Conference Abstracts 2011
The programme and abstracts from the 35th International Conference held in Edinburgh, September 2011
Göran Brusewitz, Adrian Parker and Lynn Cherkas
Charmaine Sonnex, Chris Roe and Elizabeth Roxburgh
Chris Roe and Glenn Hitchman
Glenn Hitchman, Chris Roe and Simon Sherwood
Serena Roney-Dougal, Adrian Ryan and David Luke
Stuart Ritchie, Richard Wiseman & Chris French (reply by Daryl Bem* no documentation)
Ciarán O’Keeffe, Steve Parsons and Gordon Rutter
Masayuki Ohkado and Satashi Okawoto
Paul Rogers and John Fisk
Sophie Louise Drennan, Chris Roe and Richard Broughton
* Invited Speakers
Introduction from SPR Conference Programme Chair
Welcome to the 35th International SPR Conference. This is the only second time the conference has been held at Edinburgh (the last occasion was in 1979) but the city has an important connection with psychical research through John Beloff, Robert Morris and the many researchers who have worked at the Koestler Parapsychology Unit (KPU). Nearly 40 students obtained their PhD here, one of whom was Richard Broughton, our current President. We are especially pleased to welcome members of the Scottish Society for Psychical Research (SSPR).
This booklet contains the abstracts for the papers to be presented. Many thanks to Peter Johnson who, besides being the conference organiser, has collated them and put them into the required format. The abstracts are given in the order of presentation, with the time of each talk being indicated on the programme sheet. Where there is more than one author, the first author is the presenter. The authors’ e-mail addresses are included and the university department where the work was carried out, if applicable. The talks are grouped into 90-minute sessions, each focusing on a particular theme, so people not interested in every topic can take a time off to explore Edinburgh. However, topics frequently recur, so they should not do so for long!
Delegates at the conference come from many backgrounds and represent a variety of different approaches to the subject. In particular, the speakers include both professional parapsychologists (interested in the experimental side) and field investigators (interested in the spontaneous side). The great strength of the SPR is that it incorporates both of these groups and brings them together at these conferences. The international nature of the conference is demonstrated by talks on subjects as diverse as xenoglossy in Japan, emergency healing in Northern Norway, Icelandic mediumship, the relationship of ayahuasca and psi, and Tibetan Buddhist meditation.
This year we have four invited talks. Caroline Watt, who now heads the KPU, will give an invited address on Friday evening on her Perrott-Warrick-supported work on precognition, after which the KPU will kindly host the Presidential Reception. On Saturday afternoon, Tricia Robertson, Secretary and former President of the SSPR will focus on spontaneous phenomena and their implications for models of reality. The after-dinner address on Saturday will be given by Daryl Bem, whohas been much in the news recently for his important work on retroactive facilitation of recall. Indeed, attempts to replicate his results will also be discussed at the meeting. Ed May will close the conference with an invited talk on the famous Star Gate project.
Finally I would like to thank the other members of the Conference Programme Committee - Alan Gauld, Chris Roe, Tom Ruffles and Donald West - for all their hard work in selecting the papers and, where appropriate, improving them. As usual, there were more submissions than could be accepted for presentation, so I hope the people whose papers were rejected will not feel too disappointed. I must also, of course, thank the contributors themselves since, without them, there could be no conference.
Pitmilly House: Poltergeist Manor
Though it was demolished in 1967, Pitmilly House, which stood near Kingsbarns, Fife, continues to fascinate students of the paranormal through the worldwide web because of the terrifying poltergeist activities which occurred there in the 1930s, culminating in an inexplicable fire which could have caused loss of life.
The former residence of the Monypennys, one of the oldest families in Scotland, the mansion was let to tenants, including, in the 1920s, Sir William Gordon Cumming. Described by the Sporting Times as “possibly the handsomest man in London and certainly the rudest,” the baronet was caught cheating in the notorious “Baccarat Case” at Tranby Croft in September 1890, while the Prince of Wales was taking the bank. Forced to sign a paper pledging that he would never gamble again in return for confidentiality about his cheating, Gordon Cumming discovered that the affair became the talk of London. He decided to sue, and the Princes of Wales had to attend the court hearing. The card-sharp baronet lost and, shunned by society, retreated into obscurity with his American wife Florence, who took a lease of Pitmilly House in 1919.
The philandering baronet called Florence “a fat frump” and had more affection for the monkey that sat on his shoulder. The deeply unhappy Lady Gordon Cumming passed away at Pitmilly in 1922, “pathetically old for fifty-two years, chair-ridden,” her daughter Elma Napier, the distinguished writer, recalled.
In May 1930 Pitmilly House was bought by Captain John Arthur Jeffrey from a wealthy Edinburgh brewing family. He had two Bentleys at Pitmilly, and a substantial indoor staff, for the comfort and convenience of himself, his wife and two children, Mary Elizabeth, born 1924 and Thomas Ivan, born in 1915. Alison Jeffrey is remembered as being an imperious woman who would not allow her daughter Mary to be sent away to school, even though there was St Leonards girls’ boarding school in nearby St Andrews. Instead Mary was educated at home and was an unhappy child.
The peace of Pitmilly House was broken by what appeared to be poltergeist activity. Ivan Jeffrey described the phenomena in a 1967 radio broadcast:
The first one was when I was comparatively young. A piece of the household’s coal appeared on the dining-room table in the midst of dinner…On my first leave during the war in about 1940 I was greeted by a Chinese bronze ornament which sailed across the hallway and impinged on my tum-tum…My parents really became worried when the poltergeist started doing damage, breaking valuable ornaments. Things disappeared, never to be seen again…Ornaments used to fall off mantelpieces; wardrobes used to crash on the floor; pictures used to fall off walls…Hot coals made their appearance in different rooms and set fire to curtains…fires started in several different places at once. Fortunately the outbreaks were got under control by the staff, although the fire brigade was called…My parents called in a gentleman of religion who came and exorcised parts of the house, and holy water was sprinkled in certain places…The sitting-rooms downstairs which we sat in probably bore the brunt…
Psychics called to Pitmilly House experienced the same phenomena as the Jeffrey family. The mansion was requisitioned during the Second World War, and Ivan Jeffrey heard reports from some of the soldiers of “odd things happening, such as bayonets stuck in walls…”
In March 1940 a major fire broke out in Pitmilly House, affecting around twenty rooms on the ground and first floors. An 83 year old woman, who had been in service with the Jeffrey family for four generations, had to be rescued from her room.
William Randolph Hearst’s American Weekly published an illustrated article on 12 July 1942 headlined: “No Rest in the Mansion. Mean Plot of Incendiary spooks.” Written in a flippant manner, the article, which didn’t name Pitmilly, but which is clearly about the Fife mansion, claimed that the poltergeist had been transformed from a ‘practical-joking ghost’ into an arsonist, and that an insurance company had paid out £400 ($1600) for the fire damage of March 1940.
The incendiary story of Pitmilly House had crossed the Atlantic. But the illustration in the article isn’t of Pitmilly. It’s a Gothic horror mansion, probably concocted from a photograph. The maid – obviously an actress – is seen posing by an overturned table, a candlestick on the floor, bombarded by objects flung by no human hand. But who is this with the bonnet and pipe? The caption suggested that the previous tenant (‘Mr R,’ it called him, though it is clearly Captain John Jeffrey) was partly responsible for the paranormal manifestations.
The events at Pitmilly House came to the attention of Harry Price, the flamboyant paranormal investigator. Price saw that his involvement in the Pitmilly case could produce a companion book, The Most Haunted House in Scotland, to his best selling study of Borley Rectory, The Most Haunted House in England. Harry Price’s interest in the Pitmilly phenomena has not been detailed before, and forms a fascinating part of this paper. The author has been granted access to the records of the Monypenny and Jeffrey families, owners of Pitmilly House, the subject of the Hollywood horror film Things Happen at Night, released in 1947.
Are poltergeists male?
Various theories have been advanced as to the cause of poltergeist manifestations. This paper raises the question of gender attribution and labelling in reports of poltergeist activity and asks the question, “Are poltergeists male?”
Analysis of the literature on poltergeists published in English between 1880 and 1975 (Goss, 1979) reveals only 7% has been written by women. This reflects in part the fact that with a few exceptions (e.g. Barrington 1965, 2001) the vast majority of poltergeist investigations have been conducted by men. This is despite a long-standing view that poltergeist activity is often associated with adolescent females, a feature dubbed “girl material” by one researcher (Price, 1945).
However, rather than suggest that poltergeist phenomena are simply a male construct, the case may be made that poltergeists phenomena display characteristics and attributes which are recognised or labelled as male within different cultures. The word poltergeist itself is derived from the German language in which the term ‘poltern abend’ is used for a noisy male stag-night. In Hispanic culture, the term ‘duende’ is used for poltergeists, with the duendes being understood to be malicious male spirits (Callejo, Cabo, Carlo and Sanchez, 1994). Similarly, in British and Celtic folklore poltergeist activity has been associated with mischievous male entities and the apparitions of small boys (Owen, 1964; Roney-Dougal 1999).
Furthermore, the labelling of poltergeist activity as male in character is apparent in the testimony of witnesses. In cases where a poltergeist is linked with a deceased human, the majority of these postulated entities are male. The labelling of poltergeist activity as a manifestation of a male personality is also apparent from the nick-names given by percipients to phenomena e.g. Jeffrey, Old Jeffrey etc (Sitwell, 1940; Murdie, 2011).
In rare cases in which a poltergeist produces effects resembling a human voice, the voices are typically gruff, deep-sounding and masculine in character (Playfair, 1980; Lambert, 1957), as in the Enfield poltergeist case where the voice resembled that of an old man.
As a consequence, research may benefit from consideration of gender issues in future cases, and be open to the possibility that poltergeist activity may not involve an impersonal “it” but rather a phenomena which exhibits male gender traits and characteristics in contrast to female ones.
Barrington, Mary Rose (1965) The Case of the Flying Thermometer; JSPR 1965-66 Vol 43 11-20
Barrington, Mary Rose and Grosse, Maurice (2001) JSPR July 2001 vol 65 207-217
Callejo Cabo J, Carlos, C and Sanchez, R (1994) Duendes. Madrid and Mexico
Goss, Michael (1979) Poltergeists: An Annotated Bibliography of works in English c.1880-1975. Scarecrow Press. New York
Lambert, R.S. (1957) Exploring the Supernatural. London
Murdie, A ‘Nick-names for Ghosts’ – on-going Ghost Club research project.
Playfair, Guy Lyon (1980) This House is Haunted . London.
Owen, George (1964) ‘Brownie, Incubus and Poltergeist’ in International Journal of Parapsychology (Autumn 1964) 455-472
Roney-Dougal, Serena (2001 ) The Faery Faith: An Integration of Science with Spirit. Green Magic.
Sitwell, Sacherverall, (1940) Poltergeists. London
Are we really afraid of the dark? An investigation of an allegedly haunted coal mine.
Ann R Winsper
Many ghost investigations, particularly public access ones, take place overnight, in apparently “dark and spooky” conditions. In Para.Science (paranormal research and investigation group), we try to replicate the circumstances in which the reported activity took place, whether this is during the day, in the sunlight, or at night in low light or darkness. During long term investigations, we will look at a location at various times of day, times of year and under varying conditions. As part of these investigations, we have noticed that people were not responding to very low light conditions as we might have expected.
