JSPR Abstracts 2007

JANUARY 2007

THE DECLINE EFFECT IN SPONTANEOUS AND EXPERIMENTAL PSYCHICAL RESEARCH

Matthew Colborn

‘Decline effects’ in psychic performance have been noted since the dawn of psychical research, and a number of theories have been devised to explain them. I look at theories that suggest that such declines are due to individual psychology, social attitudes, electromagnetic (EM) fields, experimental artefacts or physical properties of ‘psi’ itself. Each theory is examined as a contrasting paradigm, following the lead of Kuhn (1962). Testability is assessed and recommendations are made for further research.


AN ANALYSIS OF INTER-JUDGE CONCORDANCE IN A SERIES OF FREE-RESPONSE EXPERIMENTS

Michael A. Thalbourne

In this paper the author argues in favour of the proposition that free-response data should be judged by more than one independent adjudicator, and that their scores should be combined so as to constitute a more objective measure of target-response resemblance. The degree to which judges agree on their scores can be quantified using Kendall’s W coefficient of concordance. A retrospective analysis was carried out to determine levels of W in six different batches of drawing-reproduction data that had been judged, independently, by trios of duly instructed judges. In 5 batches, 10 response-drawings were evaluated against one target at a time; in one batch, 10 targets were ranked against one response-drawing at a time. The first finding was that the overall mean W for target-ranking was significantly but not substantially higher than for response-ranking. The second finding was that, with remarkable consistency, for the 5 remaining batches, mean W did not vary significantly from one batch to another (mean W for 1,207 trios of judges was 0.628, very slightly above the critical value of 0.627): overall, judges agreed significantly on an average of 53.8% of occasions, but failed to agree significantly on an average of 46.2% occasions — a finding which suggests that relying on a single independent judge can be perilous for the objectivity of the scores. The author deems this level of chance non-agreement — 46.2% — to be unacceptable, and, in the circumstances, has therefore decided that in future tests of this kind only 4 targets and 4 responses will be used, together with triple-judging — a set-up which is hypothesised to lead to greater inter-judge concordance.


APRIL 2007


PARANORMAL PHENOMENA IN BRITISH WITCHCRAFT AND WICCAN CULTURE WITH SPECIAL REFERENCE TO SPELLCRAFT

Melvyn J. Willin

This paper analyses the claims of practising witches in order to assess the validity of their pronouncements. This was undertaken by extensive fieldwork involving contacting groups of witches, covens and individual practitioners around England. In particular, witches’ claims to have healing powers by spellcraft were explored and compared with Christians’ use of prayer. The paper starts with information about rituals, spells and use of magic in witchcraft and provides examples from historical and modern sources. It then moves on to analyse the results of questionnaires sent to both witches and Christians. The conclusion discusses how persuasive the evidence is for a belief in paranormal phenomena being evident in contemporary witchcraft culture.


COMPARING PSYCHICS AND NON-PSYCHICS THROUGH A ‘TOKEN-OBJECT’ FORCED-CHOICE ESP TEST

Alejandro Parra and Juan Carlos Argibay

Psychometry is the process by which a psychic or sensitive claims to be able to receive impressions about a person or event using a ‘token-object’ as inductor or instrument. In this study we investigated whether there were significant differences between ‘psychic’ and ‘non-psychic’ people — as measured on an extrasensorial experiences and abilities questionnaire — in their ability to gain accurate impressions using a token object. Seventy-four participants (age range 18–78; M = 48.23; SD = 14.53) were recruited through media advertisements. The experimenters employed blind coding and recoding procedures, and let the participants touch the objects to obtain impressions. Six trials were completed. Participants were categorised as either psychic, ‘ESP skilled’ (N = 44), or non-psychic, ‘ESP experients’ (N = 30). The ESP skilled group scored higher psi-hitting than the ESP experients group, who scored at the level of mean chance expectation. The difference between groups was significant (z = 1.73; p = 0.041, one-tailed). It can be concluded that those participants claiming an ESP ability tended to obtain higher psi-hitting in the forced-choice response test (using a token-object) than those claiming only ESP experiences. Further data analysis revealed high variability between the two groups: participants who claimed ESP abilities generally obtained higher psi-hitting, whereas, among the participants who claimed ESP experiences, some scored high psi-hitting, others high psi-missing.


COMPARING A FREE-RESPONSE PSYCHOMETRY TEST WITH A FREE-RESPONSE VISUAL IMAGERY TEST FOR A NON-PSYCHIC SAMPLE

Alejandro Parra and Juan Carlos Argibay

Research into psychometry, the ability often claimed by psychics to obtain impressions about people from objects that they have owned, has mostly been limited to qualitative analysis because of problems in evaluating free-response material. To date, there has been little interest in exploring psychometry among ordinary people. In this study, a psychometry-based strategy for obtaining ESP hits, using personal objects, was assessed in conjunction with a non-psychometric strategy using picture stimuli in sealed envelopes. Four volunteers served as ‘target persons’ who carried identical objects with them for fifteen days. Seventy-one participants recruited through advertisements then obtained impressions from the token-object and from a picture sealed in an envelope. The target persons blind-scored the participants’ statements. A similar procedure was employed in the non-psychometry condition, a free-response test using visual imagery. The non-psychometry condition resulted in higher scores than those obtained in the psychometry condition (p = 0.006). We conclude that this experiment offers some support for the claim that stimulation of visual imagery is more productive of psi than the use of token objects, at least among ordinary people. It may well be that psychometry involves more complex cognitive processes than we have yet considered.


