illuminate key aspects of the mediumship phenomenon: “A search for meaning: Normalisation of mediumship”, “Progression of mediumship”, “Relationship with spirit”, “Spirit guides as transcendental”, “Explanatory systems of mediumship”, and “Mediumship as counselling”. These themes will be discussed consecutively and illustrated by interview extracts to identify ways in which the themes are grounded in the data.
 
One of the main conclusions of this study was that the pathways to mediumship are embedded in a cultural context that provides an important environment in which mediumistic experiences are normalised and validated. For example, participants reported growing up with mediumship in the family network and anomalous experiences in childhood that they described as influential in their later becoming a medium. In addition, participants spoke about how mediumship develops, and reflected on how ability could be developed with various practices, but that spontaneous ability (for example, after a traumatic event) was also possible. They also discussed their spirit guides and explanatory systems of mediumship, such as prominent modes of communication and how they believe mediumship operates. Finally, participants talked about the purpose of mediumship as therapeutic support for both the living (to cope with bereavement) and the deceased (to help trapped or confused spirits through spirit rescue). These findings will be discussed in relation to the wider literature and positioned in a theoretical context.
 
 
References
1.             Beischel, J., & Schwartz, G. E. (2007). Anomalous information reception by research mediums demonstrated using a novel triple-blind protocol. Explore-the Journal of Science and Healing, 3 (1), 23-27.
2.             Besterman, T. (1932). The mediumship of Rudi Schneider. Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, 40, 428-436.
3.             Emmons, C. F., & Emmons, P. (2003). Guided by spirit: A journey into the mind of the medium. NY: Writers Club Press.
4.             Myers, F. W. H., Lodge, O., Leaf, W., & James, W(1889-1890). A record of observations of certain phenomena of trance (Mrs Piper). Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, 6, 436-659.
5.             O'Keeffe, C., & Wiseman, R. (2005). Testing alleged mediumship: Methods and results. British Journal of Psychology, 96(2), 165-179.
6.             Rock, A. J., Beischel, J., & Schwartz, G. (2008). Thematic analysis of research mediums' experiences of discarnate communication. Journal of Scientific Exploration, 22(2), 179-192.
7.             Smith, J. A. (1996). Beyond the divide between cognition and discourse: Using interpretative phenomenological analysis in health psychology. Psychology and Health, 11(2), 261-271.
 
 
Cyber Psychics: Psychic readings and mediumship on the Internet
 
Tamlyn Ryan
University of York
 
In recent years members of the psychic-spiritual milieu have been able to exploit the opportunities afforded by the development of the internet. Not only is there a growing number of websites offering psychic services such as tarot card readings, clairvoyance and mediumship, there is a wealth of evidence to demonstrate that social media are used extensively by those wishing to develop their mediumship and psychic reading skills.Whilst qualitative research concerning psychic practices, paranormal experiences and mediumship continues to grow (see for instance, Emmons, 2003; Wooffitt, 2006; Meintel, 2007; Hunter, 2010), the impact the internet has had on activities related to the psychic-spiritual milieu has been overlooked. For over ten years, developing mediums and psychics have used various social media such as chat rooms, discussion forums and instant messenger services to enhance and develop their skills in mediumship.
 
As part of a doctoral study researching psychic-spiritual practices on the internet, this paper explores a particular activity of the psychic-spiritual milieu that has been adapted to take place in online social spaces: the “development circle”. Spiritualists, for example, have been engaging in development circles for 150 years. These regular (often weekly) gatherings consist of a group of individuals who wish to learn how to communicate with spirits. They do this by meditating and “tuning into” the spirit world to receive information from loved ones who have “passed over”. Whilst development circles are held in Spiritualist churches nationwide, they are also held by independent psychic or spiritual development groups in people’s homes or other venues. These do not necessarily concentrate solely on contacting spirits; rather, participants will also engage in exercises aimed towards heightening intuition, developing psychic skills or practice using divinatory tools such as the Tarot.
 
These development circles also take place via social media. They may take place synchronously (real time), using for instance, chat rooms or internet messenger services such as Windows Live or Yahoo Messenger; or asynchronously (non-real time) via discussion board forums and email. Each mode of communication has its advantages and disadvantages in relation to how well it facilitates psychic and mediumship development online. For the purposes of this study, data was collected from both synchronous and asynchronous development circles, and included participant observations, self-observational data and interviews with other participants. For six months, the researcher participated in a weekly online development circle that took place using Windows Live Messenger (and later, due to technical difficulties, a chat room). Also, for three months, the researcher offered free Oracle card/clairvoyant readings via a virtual community discussion board forum.
 
Observational findings throughout the data collection period uncovered interesting aspects to these types of online activity. For instance, the social dynamics of online interaction highlight the relationship between “life online” and “real life”; for instance, when one is online, real life continues simultaneously to that; in effect, what one does online is embedded in everyday reality. However, another aspect, and one that is the focus for this present paper, concerns the psychic experiences of the researcher whilst immersed in these situations. Given the researcher’s long-term prior involvement in the research field and thus first-hand knowledge of what Anderson (2006) refers to as “insider meanings”, the researcher was able to participate fully in the exercises aimed at developing psychic and mediumship skills. The experience of the researcher, and the insider meanings attached to those experiences were noted alongside the thoughts, attitudes and feelings of other insiders gathered during interviews, in order to come to a wider cultural understanding.
However, whilst this qualitative study demonstrates how the activities of offline development circles are easily adapted for use with social media, this also raises questions for the research community interested in psychic phenomena. This paper will address some of those questions in an attempt to generate broader thinking about such experiences and, in particular, suggest that the impact and use of social media are important factors that should not be overlooked when considering paranormal and psychical phenomena.
 
References:
Anderson, L (2006) ‘Analytic Autoethnography’ Journal of Contemporary Ethnography 35 pp. 373-395
Emmons, C. F and Emmons, P (2003) Guided By Spirit: A journey into the mind of the medium New York: Writers Club Press
Hunter, J (2010) ‘Contemporary Mediumship and Séance Groups in the UK: Speculating on the Bristol Spirit Lodge’ The Journal of the Unitarian Society for Psychical Studies 76 pp. 7-13
Meintel, D (2007) ‘When the Extraordinary Hits Home: Experiencing Spiritualism’ IN Goulet, J. G. A and Miller, B. G (Eds) Extraordinary Anthropology: Transformations in the Field Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press pp. 124-157
Petre, J (2004) ‘Spiritual Britain Worships over 170 Different Faiths’ Telegraph 13 December [Online] Available at <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/3349060/Spiritual-Britain-worships-over-170-different-faiths.html>
Wooffitt, R (2006) The Language of Mediums and Psychics: The Social Organization of Everyday Miracles Hampshire: Ashgate

 

Exploring lability interaction between individual and situational variables
on PK-RNG performance using the I Ching[2]
 
Hannah Martin, Sophie Louise Drennan & Chris A. Roe
Centre for the Study of Anomalous Psychological Processes
University of Northampton, UK
 
 
Within parapsychology, research exploring the relevance of specific psychological or individual differences for manifestations of micro-PK in the laboratory has not been popular. Where experiments have identified possible variables, these have, unfortunately, not been sufficiently replicated to persuasively demonstrate which individuals may be able to perform PK and under what optimal conditions (Roe, 2001). However, recent studies by the first author have identified and reproduced an interaction effect between an individual difference factor and a situational factor – participant lability and target systems lability (Holt & Roe, 2006; Roe & Holt, 2006). Originally defined by Braud (1981) as a system’s capacity to change, it has been theorised from previous research that high levels of lability are related to enhanced psi performance. The present project aims to conceptually replicate these promising findings using an automated RNG task based upon the ancient divination method of the I Ching. Initially adapted as a task for parapsychological research by Rubin and Honorton (1971) due to its innate utilisation of a random process, it is attractive as a method for testing PK because it allows for a controlled PK experiment that is also engaging and personally relevant (Roe, Holt, & Simmonds, 2003) and has proved reasonably successful in previous PK studies (Storm & Thalbourne, 1998-1999). The I Ching selects 1 of 64 possible readings called hexagrams which are intended to relate to a person situation or decision that the client seeks advice upon. If participants are able to rate each hexagram’s relative applicability to their situation this could further enhance the sensitivity of the outcome measure.
 
