JSPR Abstracts 2014

January 2014

Medium or Author? A Preliminary Model Relating Dissociation, Paranormal Belief Systems and Self-Esteem

by Everton de Oliveira Maraldi

One of the main characteristics of the automatic writing and automatic drawing observed at Brazilian spiritist centros is the attribution of authorship to external sources, usually of an allegedly spiritual kind. For many spiritist mediums, as for the ones the author has studied for two years, the final result of their productions is conceived as a (sometimes confused) mixture of personal and spiritual elements. Nonetheless, their graphic and pictorial material seems to be very interesting in psychological terms. In this paper, I propose a psychosocial model relating dissociation, paranormal beliefs and self-esteem that would better account for the qualitative data gathered at two spiritist institutions from 2009 to 2011. Participants were 11 mediums (9 women and 2 men, M = 47 years old, range = 29–65). It seems that some dissociative practices at the centros functioned, in many ways, as psychological elaboration of diffuse or impulsive emotions experienced in early childhood, in contexts of lack of affection, repressive education and low socioeconomic status, factors that could have helped undermine the medium’s selfesteem. Due to a lack of stimulation and encouragement to develop individual capacities, these individuals felt disconnected from their own potentials and creativity, which could have fostered the eruption of latent potentials in the form of automatisms and dissociative phenomena attributed to spiritual entities. Other factors like religious affiliation and level of paranormal belief could be involved in the process of causal attribution.

A Remarkable Photographic Anomaly and the Social Dynamics of Its Interpretation

by Gerhard A. Mayer

This paper presents the case of an unusual photographic anomaly. A picture with an ‘extra’, an uncanny face-like shape, was taken in the depths of the night during a birthday party in a barbecue area on a hill in the south German countryside. The reported circumstances as well as the quality of the ‘extra’ itself seemed so interesting and challenging that an investigative team from the IGPP examined the case in detail and from two perspectives. The first aspect concerned the nature of the ‘extra’ itself with regard to possible conventional explanations. The second was directed towards the social processes within the group of adolescents and young adults in response to the ostensible anomaly. To be sure that the picture had not been edited subsequently, we commissioned a publicly appointed and sworn expert on the analysis of digital and analogue photography to carry out tests for manipulation. He was able to provide maximum certainty that the picture was not faked. This result makes the case interesting in the first place, and worthy of investigation with regard to the nature of the ‘extra’. We conducted field investigations, including a local survey and interviews with several individuals who were directly concerned. Interviews revealed that, among other things, there was an incubation period during which an atmosphere had been created, which is known as being favourable for the occurrence of paranormal phenomena (Batcheldor, 1979, 1984; Isaacs, 1984). We conclude that conventional explanations are implausible though they cannot be absolutely ruled out. After considering all available contextual information, a staged effect appears as implausible as the occurrence of a made-up unknown person at the location by chance. In contrast, some circumstances of the case suggest the possibility of a paranormal incident. Among typical elements known to be favourable for the occurrence of paranormal phenomena, differences can be seen that do not fit into these patterns. This seems to be an intermediate case because several factors suggest a place-linked anomaly, but there are also elements that may point to a person-centred aspect. Thus, this case study is not so much a confirmation of established knowledge concerning hauntings and RSPK cases but rather an addition to the variety of such alleged anomalies. Ultimately the ‘extra’ remained an enigma.

April 2014

Two Cases From the Lost Years of Mrs Piper by Alan Gauld

This paper presents two hitherto unpublished cases from what may be called the ‘ lost years’ of Mrs Piper, the period between 1897 and 1905 from which only a very limited amount has been published. The cases illustrate different aspects of the Piper phenomenon, and while not among the strongest are not without evidential interest. They are used as the basis for a discussion of various standard tactics for denying that there is any paranormal element in such cases.

The Views of Parapsychologists: A Survey of Members of the Parapsychological Association

by Harvey J. Irwin

The popular stereotype of a parapsychologist may well be a negative one, based in large part as it is on the characterization of parapsychologists’ views by sceptical commentators and in the popular media. On the other hand there is little empirical information from which to infer the real views of contemporary parapsychologists. An online survey of members of the Parapsychological Association was therefore undertaken to ascertain some of their background characteristics and their views on diverse topical issues in parapsychology. A sample of 114 people participated in the survey. Some issues, such as the reality of psi and the importance of specialist training in parapsychology, attracted substantial consensus, but a disparity of views was evident on other issues (e.g. the unity of ESP and PK); somewhat surprisingly, developments in anomalistic psychology and mainstream concerns over probabilistic evaluation of hypotheses appear to be of limited interest to parapsychologists. The findings of the project are presented primarily as a matter of information, but they also raise a few policy implications.

July 2014

From Symptom To Difference: ‘Hearing Voices’ and Exceptional Experiences

by Renaud Evrard

Traditionally considered to be psychopathological auditory-verbal hallucinations, the voices heard by patients, but also by many people from the normal population, are currently the subject of much attention from researchers, clinicians and public authorities. One might think that voice hearing is a psychopathological experience that has little to do with parapsychological phenomenology, except when information is ostensibly acquired paranormally through the form of a voice. But paranormal and spiritual interpretations of voices are ubiquitous in many studies of voice-hearing, and these have even provided some outstanding examples of healthpromoting appraisals of psychotic-like experiences. The research on the type of appraisal along the axes of internal/external or personal/impersonal provides direct guidance on clinical intervention strategies. No longer focusing on the ‘what’ but rather on the ‘how’ of these experiences helps avoid some biases relative to the assessment of beliefs — especially unusual beliefs — in the clinical setting. In this paper, I first describe the genesis of the Hearing Voices Movement, as presented by the Dutch psychiatrist Marius Romme, and then review selected research on these anomalous experiences. I argue that parapsychology has much to learn from the Hearing Voices Movement, and vice versa. The change of perspective on voice hearing — from a symptom to an individual difference — may be generaled for all exceptional experiences, as the late Rhea White had begun to establish with her Exceptional Human Experiences Network. This leads us to consider how parapsychological research is used by people searching for meaning with respect to their exceptional experiences, and conversely how researchers attempt to normalize these experiences. How to maintain a clinical approach to exceptional experiences when facing a discourse that disqualifies their psychopathological approach? As the figurehead of the broader movement of ‘recovery’, the Hearing Voices Movement offers a competitive clinical practice, but has failed to provide a true differential clinical practice starting from a neutral name referring to several psychopathological pathways that need to be distinguished.