July 2007


 

A  DETAILED  ANALYSIS  OF  AN  IMPORTANT  CHESS  GAME: 
REVISITING  ‘MARÓCZY  VERSUS  KORCHNOI’

 Vernon  M. Neppe

The author carried out a detailed computer simulation and his own analysis of the 1985–1993 chess game between two leading chess ‘grandmasters’ (the allegedly discarnate Géza Maróczy vs. Victor Korchnoi). Overall, it appears that ‘Maroczy’ played at Master or very disputably low rusty grandmaster level, and this was possibly equivalent to his standard of play while alive; the winner, Korchnoi, played at the level of an accomplished grandmaster. Because of major stylistic differences, the computer could not have simulated the game, nor could many living chess players play at this high a level. Early outside validation (news media, analysis
by an expert player) militate against fraudulent collaboration. In this instance, superpsi appears to be a less parsimonious hypothesis than survival, as superpsi would require the active cogitation of a master chess player or players while alive, extended over a prolonged period of time, with forty-seven appropriate responses. Fraud would be extremely difficult to perpetrate and would require multiple collaboration. This case involves a possibly unique combination of the controlled application of a skill with provision of data. In this case, as reported by Eisenbeiss and Hassler (2006), chess at a very high level was combined with detailed biograph­ical information, the confirmation of the correctness of which was very difficult to locate. This may be one of the most remarkable cases to give evidence for survival of an intelligent component of human existence after bodily death.

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CAN  A  SLIDE-SHOW  PRESENTIMENT  EFFECT  BE DISCOVERED  IN  BRAIN  ELECTRICAL  ACTIVITY ?

Thilo  Hinterberger,  Petra  Studer,  Marco  Jäger, 
Colette  Haverty-Stacke  and  Harald  Walach

The presentation of pictures evokes clearly detectable responses in the electro­encephalogram (EEG). Here, the question is addressed whether people show an anomalous pre-stimulus response prior to a sudden appearance of pictures. Therefore, twenty participants were exposed at randomised times to affective and non-affective pictures, and to checkerboard stimuli. In a non-parametric statistical analysis the one-second pre-stimulus epochs were compared with arbitrarily chosen non-exposed pre-stimulus epochs. In a second step, the contrasts between the pre-stimulus responses of different conditions were tested for significance. Checkerboard stimulation revealed no effect, whereas the picture stimuli resulted in a significant increase of the EEG activity. For affective pictures as well as for the difference between affective and neutral pictures, significant z-scores greater than z = 2.0 were found. A control condition with a covered monitor did not show such an effect. The delta band power was only decreased before presentation of pictures. The results support the possible existence of an abnormal presentiment effect. As it is not visible in the averaged EEG curves, this effect may not be time-locked to the stimulus and may be different for each participant. The non-significant results
for neutral pictures and checkerboard stimuli suggest that emotional affectivity is important for a pre-stimulus effect in the EEG.


October 2007


 

TRAIT, STATE AND PSI: A COMPARISON OF PSI PERFORMANCES BETWEEN CLUSTERS OF SCORERS ON SCHIZOTYPY IN A GANZFELD AND WAKING CONTROL CONDITIONS

by Christine Simmonds-Moore and Nicola J. Holt

This study compared psi performance in the ganzfeld and a methodologically matched waking ESP condition. It also explored the ideas that (a) individual differences exist in the baseline waking state of consciousness, and (b) there may be individual differences in the state of consciousness for optimal psi performance. In this investigation, it was expected that there would be an interaction between personality trait (schizotypy), state of consciousness (manipulated by experimental condition) and psi performance. The direction of the interaction was not predicted. Twenty-six pairs of participants took part in this investigation. Each pair completed both experimental conditions in a counter-balanced order. All receivers completed the four subscales of the O-LIFE (measuring the schizotypy construct) and a scale measuring temporal lobe lability (Persinger & Makarec, 1987). A sum of ranks analysis failed to find a significant psi effect for either the ganzfeld (z = 0.35, p = 0.72, two-tailed) or waking control condition (z = 0.70, p = 0.48, two tailed). These reflect effect sizes of r = 0.07 annd r = 0.14, respectively. These did not differ significantly between the two conditions. No significant correlations were demonstrated between scores on personality scales and psi performance, in either condition. None of the correlations between personality and psi performance differed significantly from one another beteween the two experimental conditions. A cluster analysis of scoring on the personality scales and comparison of psi-scoring between groups indicated a possible but non-significant interaction pattern reflecting marginally better psi performance among negative schizotypes in the gazfeld compared with the waking state and marginally better psi performance among positive and low scoring schizotypes in the waking state. Although it is acknowledged that these patterns may reflect random noise, the discussion includes the suggestion that future studies should be undertaken to address whether these effect sizes might be replicated. If so, participants could be preselected according to cluster group membership for personality scoring.

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ETHICAL GUIDELINES FOR THE INVESTIGATION OF HAUNTING EXPERIENCES

by Ian S. Baker and Ciarán O’Keefe

Due to the number of investigations undertaken by individuals, groups and organisations into haunting experiences, and the lack of any governing body, there is a need for a set of guidelines to provide investigators and members of the public with an outline of how such investigations should be conducted ethically. This paper is intended to provide such a set of guidelines. The paper is divided into three sections: (a) general issues – discussing overall issues for investigations, such as informed consent, confidentiality, charging, power, etc. (b) case-specific issues – issues relating to specific methods for investigating cases, such as interviewing, location investigation and overnight examinations; and (c) other ethical issues – covering more exceptional issues, such as referral to other parties, and the pastoral role of investigators. These guidelines are meant to highlight ethical issues in investigations of this type, but are not designed to dictate specific procedural guidelines that different groups might follow. It is hoped that these guidelines will demonstrate the difficulties inherent in such investigations, and promote a much needed debate about the relevant issues.