DESIGN
An opportunity sample of fifty voluntary adult participants will complete an initial battery of measures in order to construct a metric of lability, (to be categorized as being high, medium, low), including measures of creativity and absorption, plus recording basic demographic details. During the experimental procedure the participants are required to consider a personal question to pose for the I Ching reading before manually rating the applicability of their sixty-four hexagrams in order of relevance to that question on a grid using a Q-sort procedure. Once satisfied with the placing, participants will then be introduced to the automated I Ching computer program and still keeping the same personal question in mind, cast three hexagrams for a further reading. The computer generated I Ching will use three sources of randomness: a ‘live’ random number generator (Live); a pseudo random computer function (Pseudo); a predetermined list of random numbers derived from published tables (Table) – the methods categorized as being high, medium and low lability, respectively. The participants will remain blind as to the randomization throughout the experiment.
 
Data collection is ongoing and it is anticipated that the proposed experiment will be completed by July 2010 so that we will be able to present final analyses at the conference. Principal analyses will focus on the interaction effects on PK performance between the categorized conditions of participant and target systems lability following Stanford’s (1978) conformance behaviour model and previous research by Braud (1981).
 
 
REFERENCES
Braud, W. (1981). Lability and inertia in psychic functioning. In B. Shapin, & L. Coly, Concepts and Theories in Parapsychology (pp. 1-36). New York: Parapsychology Foundation, inc.
Holt, N., & Roe, C. A. (2006). The sender as a PK agent in ESP studies: The effects of agent and target system lability upon performance at a novel PK task. Journal of Parapsychology .
Roe, C. A. (2001). The psychology of psi: PK. Durham, NC: Talk given as part of the Rhine Research Center Summer Study Program, August.
Roe, C. A., & Holt, N. (2006). Assessing the role of the sender as a PK agent in ESP studies: The effects of strategy ('willing' versus absorption) and feedback (immediate versus delayed) on psi performance. Journal of Parapsychology, 70 , 35-42.
Roe, C. A., Holt, N., & Simmonds, C. A. (2003). Considering the sender as a PK agent in ganzfeld ESP studies. Journal of Parapsychology, 67 , 129-145.
Rubin, L., & Honorton, C. (1971). Separating the yins from the yangs: An experiment with the I Ching. Proceedings of Presented Papers: The Parapsychological Association 8th Annual Conference, (pp. 6-7).
Stanford, R. (1978). Toward reinterpreting psi events. Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 72 , 197-214.
Storm, L., & Thalbourne, M. A. (1998-1999). The transliminal connection between paranormal effects and personality in an experiment with the I Ching. European Journal of Parapsychology, 14 , 100-124.

 

A replication of studies concerning PMIR, psi, beliefs about luck, paranormal beliefs, openness to experience and creativity
Glenn A. Hitchman, Chris A. Roe, Simon J. Sherwood
Centre for the Study of Anomalous Psychological Processes, The University of Northampton
 
Introduction
There has been a recent growth in interest amongst experimental parapsychological researchers in attempting to capture psi effects through tacit means. Such interest can partially be accounted for by the notion that psi phenomena such as extra sensory perception may serve advantageous or adaptive[3] functions as has been inferred from numerous ‘happy ending’ anecdotes of spontaneous, every day instances of reported psi. Indeed, Broughton (1991) has suggested that, in its naturally occurring state, psi may be an entirely unconscious process and has more recently alluded to an evolutionary explanation of psi (Broughton, 2010). In the laboratory, these ideas have been operationalised into experimental methods which attempt to capture the nature of psi by modelling it as a process which occurs outside of conscious awareness, with examples including prestimulus response (Radin, 1997), staring detection (cf. Baker, 2005, p. 60) and precognitive habituation (Bem, 2003).
 
More recently, Luke, Delanoy and Sherwood (2008), Luke, Roe and Davison (2008) and Luke (2009) conduct a series of four experiments which were designed to test some elements of Stanford’s (e.g. 1990) ‘Psi-mediated Instrumental Response’ (PMIR) model of psi. The PMIR model is multi-faceted, but could be summarised as suggesting that psi can operate unconsciously, facilitating advantageous outcomes for the organism by triggering pre-existing behavioural functions in response to opportunities or threats in the environment. By implication, experimental psi tasks do not necessarily require the conscious intent of the participant, nor even their awareness of the requirement of psi. Indeed, such awareness and intent could be counter-productive.
 
Thus, the Luke, Delanoy & Sherwood (2008) computer-based method comprised of presenting participants with ten sets of four fractal images and assigning them a quick response preference indication task of selecting which image out of each set they found the most aesthetically pleasing. Unbeknown to the participants, this constituted an implicit, forced-choice precognition task as, after each time participants registered their preference, the computer program would pseudo-randomly select one of the images as a target, with the selection being scored on a hit or miss basis. Subsequent to the ten trials, participants were directed towards a second task, the nature of which was contingent on their performance on the covert psi task. If the participants outperformed the mean chance expectations, they were administered with a positive reward, whereas if they scored below the mean chance expectation (MCE), they were given a negative reward. In each case, the contingent task was intended to be graded in pleasantness according to the level of over- or under-performance of chance. Taken together, the four studies yielded an above chance mean psi score of 2.92 (SD = 1.46, MCE = 2.50) which was highly significant (t[197] = 4.036, p = 0.000078, two-tailed, z = 3.88)
 
These studies also considered a number of psychological factors which concern the extent to which an individual may be sensitive to a psi stimulus, and in turn, their propensity to respond behaviourally in a goal-serving manner. In particular, the research gave credence to Broughton’s (1991, p.193) notion that psi may “look like luck” by analysing psi task performance in relation to beliefs about luck and perceived personal luckiness using the Questionnaire of Beliefs about Luck (Luke, Delanoy & Sherwood, 2003). Furthermore, the effects of paranormal beliefs, openness to experience and creativity on the action of psi were examined. Across the four studies, correlations pertaining to each subscale of the QBL as well as the other psychological measures were inconsistent, but suggested some promise.
 
The current study has been designed to refine the Luke, Delanoy and Sherwood (2008) paradigm in an effort to reproduce the overall psi effect and shed further light upon the psychological correlates of covert psi task success.
 
Study design
The study will use the same essential computer based method developed by Luke, Delanoy and Sherwood (2008), described above. Crucially, the computer program has been completely re-written in an updated programming language (VB.NET) in order to incorporate data collection of individual difference measures and provide participants with a smoother and more intuitive experience. Furthermore, the number of trials in each session has been increased from 10 to 15, which is considered a more optimal trade off between statistical power and potential declines in participant interest and enjoyment. Moreover, whereas the previous studies allowed participants to view erotic images or cartoons in the reward condition, the current study will utilise more suitable sets of images constructed from the International Affective Picture System (IAPS) in order to yield a more pertinent, sensitive and carefully graded measure of reward.
 
Prespecified Analyses
Data collection is ongoing and is expected to be completed in time for presentation at the conference. The primary analyses will involve both a statistical comparison of psi scores against the mean chance expectation as well as correlation analysis concerning the relationship between psi task success and beliefs about luck, perceived personal luckiness, paranormal beliefs, openness to experience and creativity.
 
