JSPR Abstracts 2015

January 2015

Personality Traits Associated With Premonition Experience: Neuroticism, Extroversion, Empathy and Schizotypy

by Alejandro Parra

Premonition is a feeling that something is about to happen when no normal information is available, and in which the target cannot be deduced from normally known data in the present. The main aim was to estimate the proportion of people who claim to have had various kinds of premonition experiences, and to explore any association between these experiences and personality variables such as neuroticism, extroversion, empathy and schizotypy. Respondents completed a questionnaire on premonitions, and the Eysenck Personality Questionnaire, Interpersonal Reactivity Index, and Oxford–Liverpool Inventory of Feelings and Experiences. Personality measures data were compared on dream-related premonition experiences for experients (N = 80) vs. non-experients (N = 271), and on non-dream-related premonition experiences for experients (N = 184) vs. non-experients (N = 167). Participants who reported premonitions had higher scores on empathy and schizotypy, but were not significantly higher on neuroticism and extroversion, although they did endorse more positive indicators of schizotypy (unusual experiences) and cognitive empathy, such as emotional comprehension. Although schizotypy personality traits were associated with premonition experience, experients and non-experients did not differ in its negative dimensions.

Paranormal Attributions for Anomalous Pictures: A Validation of the Survey of Anomalous Experiences

by Harvey J. Irwin

A psychometric test known as the Survey of Anomalous Experiences (Irwin, Dagnall & Drinkwater, 2013) was designed to differentiate between a proneness to anomalous experiences and a proneness to attribute such experiences to paranormal factors. In an attempt to validate the test’s index of proneness to paranormal attributions an online survey was undertaken to assess the relationship between this index and respondents’ interpretation of pictures depicting anomalous events. The survey was completed by 104 Australian university students. A tendency to interpret the pictures as documenting a paranormal event was found to be related to both proneness to anomalous experiences and proneness to paranormal attributions, but the latter of the two relationships was distinctly stronger than the former. These findings are deemed to provide validative support for the Survey of Anomalous Experiences.

In the Eye of The Beholder: Uncovering the Characteristics of Prospectively Reported Spontaneous Precognitive Dreams

by Caroline Watt, Milan Valášek, Sarah Cawthron  and Armandina Almanza

Previous research on the characteristics of precognitive dream experiences has largely been based upon retrospectively reported dreams, which may be susceptible to various reporting biases. The present study compared prospective and retrospective precognitive dreams with non-precognitive dreams. A dream registry was opened for a sixteen-month period of collection of prospective precognitive dream, and event reports and ratings from a selected sample of persons reporting prior precognitive dream experience. The original registry participants as well as additional recruits then rated their retrospective precognitive and non-precognitive dreams on the same dimensions. The pattern of findings, when comparing the three types of dreams, suggests that reporting biases affect the survey and case collection literature. Prospective precognitive dreams did not share a particular phenomenological ‘marker’. We were unable to assess changes over time in the degree of similarity between prospective precognitive dreams and matching events because independent judges did not agree on similarity ratings, suggesting that the interpretation of a dream as precognitive is quite personal to the experient.

April 2015

Exploring Precognition Using a Repetition Priming Paradigm

by David J. Vernon

Controversy has emerged recently over claims that future practice could retroactively facilitate explicit recall in the here and now, with attempts to replicate such findings leading to inconsistent results. Here it is proposed that one possibility for such ambiguous and conflicting findings is that an explicit recall paradigm may be less sensitive to the subtle effects of such phenomena than an implicit repetition priming paradigm, as this does not rely on conscious processes. In addition, manipulation of a traditional repetition priming paradigm provides an opportunity to address the additional question of whether a single future repetition or multiple future repetitions of a stimulus would be needed to elicit a retroactive facilitation in implicit priming, or more simply a precognitive priming effect. Pilot work led to the development of a functional classification task and this was subsequently used to measure possible precognitive priming effects in 102 native English speakers. The data showed no evidence of precognitive priming when stimuli were repeated only once in the future. However, multiple future repetitions, whilst having no effect on response latencies, did elicit an effect on accuracy, such that participants were more accurate when responding to stimuli that would be repeated four times in the future than to stimuli that were not repeated. The results are discussed and some speculative possibilities are offered. Nevertheless, the lack of robust precognitive priming effects for both response times and accuracy means that such a result needs to be interpreted with caution. 

The Role of Doublethink and Other Coping Processes In Paranormal and Related Beliefs

by Harvey J. Irwin, Neil Dagnall and Kenneth Drinkwater

Two online surveys were undertaken to investigate relationships between the intensity of paranormal and related beliefs and the predictors of coping style and proneness to ‘doublethink’, the tendency to endorse contradictory beliefs concurrently. In Study 1, completed by 257 participants, Traditional Religious Beliefs were related to proneness to doublethink, but not to coping style. New Age Beliefs were not correlated with either set of predictors. A second objective of Study 1 was to examine the possibility that elevated existential anxiety would exacerbate the intensity of paranormal and related beliefs. No evidence for such an effect was educed. In Study 2, completed by 534 adults, proneness to doublethink and deficits in reality testing were found jointly to predict the intensity of both New Age Beliefs and Traditional Religious Beliefs. Given the conceptual significance of the study’s hypotheses it is hoped that future researchers will pursue these issues through more sophisticated methods.