During investigations taking place in low light conditions, the people present showed anxiety and fear, as may be expected by the fact that they were in a location they believed may be haunted, and the various well known human responses shown in these conditions – the reporting of apparent shadows moving, figures reported in the periphery of sight etc. In one castle location we spent some time in one room in the basement which contained a large open oven, and was also home to a colony of bats. People were exceptionally nervous in this room, particularly when they had their backs to the open space. As an experiment, we placed the participants, still with their back to the open space, but facing a stone wall at a distance of a couple of inches. This blocked all light from their line of sight, making them effectively blind. The effect of this induced blindness was to calm the participants down, and they reported feeling calm and no longer afraid.
In 2005, the opportunity arose for us to investigate the National Coal Mining Museum for England at Caphouse Colliery in Yorkshire, which has a reputation for being haunted. Because of the unique location and conditions, we were able to carry out experiments that included studying the effects of sensory deprivation and testing spatial awareness and imagery under these conditions. The members of the group were also (unbeknownst to them at the time) taking part in an experiment attempting to remotely influence the outcome of some of the tasks they had been set, with the assistance of a group member who was in France at the time. It was hypothesised that in the psi-conducive state induced by the total darkness, the participants may show some evidence of ESP during various set tasks.
These experiments appeared to confirm that complete darkness causes a calming effect, even when participants had previously been uneasy in the same location with the lights on. This seems to support previous work both in animal and human studies, which have shown that blindfolding can lower heart rate and calm both humans and animals. There was no demonstrable evidence of ESP during the set tasks; however there were some interesting and intriguing descriptions of imagery and perception.
This paper will discuss the various experiments that were attempted, and results obtained. Possible explanations for the results will be discussed.
Bakan, P., Manley, R. (1963). Effect of visual deprivation on auditory vigilance. British Journal of Psychology, 54, 2, 115-119.
Grandin, T. (2000) Livestock Handling and Transport. 2nd edn.Wallingford,
Wiseman, R., Watt, C., Stevens, P., Greening, E. and O'Keeffe, C. (2003), An investigation into alleged ‘hauntings’. British Journal of Psychology, 94: 195–211.
Telepathine nearly 100 years on: a preliminary study of ayahuasca and psi.
David P. Luke
Department of Psychology and Counselling, University of Greenwich, London
The Amazonian sacramental decoction, ayahuasca, containing a chemical named 'telepathine' in 1915 (Beyer, 2009), has been used traditionally for several millennia, apparently, for the explicit purposes of accessing altered states conducive to clairvoyance, precognition, telepathy, out-of-body travel, psychic diagnosis, psychic healing, and spirit communication. The psychoactive molecules known to be present within the brew, N,N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT) and harmala alkaloids, are also thought to be present in the pineal gland of the human brain (Strassman, 2001) and are speculated to play an active role in dreaming (Callaway, 1988). Furthermore, it has been argued that these endogenous neurochemicals also play a primary neurological role in the occurrence of spontaneous psi phenomena (e.g., Roney-Dougal, 2001). However, although the neurobiological, anthropological and phenomenological evidence for this hypothesis is good (see Luke & Friedman, 2010), the experimental parapsychological evidence to date is scant, poorly controlled, and inconclusive (see Luke, 2008). The present preliminary study aims to test the hypothesis that the ingestion of ayahuasca can increase performance on a precognition task.
The present paper describes a quasi-experimental field study, incorporating 40 participants – 20 participants self-selecting to the ayahuasca group and 20 participants in the control group. For practical and ethical reasons, participants in the ayahuasca group were drawn from volunteers already attending an ayahuasca ceremony and were not randomly allocated to the group, hence the quasi-experimental methodology. Using repeated measures, participants performed a computerised precognition test both before and after the intervention (either ayahuasca or a non-ayahuasca control session with a matched time interval). The precognition test consisted of a fully automated computer programme that guides the participant through ten trials of intentional target selection from a pool of four fractal images that are refreshed for each trial. A number of validation measures monitored the degree of altered state of consciousness, ability to visualise and the confidence in selecting the targets, for each run. Results were analysed in terms of psi score both pre/post intervention and for the experimental/control conditions (to monitor for artefacts of repeated measures). A number of individual differences measures were also explored in relation to psi performance, including belief in psi, belief in the paranormal and previous substance-use and paranormal experience history. The results and what has been learned from this pilot study are discussed along with suggestions for future research.
Beyer, S. V. (2009). Singing to the plants: A guide to mestizo shamanism in the upper Amazon. Albuquerque, NM: University of New Mexico Press.
Callaway, J. C. (1988). A proposed mechanism for the visions of dream sleep. Medical Hypotheses, 26, 119-24.
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: Greenwood / Praeger.
Roney-Dougal, S. (2001). Walking between the worlds: Links between psi, psychedelics, shamanism, and psychosis. Unpublished manuscript, Psi Research Centre, Glastonbury.
Strassman, R. (2001). DMT: The spirit molecule: A doctor’s revolutionary research into the biology of near-death and mystical experiences. Rochesta, VT: Park Street Press.
Exceptional Experiences amongst Twins: A Further Investigation
Göran Brusewitz1, Adrian Parker1, and Lynn Cherkas2
1Department of Psychology, University of Gothenburg
2Department of Twin Research and Genetic Epidemiology, Kings College London
Twins have for many years reported incidents of 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 specific characteristic of such 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. Identical twins were twice as likely as non-identical twins to report these experiences. Our previous study (Brusewitz, Parker & Cherkas, 2010), showed that many of these reports concerned physiological synchronous events.
To investigate the occurrences amongst twins of these experiences, a questionnaire was administered to British twins on two occasions during the last two years. In the summer of 2009 at the DTR’s “Twin Day” which took place at St Thomas’ Hospital in London, this ”Exceptional Experiences Questionnaire” (EEQ) was administered to many of the participating pairs of twins, and in November 2010 there was an advertisement in the newsletter from the Twin Department, asking twins with these experiences to make contact. At the Twin Day 224 twins participated and filled the questionnaire, and after the advertisement in the newsletter, there were 77 twins filling and returning the questionnaire (69 new twins, 4 pairs were also at the Twin Day).
The first EEQ consisted 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. At the Twin Day, 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. Out of almost 100 pairs of twins that participated in this ESP test, five pairs succeeded in the task to match all five Zener cards. These five pairs of twins approached statistical significance when it comes to having a higher value on the summated score that was calculated for telepathy and synchronicity, as compared to theremaining members of the twin group. Concerning their reported degree of attachment, these two groups did not show any significant difference.
In the EEQ sent out after the advertisement, the questions about attachment were completed with the kind of attachment they reported having, not just supposed to be positive. Besides, one question was added concerning if they were separated during the childhood.
An analysis of the first questionnaire was presented at the SPR conference 2010 in Sheffield, with a total of 224 twins attending the twin day, filling and returning 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.
In this report, two analyses are presented, one is for the new sample of 77 twins, returning a questionnaire either by email (56) or post (21),the other concerns the final analysis, based on data from all the participating 293 twins (twins being in both samples are of course only counted once in the total analysis). (Collated figures and numbers are 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.
For the hypotheses regarding attachment, an advice from an expert on attachment research in Sweden is followed, so only the score for the degree of attachment during adulthood is used for the new sample of twins and a re-analysis has been carried out on the collected data. In the analysis, the numbers of years together in the same school and the same class will not be used. The reported degree of attachment is most equivalent to the parameters used in established attachment research. Apparently this gives a better estimate.
All the hypotheses from the first investigation (Brusewitz, Parker & Cherkas, 2010) from the Twin day, will be re-tested on the new sample and for the total analysis:
a) the first major hypothesis - that exceptional experiences will be more frequently reported amongst the identical twins than non-identical twins,
b) the second major hypothesis - that identical twins would report significantly stronger and more intense attachment compared with non-identical twins,
c) the hypothesis that psi experiences are more often reported to occur in altered state of consciousness as compared to the waking state,
d) the hypothesis that there would be more identical than non-identical twins reporting shared dreams.
e) the hypothesis that the reporting of attachment-experiences and exceptional experiences are related, that a higher degree of reported attachment is positively correlated with the reporting of exceptional experiences (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.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.
Thanks are expressed to the Perrott-Warrick Fund, Trinity College, Cambridge for supporting the work of Göran Brusewitz for the analysis for the first selection, to the Society for Psychical Research, for supporting the work of Göran Brusewitz for the analysis for the second selection and the total analysis, to Juliette Harris of the Department of Twin Research and Epidemiology, Kings College London for contributing to the development and administration of the EEQ, to Guy Playfair for encouraging the study, and to all twins who have participated in this study and very generously shared their stories and unusual experiences.
The literature is surveyed in: Playfair, G. (2009): Twin Telepathy. Vega and Parker. A. (2010) A ganzfeldl study using identical twins, Journal of the Society for Psychical Research in press.
In the Eye of the Beholder? Investigating Precognitive Dreaming
Caroline Watt, Perrott-Warrick Senior Researcher
Koestler Parapsychology Unit, University of Edinburgh
To mark the occasion of the Society for Psychical Research 2011 conference coming to Edinburgh, the presentation will begin with a brief overview of the history of Edinburgh University’s Koestler Parapsychology Unit (KPU). The KPU formally began with the appointment in 1985 of Professor Robert Morris as Koestler Professor. However, as we will see, Dr John Beloff was supervising parapsychological research at Edinburgh for many years prior to the Koestler Bequest, and played a key role in Bob’s appointment. Indeed, the current SPR President obtained his PhD from Edinburgh University in 1978 under John Beloff’s supervision. Many years and many PhDs later, the KPU’s presence in Edinburgh is well-established and its parapsychological activities include: undergraduate, MSc and PhD lecture courses and project supervision; the training of newcomers to the field; a distance learning course; a widely-used parapsychology textbook; public lectures and events; and of course the conduct and publication of research in scientific journals and books.
The remainder of the presentation will outline one of these areas of research: an investigation of precognitive dreaming that is supported by the Perrott-Warrick Fund, and will present the results of a recently-completed controlled online study of dream precognition.
A review of the various surveys of spontaneous GESP experiences concludes that, if only precognitive cases are considered, around 60% involve dreams, with a further 10% involving “borderland” states (Van de Castle, 1977). Therefore, the vast majority of spontaneous precognitive experiences involve dreams or sleep-related states. However, after a series of dream-GESP studies in the 1960s at the Maimonides Medical Center (Ullman & Krippner, 1970), dream-GESP research seems to have fallen out of favour, and is nowadays neglected relative to paradigms such as the ganzfeld-ESP studies (Sherwood & Roe, 2003).
The Perrott-Warrick research programme is designed to explore different aspects of precognitive dream experiences, both psychological and parapsychological. From the psychological perspective, we will investigate how memory processes, propensity to find correspondences, and implicit perception may help to generate precognitive dream experiences. From the parapsychological angle, we will conduct controlled studies of dream precognition, including the first ever replication of the Maimonides sleep laboratory research. The first controlled psi study – an online dream precognition study of 50 participants and 200 trials – has recently been completed and the presentation will conclude with a description of this study’s findings.
