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Geomagnetic fields and the relationship between human intentionality and the hemolysis of red blood cells (1).

The purpose of the experiment reported below was to explore various correlates or influences of distant healing, the most prominent being the effect of the earth's geomagnetic field (GMF) or its equivalent on both the participants (Ps) and the target system. In order to test these hypotheses in a highly controlled context, distant healing was operationalized as retardation of the hemolysis of red blood cells, following an earlier experiment by Braud (1990).

Distant healing has been defined as "involving acts in which one or more individuals consciously will, intend or ask for the improved well being of another, insofar as such wishes are not primarily mediated and effected by direct physical or social contact with the receiver" (Leder, 2005, p. 924). The current western zeitgeist indicates a shift from the dominant biological paradigm toward alternative or complementary medicine (Krippner & Achterberg, 2000), reflecting the increasing influence of "new age" beliefs and practices (e.g., Farias, Clarridge, & Lalljee, 2005). For example, in a recent American survey 58.6% of respondents reported belief in "psychic healing" (Rice, 2003), and the U.S. Office of Alternative Medicine's budget increased from $2 million in 1992 to $12 million in 1997 (cited in Krippner & Achterberg, 2000). It is therefore of social, medical, and academic interest to address whether psychic healing is real.

Controlled investigations of direct mental interactions with living systems (DMILS) have addressed the effects of intention on a variety of such systems, including enzymes, cell cultures, bacteria, plants, mice, hamsters, and dogs, as well as humans (see Benor, 2001; Radin, 1997).

The notion that conscious intention can influence living systems at a distance is common to many cultures and historical periods (e.g., Leder, 2005). The variants of distant mental healing are spiritual healing, prayer, faith healing, divine healing, and bioenergy therapy (Radin, 1997). Healing methods across cultures include shamanism, intercessory prayer, the deployment of "healing energy" (e.g., Reiki), blessings, invocations, and the use of objects (e.g., in voodoo). Krippner and Achterberg (2000) list 19 variants of anomalous healing events with a variety of subjective components (e.g., state of consciousness, assistance from discarnate spirits, and use of a healing energy).

Findings in this research area have been mixed (for a review of recent studies see Leder, 2005). If there is no psychic effect, placebo effects derived from belief in psychic healing may have their own health benefits (e.g., Lyvers, Barling, & Harding-Clark, 2006).

Personality and Healing

Addressing the correlates of DMILS or distant healing would provide further understanding of the modus operandi of such processes. However, to date, personality correlates have been relatively neglected in these areas. Irwin (2004, p. 124) notes that research has yet to determine a detailed personality profile of psychic healers, but he cites two studies indicating that healers possess a fantasy prone personality (Wilson & Barber, 1983) and an external locus of control (Snel & van der Sijde, 1997).

It is not clear to what extent distant healing is the same as PK, despite the frequent assumption that they are identical. There has been relatively little work investigating how PK performance relates to major personality variables (see Irwin, 2004). Correlates of PK success include belief in PK (see Irwin, 2004), prior PK experiences (e.g., Gissurarson & Morris, 1991; Heath, 2000), a tendency toward "spontaneity" (e.g., Van de Castle, 1958), prior synaesthetic experiences (Roe, Holt, & Simmonds, 2003), relaxed testing conditions (e.g., Debes & Morris, 1982; Gissurarson, 1997), motivation (Hinterberger, Houtkooper, & Kotchoubey, 2004), and a tendency toward "effortless effort" and absorption (Heath, 2000; Houtkooper, 2004; Isaacs, 1986), among other factors.

Although PK is often considered to be associated with increased anxiety and an over-activation of the sympathetic nervous system (the so-called "fight-flight" response), this relationship might apply only to macro-PK. Heath (2000) notes that beginners rely on high emotional states, whereas practiced PK experients develop and shift to a more relaxed altered state. In fact, laboratory findings indicate that "striving too hard" yields chance effects (Debes & Morris, 1982) and that anxiety relates negatively to PK performance (e.g., Broughton & Perlstrom, 1986).

