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Transcript of Anomalous pyschology
- the study of
including (but not restricted to) those which are often labeled '
'. It is directed towards understanding bizarre experiences
without the assumption
that there is anything
Methodological issues related to the study paranormal cognition
Paranormal cognition relates to
cannot be explained
gained through the r
ecognized physical senses.
is an example of this - conveying message through the mind.
studies are a way of measuring telepathy.
Methodological issues related to the study of paranormal action
Psychokinesis (PK) refers to the moving or influencing of physical things by the intention of the mind alone.
- experiences that lie outside the range of normal experience or scientific explanation. i.e. perceived activity and experiences
as already considered to be
It attempts to explain paranormal and related beliefs/experiences in terms of
known psychological and physical factors.
- the 'scientific' (anomalous psychologists would describe it as 'pseudoscientific') investigation of paranormal phenomena which c
annot be explained in terms of currently accepted, orthodox, scientific theories.
Another person should be able to repeat study in same way and get same result. One study is not enough to claim cause and effect
Only some ‘experimenters’ can get the results
Problem of experimenter effects
Eliminates confounding variables
Verified by unbiased measurements
Often biased /subjective
Significant results have been found but critics have claimed controls inadequate. When controls greater results not significant.
5% level generally used but still possible results due to chance, so possibility of Type 1 error
No circumstances which can falsify claims only reasons to explain away results or lack of e.g. presence of psi inhibitors (skeptics) wrong time of day etc. If cannot be falsified is not a science.
Burden of proof
Up to sceptics to disprove
Results peer reviewed before publication
Often direct to public – avoids critical assessment
Problem of selective reporting ‘file drawer problem’ (don’t include non significant results)
Formulates hypotheses and information then gathers data
Formulated hypotheses to fit data
Uses methodological pluralism (uses different types of method to test a particular theory)
Picks method to get the data wanted. Often uses anecdotal evidence.
Aims to confirm rather than refute its own theories
Aims to test theories in order to refute (falsify) them
Pseudoscience and the scientific status of parapsychology
Uses complex scientific jargon with imprecise meanings to give a superficial air of 'science'
Uses scientific terminology with precisely defined meanings to ensure clarity
Note - Pseudoscience literally means 'false science'!
Why is science important?
We prefer stories to facts
We seek to confirm, not question our ideas
• We tend to oversimplify our thinking
• We sometimes misperceive the world around us e.g. psychic illusions
• We rarely appreciate the role of chance and coincidence - probability misjudgment
• Law of truly large numbers
• We have faulty memories
became an affiliated
of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (
) amid much controversy in
mainstream scientific journals
(eg. The British Journal of Psychology) and
(eg. The Journal of Parapsychology)...
found that almost
of the"fringe" journals showed
of an established theory, whereas
journals showed disconfirmation. Thus it may be argued that parapsychology is actually more scientific than psychology in terms of
b) Similar levels of
good statistical practice
were found in studies
reported in "fringe" journals and scientific ones.
found that there were many
(anecdotal evidence*) for phenomena such as
However, she did state that
of studies had an
and almost a
4) In Parapsychology, only
seem to get
by other researchers
to achieve similarly.
suggests that this may be caused by
, and this
undermines the scientific nature of the research.
2) There are many
arguably labeled as
in parapsychology, however this also true of other scientific fields, such as
, psychoanalysis etc).
The Ganzfeld Technique:
(this is 'the ganzfeld' ['total field']) through
translucent ping pong
ball halves over eyes and
Ganzfeld studies in
Milton and Wiseman
) involving 1198 individual trials found a hit rate
no greater than 25%
, i.e. the results were
Bem and Honorton
also carried out a
of studies and found
in hit rates between
: receivers who were
believers in the paranormal
higher hit rate
. However, other researchers could
these finding (except the meditation/yoga one).
- for example, some procedures use the
same set of cards
for both the sender and the receiver, so the receiver may pick up
themselves e.g. the target appears to have been more
could also lead to sensory leakage in that the experimenter could be giving
to the receiver.