References
Baker, I.S. (2005). Nomenclature and methodology. In A. Freeman (Ed.) Sheldrake and his critics: The sense of being glared at. Exeter: Imprint Academic, 56-63.
Bem, D.J. (2003). Precognitive habituation: Replicable evidence for a process of anomalous cognition. Proceedings of Presented Papers: The Parapsychological Association 46th Annual Convention. 6-20.
Broughton, R. (1991). Parapsychology: The controversial science. New York: Ballantine.
Broughton, R. (2010). An evolutionary approach to anomalous intuition. Paper presented at the Bial Foundation 8th Symposium, Porto, 7-10 April.
Luke, D.P. (2009). Luck beliefs, PMIR, psi and the sheep-goat effect: A replication. Paper presented at the Society for Psychical Research 33rd International Conference, University of Nottingham, 4-6 Sept
Luke, D.P., Delanoy, D., & Sherwood, S.J. (2003). Questionnaire of beliefs about luckUnpublished instrument, The University of Northampton, UK.
Luke, D.P., Delanoy, D., & Sherwood. S.J. (2008). Psi may look like luck: Perceived luckiness and beliefs about luck in relation to precognition. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research,72 (4), 193-207.
Luke, D.P., Roe, C., & Davison, J. (2008). Testing for forced-choice precognition using a hidden task: Two replications. Journal of Parapsychology, 72, 133-154.
Radin, D.I. (1997). Unconscious perception of future emotions: An experiment in presentiment. Journal of Scientific Exploration, 11, 163–180.
Stanford, R.G. (1990). An experimentally testable model for spontaneous psi events: A review of related evidence and concepts from parapsychology and other sciences. In S. Krippner (Ed.). Advances in parapsychological research Vol. 6, (pp. 54-167). Jefferson, NC: McFarland.

 

Negative Correlation of Remote Viewing Performance with 0.025 – 0.1 Hz Geomagnetic Pulsations
 
Adrian Ryan
11 Heron Road, Twickenham, TW1 1PQ, United Kingdom
 
Eugene Subbotsky
Department of Psychology, Lancaster University
Fylde College, Lancaster LA1 4YF, United Kingdom
 
 
Introduction
Ryan’s (2008) analysis of geomagnetic pulsation activity during ganzfeld and remote viewing trials suggested that activity in the 0.025 – 0.1 Hz band may inhibit ESP, whereas activity in the 0.2 – 0.5 Hz band may enhance ESP. The research reported here is the first prospective test of these findings.
 
Remote Viewing Trials
As higher frequency geomagnetic pulsations (f > 0.1 Hz) are geographically highly localised, we conducted remote viewing experiments (precognitive design) at Lancaster University, where a sensitive magnetometer is in continuous operation. Two studies were conducted; the first from April to May 2009 (reported by Subbotsky and Ryan, 2009), and the second from October to November 2009. Additional aims of the studies were to examine the effects of motivation and belief on remote viewing performance but the results of these analyses are not covered by this report. 
 
Participants (students at Lancaster University) each completed one trial, and each of the two studies comprised 50 trials. Participants were randomly assigned to either a reward or no-reward group The motivation of participants in the reward group was manipulated by promising a reward of £80 (study 1) or £8 (study 2) to those who achieved a hit; this was in addition to a payment of £4 made to all participants for their time. Using the “Stimulus – Response” method described in May (2006), the participants attempted to describe a photograph that they would see in their near future.   In each trial the experimenter (E.S.) compared the participant’s drawings and written notes to five randomly selected photographs, assigning each a rating between 0 and 100 to indicate the degree of similarity. We used the database of target photographs described by May et al (1999) and May (2007). After ratings for all five photographs had been entered into the computer and saved to disk, the computer randomly selected one of the five photographs as the target which was then displayed to the participant. During the trials participants were seated and faced East, with the heading of approximately 90 degrees.
 
The no-reward condition in the first study achieved highly significant evidence of ESP (p = 0.0040 1‑tailed, ES i.e. Z/N1/2 = 0.53), but results for the three other study/conditions were at chance.
 
Geomagnetic Field Measurements
We used geomagnetic field measurements from the fluxgate magnetometer at Lancaster University, operated by SAMNET. The magnetometer has a sensitivity of 0.1 nT and a sampling frequency of one second. Following the method of Ryan (2008), the field measurements at the time of each trial were transformed into the frequency domain by fast Fourier transform (FFT).
 
Hypotheses
Based on the findings of Ryan (2008), the following hypotheses were framed: -
(1) Geomagnetic activity in band 3 (0.025 – 0.1 Hz) will correlate negatively with remote viewing performance.
(2) Geomagnetic activity in band 1 (0.2 – 0.5 Hz) will correlate positively with remote viewing performance.
 
Solar Conditions during the Experiments
Geomagnetic activity is caused by the interaction of plasma ejected from the Sun with the Earth’s magnetic field, therefore geomagnetic activity levels are linked with the circa. 11-year cycle of solar activity.   Solar, and thus geomagnetic, activity was at a low during the period of experimentation.
 
Results
The correlation of ratings assigned to the target with band 3 power is: N = 89; rs = -0.26, p = 0.0063 (1‑tailed) (11 trials excluded due to missing data), supporting the hypothesis that pulsations in this frequency band inhibit ESP. The negative correlation is homogenous across the two studies: -
Study 1: N = 48; rs = -0.23, p = 0.06 (1-tailed)
Study 2: N = 41; rs = -0.21, p = 0.09 (1-tailed)
 
Examining the frequency bands either side of band 3 it was found that for band 2 rs = -0.12 and for band 4 rs = -0.15. The differences between these values and the band 3 correlation coefficient are not significant but are nevertheless suggestive of a frequency specific effect, in line with the findings of Ryan (2008).
 
The correlation of target ratings with power in band 1 (0.2 – 0.5 Hz) was rs = -0.05, n.s., failing to support the hypothesis that this class of pulsation enhances ESP. However, provisional results of an assessment of the absolute level of band 1 activity during the period of experimentation suggest that the few trials conducted when band 1 activity exceeded the threshold identified by Ryan (2008) were also high band 3 trials, and therefore no ESP enhancement would be expected. Further work is required to establish this with certainty, the challenge here being accounting for differences in sensitivity between magnetometers at the upper frequency bands 1 and 2.
 
References
May, E. C. (2006) Anomalous Cognition: Two Protocols for Data Collection and Analysis. (Unpublished manuscript).
May, E. C. (2007) Advances in anomalous cognition analysis: A judge-free and accurate confidence-calling technique. Proceeding of Presented Papers: The 50th Annual Convention of the Parapsychological Association.
May, E. C., Faith, L. V., Blackman, M., Bourgeois, B., Kerr, N., & Woods, L. (1999). A target pool and database for anomalous cognition experiments. Proceeding of Presented Papers: The 43rd Annual Convention of the Parapsychological Association.
Ryan, A. (2008). New insights into the links between ESP and geomagnetic activity. Journal of Scientific Exploration, 22, 335-358.
Subbotsky, E. & Ryan, A. (2009) Motivation, belief and geomagnetic activity in a remote viewing task. Paper presented at the 33rd International Conference of the Society for Psychical Research, Nottingham, U.K.
 
 
Apparitions of Black Dogs
 
Simon J. Sherwood
Centre for the Study of Anomalous Psychological Processes, The University of Northampton
 
Apparitions are an important part of psychical research given that surveys estimate that 17-32% of people have experienced one and given that apparitions are heralded as possible evidence for survival of bodily death. Research has tended to concentrate upon human apparitions and there is comparatively little mention of animal apparitions. Even less attention has been paid to apparitions of what are known as ‘Black Dogs’, which are well-known in folklore (e.g., Brown, 1958; Rudkin, 1938) and have been reported for centuries. However they are not just ancient folklore because they are still being reported to this day, often by people who claim to be previously unaware of such folklore. Black Dog apparitions are often associated with Great Britain but they are also reported elsewhere in Europe, North America and Latin America. Black Dog apparitions differ from normal dogs in terms of their size, their eyes and their behaviour (Bord & Bord, 1985). Of particular interest is that, unlike many human and most animal apparitions, Black Dog apparitions tend not to be recognized as former living animals and, traditionally, have often been associated with witchcraft, the Devil and demonic forces. The reaction of witnesses to encounters with Black Dog apparitions seems to vary, ranging from the negative through indifference to the positive, depending partly upon where they are encountered and what the dog does. Some of the current theories available to explain apparitions in general are difficult to apply to Black Dog apparitions and none of the existing theories can fully explain all types of reported apparitions as yet.
 