Boundary thinness and healing. Recent work has found that those who adhere to "new age" practices and beliefs (which include energy healing) are characterized by a tendency toward magical thinking, looseness of associations, and emotional hypersensitivity. These tendencies characterize the personality variable schizotypy (Farias et al., 2005). They reflect reduced neural inhibition and increased connectedness of psychological processes, both of which result in "thin" psychological boundaries. To a thin-boundaried person, the world is seen in shades of grey. Such a person experiences more in-between states of consciousness, is likely to have more memories of dreams and childhood, and becomes intensely involved in interpersonal relationships. A person with thick psychological boundaries, on the other hand, exhibits a relative separateness of psychological processes, which is reflected in a "black and white" thinking style, distinct states of consciousness, and separation of thoughts and feelings (Hartmann, Rosen, & Rand, 1998). There are several types of "boundaries": structural boundaries, for example, how connected neural structures are to one another; representational boundaries, for example, how related representations and concepts are to one another; and information-processing boundaries (i.e., whether thinking is focused or unfocused/associative), and how psychologically close one gets to another person. Hartmann's Boundary Questionnaire correlates strongly and positively with schizotypy, transliminality, and temporal lobe lability (Simmonds, 2005).

Boundaries thus far have been empirically addressed only in relation to ESE Boundary thinness has been associated with subjective success at a psi task (Richards, 1996) and is higher among those who consider themselves psychic (Krippner, Wickramasekera, & Tartz, 2000).

Boundaries correlate strongly with intuition and feeling on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (Barbuto & Plummet, 1998), which have often been found to relate to ESP in free-response studies (e.g., Parker, 2000). Thinner boundaries are similar to other personality constructs, in particular schizotypy and transliminality. These three variables were found to load onto the same factor in a recent factor analysis (Simmonds, 2005).

Recent suggestions that ESP and PK should be considered as one mechanism (e.g., Storm & Thalbourne, 2000) imply that the correlates of ESP might mimic those of PK. On the basis of this implication, and the observation that the process of healing seems to necessitate a subjective feeling of fusion between consciousness and the intended physical system/ person that is sick, we considered it important to include a measure of boundary thinness in our study. We hypothesized that healers will score "thinner" than nonhealers.

Spirituality and healing. Spirituality is difficult to define, but it is often considered to be separate from religiosity, which is related to finding meaningfulness in life. According to Piedmont (1999), the transcendent perspective is one where the person sees a fundamental unity underlying the diverse strivings of nature. Spiritual transcendence has recently been promoted as the 6th factor of personality (Piedmont, 1999).

Spirituality has become important within western medicine in recent years. For example, a recent survey found that approximately 70% of a North American sample admitted that they pray for healing of their own medical problems, and 59% believed that God's will is an important factor in the healing process (Mansfield, Mitchell, & King, 2002). Spirituality (spiritual transcendence) also contributes to positive mental health outcomes, such as recovery in an outpatient substance abuse program (Piedmont, 2004). The new age movement, particularly its healing practices, is often informed by spiritual ideas and practices. Thus, we included spirituality in this study as a second individual differences variable, and we hypothesized that it will correlate positively with hemolysis retardation.

The Spiritual Transcendence Scale measures the ability of individuals to stand outside their immediate sense of time and place, and to view life from a larger, more objective perspective. It has good cross-cultural validity (e.g., Piedmont & Leach, 2002). We hypothesized that healers will attain higher scores on spirituality than nonhealers and that spirituality will correlate positively with boundary thinness.

Geomagnetism and Psi

Previous research has demonstrated a relationship between psi and GME Chauvin and Varjean (1990) tested a special claimant who performed better at a PK task (random cascade) when GMF was manipulated to be high. A similar effect was demonstrated in the random number generator (RNG) studies at the PEAR laboratory, but it was nonsignificant (Nelson & Dunne, 1986), and Gissurarson (1990-1991) found a significant negative correlation between RNG output and the K index of GME Perhaps macro-PK is more clearly associated with elevated GMF than micro-PK, because macro-PK would presumably require more force or energy for its manifestation (el. Tart, 1988). The fact that poltergeist episodes have been demonstrated to coincide with increased GMF activity (Gearhart & Persinger, 1986) supports this conjecture, but this relationship has not always been found (e.g., Mulacz, 1998).