Sensory leakage could be
by, for example, using
cards on a screen
or using a
instead of the experimenter.
Non-randomization of targets
- For example,
reports that people have a
. If this is the case, the expected hit rate would be more like
because there's kind of only
, and this would explain the 35% rate that was mentioned earlier.
Over several trials
, if the receiver is able to select the right image at
greater than chance
one in four
), this suggests that they
really are able to receive thoughts telepathically.
they assign the
, this is scored as a '
of the session, the receiver is
stimuli and asked to
the degree to which each one
they experienced in the Ganzfeld.
The receiver attempts to receive the image for about
, speaking their thought processes
, in another room,
of a choice of
') to be sent to the receiver telepathically.
, there had been
reported Ganzfeld studies conducted by investigators in
. Across these studies, receivers achieved an average hit-rate about
, when the expected hit-rate is
with the odds of getting such a hit rate across that many studies being
greater than a billion to one
demonstrated that this result could
have resulted simply from
- The movement of objects by intention alone where the movement can be
, including spoon bending or moving an object on a table without touching it.
- the influencing of objects on a
scale, involving the
manipulation of chance
. E.g. being able to influence which numbers are thrown on a set of dice, or which numbers will be drawn in a lottery.
Radin and Ferrarri
2.5 million dice rolls
over 128 studies with over 2500 participants and found that there was a
over chance expectation result (
at p<0.001) for those who rolled the dice while wishing for pre-specified faces to appear (
) compared to the
150,000 dice rolls
were well within that
expected by chance.
also showed that
in study designs were
correlated with outcomes, and the
et al carried out a later
(random number generators) and found that a very small but
did exist which appeared to
However, they also noted that studies with the most
and later larger scale studies
failed to replicate
significant findings.They also noted that the
for meta-analysis were
1) Early studies allowed the dice rolling to be conducted by hand, so any positive results could have been down to
sleight of hand
rather than PK.
Low experimental control.
Type of dice used can make a difference. For example,
et al found that
low quality dice
can often have a bias towards certain numbers.
Some scientists simply make up their data because they want to be rich/famous. For example, colleagues of
found that he was
in order to make results appear more significantly positive.
ways depending on whether or not they
believe in PK
(skeptics could cause
The file-drawer effect.
It is possible that research that does not produce positive results is not published, making evidence for PK seem more convincing.
instead of dice.
procedure to avoid experimenter bias*
The file-drawer effect could be dealt with by
working out how many non-effect research studies would be required to counteract the findings of a meta-analysis
. In one such study, it was estimated that
one non-effect study
would have to be found
every month for 28 years
to nullify the strong findings found in PK research!
Further discussion can focus on the unfair amount of
that is imposed on parapsychology compared to traditional psychology, which is arguably just as guilty of
lack of control
of non-findings and
very little/no evidence
being demonstrated under
, especially as many people who claim to have macro PK refuse to be tested in this way because many of them are
or argue that the presence of
inhibit their powers.
easier to test
because we can
of, for instance, a certain number being thrown on a dice three times in a row. There is some substantial
*an experimental procedure in which neither the subjects of the experiment nor the persons administering the experiment know the critical aspects of the experiment; "a double-blind procedure is used to guard against both experimenter bias and placebo effects"
The role of coincidence and probability judgements in anomalous experience
According to anomalistic psychologists, when something a coincidence happens we are more likely to attribute it to the paranormal because we are not used to rare occurrences, but given that there are so many people in the world (7,000,000,000) there will always be cases of extraordinary phenomena that get defined as paranormal because people do not understand coincidence and probability.
Diaconis and Mosteller identified 3 factors which can account for the majority of coincidences......
1. A hidden cause. For example if 2 people think of an old mutual friend at the same time they probably just saw someone who reminded them of them subconsciously.
2. "Multiple end points". For example, someone sharing the birthday as you is a close match, but people may also think it's cray if a person is born in the same week or the same day but in a different month.