Features of Out-of-Body Experiences: Relationships To Frequency, Wilfulness of and Previous Knowledge About the Experience

by Carlos S. Alvarado and Nancy L. Zingrone

This study examined the relationship to other variables of a count of features of out-of-body experiences (OBEs), compiled as an OBE Feature Index. Following Blackmore’s (1984b) psychological model of OBEs it was predicted that there would be positive correlations between the Index and measures of OBE frequency and of deliberate OBEs. We also predicted a positive relationship between the Index and previous knowledge about the experience. Eighty-eight OBE cases were obtained through appeals in newspapers, magazines, and on-line bulletin boards in Great Britain. OBE features were comparable to previous study findings. Some of the most common features of the OBE were floating sensations (71%), staying in usual surroundings (69%), seeing the physical body (65%), and seeing the surroundings from above (63%). Among the less common were the feeling that consciousness oscillated in and out of the body (1%), seeing a ray of light or cord connecting the physical body with the OB location (2%), manipulating the environment via thought (3%), and hearing music (4%). The hypotheses related to the Index were confirmed only with deliberate OBEs (rs = 0.35). The Index was not significantly related to demographic variables.

July 2015

Thinking Style and The Making of a Paranormal Disbelief

by Harvey J. Irwin

Despite a burgeoning literature on the psychological correlates of belief in the paranormal, little research has been devoted to the investigation of paranormal scepticism. This study sought to relate the formation of a paranormal disbelief to habitual thinking styles. An online survey was undertaken by 94 Australian university students. Questionnaire measures replicated known associations between the intensity of previously established paranormal beliefs and an experiential–intuitive mode of thinking but not a rational–analytical mode. Under a procedure for evoking a paranormal belief or disbelief in real time, however, participants who formed a paranormal disbelief were found to exhibit a preference for a rational–analytical mode of thinking. Recommendations are made for the further investigation of the nature of paranormal disbelief.    

Mysterious Ways: The Riddle of the Homing Ability In Dogs and Other Vertebrates

by Michael Nahm

The homing ability of animals has fascinated many laymen and scientists for some time. Despite considerable efforts by researchers to elucidate its underpinnings, however, it is still not known exactly how a bird, for example, can determine its longitudinal position on the globe and find its home from an unknown location to which it has been displaced. The same seems valid for terrestrial animals such as dogs. To bring this problem to renewed attention and to stimulate further research into this topic, this paper introduces two largely unknown sources dealing with the homing ability in dogs. Both contain remarkable instances of dogs that repeatedly returned to their homes or keepers from unknown locations. The first source concerns the work of Edwin H. Richardson with messenger dogs in World War I; the second source concerns the systematic homing experiments that Bernhard Müller performed between 1953 and 1962 with 75 dogs. Both authors maintained that the homing success of the dogs could not be explained in terms of the use of their usual senses alone. I go on to review currently available explanatory hypotheses for animal navigation with a focus on bird and mammal homing, and also touch upon orientation abilities in humans. This review shows that there is no consensus among leading experts with regard to the most suited model, and many admit that a conclusive explanation for homing is still lacking. Hence, an additional governing factor such as ESP might well come into play. Drawing on the training methods for dogs applied by Richardson, I suggest testing this hypothesis by training dogs to find their keepers at an unknown location.

October 2015

Linking Minds Through Joint Attention: A Preliminary Investigation

by Rupert Sheldrake

Joint attention is the shared focus of two or more people on the same thing. Do they know that others are attending to the same object entirely through sensory cues, such as observing the direction of others’ gazes, or does joint attention also involve a kind of mental resonance? Parapsychological investigations have shown a small but significant effect of mental intention at a distance when remote participants were looking at similar objects. This study investigated a more straightforward kind of joint attention, with participants looking directly at the same object. In this investigation the participants worked in pairs. They were separated by a wall in such a way that they could not see each other, but both could see a target object such as an apple. Tests consisted of 20 trials, each lasting about 10 seconds. One of the participants (the ‘ looker’) either looked at the object, or did not look, in a random sequence, and the other participant (the ‘guesser’) had to guess whether or not the other person was looking at the object. Altogether there were 310 tests with 6,200 trials. The total number of hits was 3,255 (52.5%), significantly above the chance level of 50% (p = 0.00003). In 155 of the tests the hit rate was above chance, and in 109 below chance. The higher number of positive than negative tests was significant at the p = 0.003 level. There was no significant effect of trial-by-trial feedback. As in research on the sense of being stared at, there was a response bias in favour of guessing that the other person was looking, but this bias could not explain the positive results. The data suggest that the guessers were picking up unidentified influences from the lookers.

The ‘Skinwalker Ranch’ : A Paranormal Hot Spot?

by Peter A. Mccue

The Uinta Basin in the USA has a history of UFO sightings and alleged encounters with strange animals and ghostly phenomena. It may be a paranormal hot spot, but without reliable comparative statistics, it is hard to know whether the level of anomalous activity there has been disproportionately high. However, judging from reports, a 480-acre ranch in the basin has been the setting for a particularly high concentration of bizarre events, including phenomena of the poltergeist/haunting type, animal disappearances, cattle mutilations and unusual aerial manifestations. Known colloquially as the 'Skinwalker Ranch', it is located about two and a half miles south-west of Fort Duchesne in north-east Utah. In 1996, the property was acquired by the National Institute for Discovery Science (NIDS), a private research
organization funded by the tycoon Robert Bigelow. Like the previous owners, NIDS personnel reportedly witnessed anomalous phenomena on the ranch, although they had limited success in recording manifestations with instrumentation. Within NIDS, it was speculated that they were dealing with a ?sentient, precognitive, nonhuman intelligence?. NIDS, in name, became defunct in 2004, but it appears that
the property is still owned by Robert Bigelow. In this article, I aim to bring the case to the attention of psychical researchers, and to argue that the whole range of phenomena that reportedly occurred there may have been of a paranormal nature.