The Use of Photographs When Authenticating Spirit Portraits Produced Mediumistic-Artists
Ann Bridge Davies
The aim of my research was to study the photographs which are utilised as evidence of life after death when latterly positioned alongside portraits produced by mediumistic artists during private readings and public demonstrations. While investigating phenomenological art, specifically spirit portraiture, I have observed that contemporary mediumistic-artists, possibly influenced by psychic artists of the past and the advent of digital and mobile photography, are now able to almost instantaneously verify the spirit portraits they have created offering seemingly evidential proof for the notion that a form of spirit life exists after death. However, many photographs, verifying the face of the deceased person offered by a relation or friend, are almost identical to the image created by the mediumistic-artist perhaps indicating the involvement of other factors during the sketching, communicating and receiving process.
For this paper I will present and discuss examples of the work of several mediumistic-artists, both contemporary and deceased, that have produced spirit portraiture and who also utilised photographic evidence to authenticate their drawings as the portraits of now deceased people. My study includes examples of the spirit artwork produced by Coral Polge (1924-2002) the work of Frank Leah (1886-1972), and the work of several contemporary mediumistic-artists who say they have been given photographs from people connected to the deceased in order to evidence the sketch they have created in an attempt to prove the spirit portrait is who they say they are. The contemporary mediumistic-artists will be known as MA1, MA2 MA3 etc, whose artwork will be shown accompanied by a copy of the photograph given to them after the sketch was complete. In order to analyse the artwork produced by the mediumistic-artists I have gathered information from several texts involving the deceased artists together with statements from those who witnessed the production of art-work from Polge. Information regarding the artistic and paranormal working methods of the living mediumistic-artists was obtained by; watching them work, interviewing the artist and the recipients of the artwork and the study of the attesting photograph alongside the sketched portrait. As a practising portrait artist I am able to distinguish differences in facial expressions, shapes of face, length of nose etc but have also devised a simple point by point scale which references differences between a photographic portrait and a drawn portrait of the same person.
While studying the artistic methodology and phenomenological techniques utilised in the production of spirit portraiture by these mediumistic-artists I have found that the more immediate the photographic evidence is validated the greater the positive impact of the sketched portrait on the recipient and, if in a public demonstration, the audience. I have also discovered that some contemporary mediumistic-artists encourage participants of the private sittings or public demonstrations to validate the portrait of the deceased with a photograph to verify veracity of the artwork. To the mediumistic-artist pre-mortem portrait photographs appear to offer undeniable proof, when placed together with the sketched portrait that the spirit of a human being or animal survives death which I will discuss as part of the paper. It is also noticeable that when photographic confirmation is placed side by side to the spirit portrait it is often remarked how alike the positioning and structure of the head, hair styling, clothing worn, jewellery, glasses, facial marks or scars the sketched and photographic portraits are. Also, while investigating the methodology of sketched portraits by mediumistic-artists, I have found that the sketch seems to mirror the photograph in more ways than not, the sketched portrait bearing a strong relationship to the photograph.
In response to these finding I will also be discussing; witness response theory, Face Recognition-Analysis Theory [Shepherd, Davies and Ellis (1981)] and the Alphonse Bertillon (1853-1914) identification system as part of the presentation. Selected sketches by the mediumistic-artists and the authenticating photographs will be shown during the presentation.
Laine, J-E (2006) The Art of Being Psychic - The power to free the artist within
Harvey, J (2007) Photography and Spirit
Miller, P (2010) Faces of the Living Dead- The amazing psychic art of Frank Leah
Polge, C (1997) Living Images - The story of a psychic artist
The Michael Whiteman Interviews
This session features the screening of a filmed interview by a South African Indian lady with Professor Michael Whiteman when he was 84 years of age.
The interview covers some central aspects of his thinking and life experience. It reveals a warm and responsive personality. It is presented by Professor John Poynton as a follow-up to his “Guide” to Professor Whiteman’s thinking, published in the Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research (Vol. 59, Part 222, April 2011).
n.b. Copies of this issue of the Proceedings will be available for purchase at the conference.
To Stop Blood – A Tradition of Emergency Healing in North Norway
Anthropological research, as well as many authenticated medical cases, shows that healing traditions in many cultures can give exceptional healing, which cannot be explained by current scientific medical models or experiences in normal Western medical treatment. Scientific studies of distant mental influence on living systems (DMILS) give strong evidence of intentional mental influence on other living systems, whether they are aware or not of the attempted influence. Many other kinds of studies also give supporting evidence that healing is a real phenomenon and not only placebo; see e.g. the overview of experiments by Daniel Benor and recent study on Therapeutic Touch.
This talk will present a living tradition of emergency healing to immediately stop bleeding, based on the important anthropological field research by the Norwegian anthropologist and chartered nurse Anni Margaret Henriksen and some other sources. It takes place in a modern Western coastal culture in North Norway and is widely known in Norway on an anecdotal level, but seems to be little described in the scientific literature. Some examples of such healing are: an accident on a fishing boat with life threatening bleeding from the throat, where the skipper who had this ability stopped the bleeding; a wound from a scythe during harvesting where the aunt of the young man stopped the blood, and he walked around with an open wound without bleeding for a day before medical treatment; a life threatening bleeding after a uterus operation in a hospital, where the surgeon could not stop the bleeding and asked if someone knew such a healer, and the bleeding stopped in a very short time when a healer came. This healing tradition naturally also covers other less dramatic medical conditions, and distant healing is also commonly practised. How a person is recruited into this healer tradition will also be described.
A wider paranormal perspective
This and other paranormal phenomena are accepted as natural in this culture. It includes clairvoyance and precognition in dreams and waking state, used in a practical way to cope with daily life. Psychokinesis is experienced in an ostensible ability to quiet threatening waves at sea. A healer may also have clairvoyant and/or precognitive abilities, and then often gets the role of counsellor in the local society. Examples will also be given of clairvoyance and precognition.
The cultural and religious context will be explained to understand this tradition better. The strongest expression of this emergency healing is within a protestant lay movement outside the state protestant church. The healer uses a silent Christian prayer formula, and the healing is seen as “the power of the Word”, God’s word. Therefore a healer in this tradition is called a “reader”. The use of the healing gift is never a profession. It happens quietly in daily life without boasting or advertising, as it is seen as a Christian’s plight to help others in need. It is not the healer but God which does the healing. The healers have a positive attitude to modern medicine and do not see any competition, referring a patient to a doctor or hospital when appropriate.
These healers have been an important health care alternative in a sparsely populated nature where any doctor or medical care unit can be far away. However, irrespective of distance to standard medical care, many people use these healers as a first choice treatment when this is deemed most practical. It is so widely spread that it is used even in some nursing homes and hospitals in North Norway, albeit in a quiet, mostly secret way due to the skeptical attitude in established medicine. Relatives of patients in hospitals in this region sometimes call a “reader” to give distant healing to the patient, before or after an operation.
There is anecdotal evidence that this emergency healing to stop blood is also practised by other people in Norway outside this lay movement, spread over the country, and with differing worldviews, from a general spiritual view to shamanic worldview as in the Lap culture. The common denominator is that the healer sees himself/herself only as a mediator for a healing power coming from a spiritual domain.
This anthropological field work uses sociological principles to authenticate cases and the phenomena, rather than proof oriented techniques. In principle some of the cases could be documented with medical records before and after healing. The presentation will discuss some research issues with this kind of work. How to get cooperation with informants who mostly are suspicious of scientists? How to trust their information? How to regard such evidence as “methodological real” vs. “ontological real”? (Jack Hunter).
W. Braud: Distant Mental Influence (Hampton Roads, 2003)
D. Benor: Spiritual Healing, professional supplement (Healing Research Vol.1, Vision Publications, 2002)
R. Charman: An Unusual Form of Radiation has a Reproducible Effect in the Laboratory (Paranormal Review, July 2010)
A. M. Henriksen: Å stoppe blod (To Stop Blood), Cappelen Damm, Oslo, 2010, ISBN 978-82-02-31514-6
Danny Pellicer, Bengt Nielsen: Health personnel asked healers for help (Newspaper Nordlys, 31.01.2009)
Jack Hunter: Talking With the Spirits: More Than a Social Reality? (Paranormal Review, April 2010)
Metaanalysis of distant healing studies using non-whole human samples.
Charmaine Sonnex, Chris A. Roe & Elizabeth C. Roxburgh
Centre for the Study of Anomalous Psychological Processes, University of Northampton
We should like to thank the Confederation of Healing Associations for their kind financial support for this project.
As part of a larger project investigating spiritual healing, we are conducting a meta-analysis of existing literature on healing and complementary therapies. The supposed linkage between spirituality and health has long been of interest to parapsychologists since it provides one source of evidence for a connection between ‘mind’ (intentionality) and ‘matter’ (tangible effects in the world, particularly with respect to the claims of psychic healers), with two of the earliest substantive reviews of empirical work on the efficacy of healing having been conducted by prominent parapsychologists (Schouten, 1993; Solfvin, 1984). As with other reviews of healing research (e.g.,Astin, Harkness & Ernst, 2000;Benor, 1990; Dossey, 1993), these authors found that interceding on behalf of patients through prayer or by adopting various practices that incorporate an intention to heal can have some positive effect upon their wellbeing. However, these reviewers also raised concerns about certain aspects of the methodologies of the studies reviewed, such as the difficulty in finding pure control groups (participants in sick samples are likely to be prayed for by relatives and friends), a need for more detailed measures of psychological factors, the need for much larger sample sizes and effects of scepticism.In particular, these findings aredifficult to interpret becausein some cases the beneficial effects could be attributable to placebo effects or to the consequences of general lifestyle changes that are involved in holistic approaches to medicine. It is therefore our aim to conduct a mathematical review of previous studies to try and identify methodological features which affect findings and to try and assess the status of the evidence that suggests a distant healing effect.
This initial meta analysis will take into account studies using non-whole human target subjects, including work with human red blood cells (Braud, 2003), mice (Bengston & Moga, 2007), seeds (Creath & Schwartz, 2004) and other target samples, as these studies would be unlikely to be affected by placebo effects due to the nature of the target subjects.
The inclusion criteria for studies are as follows:
Distinguishing features: All studies must look at the effects of spiritual healing (using psychological intent to manipulate the health or well being of the samples). Studies looking at direct mental influence without healing intention will not be included unless the effects ofthe intention on the system have an obvious link to health and well being. For instance, studies investigatingthe effects of human intention upon DNA would be included but studies looking at the effects of mental influence on GSR would not.
Search Strategy: Possible studies will be identified by searching the Swetswise, ASSIA, PsychNET, Web of Science, Cochrane Library, British nursing Index, Cinahl Full Text and Informaworld databases as well as Google Scholar. Search terms to be used are “Spiritual healing”, “Distance Healing” “Noetic Healing” “Intercessory Prayer” “Laying on of hands” “Therapeutic Touch” and “Reiki” plus “Animals” “Plants” “Yeast” “Bacteria” and “Cells”. The papers resulting from these searches will then be read and any relevant references located.
Linguistic range: Only studies published in English will be used.
Research methods: The healing conducted must not involve direct touching.
Data collection is ongoing and it is anticipated that the meta analysis will be completed by July 2011. In this presentation we will describe that data collection process and report on the results of our analysis.
Astin, J.A., Harkness, E., & Ernst E. (2000). The efficacy of ‘distant healing’: A systematic review of randomized trials. Annals of Internal Medicine, 132, 903-910.
Bengston, W.F., & Moga, M. (2007). Resonance, placebo effects and type II errors: Some implications from healing research for experimental methods. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 13(3), 317-327.