3. The law of truly large numbers. If enough opportunities exist, even VERY unlikely coincidences will occur. For example, billions of dreams occur every night; by the laws of probability some of the dreams will appear to show accurate precognition of what is about to happen
The probability misjudgments hypothesis
Humans have a deep-seated need to seek causality. This leads us to see causes for random events which are really the product of chance. It might be that beliebers in the paranormal may simply be poorer at estimating the probability of coincidence.
Blackmore and Troscianko asked participants to assess how likely chance outcomes were. They found no significant difference between scores of psi believers and psi non-believers at first, but a second larger study found that believers did perform significantly worse. Unreliable findings :-/
An extension of the above hypothesis is that psi believers have reduced intellectual ability (so they do not understand chance/probability or cannot recognize flawed evidence).
This research is obviously v socially sensitive because it's basically calling paranormal believers dumb, which is especially problematic if the theory is wrong!
Also, people generally tend to find coincidence more surprising if it happens to
personally, so are more likely to attribute it to the paranormal.
Blackmore tested this idea. She published a questionnaire in the Daily Telegraph which she aksed readers to complete and send back to her.
It consisted of 10 statements such as:
'There is someone in my family called Jack'
'I have a scar on my left knee'
She received 6238 responses. The mean score for statements being true for oneself was 2.4. The mean estimation for the imaginary person was 3.6.
pp.s had to say whether these were true or false for themselves. They then had to estimate how many would be true for the first person they come to in the street.
This supports the theory that people are less likely to think that coincidences will happen to themselves.
A COINCIDENCE IS WHERE 2 OR MORE EVENTS HAPPEN BY CHANCE TO OCCUR AT THE SAME TIME OR IN CLOSE SUCCESSION, LEADING TO THE ASSUMPTION THAT THEY ARE LINKED
The cognitive-deficit hypothesis
Musch and Ehrenberg found a correlation between paranormal belief and errors or probabilistic reasoning tasks, and they claim this is due to lower cognitive ability . However, these findings have not been replicated so further research is needed.
*Anecdotal evidence can lead to
, i.e. people remember 'hits' and forget 'misses'
Explanations of superstitious behaviour and magical thinking
Superstitious behaviour is behaviour which is based on a false belief that one occurrence caused the other, so the behaviour is based on an inaccurate causal relationship.
can lead to superstition. When 2 events occur together people may falsely assume that one caused the other; this is a false belief. For instance, in the year he won Wimbledon Goran Ivanisevic practiced superstitious rituals each day (including watching the Teletubbies), to which he attributed his success at the tournament.
would argue that
may lead to superstitions, since positive reinforcement causes you to repeat the behaviour. (e.g. if you wore your lucky pants on a night out and you had a really good time you'd probably wear them again next time.... 'the lucky pants hypothesis' lol)
Superstitions can also be
Social Learning Theory
. For instance, superstitions often vary from culture to culture and people tend to have the same superstitions as their parents.
Evaluation and commentary relating to explanations of superstition
put very hungry pigeons in a box and then fed them. Over time they carried out odd behaviour, e.g. one pigeon turned anti-clockwise before the arrival of food which appeared ritualistic. Skinner argued that their odd behaviour was reinforced by the arrival of food, so they persisted in this behaviour.
set up a field experiment in a library in which computers made loud noises. The people using them tried pressing various buttons to stop the noise. The noise would stop and start again freuqently, and people were observed to frantically press whichever button they had pressed when the noise stopped before, even though the button pressing was not actually linked to the noise. Therefore it was concluded that the participants has acquired a superstitious behaviour.
Research suggests that superstitions can be
. For instance, in the UK,
is seen to be a lucky number, whereas in Thailand the number 9 is thought to be lucky.
Explanations of Magical Thinking
Magical thinking is defined as believing that one event happens as a result of another without plausible or scientific link of causation.
The law of contagion
This involves the idea that an object which has been in contact with a person comes to possess their 'essence'. This would help explain why people are unwilling to buy houses where tragedy has happened, e.g. the house of Fred and Rose West was knocked down because no-one wanted to buy it.