This paper will describe some examples of reports of Black Dog apparitions from around the UK and will consider some of the different types of encounters, the circumstances in which they occurred, the ‘typical’ features of these apparitions and how they are interpreted by those who have experienced them. Some preliminary findings from an analysis of both Sherwood’s and the late Theo Brown’s case collections will be reported[4].
 
Recommended reading
 
The author has a website about Black Dog apparitions: www.blackshuck.info
 
Bord, J., & Bord, C. (1985). Alien animals. London: Panther Books.
Brown, T. (1958). The Black Dog. Folklore, 69, 175-192.
Brown, T. (1978). The Black Dog in English folklore. In J. R. Porter, & W. M. S. Russell (Eds.), Animals in Folklore (pp. 45-58). Totowa, NJ: Rowman & Littlefield.
Burchell, S. (2007). Phantom Black Dogs in Latin America. Wymeswold, UK: Heart of Albion Press.
Chambers, R. (Ed.) (1879). Spectre dogs. In, The Book of Days Vol. 2 (pp. 433-436). Philadelphia, PA: J. P. Lippincott & Co.
Dale-Green, P. (1966). Dog. London: Rupert Hart-Davis.
McEwan, G. J. (1986). Mystery animals of Britain and Ireland. London: Robert Hale.
Miles, C. (1908). Experiments in thought transference. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, XIII, 243-262.
Rudkin, E. H. (1938). The Black Dog. Folklore, XLIX, 111-131.
Sherwood, S. J. (2004). The Black Dog of Uplyme. The Paranormal Review, 32, 3-4.
Sherwood, S. J. (2005). A psychological approach to apparitions of Black Dogs. In B. Trubshaw (Ed.), Explore phantom Black Dogs (pp. 21-35). Wymeswold, UK: Heart of Albion Press.
Sherwood, S. J. (2009). Apparitions of Black Dogs. In M. D. Smith (Ed.), Anomalous experiences: Essays from parapsychological and psychological perspectives (pp. 120-135). Jefferson, NC: McFarland.
Waldron, D., & Reeve, C. (2010). Shock! The Black Dog of Bungay. Hidden Publishing.
 
 
 
Orbs: at last some definitive evidence that they are not paranormal
 
Steven T. Parsons
Para.Science
 
Recent developments in digital camera technology has permitted an experiment that demonstrates conclusively that airborne material located close to the camera and reflecting the camera flash is responsible for creating Orbs.
 
The evolution of digital imaging which began in the late 1990's resulted in a revolution within psychical research. Investigators began to report a phenomena previously unseen on images taken using conventional film based cameras. By common consent this apparently paranormal phenomenon was dubbed the 'Orb'. Orbs are generally bright circular anomalies within an image, although other shapes such as angular and elongated forms are known.. They may appear as single or multiple anomalies and may vary both in colour and intensity.
 
To date, many thousands of orb pictures have been offered forward by amateur paranormal investigators and lay members of the public as evidence and proof of something truly paranormal being captured by the camera. Proffered explanations as to what orbs actually represent vary widely e.g. many investigators believe they are evidence of, and for, ghost and spirit manifestations (Halton, 2009). Others consider orbs to be the energetic emissions of angelic and otherworldly beings (Cooper & Crosswell, 2009).
 
From 2001 – 2003, the author undertook a series of studies to determine the nature of orbs and also why they appear on digital cameras (Para.Science, 2004). The result of that study demonstrated the probability that orbs are the result of airborne dust, moisture and other particulates reflecting the light from the camera flash back toward the imaging chip, resulting in the characteristic bright anomaly. The earlier study also suggested that in order to produce an orb anomaly within a picture a number of conditions need to be met; i.e. the camera flash must have been used at the time of picture taking. The airborne material must be located within a few centimetres of the camera lens and the material must also be within a narrow range of angles relative to the lens centre axis for the material to be able to reflect the light from the flash into the lens.
The probability that orbs are the result of airborne dust and other material has been widely acknowledged but the inability of the previous study to conclusively demonstrate that airborne matter is responsible for orb production has allowed the debate between the orb believers and non believers to continue, to the obvious detriment to psychical research and the continued confusion of all concerned.
 
An experiment considered some time ago by the author was the use of stereo (left & right) photography to explore the orb phenomena. Using this technique it should be possible to test the hypothesis that orbs are airborne matter physically close to the taking camera. Thus, if an orb is present on one of a stereo pair of pictures taken simultaneously and not present on the other; the original source of the anomaly must be located within the angle of view formed between the flash and the lens in order that the flash illumination is reflected from the source to cause the bright anomaly to appear on the final picture. Also, such an object appearing on only one of the stereo pictures must be physically close to the camera. It would appear on both stereo pictures if positioned above a minimum distance from the camera (normally less than 2-3cm) determined by the separation of the two lens axes. Although stereo photography is a well understood technique that has been used with film photography for many decades the technical difficulties applying it to digital photography and ensuring that the resultant images were identical proved technically insurmountable at that time.
 
The Fujifilm W1 3D digital camera is currently a unique camera comprising a pair of lens and high resolution image chips forming a matched pair of image taking systems integrated within the same camera body. The two image taking systems share a single common flash positioned equidistant between the two lenses. Crucially, both matched image taking systems are activated by the same shutter button and use the same focus, exposure and flash settings, thereby ensuring that the two resulting images produced for each press of the shutter are identical in every respect except for the parallax separation between the left and right pictures. This camera has permitted the hypothesis that orbs are the result of nearby airborne matter reflecting the flash light back toward the camera to finally be properly tested.
 
The camera has been used in a series of experiments undertaken at more than twenty locations widely spread throughout the UK and Eire during 2009 and 2010. Locations were selected to encompass a broad representation of allegedly haunted venues e.g. castles, industrial sites, modern retail premises and also including indoor and outdoor locations. In most instances the photography was undertaken whilst others unaware of the particular nature of the camera or the experiment being undertaken conducted some form of paranormal investigation.
 
In order to replicate the “point and shoot” technique of most digital photography undertaken during amateur paranormal investigation the camera was only used in the fully automatic exposure and focus mode. The use of the fully automated mode also ensured that the resultant stereo pair of images is identical in terms of any software processing of the images that is applied in-camera i.e. those affecting colour balance, scene pre-sets, file compression, etc. The stereo paired images were subsequently downloaded from the camera to a laptop computer. No enhancement or manipulation of the resulting images was undertaken. Each simultaneously taken stereo pair of images was then viewed side by side and simply compared visually for the presence of orb anomalies on either one of the pair.
 
To date 1,870 stereo pairs of images have been taken and examined. Orb anomalies have been found on 630 pairs. In 491 pairs, an orb or orbs was seen to be present only in the left or right image and not in the corresponding second image of the pair. In 139 stereo pairs, orbs were seen to be present in both of the images (left & right) but not in a position that corresponded to the individual orb being the same object.
 
This initial but comprehensive survey strongly supports the hypothesis that orbs are simply the result of dust and other airborne material drifting close to the camera and reflecting the flash illumination back toward the image sensor and provides definitive evidence that their origin lies firmly within the mundane and explainable, not the paranormal or supernatural.
Interestingly, a further four stereo pairs of images show other anomalies that are frequently offered up as evidence of the paranormal. Two are images of the camera strap; whilst two more show breath condensation as the author exhaled. As with the orb photographs these four anomalies appear on only one side of the stereo pair, again showing that they were quite normal in origin.
 