Benor, D. (1990). Survey of spiritual healing research. Complementary Medical Research, 4, 9-33.
Braud, W.G. (2003). Mentally protecting human red blood cells at a distance In W.G. Braud (Ed), Distant Mental Influence, Charlottesville: Hampton roads Publishing company Inc.
Byrd, R.C. (1988). Positive therapeutic effects of intercessory prayer in a coronary care unit population. Southern Medical Journal, 81, 826-829.
Creath, K., & Schwartz G.E. (2004). Measuring effects of music noise and healing energy using a seed germination bioassay. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 10(1), 113-122.
Dossey, L. (1993). Healing Words: The Power of Prayer and the Practice of Medicine. HarperSanFrancisco.
Sicher, F., Targ, E., Moore, D., & Smith, H. (1998). A randomized double blind study of the effect of distant healing in a population with advanced AIDS: Report of a small scale study. Western Journal of Medicine, 169, 356-363.
Schouten, S. (1993). Applied parapsychology studies of psychics and healers. Journal of Scientific Exploration, 7, 375-401.
Solfvin, J. (1984). Mental healing. In S. Krippner (Ed.), Advances in parapsychological research, Vol. 4 (pp. 31-63). Jefferson, NC: McFarland.
A Further Test of the Theory of Morphic Resonance
Chris A. Roe & Glenn A. M. Hitchman
Centre for the Study of Anomalous Psychological Processes, University of Northampton
We should like to thank the Society for Psychical Research’s Research Grants Committee
for their kind financial support for this project.
Rupert Sheldrake’s theory of morphic resonance (Sheldrake, 1981/2009) suggests a means by which the thoughts or behaviours of physically isolated members of species can converge in a manner that would not be expected by other forms of learning such as imitation. The proposed mechanism is via what is termed a ‘morphogenetic field’, a purported collective record of intra-species learning which subsequently shapes and stabilises the behaviours of future generations of organisms. In the human realm, Sheldrake has suggested that the acquisition of language should be influenced by the morphic resonance of past speakers of the language. Parapsychological tests of the theory have thereby typically consisted of learning activities involving a language unfamiliar to the participant (described in Sheldrake, 1983 and 1988, pp. 189-192), and have produced relatively consistent results in favour of the theory’s predictions.
In an initial replication attempt at Northampton, Robbins and Roe (2010) presented participants with 10 Chinese symbols, 5 of which were genuine Mandarin Chinese characters whereas the other 5 were imitative symbols designed to appear authentic but having no meaning to Mandarin Chinese speakers. Participants were subsequently given a memory task in which they were asked to identify the symbols they had seen from a larger pool of 20 symbols (10 genuine, 10 imitative) containing all of the 10 originally presented. As predicted by the theory, participants were found to correctly recall more of the genuine characters compared with the imitative characters, and also exhibited more false memories of the genuine characters. Their bias towards recalling more genuine characters was also correlated with a measure of transliminality. However, potential shortcomings were identified within the experimental design. Most notably, as no methodical controls had been employed when contriving imitative symbols, it was possible that the genuine characters used in the study were in some way inherently more memorable than the imitative symbols which could alone account for the observed effects.
A second study was therefore designed to replicate the findings of Robbins and Roe that drew upon a larger set of genuine and imitative characters that were selected and generated in a more systematic fashion, and used a more comprehensive system of randomising across participants. One hundred and one participants were shown, in a randomised order, 8 genuine and 8 imitative characters from one of three sets (see Figure 1 for an example). They then took part in a distractor task by playing ‘scissors-paper-stone’ against a computer opponent for 1 minute (Figure 2). Subsequently, participants were presented with symbols in pairs (one genuine and one imitative) matched with each other for complexity and radical component (a key element of the character) and asked to indicate if they recalled seeing either character at the presentation stage Figure 3). For some trials, participants had previously seen one of the characters whereas in others, both symbols were novel. Contrary to the previous study, participants correctly identified a similar number of real and imitative characters, whereas they exhibited more false memories for the imitative. Furthermore, the proposed relationships between the purported morphic resonance effect and transliminality (as reported previously) and openness to experience (which has a fair record as a predictor of psi performance or sensitivity) were not supported. The enhanced experimental controls are thought to be the most salient explanation for the failure to replicate earlier results.
In this presentation we will discuss the background to the two experimental tests that we have conducted at Northampton and will explore the reasons for the differences in outcome that have been produced.
Figure 1: Screen capture of Chinese symbol presentation
Figure 2: Screen capture of distractor task
Figure 3: Screen capture of recognition task
Robbins, K., & Roe, C.A. (2010). An empirical test of the theory of morphic resonance using recognition for Chinese symbols. Explore 6(4), 256-262.
Sheldrake, R. (1983). Formative Causation: The Hypothesis Supported. New Scientist, 100, 279-280.
Sheldrake, R. (1988a). The Presence of the Past. London: Collins.
Sheldrake, R. (1981/2009). A New Science of Life. Houghton Mifflin: Boston
Relationship between lability and performance in intentional
and non-intentional PMIR-type psi tasks
Glenn A. Hitchman, Chris A. Roe, Simon J. Sherwood
Centre for the Study of Anomalous Psychological Processes, University of Northampton
A number of recent studies have explored the notion that individuals may be able to exhibit psi phenomena such as extra sensory perception without explicit intent or awareness. These studies such as those involving prestimulus response (Radin, 1997) and precognitive habituation (Bem, 2003) have all attempted to capture evidence of psi via tacit means by engaging participants in activities in which the nature of their behaviour or physiological responses is seemly influenced by factors occurring outside of their explicit awareness. Promising findings from these studies fit well with theoretical perspectives which propose psi as primarily an unconscious process, with some (e.g. Broughton, 2010) suggesting that psi-mediated outcomes may serve evolutionarily adaptive purposes for the exhibiting organism. One theory which conforms closely to these assertions is Stanford’s (e.g. 1990) ‘Psi-mediated Instrumental Response’ (PMIR) model of psi. The PMIR model consists of a number of elements but essentially claims that that psi may play an unconscious role in triggering pre-existing behavioural functions in response to opportunities or threats in the environment which ultimately lead to outcomes beneficial to the organism.
Several of these predictions were, in part, the focus of a series of four studies by Luke, Delanoy and Sherwood (2008), Luke, Roe and Davison (2008) and Luke (2009) and a recent replication attempt by Hitchman, Roe and Sherwood (2010), presented at last year’s conference. All of the studies made use of the same fundamental computer-based experimental task which involved presenting participants with sets of four fractal images and asking them to quickly select their preferred image from the set. At the time of completing the task, participants were unaware that immediately after they had registered their preference, the computer ran a pseudo-random process in order to select one of the images as a target. Trials were deemed as ‘hits’ if the participant’s preferred image matched with the computer’s random selection, otherwise the trials were scored as ‘misses’. This thereby constituted a tacit, forced-choice precognition task with performance in relation to the number of hits expected by chance being rewarded or punished accordingly. Those participants who scored greater than the mean chance expectation (MCE) went on to partake in a positive reward task, whereas those who scored lower than the MCE were directed towards a task designed to be boring and mildly unpleasant. These studies also explored a number of psychological factors which were predicted to be correlated with participants’ performance at the tacit psi task, including individuals’ conceptualisation of luck and their perceived personal luckiness as well as their paranormal beliefs, openness to experience and aspects of their creativity.
With their results combined, the original four studies yielded mean psi score of 2.92 which was found to be significantly greater than would be expected by chance alone (MCE = 2.50, t = 4.04, p = 0.000078, two-tailed). Promising but inconsistent indicative evidence of the proposed psychological correlates was also found and was thought to warrant efforts towards further exploration. The attempted replication by Hitchman, Roe and Sherwood (2010) was therefore primarily intended to explore whether other researchers could similarly demonstrate a significant extra-sensory effect using the same tacit psi task whilst also attempting to clarify the role of the psychological factors predicted to be related to participants’ unconscious precognitive performance. This study utilised a revised computer program, re-written in an alternative programming language, and also increased the number of experimental psi trials per participant from 10 to 15. Participants in this study also achieved more hits on average than would be expected by chance, (mean = 4.02 hits, versus MCE = 3.75 hits), although they were found not to significantly outperform the MCE (t = 1.14, p = 0.13, one tailed). In relation to the psychological correlates, the tenuous links between participants’ performance at the tacit psi task and their conceptualisations and beliefs about luck and their creativity were not supported. However, a significant correlation was found between the number of hits they achieved and their level of openness to experience (r = .29, p = .02, one-tailed). Fundamentally, openness to experience had been used as an experimental proxy for the wider concepts of latent inhibition (Lublow, 1989) and lability (after Holt and Roe, 2006), thought respectively to diminish organisms’ sensitivity and responsiveness to psi stimuli. However, openness itself is an indirect and incomplete measure of these concepts.
Aims of the present study
The purpose of the present study was to explore the relationship between performance at the psi task and a more comprehensive measure of lability. The experiment also presented an opportunity to compare intentional and non-intentional versions of the psi task to see if the conscious intent of participants bore on the number of hits they achieved as well as to explore the influence of feedback. The study used a modified version of the computer based method utilised in the Hitchman, Roe and Sherwood (2010) study, developed to incorporate a trial-by-trial feedback mechanism where participants received a contingent reward or punishment in the form of positive or negative emotive images at the end of each trial. Moreover, the design was modified to include an intentional version of the task in which participants attempted to wilfully achieve positive rewards by means of precognition. Crucially, a broader composite questionnaire measure of lability was implemented into the data collection process.
Analyses will involve comparing precognitive performance with the number of hits expected by chance for both intentional and non-intentional versions of the task as well as assessing the correlations between scores at the psi task and the measure of lability. Data collection is nearing completion and the presentation will include a summary of the results.
Bem, D.J. (2003). Precognitive habituation: Replicable evidence for a process of anomalous cognition. Proceedings of Presented Papers: The Parapsychological Association 46th Annual Convention.
Broughton, R. (2010). An evolutionary approach to anomalous intuition. Paper presented at the Bial Foundation 8th Symposium, Porto, 7-10 April.
Hitchman, G.A., Roe, C.A., & Sherwood, S.J. (2010). A replication of studies concerning PMIR, psi, beliefs about luck, paranormal beliefs, openness to experience and creativity. Paper presented at the Society for Psychical Research 34th International Conference
Holt, N.J., & 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, 70, 69-90.
Lublow, R. (1989). Latent inhibition and conditioned attention theory. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
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
Luke, D.P., Delanoy, D. & Sherwood, S.J. (2003). Questionnaire of beliefs about luck. Unpublished 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, Jefferson, NC: McFarland.
Preliminary Study of the Relationship between
Local Geomagnetic Activity and Psychic Awareness
Serena M. Roney-Dougal1, Adrian Ryan2 & David Luke3
1Psi Research Centre, Glastonbury, UK, 2Twickenham, UK
3Dept. of Psychology & Counselling, Univ. of Greenwich, UK
For the past three decades, research in parapsychology has found evidence that psychic experiences may be related to fluctuations in geomagnetic activity (GMA). Most of this research has used global measures of GMA, but recently Ryan has found that certain classes of local GMA appeared to enhance receptive psi. He demonstrated that these patterns accounted well for the previously reported relationships between psi and global GMA. A long-term study of receptive psi is being run with experienced meditators, which will hopefully help to elucidate this effect. This is the preliminary study with a period of data collection from December 2008 to May 2010. In previous research, experienced meditators in India scored well on a receptive psi task, and this finding will be further investigated in this study.