The research literature demonstrates the opposite pattern for ESP; subjective paranormal experiences (e.g., Persinger & Schaut 1988) and psi performance (e.g., Persinger & Krippner, 1989) are often related to lower levels of GMF.

Geomagnetism is complex and associated with a range of other physical phenomena such as solar flares. The association between psi and GMF might represent a relationship between psi and one of these other factors, making it difficult to fully understand how GMF might interact with psi. Evidence that GMF increases electrodermal activity (Braud & Dennis, 1989) suggests that PK and potential healing effects could be mediated by the effect of GMF on the nervous system. It is also possible that the agent, perhaps as a result of the effect of GMF on his or her brain, somehow "recruits" the GMF energy present at the target site to produce the RSPK phenomena. It has been proposed that EM energy at target sites is utilized for the production of RSPK effects (Joines & Roll, 2007). If this is the case, elimination of EM at the target site should inhibit the phenomena, a hypothesis we test in the current experiment. The plausibility of the idea that EM fields might affect hemolysis, the target process in this experiment, is enhanced by the fact that red blood cells contain iron.

Interactions. Research by Spottiswoode (1997) suggested that GMF is associated with ESP only within a certain window of local sidereal time (LST), but a more refined analysis with an expanded database failed to confirm the first-order relationship between LST and ESP, which provided the foundation for the GMF-ESP interaction (Sturrock & Spottiswoode, 2007).

PK performance may be affected by complex interactions between personality and geomagnetism. This idea has been noted previously with regard to ESP. For example, Radin, McAlpine, and Cunningham (1994) found a different pattern for psi performance and geomagnetism for normal and creative groups, respectively. In the normal group, the psi hit rate increased when geomagnetic fluctuations were lower, whereas in the creative group, there was a higher hit rate overall, and psi performance correlated with higher levels of GME A possible substrate of this effect could be the limbic system, which appears to be particularly sensitive to geomagnetic disturbances. For example, it has been found that limbic activity is sensitive to geomagnetic disturbances in both rats (e.g., Persinger, 1996) and humans (e.g., Renton & Persinger, 1998). Exposure to geomagnetism in excess of 30 nT immediately following birth relates to increased scoring on the personality variable "temporal lobe lability" in human males (Hodge & Persinger, 1991). Those scoring high on temporal lobe lability are also likely to score high on boundary thinness and report increased levels of subjective paranormal experiences and beliefs (e.g., Simmonds, 2005) as well as creativity (Persinger & Makarec, 1987). Finally, there is evidence that the pineal gland is affected by geomagnetism and, through its production of melatonin (Persinger, 1988), may also be important in the psi process (Roney-Dougal & Vogl, 1993). The pineal gland is also related to the activity of the limbic system. Our study explored how personality factors interact with geomagnetism on the psi task.

Braud's GMF-Hemolysis Experiment

As an analogue to distant healing, Braud (1990) investigated the effect of human intentionality on the rate of hemolysis of blood cells among 32 Ps who did not claim any special healing abilities. Hemolysis refers to the bursting of red blood cells, which can be induced in a test tube by mixing blood with a salt solution weaker than that of human blood. This measurable process occurs due to osmosis.

Each P underwent relaxation instructions and guided visual imagery followed by four short (15 min) trials. In the two experimental trials, participants were asked to attempt to retard the rate of hemolysis, while in the two control trials they were asked not to think about the blood cells. The experimenter was blind to the conditions. The rate of hemolysis was assessed by measuring the amount of light absorbed by the blood solution (i.e., lysed blood becomes less opaque).

Although there was no significant directional difference in the rate of hemolysis between experimental and control trials, the study demonstrated evidence for two other anomalous effects of intention.