This theory explains why people 'think magically': historically and culturally, people have believed that there can be a permanent transfer of properties from one object to another by brief contact. Witchcraft has often used parts of a person (hair, fingernails etc.) in spells to cause positive or negative consequences to the target because the 'essence' of this person remains in these extractions.
The cognitive deficit hypothesis
Irwin suggested that people who engage in magical thinking are: "illogical, irrational, credulous,uncritical and foolish". The theory states that some people believe in magic because they do not have the necessary cognitive resources to think in a more rational and logical way.It predicts that those who engage in magical thinking will score lower on a range of cognitive tasks than a rational control group.
The psychodynamic functions hypothesis
This states that some people see life as chaotic and unpredictable and this makes them stressed out, so they engage in superstitious behaviour and magical thinking to give them more of a feeling of control over their life and this therefore reduces their anxiety. ie magical thinking is a coping strategy, and will increase during times of high stress such as war or exams.
Evaluation of explanations of Magical Thinking
Rozin, Millman and Nemeroff tested participants' rating of a drink that had different forms of contamination. Initially, pp.s were asked to rate their liking of apple juice on a 200 point scale.
After the initial trial, half the participants watched the experimenter take a dried, sterilized
and stir it in the juice for five seconds. The other half watched a birthday cake candle holder be stirred in the juice. It was made explicit to the participants that there was no health risk involved.
After drinking the contaminated juice, the rating of the cockroach juice dropped 102 points on average, compared with the candle holder juice which only dropped by 3 points.
found that superstitious beliefs in undergraduate students increased after exposure to an
, but not a solvable one. This supports the theory that magical thinking increases in situations of low control.
has shown that activating good-luck related superstitions (e.g. crossing one's fingers, lucky charm etc) can lead to
improvement of performance
in golfing, more dexterity, memory and anagram games. Furthermore, it is thought these improvements are caused by changes in believed self-efficacy, so activating a superstition boosts confidence and this improves performance.
Keinan found that
living in areas under threat of military action during the
scored higher on measures of magical thinking than those who did not live in such areas.
However, later research has failed to replicate this finding, and it has been noted that pigeons perform odd behaviour all the time and it does not necessarily seem linked to the arrival of food, so theses findings are not reliable and also can't necessarily be generalized onto humans.
Personality factors underlying anomalous experience
Some theorists argue that personality can be measured on three independent traits:
Extraversion: lively sociable behaviour as opposed to quiet, solitary behaviour
Neuroticism: Anxious moody behaviour as opposed to emotional stability
Psychoticism: Emotional tough mindedness
Parra and Villanueva
tested 30 participants, all of whom completed the Eysenck Personality Inventory (EPI), and found that extraverts scored significantly higher in Extrasensory Perception (ESP) than introverts.
et al found that extroverts have a small but consistent advantage on psi ability tests (ESP for example) than introverts. However,
put this down to the fact that extroverts are more social and therefore more relaxed in an intimidating laboratory environment, hence the higher scores.
Williams et al found
significant correlation between extraversion and belief in paranormal activity.
The psychodynamic functions hypothesis
would tie in with the neuroticism explanation because neurotic people are more likely to experience frequent anxiety and therefore try to reduce this anxiety through superstitious behaviour.
Williams et al found that there was a moderate correlation (+0.32)between high neuroticism socres on a personality test and high scores on a paranormal beliefs test in 13-16 year-olds from a Welsh state school. However, paranormal beliefs in this population were unusually high anyway, with 52.7% believing in ghosts and 40.8% believing in horoscopes.
Wiseman and Watt found a significant correlation in 4339 participants between scores on a single item neuroticism scale (rate out of 1-5 the statement 'i tend to worry about life') and scores in a paranormal belief test.
found a significant c (p<0.5) correlation between
and paranormal belief in 51 undergraduate students, and
correlation with neuroticism!
OTHER PERSONALITY FACTORS:
Research has linked creativity to increased belief in the paranormal, for example
et al asked participants to think up words which could meaningfully connect 2 other words. They found a positive correlation between originality of the words and paranormal belief.