A free-response design was used in which the participant, after a 15 minute meditation period, attempted to correctly choose a pseudo-randomly selected video clip. The computer programme (PreCOG) chose a target set at random from a pool of 25 sets, and a target video clip at random from the 4-clip set. PreCOG also randomly selected whether the target would be chosen before the participant saw the set (clairvoyance), or after (precognition). Each participant completed a minimum of 8 sessions (trials) each year. There were 14 participants, all meditators residing at Kagyu Samye Ling Tibetan centre or in the nearby village, who have practiced meditation for at least 10 years.
Two questionnaires and one psychological test were completed: the Meditation Attainment Questionnaire (MAQ) is a measure of the level of meditation attainment achieved; the Stroop test is a measure of focus of attention; and the Temporal Lobe Epilepsy (TLE) questionnaire assesses temporal lobe lability, which may indicate both a participant’s propensity for psi-type experiences and the degree to which the person is affected by GMA. Geomagnetic field measurements were supplied by the British Geological Survey’s Eskdalemuir observatory, which is located 2 miles from Samye Ling.
There were three formal hypotheses:
1) Psi scoring for sessions conducted during periods with high band 3 (0.025 – 0.1 Hz) GMA would be lower than during low band 3 GMA. During the two-year period of this study solar activity was low, and of the 160 sessions run there were only three with high band 3 GMA. Therefore, no meaningful analysis could be done.
2) Psi scoring for sessions conducted during high band 1 (0.2 – 0.5 Hz) GMA would be higher than during low band 1 GMA. Again, due to the low level of solar activity, there were no clear findings.
3) Years of meditation practice would be positively associated with higher psi scoring. This hypothesis was not supported.
In addition, some exploratory analyses were done. Of these, the Stroop, MAQ and TLE failed to show significant correlations, partly owing to overall chance psi scoring. A peak of psi scoring was found in May, supporting earlier findings by Sturrock and Spottiswoode. There were reasonably strong correlations of psi scoring with sunshine and temperature. However, there were no effects of lunar phase on psi scoring. It is suggested that perhaps the overall non-significance could possibly be related to the low solar activity and corresponding quiet geomagnetic conditions.
Three unsuccessful attempts to replicate Bem’s
‘retroactive facilitation of recall’ effect
Stuart J. Ritchie1, Richard Wiseman2 and Christopher C. French3
1 University of Edinburgh, 2 University of Hertfordshire, 3 Goldsmiths, University of London
In a recent Journal of Personality and Social Psychology paper, Bem reported nine ‘time-reversed’ cognitive psychology experiments that tested whether precognition exists (1). Eight of these obtained significant effects, and the publication of these in a mainstream journal attracted considerable controversy (2-5).
The experiment with the largest effect size (d = .42), and the one that Bem stated would be easiest to replicate, involved the ‘Retroactive Facilitation of Recall’. A computer program presented 50 participants with a list of 48 words each, followed by a free recall test. After test completion (a maximum of 5 minutes), the program randomly selected 24 words to be ‘practice’, and 24 to be ‘control’ words; participants then saw the ‘practice’ words (but not the ‘controls’) again, and had further explicit rehearsal of them. Participants recalled significantly more ‘practice’ than ‘control’ words, which was interpreted by Bem as evidence of psychological retrocausation.
We performed three pre-registered independent attempts to replicate this experiment, employing an almost identical procedure and the same number – 50 – of participants, mostly undergraduate students. We also used an identical statistical analysis including the use of one-tailed t-tests (this has been criticised (3,5) on the basis that it may inflate Type I errors, but we wished to keep the replication attempts as similar to the original as possible). Replications 1, 2 and 3 were performed at the University of Edinburgh, Goldsmiths, University of London and the University of Hertfordshire respectively. As per Bem’s suggestion (1), Replications 2 and 3 were performed by research assistants, and not by the Principal Investigators.
Our results (Table 1) were uniformly consistent with chance; all three replication attempts failed, with participants unaffected by future events. Post-hoc power analysis showed that, across the three experiments, our power to detect the same effect size as in Bem’s study was 99.92%. Our interpretation of these findings centres on the possibility that the original effect was due to statistical and methodological issues such as multiple analysis (5). There is also evidence of optional stopping during data collection in the original series, as effect sizes are negatively related to sample sizes (4).
Replication is of critical importance in the behavioural sciences – especially with such deeply controversial effects that represent a challenge to our current model of reality. Despite Bem’s intention to develop parapsychological paradigms which produce replicable, unambiguous results, the case for the existence of this type of psychic ability remains weak.
Various media (e.g., 6) have covered the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology’s rejection of our replication paper without review. A conference presentation on this topic would also cover the debate over replication in science – where should exact replication studies be published? Should journals publishing controversial results have a duty to publish replications, whether successful or unsuccessful? If not, where should such studies be published?
1. D. J. Bem, Feeling the future: Experimental evidence for anomalous retroactive influences on cognition and affect. J. Pers. Soc. Psychol.100, 407-425 (2011).
2. E.-J. Wagenmakers, R. Wetzels, D. Boorsboom, H. L. J. van der Maas, Why psychologists must change the way they analyse their data: The case of psi: Comment on Bem (2011). J. Pers. Soc. Psychol.100, 425-432 (2011).
3. D. J. Bem, J. Utts, W. O. Johnson, Must psychologists change the way they analyse their data? A response to Wagenmakers, Wetzels, Borsboom & van der Maas (2011). Submitted (available at http://dbem.ws/ResponsetoWagenmakers.pdf).
4. E.-J. Wagenmakers, R. Wetzels, D. Boorsboom, H. L. J. van der Maas, Yes, psychologists must change the way they analyse their data: Clarifications for Bem, Utts, & Johnson (2011). (available at http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1018886/ClarificationsForBemUttsJohnson.pdf).
5. J. E. Alcock, Back from the future: Parapsychology and the Bem affair. Skeptical Inquirer. (available at http://www.csicop.org/specialarticles/show/back_from_the_future).
6. P. Aldhous, Journal rejects studies contradicting precognition. New Scientist. (available at http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn20447-journal-rejects-studies-cont...)
Reality and Experience
An invited talk by Tricia J. Robertson
Scottish Society for Psychical Research
Albert Einstein stated that ‘All propositions arrived at without experience are devoid of reality’. He also said ‘Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.’
Historically, psychical researchers have had great difficulty in evaluating reported anomalous experience and balancing it with what is considered to be their reality. This highlights a problem in the definition of reality, i.e. that which is real. Whose reality is it? What IS real? How do we measure reality?
Must anomalous events be explained within our presently accepted scientific or psychological paradigms or do the present paradigms have to be altered? How can we accurately measure, or analyse, spontaneous anomalous experiences? How do we know that these experiences really happened?
The trouble with anomalous experiences is not that they do not occur, but the range of phenomena and volume of worldwide experiences is such that the whole topic is immense and only small sections, or even one small section, can be studied at a time by conscientious researchers. Leaving aside people who may have a fragile psyche or suffer from delusions or mental illness, this talk examines various aspects of veridical anomalous experiences and, with examples and illustrations, attempts to bring some balance to these ideas.
Ciarán O’Keeffe1, Steve Parsons2 and Gordon Rutter3
1Université de Toulouse (Research Associate), 2Para.Science
3Author (Paranormal Edinburgh), Edinburgh Fortean Society
In 1876, the first reported haunting occurred at Ballechin House near Grandtully in Perthshire.
In 1896, an investigation of the house began. It is considered to be the first published account of what we would consider to be a modern paranormal investigation. A number of investigators from the SPR visited the house (including Colonel Taylor, F.W.H. Myers, Oliver Lodge, SPR Vice President Lord Bute and Ada Goodrich Freer) during an extensive period from 1897 when it had been rented by the SPR. There were claims of “violent knockings, shrieks and groans which were heard every night” by the former residents in addition to sightings of a hunchback figure and a shadowy grey lady who passed through the door of one of the rooms. A journal of the phenomena and investigation, The Alleged Haunting of B---- House was published in 1899 and serialised in the London Times.
Fast forward over 100 years and this symposium seeks to discuss the state of haunting investigations today. There is a continued need to recognize the wealth of evidence that comes from anecdotal reports of haunting experiences. There are a large number of individuals, groups and organisationsaround the world that regularly conduct investigations of reportedly haunted sites. In the UK alone the number of amateur groups operating is in excess of two thousand. Currently the procedure for procuring a case is either through word of mouth, a media report or, more commonly, an experient who is then (in some cases) interviewed for verification or interest purposes. A group would then often be granted full access to the premises under investigation with consequences rarely discussed and no recourse for the experient should any difficulties arise. Due to the number of investigations provided by individuals, groups and organisations, operating completely independently of each other, there is a need to acknowledge we're currently in a field where a lot is happening but is it all just stumbling in the dark? What have we learned in the last 100 years?
A Case of Xenoglossy under Hypnosis
OHKADO Masayuki & OKAMOTO Satoshi
Chubu University, Japan
In this presentation we will report a case of xenoglossy, a paranormal phenomenon in which a person can communicate using a language unknown to him or her.
The subject is a middle-aged Japanese housewife who, in a hypnotic session, apparently recalled a past life as a village chief in Nepal. She provided some information about her past life including place and personal names and provided some foreign-language-like expressions. With the help of three native speakers of Nepali, we examined her utterances and found that the words she uttered were genuine Nepali. We concluded that the case could be an instance of xenoglossy.
In order to see whether the woman has an ability to communicate in Nepali, we conducted another session with a native speaker of the language. It turned out that she was able to communicate with the speaker for about 24 minutes until we decided to terminate the session due to the weakening physical condition of the subject.
The videotaped conversation data was transcribed and analyzed with the help of the speaker and other experts of Nepali. The results were as follows: (i) In about 70 percent of the conversation, the subject responded more or less appropriately in Nepali; (ii) 20 words were first uttered by the subject so that we can safely exclude the possibility that she merely repeated words contained in the utterances of the native speaker; (iii) She seems to have been able to conjugate verbs appropriately in accordance with the subject noun; and (iv) She used a word which is unlikely to be taught in normal language classes.
In order to confirm the subject’s remarks that she had never studied Nepali, we conducted the following three investigations. First, we investigated the personal history of the subject, which led us to conclude that it is highly unlikely for the subject to have learned Nepali. Second, we asked the subject and her husband to sign a pledge that the subject had never learned Nepali in her entire life. Third, we gave the subject a polygraph test, which was conducted by the former chief of the Osaka Prefectural Police Criminal Investigation Laboratory, who has experience of administering such tests to more than 8,000 people. No notable reactions were observed and we can safely say that the subject is unlikely to have learned Nepali secretly.
After months of extensive research, we also found that the village the subject mentioned in the sessions does exist. We travelled there and conducted fieldwork to examine the validity of the subject’s remarks about her past life as chief of the village. Unfortunately, we were unable to find any of the people the subject had named in the sessions. However, we found that many aspects of what she had said were compatible with the facts. Especially noteworthy was that she correctly provided information about food and the manner of conducting funerals, both of which are unknown to most Japanese. A seemingly unnatural aspect of the subject’s Nepali also turned out to be natural: The subject’s way of counting numbers, which all the native speakers of Nepali we consulted had considered unnatural, was found to have been common in the village although it is now virtually forgotten.