It is anticipated that this extensive series of pictures will finally remove much of the confusion and nonsense that has surrounded the orb and similar classes of photographic anomaly and permit psychical research to move forward from this long standing debate.
 
References:
Cooper, D. & Crosswell, K. (2009). Ascension Through Orbs. Forres. Findhorn Press.
Halton, C. (2009). Ghost Voices Magazine. Issue 1, pp16-19. Dragoon Publishing.
Para.Science. (2004). http://www.parascience.org.uk/articles/orbs.htm (accessed 21/04/2010).

 

Background Assumptions and Evidence for Survival: A Critique of Stephen Braude
 
Michael Potts, Ph.D., Professor of Philosophy,
Methodist University, 5400 Ramsey Street
Fayetteville, NC 28311-1498
 
Stephen Braude is one of the rare contemporary philosophers who both accepts the existence of psi and does serious academic research on psi. On the issue of survival of death, Braude believes that the evidence slightly supports survival but rules out much of the evidence from apparitions, mediums, OBEs, and NDEs by an appeal to super-PSI. He argues that since we do not know the limits of psi ability, we must assume that psi from the living can cause most (if not all) of the anomalous phenomena presented as evidence for survival of death. This is especially true, Braude asserts, because those who seek evidence of survival have particular psychological interests such as a strong desire that survival be true. Such a desire can increase the chances of significant psi from the living taking place that can then be interpreted as evidence of survival.
 
I will argue that Braude’s standard of evidence are higher than they should be because of some questionable background assumptions. The case for survival is abductive (to use Peirce’s term), an inference to the best explanation, and the prior probability of a survivalist interpretation of evidence must be based on legitimate background assumptions. One implicit assumption Braude holds is a strong prima facie bias in favor of explanations due to psi from the living. I argue that, first, such a bias only makes sense given prior metaphysical and epistemological assumptions that are unfairly biased against the survival hypothesis, and second, that even if Braude’s bias were true, he should not require an airtight case to make a probabilistic argument for survival. Finally, I will argue that Braude’s argument from psychological interests commits the genetic fallacy.
 
PHONE: (910) 630-7072, FAX: (910) 630-7679
 
 
 
Why is general psychic ability so weak and unreliable? Insights from a systems-theoretical analysis of Near-Death Experiences (NDEs)
 
David Rousseau
Centre for Fundamental and Anomalies Research (C-FAR), Surrey, United Kingdom
 
 
Abstract
 
In my presentation I will discuss some of the results from my systems-theoretical analysis of near-death experiences (NDEs). This research is being undertaken as a post-graduate research project in the Religious Studies Department of the University of Wales, Lampeter.
 
NDEs are important to Psychical Research, because most types of psychical phenomena have been known to occur at times in NDE contexts. NDErs’ reported experiences include remote viewing (e.g. Cook et al., 1998, p. 338; Greyson et al., 2009, p. 231; Moody, 1988, pp. 14, 19; Ring & Lawrence, 1993; Sharp, 1995), telepathy (Moody, 1975, pp. 43-44), psychokinesis (Corazza, 2008, p. 65), anomalous healing (Sartori et al., 2006), retrocognition (Zingrone & Alvarado, 2009, pp. 18-20), precognition (Fenwick & Fenwick, 1995, pp. 117, 119-128, 163) and encounters with ‘spirit’ beings (Moody, 1988; Morse & Perry, 1993).
 
NDEs deserve to be taken seriously as a phenomenon because they appear to be inexplicable in terms of physicalistic models (see Greyson (2007, 2006) and Holden et al. (2009) for an up-to-date review of the main arguments and their weaknesses). The deepest challenge is presented by the more than a hundred published reports of veridical perception during cardiac arrest or prolonged respiratory arrest. More than a third of these reports were corroborated by independent witnesses (Holden, 2009, pp. 185-211). 
 
It is highly improbable that veridical NDEs can be explained in terms of the super-psi hypothesis (Rousseau, n.d., submitted). In this light, veridical reports of awareness during cardiac arrest suggest that some form of structural mind-body dualism is required. I have argued elsewhere that such a model can be accommodated within a naturalistic scheme (2009) (2010, forthcoming) (n.d., in prep)
 
Given such a mind-body model, systems theory provides a basis for using NDEs to separate intrinsically mental faculties from those that are physical or emergent on the mind-body system (Rousseau, n.d. submittted). The analysis suggests that:
 
1.                  Psychic ability and consciousness are properties of the mind as such, and not bodily or emergent properties
2.                  The mind has two types of information and influence exchanging channels, one set directed at the world (“psychic ability”) and one set directed at the body (“mind-body integration”). This suggests that both types of channels represent forms of psi, in line with models proposed by Myers (1886, p. 173), Thouless (Thouless & Wiesner, 1948) and Tart (1978). 
3.                  These two forms of psi vary in strength in an inverse relationship, suggesting that they draw on a common reservoir of resources with a capacity that is usually fully or nearly fully utilised.
4.                  Mind-body integration draws heavily on the shared resource reservoir, so that psychic ability is ordinarily severely limited. 
5.                  Psychic ability can be boosted by reducing mind-body interaction, e.g. by sensory deprivation. However, analysis shows that this is a limited opportunity, due to a ‘safety interlock’ that under ordinary conditions prevents the draw of mind-body interaction on the shared resource reservoir from falling below a relatively high level.
6.                  Psychic ability can be dramatically increased only by increasing the size of the resource reservoir (e.g. through certain kinds of spiritual practice), or triggering the release of the safety interlock (e.g. by crisis conditions) or by bypassing the safety interlock (e.g. by taking drugs that severely disrupt mind-body integration), or by reducing the intrinsic mind-body integration capacity (e.g. as the result of certain deficit-inducing head traumas). 
         
The size of the shared resource reservoir that underpins psi will vary naturally across the population as does any natural faculty. Since mind-body integration draws heavily on this reservoir, the impact of this natural variation significantly impacts psychic ability. This conjunction explains why under ordinary conditions psychic ability is weak, but people with significantly stronger (and weaker) than average psychic abilities occur naturally in the population. The existence and functioning of the mind-body integration ‘safety interlock’ explains why people who ordinarily have no great natural psychic ability can have very powerful psychic experiences given the right circumstances (e.g. crisis conditions or certain drug states), but it also suggests that without proper safeguards the artificial boosting of psi powers can have attendant risks.
 
Although the model is currently at an early stage of development, it opens up several avenues for promising further research.
 
I am grateful to the Society for Psychical Research for their financial support and encouragement with this project. I would also like to thank Bernard Carr, David Luke, Julie Rousseau, Zofia Weaver, Bruce Greyson, Andrew Powell and Gregory Shushan for stimulating discussions and helpful comments on aspects of this ongoing research.
 