Locus of control
Stanke asked found a significant correlation (p=0.04) between external locus of control and superstitious beliefs.
EXCEPTIONAL EXPERIENCE: PsYcHiC hEaLiNg
This refers to any method used to alleviate health problems by purely psychic means
suggested that psychic healing works due to
effects. Therefore, even if there is no psi ability, the treatment will still have beneficial outcomes.
Placebo effects refer to the body healing itself through the expectation that healing has taken place.
has suggested that some aspects of modern medical practice, for example having to give patients full information about the likelihood of a treatment working, will reduce the patient's expectations that they will recover. Therefore, psychic healing techniques may be more likely get positive outcomes in some circumstances.
RESEARCH INTO PSYCHIC HEALING
In an Australian study by
Lyvers et al
, a psychic used a volunteer sample of 20 participants with chronic back pain and randomly assigned them to a control or experimental group. The participants were all told that the psychic was focusing on them, although he really only focused on the treatment group. The psychic was in one room looking at a photo of the participant and the participant was in another room. Each participant was assessed using a pain questionnaire before and after treatment, and
no significant difference
was found between the 2 groups, so no evidence of psychic healing was found. However, evidence
in psychic healing were more likely to report an improvement in pain symptoms - regardless of whether or not they were in the control or experimental group. So, belief may play a key role in the success of psychic healing (supports the
RESEARCH INTO PSYCHIC HEALING
In a US study by Sicher et al, 40 patients with
were divided into 2 groups for a matched pairs experiment (matched by age and severity of condition) on
. One of each pair was randomly allocated to the treatment group and received various types of distance healing, including prayer, from healers located all around the United States who had photos of their participants.
RESEARCH INTO PSYCHIC HEALING
There are many individual case studies that seem demonstrate psychic healing, but obviously case studies can't really be generalized onto a wider population and also
said that to truly test whether psychic healing has worked:
The disease must not normally be self-terminating
The recovery must be complete
There must be no other medical treatment administered
There must be adequate medical opinion to say that the illness
present before the treatment and it
present after treatment.
and when these criteria are followed, case studies do not usually support psychic healing.
Psychic healing research can be
because it may lead to wrongful rejection of legitimate medicine; for example people may think 'oh shit I've been wasting my time with conventional medicine when really i just need psychic healing' and if psychic healing doesn't actually work, this could be very harmful to the health of society!
It was a
trial because the participants did not know which group they were in and neither did doctors who assessed their health after 6 months. It was a very carefully controlled experiment. They found
: the treatment group were not as sick, required fewer doctors visits/hospitalizations and they also showed improved mood!
EXCEPTIONAL EXPERIENCE: Out-of-body and Near-death experiences
occur when a person seems to perceive the world from a location outside the human body.
are vivid and dramatic experiences reported by a sizeable minority of people who believe they have come close to death. NDEs often involve OBEs.
There are some interesting similarities in the reports from people who have an NDE. Often there is a sense of peace and the presence of a strong light. Some report this as a religious experience. Other common themes are a life review ('my life flashed before by eyes'), a feeling of joy, a sense of mystical entity (god-like figure), and a sense of a point of no return. These similarities would suggest that NDEs are
The Transcendental Hypothesis
(parapsychological) states that NDEs occur when someone's soul is passing from one existence to the next. Descriptions of NDEs from case studies tend to support this hypothesis...
There are a number of different neurological explanations that come under the umbrella of the
'dying brain hypothesis'.
One version says that a huge number of
are released in times of great pain or stress, leading to feelings of
Another version is
to explain the 'light at the end of the tunnel'
Abnormal activity within the
can produce symptoms of
et al found that OBEs can be produced by direct stimulation of a part of the brain called the
Weak stimulation of the right angular gyrus made a patient feel she was 'sinking into the bed' or 'falling from a height', whilst stronger stimulation caused a feeling of seeing oneself lying in the bed or floating a couple of metres above.