There are many cases in which subjects’ past life recollections are nothing but products of their imagination, as indicated by certain scholars (e.g. Baker (1982), Spanos et al. (1991), Stevenson (1994), and Venn (1986)). However, the present case cannot be dismissed in such a way because (i) the phenomenon of xenoglossy is observed and (ii) some of the information which is unlikely to have been obtained by normal means was verified. Yet, just as in the cases of Jensen and Gretchen (Stevenson (1994)), the past life “personality” was not found. Therefore, at the present stage, the case should be regarded as “unsolved.”
Baker, R. A.: “The Effect of Suggestion on Past-Lives regression,” American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis 25: 71-76, 1982
Spanos, N.P., Menary, E., Gabora, N.J., DuBreuil, S.C., and Dewhirst, B.: "Secondary identity enactments during hypnotic past-life regression: A sociocognitive perspective." Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 61: 308-320, 1991.
Stevenson, I. “A Case of the Psychotherapist's Fallacy: Hypnotic Regression to ‘Previous Lives.’” American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, 36: 188-193, 1994.
Venn, J.: “Hypnosis and the Reincarnation Hypothesis: A Critical Review and Intensive Case Study,” The Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research 80: 409-425, 1986.
Telephone Calls from the Dead: Returning to the Research
Callum E. Cooper
Psychology Research Group, SheffieldHallam University
The late D. Scott Rogo and Raymond Bayless are well known for their contributions to parapsychology and their involvement in the investigation of spontaneous cases. The literature they produced on such subjects is also well known to parapsychology, and in particular they published a fascinating, and yet rather overlooked study of cases concerning Phone Calls from the Dead (Rogo and Bayless, 1979). Cases of ghostly voices recorded on tape have been recognized in parapsychology since the 1950s (Bayless, 1959) and are known as ‘electronic voice phenomenon’, commonly referred to as EVP. However, phone calls from the dead show a whole new dimension on this matter in that most cases show a clear two way communication between the living and the supposed dead, thus making them a phenomenon in their own right aside from EVP (i.e. the telephone simply works as it is intended to for two way communication, the only difference being that one of the callers was known to be dead, or later discovered to have died before the call ever took place).
here have been few texts besides Rogo’s and Bayless’s work on phone calls from the dead that have given mention to reported cases of such events suggestive of personality/consciousness surviving beyond death (McAdams and Bayless, 1981, pp. 129-133; Rogo, 1986, pp.107-119; Biondi, 1984; Cooper, 2010a,b). It was discussed in the critiques of the evidence by Dr. John Palmer, that these call cases may hold the strongest potential for discovering new information on ‘survival’ and spontaneous cases compared to any other psi experience. He concluded ‘I hope this book will mark the beginning of serious interest in ‘‘death call’’ cases among parapsychologists who study spontaneous cases and PK generally’ (Rogo and Bayless, 1979, pp.163). Dr. John Beloff and Dr. Gertrude Schmeidler also offered their thoughts on this particular phenomenon and its potential contributions to parapsychology and survival research.
A few years after Rogo and Bayless (1979) published their research, an Italian study of call cases found that when conducting a similar content analysis of around 40 cases, the same categories of phone call types that were discovered by Rogo and Bayless were also found in the Italian sample. This was the same for anomalous calls from the dead and anomalous calls from the living (Biondi, 1984). This at least supported that experiences of survival and their characteristic remain consistent, cross-culturally and throughout time with the development of technology.
There are many people who are not aware of these events ever occurring; as reports of apparitions and poltergeists are obviously better documented being reported hundreds of years before the telephone was even introduced. Telephonic communication is documented as far back as 1913 (Cooper, submitted). It appears that with every new stage of electronic devices we create to allow better communication in our everyday lives, such as; emails, text messages and the latest mobile phones, more and more people begin to report some strange messages coming through to them at some point. This has been document is recent times by the author of this paper (Cooper, 2010c) and was predicted by Bayless (1980, pp. 40) stating that ‘‘…with the development of new electronic communication instruments, more advanced results might well take place’’.
This paper will address the history of phone calls from the dead, recent cases, possible explanations in terms of psychology and physics, and the next step for parapsychological research into phone call phenomenon. Peer criticisms that the research has received in the past (see Anderson, 1981; Baker, 1992) will also be discussed. It must be considered that once we have ruled out all possible rational explanations for a telephone call from the dead, then we may have a possible valuable contribution to survival research on our hands and a further stepping stone in better understanding the psychology of death and how parapsychology can contribute (Rogo, 1974). A return to this remarkable subject of spontaneous cases has begun and a new collection of cases is being collected for a modern day analysis of phone calls from the dead.
Anderson, R. (1981). [Book review: ‘Phone calls from the dead’, by Raymond Bayless and D. Scott Rogo]. Journal of Religion and Psychical Research, 4, 66-74.
Baker, R.A. (1992). Hidden Memories. NY: Prometheus Books.
Bayless, R. (1959). Correspondence. Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 53, 35-39.
Bayless, R. (1980). Electronic communication. Journal of the Academy of Religion and Psychical Research, 3, 37-40.
Biondi, M. (1984). Le telefonate dall’Aldila’: Una nuova fenomenologia paranormale? Quaderni di Parapsicologia, 15, 60-67.
Cooper, C.E. (2010a). Phone calls from the dead. Anomaly, Journal of Research into the Paranormal, 44, 3-21.
Cooper, C.E. (2010b). Spontaneous cases concerning telephone calls and text messages. Australian Journal of Parapsychology, 10, 178-193.
Cooper, C.E. (2010c). Text messages from the dead. Paranormal Review, 53, 10-12.
Cooper, C.E. (submitted). A historical note on telephonic communication. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research.
McAdams, E.E., & Bayless, R. (1981). The Case for Life After Death: Parapsychologists Look at the Evidence. Chicago: Nelson Hall Publishers.
Rogo, D.S. (1974). Parapsychology – Its contributions to the study of death. Omega, Journal of Death and Dying, 5, 99 –113.
Rogo, D.S. (1986). Life After Death: The Case for Survival of Bodily Death. London: Guild Publishing.
Rogo, D.S., & Bayless, R. (1979). Phone Calls from the Dead. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc.
‘Transcendental’ music in the mediumship of Indridi Indridason and others
Erlendur Haraldsson, University of Iceland
The Icelandic medium Indridi Indridason (1883-1912) is primarily known for his physical phenomena. A closer look reveals a lot more, particularly after two books containing protocols of some 60 sittings turned up a few years ago, several years after the publication of the SPR Proceeding on his mediumship by Gissurarson and Haraldsson (1989). Most of these sittings took place in darkness or semidarkness and some phenomena in normal light. Many communicators and controls appeared at the sittings, and some of the control entities were foreign, namely, did not speak Icelandic. Among them was the Danish Jensen who described a fire in a factory in Copenhagen on November 24th 1905, which was verified a few weeks later when a ship brought the first news from Copenhagen.
There were two other foreign speaking entities, a Norwegian doctor and a French singer. All three foreign entities spoke in their respective language, Danish, Norwegian and French. This is described in the protocol books, and other sources written by witnesses. Direct voices were common by communicators speaking Icelandic as well as by these three entities, namely voices that appeared not to come from the mouth of the medium. Direct singing took place on many occasions as if by professional singers and of greater quality than anyone present – or even in Iceland - could sing at this time. This singing came mainly from the ‚French singer‘, a female soprano voice of extraordinary beauty. Sometimes she was joined by a powerful bass voice and they sang together. Sometimes these voices were strong and powerful and sometimes faint, and were heard at various distances from the medium and from one another. Sometimes it sounded as if a choir was singing, one observer described it being heard as if ‚both very close and very distant‘. Very few people spoke French in Iceland at this time. Two French speakers participated in the sittings and convinced themselves that genuine French was being spoken. We hence have evidence for xenoglossy as the medium had only minimal education and knew no foreign language apart from some words in Danish. Sitters were convinced that they had managed to trace the identity of the Norwegian, and of the French singer who in her short life had sang leading roles in the best opera houses in Paris, New York and London, and who - if her identification is correct - had ‘Rossini, Donizetti, Chopin, Mendelssohn and Liszt among her fans‘. Her father was Rossini´s favourite tenor. She died at a young age as a result of an accident.
Instances of direct singing and ‘transcendental’ music are reported with a few other mediums, and occasionally reported by dying persons as deathbed phenomena.
Mediumship and Survival
This paper will explore how mediums obtain information for sitters and the difficulties they have in interpreting accurately the information they receive. The writer has had a number of sittings with mediums over the past 48 years; examples of the information from communicators are described and commented on. Some of the evidence appears to prove that the communicator has survived bodily death.
The opening comments will be on the work of Geraldine Cummins. She has written several books, some of which describe the after life. Using her automatic writing she has proved to her sitters that their deceased family has survived; she has also given good evidence of her ability to predict the death of family members. Geraldine gives several accounts of the experiences of those recently deceased.
Some of the work of The College of Psychic Studies in training mediums is described. When practising with a sitter, those trying to be mediums are told to give what comes into their mind but their interpretation of what they see is often wrong. This is the reason why a sitter sometimes needs to give a little help, otherwise the medium goes down the wrong track and the sitting appears to be a waste of time.
There is a description of one of the workshops attended by the writer at The College of Psychic Studies, which shows how a medium can be trained. Many of us can apparently, obtain some information without much training. This is reminiscent of the work of Professor Jahn in New York, who often used his students in experiments on the paranormal.
It is important to know what the medium is ‘seeing’ as their interpretation can be wrong. The following example will be given to support this.
In one sitting I had many years ago, the medium said she thought that I had some connection with royalty. I asked the medium exactly what she was ‘seeing’. She said she saw a crown on a board. At that time my first husband, Arthur Ellison, was an academic at Queen Mary College, University of London and near the entrance was a large notice board, displaying the name and underneath it a large crown. So it is often the medium’s interpretation of what they receive that is incorrect.
A description by Frederic Myers is included, of what it is like to be a communicator and how difficult it can be to get anything through to a sitter via a medium.
The writer discusses what is meant by survival and what can constitute proof that we survive bodily death. Several examples are given from sittings with mediums to show the kind of evidence that satisfies the writer. For example, the information given by the medium where the sitter has no knowledge of it and has to check with other people - or even better, where the communicator had no knowledge of the event before death.
Will we ever be able to convince the sceptics that it is possible to communicate with the deceased, that they do still exist in some form? No matter what evidence we produce, the writer very much doubts it. There are numerous good books giving good evidence that humans (and animals too), do survive the death of the body. But the writer wonders how many who have read those books have changed from ‘We do not survive’ to We may survive’ even. Many people only ‘see’ what fits in with their current mode of thinking about the world and our existence in it.
Paranormal Belief and biases in Bayesian conditional probabilistic reasoning
Paul Rogers & John Fisk
Schoolof Psychology, University of Central Lancashire
According to the misattribution hypothesis (Wiseman & Watt, 2006) paranormal believers tend to reject chance in favour of supernatural - hence causal - explanations for what are essentially statistical coincidences. The implication here is that believers are especially prone to errors in probabilistic reasoning. Support for this assertion comes from a wide body of evidence suggesting paranormal believers are especially prone to misjudging, for instance, coin toss outcomes, sample size importance (both Blackmore & Troscianko, 1985), lottery odds (Blagrove, French & Jones, 2006), and the likelihood of singular versus conjunctive events (e.g. Rogers, Davis & Fisk, 2009) compared to non-believers. Other research suggests believers are also poorer at solving conditional reasoning (i.e. ‘if A then B’) problems (Roberts & Seager, 1999).