The main finding was an excess of statistically significant scores irrespective of direction. However, this finding might be artifactual (Palmer, in press). Because the process of hemolysis follows a decelerating curve as a function of time, the experimenter could have unintentionally created this bidirectional result by consistently commencing the measurement process slightly earlier or later on pairs of trials he might have guessed were experimental than on pairs he might have guessed were control, despite being blind as to the actual status of the trials and even if the guesses were no better than chance. On the other hand, seven of the nine significant values were in the predicted direction, a result that reaches a suggestive level of significance (exact p = .09, one-tailed) and is independent of the artifact. For this reason, the hypothesis for the present experiment is directional. Second, Braud and Dennis (1989) reported that there was greater geomagnetic-field (GMF) activity on days preceding hemolysis sessions showing greater retardation (psi-hitting) than on days preceding sessions showing greater acceleration (psi-missing). This finding is associated with the direction of scoring, so this might be considered artifact-free. We attempted to replicate this finding in our experiment.

Overview of the Present Experiment

The hemolysis experiment we report in this paper followed Braud's (1990) basic procedure but with several modifications, including control for the statistical artifact mentioned previously. Of most note, the concentration time was cut from 15 to 5 min, and Ps were not aware of when control trials were being conducted and were engaged in other tasks, obviating the need to intentionally block imagery related to the hemolysis influence. Randomization procedures were avoided wherever possible to reduce the chances of decision augmentation (May, Utts, & Spottiswoode, 1995), but we do not pretend that the potential for decision augmentation was entirely eliminated. We also introduced two major independent variables. First, we tested a sample of professional psychic healers to compare with a sample of ordinary volunteers likely comparable to Braud's sample. Second, in addition to correlating our hemolysis results with the general index used by Braud of the average GMF activity around the world, we manipulated the strength of the local GMF around the blood specimens while they were being lysed.

We had originally hoped to manipulate the AC component of the GMF, as this is the parameter associated with psi in the research literature (Persinger, 1989). However, this proved to be prohibitively costly, so we manipulated instead the DC component. The AC component is considered paramount because of its proven relation to physiological processes in vivo, such as EEG (Persinger, 1989), but for in vitro processes the DC component might play a role. One would have to assume that the information arrives from the participant though a direct paranormal process and not carried by or provided by the AC component of the GMF.

Finally, we incorporated a modified version of BQ as well as the STS.

We generated the following hypotheses:

H1. For the sample as a whole, hemolysis will be retarded during concentration periods as compared to control periods.

H2. Healers will be more successful in the hemolysis task than non-healers.

H3. Hemolysis will be retarded more successfully when an artificial, static GMF surrounding the blood specimen is present than when it is absent.

H4. Hemolysis retardation will be positively correlated with the earth's GMF on the day preceding the test session.

H5. High scorers on the BQ and STS will more successfully retard hemolysis than will low scorers.

H6. Healers will score higher on the BQ and STS than non-healers.

H7. BQ and STS will correlate positively with subjective estimation of success in the hemolysis task.



Healers. Psychic or spiritual healers were recruited by announcements at Rhine Research Center (RRC) events, word of mouth, fliers distributed in the local area, and local magazines with a focus on spirituality.

Nonhealers. Nonhealers were recruited by announcements at RRC events, distribution of fliers in the local area, and advertisements placed in local weekly newspapers. Six had taken introductory courses in healing methods, but none defined themselves as "healers."


Boundary questionnaire. A shortened version of Hartmann's (1991) Boundary Questionnaire developed by Rawlings (2001-2002) was used for the experiment. This 46-item scale has an alpha coefficient of .74 and correlates .88 with the original BQ. It has six relatively orthogonal subscales: Unusual Experiences (UE), Need for Order (NFO), Trust (Tr), Perceived Competence (PC), Childlikeness (Ch), and Sensitivity (Se).

Spiritual Transcendence Scale--Revised. The STS consists of 23 items broken down into three subscales: Prayer Fulfilment (10 items), Universality (7 items), and Connectedness (6 items). The scale has good external validity and generalizes across different religious groups and a culture outside of the U.S. (Piedmont, 2002).

Post-Intention Questionnaire. The PIQ is a 10-item rating scale developed by Simmonds that asked Ps about their beliefs regarding psychic or spiritual healing, personal experiences related to such healing, the method they used to protect the blood cells in the experiment, their state of consciousness during this effort, their motivation for the task, and the degree of success they expected. The PIQ was given only to the nonhealers, as similar questions were included in an in-depth interview of the healers.