The role of information processing:
suggests that OBEs are a result of a person losing contact with
from the body while remaining conscious. She suggests someone may have an OBE when they retain the perception of having a body, but this perception is no longer derived from the senses. The vivid body and world perception is produced by the brain's ability to create convincing experiences based on
, even in the absence of sensory information - just like dreaming.
demonstrated that an OBE can be created in a lab by scrambling a person's visual and touch sensations. This is done by placing a pair of
in front of the participant's
showing a live film recorded by
that are located
the participant. The researcher then prods the participant's chest with a rod and another rod is prodded where the
would be located, just below the camera's view. Participants reported that they felt that they were sitting behind looking at themselves and reported being able to feel their 'alter ego' being prodded too.
reviewed cases of NDE in different
and found that NDEs differed between cultures (although there were also similarities). In
, NDE often involved encounters with Hindu figures and in
there was a lack of light appearing in NDEs, which is a phenomena usually reported in the West.
EXCEPTIONAL EXPERIENCE: Psychic Mediumship
claims to be able to
communicate with the dead.
They tend to give private consultations or can also appear on stage and focus on individuals in the audience with dead loved ones that they claim to be able to contact. A meeting between a psychic medium and a sitter is called a '
'. Reports suggest that about
of the British population have consulted with a psychic medium.
This is a technique used by fraudulent mediums. It enables them to give the impression that they know all about a complete stranger's life, but they use subtle techniques to suggest they do and to elicit detail from the person themselves. Techniques include:
The reader slowly offers a huge quantity of very general information, often to an entire audience, some of which is very likely to be correct or at least have some significance. They observe the reactions of their subjects (e.g. their body language), and this narrows the scope, acknowledging particular people or concepts and refining the original statements according to the reactions given. It is referred to as shotgunning because the medium is 'firing' statements at the audience, hoping to reach a target.
The Forer Effect (Barnum statements) -
The Forer effect relies in part on the eagerness of people to fill in the details and make connections between what is said and some aspects of their own lives. 'Barnum statements' are statements that seem personal, yet apply to many people. And while seeming specific, such statements are often open-ended or give the reader the maximum amount of flexibility in a reading. They are designed to be
easily identified with
. The statements can be developed into longer and more sophisticated paragraphs and seem to reveal great amounts of detail about a person. A talented and charismatic reader can sometimes even
a subject into admitting a connection, demanding over and over that they acknowledge a particular statement as having some relevance and maintaining that they are just not thinking hard enough or are repressing some important memory.
^^ The Forer Effect links to the
Psychodynamic Functions Hypothesis
in that people may be eager to make connections in because contacting dead loved ones gives them a sense of
Research into psychic mediumship:
Schwartz et al
tested 5 mediums filmed by an american TV network. Two women were the sitters. Both sitters were unknown to the mediums, were over 40 and had recently experienced a number of deaths. The mediums could not see the sitters (they were separated by a screen) and the sitters were only allowed to answer yes or no. The two women judged the accuracy of the mediums' statements as
. To check that the statements did not simply apply to everyone, a
of undergraduate students were shown the statements and they rated the statements as
accurate, suggesting that the mediums were actualyl quite good.
- the control group of
students are not similar to 40 year old women therefore are not a valid control group. It may be that the statements of the mediums applied widely to middle-aged women, which would account for the findings.
Research into psychic mediumship:
O'keeffe and Wiseman
were highly critical of Schwartz's study so carried out a replication with improved methodology and found no evidence of psychic ability.
gave readings for five sitters. No sensory leakage was possible since the sitters and psychics were placed in separate adjacent rooms in a psychology department at university. The mediums and sitters
did not meet
. Each medium was given 1 hour per reading and was asked to contact spirits for their sitter and to speak whatever they found out whilst being videoed. Later each of the readings were transcribed.
Each sitter read all of the 25 readings that were produced and rated the personal relevance of each statement. The sitters' ratings were actually
for statements that had been
written for them
! Another finding was that
more general statements
made in the readings tended to be rated as more personally
than more precise ones. This study supports the Forer Effect argument.