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ATMOSPHERIC ELECTROMAGNETISM: AN ATTEMPT AT REPLICATING THE CORRELATION BETWEEN NATURAL SFERICS AND ESP.

We gratefully acknowledge the support for this research by a grant from the Institut fur Grenzgebiete der Psychologie und Psychohygiene. We are very grateful to the experimenters who contributed the data they collected in the course of their masters theses work: Jasmin Jung and Simone Launspach for the 1997 data and Stefan Schneider for the data from the 1998 experiment.

ABSTRACT: In a previous study we found a negative correlation between ESP scores on a forced choice ESP task and the natural sferics activity during the 24-hour interval before the ESP session. Moreover, this relationship was more pronounced in those participants who scored low on the Neuroticism scale and those who scored high on the Openness scale of the NEO Five Factor Inventory. We attempted to replicate these findings in the present study, dealing with two experiments with 37 and 100 participants, respectively. The results were compared with the findings of a previous study with 100 subjects.

Very Low Frequency (VLF) sferics are electromagnetic impulses with frequencies between 1 kHz and 100 kHz, which are generated by lightning discharges. The signals, which are of extremely low intensities and short durations, propagate with approximately the speed of light through the atmosphere over distances of up to a thousand kilometers. Besides their significance as indicators of thunderstorm activity, biological effects of sferics have been reported. Positive correlations were observed between natural sferics rates and the occurrence of pathological incidences such as pain syndromes, myocardial infarctions, and epileptic seizures. Furthermore, elevated sferics activity was found to be associated with reduced performance levels in reaction time and concentration tasks. Within simulation studies, sferics exposure was able to provoke changes in the electrocortical activity of subjects by enhancing the power within the alpha band of the EEG.

The present study entails two sets of data: one set with 37 participants, collected during the summer of 1997, and a set of 100 participants, collected during the late summer and mainly the fall of 1998. The ESP task consisted of the same 40-trial, p = .25, ESP-task as used in the previous study. The average level of sferics activity differed between the experiments due to the annual rhythm of sferics activity, as thunderstorms are more common in the summer.

Within both experiments, ESP scores and the level of sferics activity in the 24h interval before the session were not correlated significantly with each other (r=-.09). However, by combining the results with those obtained in the first experiment (r= -.21), the overall effect size of the three experiments reached ES = -.14, which is about two-thirds of the effect size of the first experiment. The overall sferics-ESP correlation was significant, at a slightly higher level (p= .031, two-tailed) than in the first experiment (p = .039, two-tailed).

The difference in the sferics-ESP correlation between the high-Nand low-N group disappeared. Although the combined effect in the low-N group was still significant, the contrast with the high-N group was nonsignificant. In the previous study, high-N participants revealed a more pronounced negative sferics-ESP correlation. This relation however turned around in the 1997 and 1998 experiments towards the opposite direction (P =.054, two-tailed). Overall, the difference on the openness dimension disappeared. The same fate befell the indication of a nonlinearity in the sferics-ESP relationship. What appears to be upheld is the optimum interval in which to measure the sferics activity: 24 hours appears to be close to optimum.
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Author:HOUTKOOPER, JOOP M.; SCHIENLE, ANNE; STARK, RUDOLF; VAITL, DIETER
Publication:The Journal of Parapsychology
Date:Sep 1, 1999
Words:564
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