Sep 12, 2019 in Psychology
Paranormal Psychology

Parapsychology is a discipline that studies human interaction with the environment and does not fit into the conventional view of the world. The problem of parapsychology is that it examines paranormal phenomena and experience that that is not accepted by the rational worldview and scientific methodology as well. Thus, this is a completely unexplored subject that needs special attention in order to prove whether it is a science. Moreover, the paranormal practices are very popular today as alternative explanations of reality and psi phenomena (levitation, telepathy, reincarnation, etc.), so it is also important to discover which psychological perspectives it relates to.

The study of the phenomena of parapsychology began with the end of the XIX century, and although did not lead to definitive conclusions about their nature, mechanisms, and the very existence. The official history of parapsychology began in London. “The Society for Psychical Research”(SPR) was founded there. The SPR wanted to explain paranormal phenomena in a very serious scientific way. Actually, there were some skeptics on society, but it was not so critical for the future existence of SPR. Thus, Edmund Gurney, Frederic W. H. Myers, William F. Barrett, and others might be considered the first psychologists or at least some of the main discoverers of paranormal reality. It must be said, that most of the researches were focused on fake and fraud phenomena, but in 1920 the situation has currently changed. Harry Price joined the SPR and his name mainly connects with a case of Rudi Schneider. Price discussed with the society whether Rudi was a medium or not, and finally, on April 28, 1932, he proved that Rudi could not levitate objects. It was a significant episode that marked the parapsychology as a serious science with its own rigor methods and objects. Furthermore, it demonstrated that parapsychologists conduct the research in order to see how the phenomena relate to “personality characteristics, altered states of consciousness, and physical and psychophysiological variables” (Alvarado).

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Since 1942 the variety of psychic phenomena began to be denoted by the Greek letter “Psi”, hence derived expressions such as “psi phenomena”, “phenomena psi” and “psi factor”. J.B. Rhine as “a father of modern parapsychology” adopted the term itself and tried to observe some new problems in the psychology that differs from the traditional academic field of research. Especially the proposed “the idea that psychic faculties might be tested with scientific disciplines”. However, it contributed to the knowledge of the psychological aspects of hypnosis, ideomotor acts and subsensual perception, a phenomenal memory, and computational abilities. The history of parapsychology contains some cases of hoax and deception, and the psychic phenomena have not received a scientific explanation. Thus, it is often criticized and heatedly debated. Schoch (2012) also mentioned that parapsychology examines mysteries and miracles that are the boon and bane of much religion.

The lack of accessibility of information on experience gained phenomenological observations and experimental studies, as well as the majority of parapsychologists’ theoretical explanations of the psi phenomena. It leads to the fact that parapsychology is a science of individuals who do not have a consensus on the interpretation of nature of the psi phenomena and even about the phenomenology of the psi phenomena. However, Alvarado (2005) believed that parapsychology is a field that learns psi phenomena through scientific investigations. Laboratory studies in parapsychology were still held in the second half of the XX century, and at least some of them, according to the relevant scientific committees, optimally met the criteria for rigorous scientific experiment. Moreover, in 1977 the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP) faked some facts, so it was a really bad episode that reinforced the stereotype about parapsychology as a pseudoscience. Perhaps, it pushed to the creation of skeptic organizations, including the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. Physicist Dennis Rawlins, who was one of the founders of CSICOP, said about the frauds, which he found in the investigations against CSICOP. He wrote about the French statistics Michel Gauquelin, who published the results of statistical studies that partially confirmed the findings of predictive astrology. In particular, Dennis Rawlins called Gauquelin’s statistical technique used to test the research committee as “falsity”.

At the same time, there are some serious psychologists that influenced modern psychology. Ian Stevenson was one of them and he also was a director of the university’s Division of Perceptual Studies. Once he said: “Some persons can segregate beliefs about different aspects of non-material existences and events. This would be particularly likely to be true of persons who have made a special study of psychical phenomena”. He became famous due to the research of reincarnation and investigated traces that have an influence on the human body and mind, including emotions and feelings. John Palmer is also a very prominent modern parapsychologist, who investigated psychological factors associated with ESP performance. He was the President of the Parapsychological Association in 1979. At the same time, Dr. Robert L. Morris had also prepared many talented parapsychologists, though he was not a parapsychologist as well. According to Alvarado (2005), his career is an excellent example of teaching and mentoring students.

Thus, it is difficult to speak about the existence of significant works that would describe the correctly put experiment proving the existence of psychic phenomena. It is equally difficult to speak about the existence of reliable studies that would completely refute all the parapsychological phenomena, although some of the events that belong to the field of parapsychology found their rebuttal. Parapsychology is a field of human knowledge, that brings together a very wide range of different phenomena that can be considered too complex, not implying a simple unambiguous response (from the point of view of science), and requires unbiased scientific study in the future.

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