 
References
 
Cook, E. W., Greyson, B., & Stevenson, I. (1998). Do Any Near-Death Experiences Provide Evidence for the Survival of Human Personality after Death? Relevant Features and Illustrative Case Reports. Journal of Scientific Exploration, 12(3), 337-406.
Corazza, O. (2008). Near-death experiences: exploring the mind-body connection. London: Routledge.
Fenwick, P., & Fenwick, E. (1995). The truth in the light : an investigation of over 300 near-death experiences. London: Headline.
Greyson, B. (2006). Near-Death Experiences and Spirituality. Zygon, 41(2), 393-414.
Greyson, B. (2007). Near-death experience: clinical implications. Revista de Psiquiatria Clínica, 34 suppl. 1, 116-125.
Greyson, B., Kelly, E. W., & Kelly, E. (2009). Explanatory Models for Near-Death Experiences. In J. M. Holden, B. Greyson, & D. James (Eds.), . Praeger Publishers.
Holden, J. M. (2009). Veridical Perception in Near-death Experiences. In J. M. Holden, B. Greyson, & D. James (Eds.), The Handbook of Near-death Experiences: Thirty Years of Investigation. Praeger Publishers Inc.
Holden, J. M., Greyson, B., & James, D. (Eds.). (2009). The Handbook of Near-death Experiences: Thirty Years of Investigation. Praeger Publishers Inc.
Moody, R. (1975). Life after life : the investigation of a phenomenon--survival of bodily death. St. Simons Island GA: Mockingbird Books.
Moody, R. (1988). The light beyond. Toronto: Bantam Books.
Morse, M., & Perry, P. (1993). Transformed by the light : the powerful effect of near-death experiences on people's lives. London: Piatkus.
Myers, F. W. H. (1886). On Telepathic Hypnotism, and its Relation to Other Forms of Hypnotic Suggestion. Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, 4, 127-188.
Ring, K., & Lawrence, M. (1993). Further evidence for veridical perception during near-death experiences. Journal of Near-Death Studies, 11(4), 223-229.
Rousseau, D. (2009). Beyond the Irreducible Mind: Evidence is not Enough. Presented at the 33rd International Conference of the Society for Psychical Research, 4-6 Sept 2009. University of Nottingham.
Rousseau, D. (2010). (forthcoming) Understanding Spiritual Awareness in Terms of Anomalous Information Access.
Rousseau, D. (n. d., submitted). A Systems-Theoretical Analysis of Near-Death Experiences.
Rousseau, D. (n.d., in prep) Naturalistic Structural Dualism.
Sartori, P., Badham, P., & Fenwick, P. (2006). A Prospectively Studied Near-death Experience with Corroborated Out-of-Body Perceptions and Unexplained Healing. Journal of Near-Death Studies, 25(2), 69-84.
Sharp, K. (1995). After the light : what I discovered on the other side of life that can change your world (1st ed.). New York: William Morrow and Co.
Tart, C. (1978). Emergent Interactionist Understanding of Human Consciousness. In B. Shaplin & L. Coly (Eds.), Brain/Mind and Parapsychology: Proceedings of an International Conference held in Montreal, Canada August 24-25, 1978 under the auspices of the Parapsychology Foundation, New York, NY. New York, NY.: Parapsychology Foundation Inc.
Thouless, R. H., & Wiesner, B. P. (1948). The Psi Processes in Normal and "Paranormal" Psychology. Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, 48(174), 177-196.
Zingrone, N. L., & Alvarado, C. S. (2009). Pleasurable Western Adult Near-Death Experiences: Features, Circumstances, and Incidence. In J. M. Holden, B. Greyson, & D. James (Eds.), The Handbook of Near-death Experiences: Thirty Years of Investigation. Praeger Publishers Inc.
 
 
Updating evolutionary perspectives on anomalous cognition
 
Richard S Broughton
Centre for the Study of Anomalous Psychological Processes
School of Social Sciences
The University of Northampton
 
Over two decades ago I proposed that in order to understand how psi operated it was necessary to view it in an evolutionary context (Broughton, 1988). This notion was consonant with, and indeed grew out of Stanford’s need-serving model of psi (Stanford, 1974, 1990). At the time, even with Stanford’s insights, the evolutionary purpose for the existence of psi seemed uncomfortably vague. Since then there have been only two attempts to pursue this further, with McClennon (2002) offering his ‘ritual healing theory’ as an indirect evolutionary advantage, and Taylor (2003) extending Stanford’s model into a more explicitly evolutionary framework. While these efforts have their merits, I argue that we are still short of a convincing picture of an evolutionary advantage conferred by psi.
In further exploring the evolutionary perspective, I think it would be helpful to limit consideration to extrasensory perception (ESP) or anomalous cognition. Also, the two stage model (Tyrrell, 1946) of ESP suggests that evolutionary modelling of the phenomena must focus primarily on the second stage, called the product, in which anomalous information is elaborated into conscious awareness and/or behaviour. Evolution has proven exceptionally effective in enabling species to make use of a wide range of physical phenomena for information gathering and communication. If some yet undiscovered physical process (Tyrrell’s stage on) permits retrocausation would we not expect evolution to have capitalized on that process. As a product of evolution, ESP would have to conform to the requirements of evolutionary theory.
 
Since my earlier examination of possible evolutionary advantages for ESP, there have been considerable advances in understanding the evolutionary significance of human memory. Contrary to the common idea, memory is not simply for learning and revisiting the past. Suddendorf and Corballis (2007) have elaborated the notion of mental time travel (MTT), the memory-based ability to project oneself into the past as well as the future, and have argued that the “ultimate evolutionary advantage” may lie in the capacity to envisage future events. Their model of MTT provides an ideal context in which to understand the evolutionary significance of anomalous cognition as well as suggesting a path through which it operates. Working through the emotional system, anomalous cognition may operate by influencing the selection of memory images we use to execute our MTT.
 
A growing body of data supports the involvement of the emotional system in anomalous intuition but there is only suggestive evidence for the expected hereditary component. The observed limited effectiveness of anomalous intuition may emerge from the balance achieved through an evolutionarily stable strategy, or result from inherent limitations in capitalizing on the underlying physical process.
 
Broughton, R. S. (1988). If you want to know how it works, first find out what it's for. In D. H. Weiner & R. L. Morris (Eds.), Research in Parapsychology 1987 (pp. 187–202). Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press.
McClennon, J. (2002). Content analysis of an anomalous experience collection: Evaluating evolutionary perspectives. Journal of Parapsychology, 66(3), 291–316.
Stanford, R. G. (1974). An experimentally testable model for spontaneous psi events: I. Extrasensory events. Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 68, 34–57.
Stanford, R. G. (1990). An experimentally testable model for spontaneous psi events: A review of related evidence and concepts from parapsychology and other sciences. In S. Krippner (Ed.), Advances in Parapsychological Research 6 (pp. 54–167). Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland.
Suddendorf, T., & Corballis, M. C. (2007). The evolution of foresight: What is mental time travel, and is it unique to humans? Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 30(03), 299–313.
Taylor, R. (2003). Evolutionary theory and psi: Reviewing and revising some need-serving models in psychic functioning. Journal of the Sorciety for Psychical Research, 67(1), 1–17.
Tyrrell, G. N. M. (1946). The modus operandi of paranormal cognition. Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, 48(173), 65–120.
 
 
Paranormal belief and its relationship to three self-report measures of adult attachment style.
 
Paul Rogers, Pam Qualter & Helen Sumner
 
School of Psychology, University of Central Lancashire, Preston PR1 2HE, UK.
 
  
Abstract
Adult attachment style refers to the way people view themselves (e.g., as not being worthy of love) and others (e.g., as not being responsive or dependable) within close personal relationships, and stems from the nature and quality of attachments with primary caregivers in childhood. Whilst evidence suggests those with a non-secure attachment style are more likely to maintain post mortem ‘continuing bonds’ with deceased loved-ones (e.g., Stroebe, Schut & Boerner, 2010) or endorse a New Age orientation (e.g. Granqvist & Hagekull, 2001), to date, few studies have assessed the extent to which individual differences in adult attachment style is associated with belief in other alleged paranormal phenomena. The current paper includes three such studies using general population samples. The first employed a three-category measure which differentiated between (a) secure, (b) avoidant and (c) anxious/ambivalent attachment styles (cf. Hazan & Shaver, 1987). Regression analyses controlling for respondent gender, age, ethnicity and qualifications revealed that avoidant attachment was a significant and positive predictor of global paranormal beliefs plus specific beliefs in witchcraft and traditional paranormal concepts, whilst anxious/ambivalent attachment predicted specific beliefs in superstition, Spiritualism, and a New Age philosophy. Study 2 extended this work by utilising three continuous attachment subscales (cf. Collins & Read, 1990) which assessed the extent to which individuals (a) believe relationship partners are dependable, (b) are anxious about relational rejection and (c) feel secure with relational intimacy. Regression analyses controlling for the same four demographic measures found that attachment anxiety significantly predicted global paranormal beliefs as well as specific beliefs in Spiritualism, precognition and New Age concepts, with attachment closeness predicting belief in precognition. Finally, Study 3 examined four continuous attachment subscales (cf. Batholomew & Horowitz, 1991) which assessed the extent to which individuals (a) feel secure in close personal relationships, (b) are fearful of, and thus shun, such relationships, (c) are preoccupied about their need for relational intimacy and (d) defensively dismiss intimate relationships as being unnecessary. Regression analyses, again controlling for the same four demographics revealed preoccupied attachment to be a (near) significant predictor of all paranormal belief types except those relating to superstitions and extraordinary life forms. Additionally, fearful attachment was a (near) significant predictor of global paranormal beliefs as well as specific beliefs in superstition and precognition. Overall results are discussed in relation to the use of paranormal belief as a mechanism for coping with non-secure adult attachment.
 