Théodore Flournoy’s Contributions To Psychical Research

by Carlos S. Alvarado, Everton de Oliveira Maraldi, Fatima Regina Machado and Wellington Zangari

In this paper we review the main contributions of Swiss psychologist Théodore Flournoy (1854–1920) to psychical research. Flournoy always advocated the scientific study of psychic phenomena as an important area that should not be ignored. After a short discussion of Flournoy’s attitudes to psychic phenomena we focus on his main work, his study of Hélène Smith (1861–1929) published in Des Indes à la Planète Mars (1900), in which he summarized communications about previous lives in France and India, as well as those coming from the planet Mars, which Flournoy attributed to subconscious abilities involving imagination and cryptomnesia. In addition, we review his other investigations of mental mediums, observations of physical mediums, and writings about telepathy and precognition. We argue that Flournoy’s work with mental mediums made him a significant contributor to the study of the capabilities of the subconscious mind, work that was important to the theoretical concerns of both dynamic psychology and psychical research.

October 2014

Dissociative Tendencies, Sensory-Processing Sensitivity and Aberrant Salience As Predictors of Anomalous Experiences and Paranormal Attributions

by Harvey J. Irwin, Malcolm B. Schofield and Ian S. Baker

An online survey completed by 307 adults was undertaken to examine the relationship between the reporting of parapsychological experiences and three    psychological dimensions, namely dissociative tendencies, sensory-processing sensitivity and aberrant salience. In contrast with most previous studies of parapsychological experiences, cognizance was taken of a distinction between  a proneness to have anomalous experiences and a proneness to attribute such experiences to paranormal factors. All three psychological predictors were found to be related both to a proneness to anomalous experiences and to a proneness to paranormal attributions. Possible implications of these findings for the basis of parapsychological experiences are indicated.

Exploration of the Validity and Utility of a Reward Contingency In a Non-Intentional Forced-Choice Precognition Task

by David Luke and Shelley Morin 

Stanford’s ‘psi-mediated instrumental response’ (PMIR) model proposes that psi is a largely unconscious process and is ‘need serving’, such that it is driven by rewards or punishments for the organism utilising it, usually in an evolutionarily adaptive manner. A series of successful experiments conducted by Luke and associates have explored the PMIR model with an automated non-intentional forced-choice psi task with outcome contingencies that vary in pleasantness commensurate with psi task success. Explorations of the salience of the contingency task, however, produced findings apparently contrary to the predictions of the PMIR model, so the present study aimed to replicate this experiment but monitor subjective judgements of task pleasantness to ascertain whether the contingent tasks were valid. An opportunity sample of 41 participants completed 10 trials each of the non-intentional forced-choice psi task, with 20 randomly allocated to the nocontingent condition and 21 to the contingent condition. Findings were consistent with the previous experiment with above-chance psi scoring, although non-significant, and a higher psi score for the no-contingent condition as previously, though also non-significant. However, subjective task pleasantness ratings indicated that participants found the no-contingent condition significantly more pleasant than either of the contingent conditions, thereby supporting a PMIR interpretation of the unexpected findings. Out of a number of individual difference measures only sheep–goat psi belief was found to predict psi score, as also found previously with this test paradigm. The findings are discussed in the light of previous studies, with suggestions for future research.

Effects of Participant and Target System Lability Upon PK Performance Using an I Ching Task

by Chris A. Roe, Hannah Martin and Sophie Drennan

Relatively few parapsychological experiments investigating micro-PK effects have been designed to consider psychological or individual differences factors, and those variables that have been considered have been subject to too few replications to give a clear indication of which persons may perform best under which conditions. Previous research by the first author discovered and replicated an interaction effect between an individual differences factor, participant lability, and a situational factor, target system lability. The present study was designed to replicate that finding conceptually using a novel task so as to control for possible artifacts. An alternative task was built around the I Ching divination procedure, which it was felt retained important characteristics of being personally relevant for the participant and intuitively straightforward to understand. An opportunity sample of 34 participants completed a measure of lability and decided upon a personal question that the I Ching could help with. Participants were run individually and completed a Q-sort of all 64 hexagram descriptions based on their perceived applicability to their question. Then they cast three hexagrams by means of a computer-based program that used a live random number generator (Live), the pseudo-random function of the computer (Pseudo) and a predetermined list of random numbers derived from published tables (Table). The Q-sort positions were used to rate the applicability of the selected hexagrams. Although the general pattern of performance was in line with prediction, with the highest average ratings awarded to hexagrams selected by the most labile Live method, next highest for the moderately labile Pseudo method and worst ratings for the most stabile Table method, the mean shifts were small and non-significant. Similarly, although the highest overall performance was achieved by the most labile participant group, an intermediate level of performance was recorded by the intermediate group and worst performance was by the stabile group, the modest differences were not significant. Therefore, despite the pattern of performance being superficially similar to that reported in previous studies, this experiment was not able to replicate the interaction between participant and target system lability. Possible causes for this failure to replicate are considered.