Lab Layout

The experiment was conducted in a four-room suite at the RRC. Each room was partly sound-attenuated. The two rooms principally used for the experiment were at opposite ends of the suite, 12.75 feet apart and separated by three walls and an entry room. The "intention room" was where P attempted to influence the blood samples under the supervision of Experimenter 1 (El). The "hemolysis room" was where the hemolysis of the blood was induced and measured by Experimenter 2 (E2). A third room was used for storage and preparation of materials. A diagram of the suite is presented in Figure 1.

Experimental Design and Condition Assignments

There were 80 sessions in the experiment. Each healer completed two sessions and each nonhealer completed one session.

Each session consisted of two runs, during each of which eight consecutive 1-min hemolysis trials were conducted. One of these runs was labelled "test" and the other "baseline." Trials 4 and 5 of each run were labelled as "experimental" and the other trials as "control." The only difference between the test and baseline runs was that during the experimental trials of the test run Ps attempted to retard the hemolysis process, while during the experimental trials of the baseline run they did not intend to retard the hemolysis. Ps were not informed that hemolysis measurements were being made at any times other than those corresponding to the experimental trials in the test run.


The primary dependent variable in the study was the hemolysis scores, which reflected a decrease in the average absorption of light passing through the lysed blood samples from the first 5 s of the 1-min measurement period to the last 5 s of the measurement period. The two manipulated independent variables in the experiment were (1) the order of the test and baseline runs within the session and (2) whether the GMF surrounding the blood samples during hemolysis was present or absent. E3 (Palmer), who was not involved in testing the Ps, created the counterbalanced orders for both independent variables. The within-session order of the test and baseline runs was varied according to an ABBA sequence, separately for the healer and nonhealer sessions. The order of runs for the second healer session was always the opposite of the order in the first healer session. For the order of runs, E3 placed two kinds of ESP cards in sealed opaque envelopes with the session number and subsample written on the outside of the envelope. The order of the cards reflected the desired ABBA sequences. However, E3 did not determine which symbol was to represent test and which was to represent baseline. This designation was determined by E1 by a coin flip prior to the first session, after she had received the deck from E3. E1 did not reveal to E3 the result of the coin flip, because E3 wanted to be blind to the run assignments while carrying out the preliminary phases of the data analyses. E2 was told that the run assignments were random, and she was thus blind to the run order designations as well.

Due to an error in the transmission of session assignments, all healers received the GMF-off condition in their first session and the GMF-on condition in their second session. However, the GMF settings were orthogonal to the order of run types within the session for both subsamples. The switch positions on the GMF device were only labelled "1" and "2," and during the experiment only the builder of the device, Baumann, knew which of these positions corresponded to GMF-on and GMF-off. The device emits no detectible sound, heat, or light regardless of how it is set, so E2 could not tell the state of the device.

GMF Device

A digital magnetometer (F.W. Bell model 7010, Sypris Test and Measurement, Inc.) with both axial and transverse probes was used to measure magnetic fields. Inside the spectrophotometer the magnetic field was highly distorted, especially when the unit was turned on and producing its own magnetic fields. To approximate the static component of the GMF, it was decided to suppress the distorted field around the blood sample for half the trials and then artificially approximate the ambient field outside the chamber (0.5 Gauss) with a pair of Helmholtz coils around the sample for the other half of the trials.

To shield against extraneous magnetic fields occurring inside the spectrophotometer measurement chamber, a box was constructed out of high-permeability mu metal. The box fits snugly inside the chamber and surrounds the cuvette holder containing the blood sample. A sliding door on top allows access for placing and withdrawing samples. Small apertures on the two side walls allow the spectrophotometer light beam to travel unimpeded through the sample during measurements.

To reimpose inside the shielded chamber a magnetic field of approximately the same strength as the static GMF, paired Helmhohz coils approximately 1 cm apart were wound around the cuvette holder in the center of the chamber and each supplied with sufficient current (~0.12 A) from a constant current source (Agilent E3642A DC Power Supply) to produce a 0.5 G field in the center of the cuvette holder. A switch between the power supply and the shielded chamber allowed the current to the Helmholtz coils to be toggled off or on, thus creating inside the cuvette either a negligible field or a magnetic field of approximately 0.5 Gauss. With the GMF-off setting (1), the static magnetic field measured at the level of the blood sample was [less than or equal to] 0.03 G, e.g., at least 94% attenuated (GMF absent). With the GMF-on setting (2), the field was 0.5 G [+ or -] 6% in the vertical direction (GMF present).