References
 
Bartholomew, K. & Horowitz, L., M. (1991). Attachment styles among young adults: A test
of a four-category model. Journal of Personality & Social Psychology, 61(2), 226-244.
Collins, N., L. & Read, S. J. (1990). Adult Attachment, Working Models, and Relationship
Quality in Dating Couples. Journal of Personality & Social Psychology, 58(4), 644-663.
Granqvist, P., & Hagekull, B. (2001). Seeking security in the New Age: On attachment and
emotional compensation. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 40(3), 529-547.
Hazen, C. & Shaver, P. (1987). Romantic love conceptualised as an attachment process.
Journal of Personality & Social Psychology, 52(3), 511-524.
Stroebe, M., Schut, H. & Boerner, K. (2010).Continuing bonds in adaptation to bereavement:
Toward theoretical intrgration. Clinical Psychology Review, 30(2), 259-268.
 
 
Exploring the Relationship between Inattentional Blindness, Paranormal Belief/Experience, Absorption, and Working Memory Capacity
 
Christopher C. French (Goldsmiths, University of London), Moa Gunnarsson-Hellgren (Goldsmiths, University of London), Lauren McKeown (Goldsmiths, University of London), & Anne Richards (Birkbeck, University of London)
 
Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit, Department of Psychology
Goldsmiths, University of London, New Cross, London SE14 6NW
 
 
Abstract: Two experiments investigated the relationship between inattentional blindness, paranormal belief/experience, absorption, and working memory capacity. ‘Inattentional blindness’ (IB) refers to the failure to consciously register a visual stimulus or event when attention is focused on a resource-consuming task. Previous research has shown that even stimuli which most people would intuitively expect to grab one’s attention (e.g., a person in a gorilla suit walking into the middle of a visual scene) are missed by a very large proportion of viewers if the viewers are engaged in another task, albeit one that involves looking straight at the visual scene in question. Although this phenomenon has been the subject of a huge amount of research by experimental psychologists in recent years, to date no evidence has been found linking susceptibility to IB with personality variables. ‘Absorption’ refers to a highly focused state in which the individual is completely unaware of objects or events outside the focus of attention. The tendency to become absorbed is a personality trait which has been shown to be linked to hypnotic susceptibility, paranormal belief, and tendency to report ostensibly paranormal and mystical experiences. It is typically measured using the Tellegen Absorption Scale (TAS). Given the similarity between the definitions of IB and absorption, it was predicted that inattentionally blind individuals (IBs) would have significantly higher scores on the TAS compared to the non-inattentionally blind (NIBs). Furthermore, in light of the known correlation between absorption and paranormal belief/experience, it was further hypothesized that IBs would have higher scores than NIBs on the Australian Sheep-Goat Scale (ASGS), a commonly used measure of paranormal belief and experience. In both Experiments 1 (N = 92) and 2 (N = 66), inattentional blindness was assessed using a computerized task in which participants watched an animation of four black and four white letters bouncing around a screen. The primary task was to count the number of times any of the white letters ‘hit’ the frame of the display. Five seconds into this 17-second display, a red cross appeared on the right-hand side of the screen and moved across the centre of the display, taking 7 seconds to do so. At the end of the trial, participants were asked if they had seen anything other than letters during the trial. Those who answered “no” were classified as IBs and those who correctly identified the red cross were classified as NIBs. In Experiments 1 and 2, 43% and 51.5% of participants, respectively, failed to see the red cross. In both experiments, the IBs had significantly higher scores on the TAS and ASGS, as predicted. In addition to the measures taken in Experiment 1, Experiment 2 also included a measure of working memory capacity (WMC), assessed using the Automated Operation Span Task (AOSPAN). Previous research using the AOSPAN, a computerized measure of WMC, has shown that IBs have lower WMC than NIBs. This experiment showed that the differences between IBs and NIBs found in Experiment 1 reflect underlying differences in WMC.
 
020 7919 7882
 
 
Exploring People’s Experiences Of Telephone Telepathy: A Qualitative Study[5]
Chris A. Roea & Lesley-Ann Smithb
aCentre for the Study of Anomalous Psychological Processes
bSocial and Cultural Research in Psychology Group
University of Northampton, UK
Abstract
The general public consistently report high levels of belief that phenomena they would label as ‘paranormal’ are real and frequently claim to have had personal experience of them (cf. Moore, 2005; ‘Three in five’, 2003;). It is the task of parapsychology to account for those beliefs and experiences by thoroughly documenting the phenomena and constructing explanations that are amenable to testing under controlled conditions. Such accounts will include ‘normal’ explanations in terms of currently understood psychological and physical factors (e.g., Jawer, 2006; Wiseman, Greening & Smith, 2003; Wiseman & Morris, 1995), but need also to take the testimony at face value by testing the claims under conditions that retain the essential environmental features for the phenomenon to occur while effectively ruling out normal explanations, and so determine whether an alternative explanation is required. These two approaches are necessarily complementary if parapsychology is to achieve its aims.
However, the validity of both of these approaches depends crucially on researchers’ ability to effectively characterize the phenomenon they are interested to explain; without care in this early stage there is a significant danger of producing skeptical accounts that provide only a superficial fit with the phenomena as actually experienced, and proponent accounts that are insensitive to necessary conditions for the occurrence of phenomena, thus inflating the tendency to commit a Type II error. In both cases, the findings derived will fail to do justice to the real-world experience and are unlikely to provide the general public with an explanation that they regard as satisfactory.
Take, for example, the occurrence of ‘telephone telepathy’, which refers to the experience of thinking of someone who soon afterwards calls unexpectedly on the telephone (Sheldrake, 2000). This is a common experience (Brown & Sheldrake, 2001; Sheldrake, 2000). Clearly, at least some of these experiences will reflect chance coincidences, will capitalize on the tendency to forget those times when we think of someone and they don’t ring or when we don’t think of someone yet they still call, or will reflect implicit knowledge about the caller’s telephone habits. However, the adequacy of such explanations cannot be gauged using Sheldrake’s survey data (the only data to date that pertain to the spontaneous occurrence of telephone telepathy), because Sheldrake’s surveys adopted a nomothetic approach in asking relatively few closed questions that did not vary from participant to participant and so were unresponsive to differences in their experience and required only short answers in response. This is useful in providing basic statistical data but such a rigid approach has been criticized recently for its inability to give any real insight into the respondents’ lived experience (e.g., Roxburgh & Roe, in press; Smith, Harre & Langenhove, 1995). The current project is intended to address this shortcoming by adopting a qualitative approach in which participants who have experienced telephone telepathy will participate in focus groups to share and discuss the nature and meaning of their experiences (Kamberelis & Dimitriadis, 2005; Kitzinger, 1994; Millward, 2006).
 
PROJECT design and aims
The research aim is to conduct a series of small focus groups (N = 2-4) with persons who have personal experience of telephone telepathy, to discuss the conditions under which such experiences occur and how experients make sense of the phenomenon. These exchanges will be recorded, transcribed and thematically analyzed so as to develop an account of the spontaneous experience of telephone telepathy that can be used to asses the adequacy of current explanations of the phenomenon.
 