Most people are poor at estimating conditional probabilities (e.g. Fisk, 2005). However, given their heightened propensity towards both probability (chance) misjudgements and conditional reasoning errors it seems likely that paranormal believers will also be especially poor are judging conditional probabilities; that is, to underestimating the likelihood of one event occurring given information about another (e.g. the probability that a patient has cancer given test results indicate cancer is present). Using Bayes’ Theorem to calculate normative (i.e. statistically correct) values (see e.g., Plous, 1993; Hastie & Dawes, 2010), the present study investigates the possibility that believers’ conditional probability estimations will be more biased than those of non-believers. In line with previous research (e.g. Rogers et al., 2010) believers’ heightened propensity conditional probability biasesis assessed for both paranormal verses non-paranormal events.
An opportunity sample of 200 members of the British public completed standard paranormal belief and demographics questionnaires plus eight hypothetical scenarios depicting the outcome of various diagnostic judgements including tests for anaemia, crime detection, meteorological forecasting and stock market predictions. Each scenario contained three pieces of relevant statistical information, namely (a) the prior, base-rate likelihood of each event occurring (e.g. of having anaemia), (b) the probability of a test result being positive given the presence of a particular condition termed the ‘hit rate’ (e.g. of having anaemiagivenpositive test results) and (c) the probability of a test result being positive given the absence of that particular condition – termed the ‘false positive rate’ (e.g. of having anaemiagivennegative test results). For simplicity, hit rates probabilities were implicitly set to 1.00 in all cases. Each scenario had either a paranormal or a non-paranormal context which differed according the diagnostician’s background (e.g. physician vs. psychic healer) and thus, the implied means by which diagnostic information was acquired (e.g. blood tests vs. aura reading). Each respondent was assigned four paranormal and four non-paranormal scenarios. Based on relevant base-rate and diagnostic information and assuming a random sample of people, respondents, where asked to estimate the posterior probability (“chances in 100”) that the condition actually existed (i.e. that someone who tests positive for anaemia actually does have it). Believers were also expected to make larger errors (i.e. score bigger differences between probability estimations minus normative values) than non-believers, particularly for paranormal events
Preliminary analyses fail to support these predictions with believers just as prone to errors in (Bayesian) conditional probabilistic reasoning as non-believers. Further, this was just as true for paranormal as non-paranormal event types. Theoretical implication, methodological issues and ideas for future research are discussed.
Blackmore, S., J. & Troscianko, T. (1985). Belief in the paranormal: Probability judgements, illusory control and the chance baseline shift. British Journal of Psychology, 76, 459-468.
Blagrove, M., French, C., C. & Jones, G. (2006). Probabilistic reasoning, affirmative bias and belief in precognitive dreams. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 20, 65-83.
Fisk, J. E. (2005). Age and Probabilistic Reasoning: Biases in Conjunctive, Disjunctive and BayesianJudgementsin Early and Late Adulthood. Journal of Behavioral Decision Making, 18(1), 55-82.
Hastie, R. & Dawes, R., M. (2010). Rational choice in an uncertain world: The psychology of judgements and decision making (2nd edition). London: Sage.
Plous, S. (1993). The psychology of judgement and decision making. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Roberts, M, J. & Seager, P., B. (1999). Predicting belief in paranormal phenomena: A
comparison of conditional and probabilistic reasoning. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 13(5), 443-450.
Rogers, P. Davis, T. & Fisk, J. (2009). Paranormal belief and susceptibility to the
conjunction fallacy. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 23(4), 524-542.
Wiseman, R. & Watt, C. (2006). Belief in psychic ability and the misattribution hypothesis:
A qualitative review. British Journal of Psychology, 97, 323-338.
Labilty, paranormal beliefs and psychokinetic experiences
Sophie Louise Drennan, Christopher A. Roe & Richard S. Broughton
Centre for the Study of Anomalous Psychological Processes, University of Northampton
This research was funded by the Bial Foundation grant 104/08.
We would like to gratefully acknowledge this support.
Within parapsychology, there is an inference that poltergeist activity may be directly related to psychokinetic (PK) effects unconsciously generated by an individual agent. As stated by Roll:
“The phenomena are usually associated with a living person: in fact, it seems to have become part of the meaning of poltergeist that there be such a connection. This suggests that the events may be cases of psychokinesis (PK) produced by that person…” (Roll, 1977, p. 382 - 383)
However, due to the spontaneous nature of such activity within real-world environs, investigating such a relationship has been problematic. Therefore, foundational investigators such as Rhine (1944) attempted to manipulate PK effects within a controlled environment, albeit with debatable findings and the identification of yet more extraneous variables. Gradually, the investigation of PK either empirically in the laboratory using random number generators (RNGs) or observing persons with alleged abilities became less popular. And yet, rather than abandon this rich seam of research, in recent years there has been a resurgence of interest in the experimental study of psychokinesis (PK), with particular focus on psi-conducive variables and the role of individual differences. In particular, attention has become focused on the new construct of lability, defined by Braud as:
“…the ease with which a system can change from one state to another…”(1980, p. 1)
Such a concept would be directly inverse to a state of stability or inertia. Previous PK-RNG studies by Holt and Roe respectively (Holt & Roe, 2006; Roe & Holt, 2006) have taken their cue fromStanford’s Conformance Behaviour Model (1978), whereby systems with weaker levels of lability are able to adapt to a system with stronger levels and found significant PK effects from this interaction between differing levels of individual and RNG lability. However, at that time, a battery of measures was employed in the methodology to assess individual lability, thus highlighting the need to develop a single, comprehensive lability instrument. Therefore, the dual purpose of the presented study was to construct a new psychometric tool with which to assess lability and then consequently, explore the relationships between lability and both paranormal belief and psychokinetic experiences. Existing measures included to assess lability were the Creative Cognition Inventory (Holt N. , 2007); The Emotional Creativity Inventory(Averill, 1999); Goldberg’s Openness to Experience Scale(Goldberg, 1999); Mood Affect (Akiskal, Maser, Zeller, Endicott, Corvell, & Keller, 1995); and the Personal Philosophy Inventory (Persinger & Makarec, 1987).Two further scales to investigate paranormal phenomena were included – the Anomalous Experience Inventory (Gallagher, Kumar, & Pekala, 1994)and the Rhine Psychokinesis Questionnaire (Simmonds-Moore, Rhine Feather, & Gadd, 2010). Following activation of the online survey for 8 weeks, data from a sample size of 192 respondents were eventually used for conducting analyses.
Factor analyzing the five individual difference measures produced a new Lability Scale consisting of 71 items (including 4 reversed scored items) with strong overall reliability (α = .86).
Five factors were retained accounting for approximately 35% of the cumulative variance:
Factor 1 Intuitive Cognition (α = .92)
Factor 2 Conceptual Cognition (α = .60)
Factor 3 Ego-Orientated Cognition (α = .78)
Factor 4 Emotional Interpretation (α = .71)
Factor 5 Analytical Cognition (α = .85)
Concurrent convergent validity was assessed using correlation analysis between the Lability Scale and the five individual difference measures involved in the study, where all but Goldberg’s Openness to Experience Scale (Goldberg, 1999) showed strong positive correlations. Subsequently, the relationships between individual lability and paranormal belief and psychokinetic experiences were explored. Significant negative correlations were shown between lability and both paranormal belief (r = -.56) and psychokinetic experience (r = -.51). Furthermore, significant negative correlations were also shown between both paranormal belief and psychokinetic experience scores and Intuitive Cognition, Ego-orientated Cognition and Emotional Interpretation factors. There were no significant relationships found between paranormal belief and psychokinetic experiences and either Conceptual Cognition or Analytical Cognition.
Performing one way analyses of variance found significant differences between levels of lability (low, moderate, high) and paranormal belief (F2, 160.47 = 44.45, p < 0.01); and psychokinetic experiences (F2, 160.47 = 32.74, p < 0.01) - mirroring results found in previous experimental PK-RNG studies. Furthermore, using psychokinetic experiences as a dependent variable a 2-way analysis of variance found that there was a significant interaction between gender, age group (low, moderate, high) and levels of lability (F4,174 = 2.49, p < 0.05, ω2 = .05).These findings have implications for better understanding the role of individual differences in PK and/or poltergeist manifestations, by highlighting the probability that it is individuals with lower levels of lability and age groups that are more likely to experience PK effects in particular. The next stages of research will consist of a series of three experimental PK-RNG studies investigating physiological arousal; participant/experimenter interaction; feedback/sender strategies. The studies will employ the Lability Scale within the standardized methodology in order to determine construct validity. It is hoped that on completion of the ongoing research that a statistical model can be built relating to the possibly predictive variables for PK effects.
Akiskal, H., Maser, J., Zeller, P., Endicott, J., Corvell, W., & Keller, M. (1995). Switching from "unipolar" to biploar II: An 11-year prospective study of clinical and temperamental predictors in 559 patients. Archives of General Psychiatry, 52 , 114-123.
Averill, J. (1999). Individual differences in emotional creativity: Structure and correlates. Journal of Personality, 67 , 331-371.
Braud, W. (1980). "Lability" and "inertia" in conformance behaviour. In W. G. Roll (Ed.), Research in Parapsychology, 1979 (pp. 128-131). Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press.
Gallagher, C., Kumar, V. K., & Pekala, R. J. (1994). The Anomalous Experiences Inventory: reliability and validity. The Journal of Parapsychology, 58 , 402-428.
Goldberg, L. R. (1999). A broad-bandwidth, public domain, personality inventory measuring the lower facets of several five-factor models. In I. Mervielde, I. Deary, F. De Fruyt, & F. Ostendorf (Eds.), Personality Psychology in Europe (Vol. 7, pp. 7-28). Tilberg: Tilberg University Press.
Holt, N. J. (2007). Are artisitic populations 'psi-conducive'?: Testing the relationship between creativity and psi with an experience-sampling protocol. The Parapsychological Association, Inc. 50th Annual Convention: Proceedings of Presented Papers (pp. 31-47). The Parpaychological Association, 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, 70 , 69-90.
Persinger, M., & Makarec, K. (1987). Temporal lobe epileptic signs and correlative behaviors in normal populations. The Journal of General Psychology, 114 , 179-195.
Rhine, J. B. (1944). Mind over matter or the PK effect. Journal of the American Society of Psychical Research, 38 , 185-201.
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.
Roll, W. G. (1977). Poltergeists. In B. B. Wolman, L. A. Dale, G. R. Schmeidler, & M. Ullman (Eds.), Handbook of Parapsychology (pp. 382-413). New York: Van Nostrand Reinhard.
Simmonds-Moore, C., Rhine Feather, S., & Gadd, J. (2010). Development of a psychokinetic experiences questionnaire. Abstracts of Presented Papers Parapsychological Association 53rd Annual Convention (p. 38). Paris: Parapsychological Association.
Stanford, R. (1978). Toward reinterpreting psi events. Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 72 , 197-214.