Data collection is ongoing and is expected to be complete by the end of June.
 
REFERENCES
Brown, D.J., & Sheldrake, R. (2001). The anticipation of telephone calls: A survey in California. Journal of Parapsychology, 65, 145-156.
Jawer, M. (2006). Environmental Sensitivity: Inquiry into a Possible Link with Apparitional Experience. Journal of the Society for psychical Research, 70, 25-47.
Kamberelis, G., & Dimitriadis, G. (2005) Focus Groups. In K. Norman & S. Yvonna Lincoln (Eds.). The Sage Handbook of Qualitative Research. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.
Kitzinger J. (1994). The methodology of focus groups: the importance of interaction between research participants. Sociology of Health and Illness, 16, 103-121.
Millward, L.J. (2006). Focus Groups. In G.M. Breakwell, S. Hammond, C. Fife-Schaw, & J.A. Smith (Eds) Research methods in psychology. London: Sage.
Moore, D.W. (2005). Three in four Americans believe in paranormal: Little change from similar results in 2001. Gallup Poll News Service. June 16. Accessed 8 March 2009 from http://www.gallup.com/poll/16915/Three-Four-Americans-Believe-Paranormal.aspx
Roxburgh, E., & Roe, C.A. (in press). Thematic Analysis of Mediums’ Experiences: A commentary on Rock, Beischel, and Schwartz (2008). Journal of Scientific Exploration.
Sheldrake, R., (2000). Telepathic telephone calls: Two surveys. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 64, 224-232.
Smith, J.A., Harre, R., & Langenhove, L.V. (1995). Rethinking Methods in Psychology. London: Sage.
Three In Five ‘Believe In God’. (2003). Ipsos MORI. http://www.ipsos-mori.com/content/three-in-five-believe-in-god.ashx accessed February 9 2009
Wiseman, R., Greening, E., & Smith, M. (2003). Belief in the paranormal and suggestion in the séance room. British Journal of Psychology, 94, 285-297.
Wiseman, R. & Morris, R.L. (1995). Recalling pseudo-psychic demonstrations. British Journal of Psychology, 86, 113-125.
 
 
Exceptional Experiences Amongst Twins: A Preliminary Investigation
 
Göran Brusewitz M.Sc1, Adrian Parker Ph.D1, and Lynn Cherkas D.Phil2
 
1Department of Psychology, University of Gothenburg
 2Department of Twin Research and Genetic Epidemiology, Kings College London
 
 
Twins have for many years reported telepathy-like experiences, but few well conducted studies have been carried out on the topic. Even the psychological research that has been done on twins has been almost exclusively focused on behavioral genetic aspects. A very specific characteristic for twins, that might have a connection with the “exceptional experiences” that twins report, can be their degree of attachment, but there is virtually no work reported on this topic. In addition to telepathy, many twins report having physiological synchronous events. A survey carried out by theDepartment of Twin Research and Genetic Epidemiology (DTR), King’s College London indicated that some 39% of twins believed they might have “the ability to know what was happening to their partner” and a further 15% were convinced of it.[6] Identical twins were twice as likely as non-identical twins to report these experiences.
 
In the summer of 2009 at the DTR “Twin Day” at St Thomas’ Hospital in London, the ”Exceptional Experiences Questionnaire” (EEQ) was administered to many of the participating pairs of twins. The EEQ consists of 18 items concerning telepathy-like experiences, striking coincidences (synchronicities), shared dreams and shared physiological responses to illness. It also included questions concerning the degree and intensity of attachment between pairs of twins. Each of the above topics also included a question that encouraged the respondents to give a brief account of their most striking experiences. An informal telepathy test was carried out with Zener cards, where one of the twins was required to make an exact match of the order of the five Zener cards which the other member of the twin pair had placed hidden from view by a board. .
 
A total of 224 twins attending the twin day filled in and returned the EEQ. 162 reported they were identical twins and 62 reported they were non-identical twins. Responses to questions were grouped according to the themes of subjective telepathic experiences, synchronicities, the “sensing” of illness, accidents or serious problems, and attachment experiences, presented in an appendix. Raw scores and percentages are reported in a table. A summated score for exceptional experiences was calculated on the basis of frequency, intensity and quality of the reports of psi (subjective telepathic experiences) and synchronicities.
 
The major hypothesis - that exceptional experiences will be more frequently reported amongst the identical twins than non-identical twins - was confirmed. The other major hypothesis which received support was that identical twins would report significantly stronger and more intense attachment compared with non-identical twins.
 
For twins contrary to other groups, psi experiences were less often reported to occur in altered state of consciousness as compared to the waking state. A further hypothesis concerned that there would be more identical than non-identical twins reporting shared dreams. Although shared dreams were in fact nearly twice as often reported by identical than non-identical twins, number were small and this finding did not reach significance.
 
In accordance with the hypothesis, the reporting of attachment-experiences and exceptional experiences were found to be related: A higher degree of reported attachment was positively correlated with the reporting of exceptional experiences (telepathy and synchronicity).
 
The test results for the twins whosucceededat the card guessing task showed that this group differed from the twins in general by having higher summated scores (reaching marginal significance) on telepathy and synchronicity. A high number of twins related their telepathic type of experiences to recognizing illness, accident or pain in the other (when it could not be reasonably expected). It may well be that the connections between twins that occur during exceptional experiences are closely related to biological or physiological factors.[7] Current theories in neuroscience concerning non-local effects and morphic fields predict these types of experiences to occur foremost amongst twins who shared a mutual starting point in life.
 
Acknowledgement:
Thanks are expressed to the Perrott-Warrick Fund, Trinity College, Cambridge for supporting the work of Göran Brusewitz, to Juliette Harris of the Department of Twin Research and Epidemiology, Kings College London for contributing to the development and administration of the EEQ, and Guy Playfair for encouraging the study.

 

William Fletcher Barrett and Psychical Research in Ireland
 
Dr Shane McCorristine, Visiting Research Fellow
Institute of English Studies. School of Advanced Study, University of London
 
Abstract:
William Fletcher Barrett (1844-1925) is today primarily known as a physicist and founder member of the Society for Psychical Research. This does an enormous disservice to Barrett’s professional and personal integration in Irish society as – ipsis Hiberniis Hiberniores – a scientist, educationalist, populariser of physics, psychical researcher, and lobbyist for various domestic reform movements. Challenging long-held historiographical approaches that refuse to countenance a seamless intellectual connection between, say, lecturing on electro-magnetism to undergraduates in Dublin on one day and participating in spiritualist séances in Kingstown or London on another, this essay seeks to demonstrate how Barrett’s maintenance of formidable intellectual networks disrupted the boundaries between science and psychical research. From the 1870s onwards, when he became Professor of Experimental Physics at the Royal College of Science for Ireland, Barrett attended séances, investigated poltergeists, and generally created an interest in psychical research among prominent members of the social and cultural elite in Dublin. This paper traces the overlap between science and psychical research during Barrett’s career in Ireland and reconstructs the history and membership of the little-known Dublin Section of the SPR (1908-c.1914), in which Barrett was the leading personality. 
 


[1] We should like to thank the Society for Psychical Research’s Research Grants Committee for their kind financial support for this project.
[2] We should like to thank the Bial Foundation for their kind support of this project.
[3] Some models (e.g. Stanford, 1990) have suggested that under certain pathological conditions, psi may be used against the best interests of the organism.
[4] Thank you to the Society for Psychical Research for their support of this research.
[5]We should like to thank the trustees of the Perrott-Warrick Fund, Trinity College, Cambridge, for their kind support of this project.
[6]Cherkas, L. (2004/2005). What is it like being a twin? Twin Research Unit Newsletter, www.twin-research.ac.uk
[7] The literature is surveyed in: Playfair, G. (2009): Twin Telepathy. Vega and Parker. A. (2010) A ganzfeldl study uing identical twins, Journal of the Society for Psychical Research in press.