Schizotypy, health and cognitive function in a group of people who
believe in and experience paranormal phenomena
This research project aimed to investigate schizotypal personality traits, health, and cognitive function in a group of people who report that they believe in and experience paranormal phenomena.
A questionnaire containing measures of schizotypal personality traits, mental and physical health, sense of coherence, and paranormal beliefs and experiences was distributed to participants. A sub-sample also agreed to participate in cognitive testing and an interview. The cognitive tests tap different functions such as working memory, perceptual organisation, executive functioning, and visual attention. The interview was concerned with how people who experience paranormal phenomena interpret their experiences and integrate them in their lives. Cluster analytic methods were used to investigate schizotypy profile groups. Differences across schizotypy profile groups regarding health and cognitive function were investigated and comparisons were also made with norm data.
Preliminary results from these analyses indicate that there were three schizotypy profile groups; one group with positive schizotypy only, one with positive and cognitive schizotypy, and one with negative and cognitive schizotypy.
The results also indicate that the group with only positive schizotypy had better mental health compared to the other groups which is in line with previous research in this area. Analyses of group differences regarding cognitive functions are underway and will be presented at the conference. Interview data was analysed with a method, Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis that is used to analyse how people make sense of phenomena, in this case paranormal phenomena. Four themes emerged which concerned questions about reality, doubts, integration of the experiences with other aspects of life, and strategies used to control the paranormal phenomena. The results have theoretical and practical implications.
The case against assimilating psychical research to physicalism
At the recent Utrecht II conference there were calls for parapsychology to abandon its ‘dualist’ roots and embrace naturalistic views of psychic phenomena (Rose, Kramer & Coly, 2008). This is claimed to be justified because contemporary science is allegedly (1) successfully eliminating the mind-body problem via neurobiological reductionism and (2) producing naturalized models of the self that negate any need for dualism (Edge, 2008). In this scheme, ‘psi’ phenomena become associated with quantum entanglement, and thus also comprehensible within a physicalistic worldview, albeit an expanded one (Radin, 2006; Hovelmann, 2008).
Despite these claims, there remain a number of significant problems with fully assimilating either consciousness or parapsychological phenomena to physicalism. First of all, we should not forget that such demands are in part ideological. Just because monistic physicalism tends to be the favoured view in science and the philosophy of mind does not mean that it is the only possible way of knowing and we should not simply accede to a view because it is popular or even a consensus view. The utility or otherwise of any metaphysical stance must be judged in its own terms and alongside alternatives and not be favoured simply because it is popular.
In addition, declaring the mind-body issue dead, and claiming the comprehensive success of neuroscience in fully naturalizing the ‘self’ papers over significant theoretical problems with consciousness. A range of philosophers have recently presented reasonable objections to materialism as a mind-body metaphysic (Koons & Bealer, 2010). Bonjour, for example, states that ‘materialism is a view that has no very compelling argument in its favour and that is confronted with very powerful objections to which nothing even approaching an adequate response has been offered (Bonjour, 2010, p. 3).’ Specifically, the consciousness character of mental states is not accounted for and often denied by materialist views (see especially Dennett, 1991). Closer to home, Kelly et al. (2007) have produced substantial arguments, incorporating much recent research, including psychical research, to question the reducibility of the mind to the brain.
In the context of psi experiments, older objections to transmission or information transfer models still stand, as does the observation that psi phenomena seem more at home in an animistic as opposed to mechanistic worldview, the latter of which is still favoured in both physics and neurobiology (Braude, 1987, 2002). It is not clear that these objections are adequately answered by quantum models, which do not deal with subjectivity at all. Janne & Dunne (2011) recently cautioned against a careless use of quantum theory in this context. They state: ‘Fascinating as our consciousness-correlated anomalies [e.g. micro-PK] may be in their own right, their higher intellectual value lies in the hints they provide regarding the broader experiences of consciousness, per se, and of the inadequacies and outright errors that persist in our prevailing attempts to construct incisive models thereof (op. cit., p.20).’ They also state that since most problems of consciousness involve subjectivity, the issue is to accommodate said subjectivity into the scientific worldview, and for the reasons stated above, it remains far from clear that this can be attained via a stance of monistic physicalism.
In Colborn, in press, the author argues for a strongly pluralistic approach to these problems, in the epistemological sense. Paul Feyerabend noted that ‘…the world which we want to explore is a largely unknown entity. We must, therefore, keep our options open and…not restrict ourselves in advance.’ (1975, p. 20). Narrowing the range of ‘acceptable’ theories, especially for ideological reasons, seems to me to be a bad idea, especially since alternatives (in this case: non-naturalistic or non-physicalist views of mind/consciousness) may serve to enrich our understanding of consciousness, alongside more conventional views. We should also not forget that our choice is not just between physicalistic monism and substance dualism: a wide range of possibilities exist which may prove useful (for example: emergent property dualism, robust neutral monism, idealism, non-reductionist hylomorphism, etc. Koons & Bealer, 2010). Despite striking advances in neuroscience, such is the state of our understanding concerning both consciousness and psi that we are simply not in a position to justify the elimination of alternatives in favour of naturalism and physicalism.
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Braude, S.E. (1987). Psi and our picture of the world. Inquiry, 30, 277-94
BonJour, L. (2010) Against Materialism. In Koons & Bealer, pp. 3-23.
Colborn, M.L.C. (in press). Pluralism and the Mind. Exeter: Imprint Academic.
Dennett, D. (1991) Consciousness Explained. London: Allen Lane
Edge, H. (2008). There is no mind-body problem in parapsychology. In Roe, Kramer & Coly, 2010, pp. 421-462).
Feyerabend, P. (1975). Against Method. London: Verso.
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Dulling Occam’s Razor: Parsimony, Elegance, and Explanations of Poltergeist Phenomena
Michael Potts, Professor of Philosophy
MethodistUniversity, Fayetteville, North Carolina, USA
From Nandor Fodor’s seminal work to William Roll’s neurological/psi field theory, the living agent theory has been the dominant theory of poltergeists among parapsychologists. However, there remain defenders of the spirit theory of poltergeists, either as an explanation of all poltergeist phenomena (L. Stafford Betty) or of some poltergeist phenomena (Ian Stevenson, Alan Gauld, Tony Cornell). An interesting aspect of the debate between adherents of the living agent hypothesis and adherents of the spirit hypothesis is the use some on both sides made of Occam’s Razor: entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitate(“entities are not to be multiplied beyond necessity”). Defenders of the living agent theory hold that the spirit theory violates Occam’s Razor by postulating new entities (“spirits”) that are not required by the living agent theory. But L. Stafford Betty argues that the spirit theory is the simpler theory and argues all poltergeist phenomena are caused by discarnate spirits of dead human beings. Those who believe that some poltergeists are caused by spirits but others by living agents generally argue that while most poltergeist cases can be explained via the living agent hypothesis, there remain some cases in which the evidence of a poltergeist’s intelligent, goal-directed behavior and attempts at intelligent communication is strong enough to support the theory that “spirits” (“discarnates”) are the cause of the poltergeist phenomena.
Just as scientists in other fields, parapsychologists often appeal to Occam’s Razor as a tool to limit explanation on a variety of issues (such as the interpretation of apparitional and mediumship evidence). The poltergeist debate provides an opportunity to examine the use of Occam’s Razor in parapsychology. Such an examination might also be extended to other issues in the field.
I first argue that parapsychologists have not properly distinguished between an “ontological interpretation” of Occam’s Razor (“parsimony”) which says that the preferred theory is one that postulates the fewest entities in nature, and what Alan Baker calls a “semantic interpretation”--that fewer and less complex hypotheses should be preferred (“elegance”). Confusion between these two criteria has led parapsychologists to talk past each other. If one theory is ontologically parsimonious, but its rival is semantically elegant, it is unclear which version of Occam’s Razor is preferable. If an advocate of the living agent theory of psi argues that this theory is more parsimonious than the spirit theory, but an advocate of the spirit theory argues that that theory is more elegant, there is no way, aside from weighing factors other than Occam’s Razor, to decide which theory is more accurate.
Second, it is difficult to know how to compare two or more theories regarding parsimony and/or elegance because different theories rarely have enough in common regarding the entities they posit or the complexity of their hypotheses. For example, is Roll’s neurological plus psi field theory of poltergeists more or less parsimonious (or elegant) than the spirit theory? It is exceedingly difficult if not practically impossible to answer this question given the differences between the theories. Two additional problems are (1) whether ontological complexity refers to “types of entities” or “number of entities” and (2) by what criteria does one judge one hypothesis to be more complex than another?
Third, there is the issue of the degree to which Occam’s razor applies to nature. The assumption that the fewer entities a theory posits, the more likely it is more accurate than its rival be valid but requires justification from the history of science. But such justification is hard to come by because of (1) the difficulty of comparing the parsimony of theories, and (2) nature may be better explained by complex rather than by simple theories. Regarding elegance, I argue that the history of science reveals that sometimes the more elegant theory is correct, but in other instances a theory composed of more or more complex hypotheses is more accurate. In addition, a particular phenomenon or set of phenomena may be so complex that violating Occam’s Razor is the most rational choice. It is possible that complex poltergeist cases involving putative intelligent agency (such as those mentioned by Ian Stevenson and L. Stafford Betty’s “Kern City Poltergeist” case) might best be explained by positing spirits (“discarnates”) as the cause rather than a living poltergeist agent. It is possible that different explanations are required to explain relevant differences between poltergeist cases.
Fourth, Occam’s Razor may fit some disciplines better than others. In theoretical physics, the principle works well in relativity theory and in quantum mechanics (at least at the level of elegance), but in medicine theories of particular diseases tend to be more complex, both ontologically and semantically. Given the difficulties of weighing evidence regarding psi, the task of determining how well Occam’s razor fits into the interpretation of such phenomena as poltergeists is problematic.
Finally I argue that parsimony and elegance are two of many epistemic values, including explanatory power, comprehensiveness, coherence, and accuracy that are used by scientists in theory choice. Deciding between theories of poltergeists involves weighing these values along with careful attention to the actual case evidence (as well as cluster studies of commonalities between cases). This is part of the pragmatic task of “inference to the best explanation,” and such inference is not an “exact science.” Thus Occam’s Razor is only one tool among others in aiding choice between the living agent and spirit theories of poltergeist phenomena.
Whatever Happened to Star Gate?
Edwin C. May
Laboratories for Fundamental Research
Palo Alto, California, USA
Star Gate is the last of many nicknames assigned to the US Government’s military and intelligence community funding of applications of and research into psi. That program lasted for 22 years with a total support of about $22 M USD. At its height, the funding was $2 M USD/year and allowed for a staff of 12 researchers and support staff. Star Gate closed at the end of 1995. Why? What has happened since? The answer to the why question is multifaceted and complex but include that fact that psi is better at answering strategic, as opposed to tactical, intelligence questions; bad management on the Government side; overselling the psi capability; and, sex and intrigue. Without dwelling upon ancient history this presentation will outline some of those reasons. My colleagues and I tried various approaches to re-establish something like Star Gate and this presentation will describe some of these. But the more interesting question is, “How come?” That is, why has the US Government declined to continue anything at all in the age of counter terrorism? The answer must include large helpings of sociology, psychology, religious considerations and culture, but does not include issues of whether psi is real. These points will be emphasized by comparing and contrasting the programs in the US with those that were happening within the military in the former Soviet Union.