Blood Samples

To assure maximum safety for the experimenter handling the blood samples, we did not follow Braud's (1990) procedure of having individual Ps contribute their own blood samples. Instead, we used outside donors whose blood had already been prescreened for diseases such as HIV and hepatitis. During the course of the experiment, a registered nurse collected a single 40-ml sample of venous blood from one donor and six such samples from a second donor into 6-ml Vacutainer tubes containing Solution B anticoagulant. The Vacutainer tubes were stored in a refrigerator kept at 4[degrees]C. The donors each signed a consent form before their first blood draw.

Hemolysis Preparation and Measurement

Preparation for the hemolysis runs. As needed, approximately equal amounts of distilled water and .85% physiological saline were mixed by E2 in a beaker, yielding 700-800 ml samples of approximately .425% saline. The top of the beaker was covered with plastic wrap to minimize evaporation. Prior to each session, a small amount of the saline solution was titrated until the percentage was exactly .425, as measured by a Fisher Scientific Digital Conductivity Meter. A clean syringe with graded milliliter markings was then used to inject exactly 3 ml of the saline solution into each of 16 10-mm glass cuvettes located in a rack. The plastic caps were then put back on the cuvettes.

E2 entered the test parameters into the memory of a Unico $2100 Spectrophotometer (s-meter) after it had been allowed to warm up for 15 min. Following Braud (1990), the wavelength of light to which the s-meter would be sensitive was set at 660 m[micro]. The trial duration was set to 63 s, 3 more than needed.

Procedure for hemolysis runs. A few minutes before the first of the two hemolysis runs, the Vacutainer tube containing blood was inverted eight times, uncorked, and part of its contents transferred to near the top of a 10-ml Pyrex test tube. Both tubes were immediately corked and the Vacutainer tube returned to its rack in the refrigerator. The rack containing the cuvettes with saline solution was transferred to the hemolysis room and placed near the s-meter. The Pyrex test tube of blood was moved to this same rack. E2 wore rubber gloves whenever she handled the blood.

E2 allowed a period of 10 min following her greeting of P to allow for the orientation period. (This time interval was reduced to 5 min for the second session of healers.) E2 then set her digital timer to 2 min and transmitted the first of three beeps over the intercom to E1 in the intention room (see Test Procedure below). She then conducted the calibration test, which provided the baselines for the test absorption values, by transferring one of the cuvettes from the rack to inside the s-meter and closing its door. When the computer screen indicated that the calibration test had been completed, E2 placed the cuvette back in the rack, leaving the door of the s-meter open. She then affixed a plastic tip to a Model SC-300UL Finpipette and withdrew 50 [micro]l bloods from the Pyrex test tube, leaving the blood in the tip. When the timer reached 20 s, signalling the beginning of the trial, E2 pressed a button on the computer keyboard that began the countdown of a preset 60 s initial delay, the course of which she could follow on the computer screen. When the initial delay reached 14 s, E2 in rapid succession transferred blood from the pipette to the cuvette containing the saline solution, recapped the cuvette, inverted it twice to mix the contents, placed it inside the s-meter, closed the lid of the GMF device, and then closed the lid of the s-meter. When the computer screen indicated that the 63 s had elapsed, E2 immediately set her clock back to 2 min, saved the file with the digitized absorption values to the computer hard drive, ejected the used pipette tip into a BD Sharps waste canister, and proceeded with her preparation for the next trial.

The above procedure was used for each of the eight trials in each of the two runs. The only modification was to signal E1 as to the start and stop times of the intention period for P. Thus E2 transmitted the second of the intercom beeps when the digital clock recorded 23 s prior to the start of Trial 4, and the third beep immediately after the 63-s measurement period for Trial 5.

Procedure for Participants

Prior to each session, E1 set the GMF device to "1" or "2" as listed by the order generated prior to the start of the experiment by E3. The envelope containing the code for the order of runs in the session was placed outside the intention room to be opened just before the start of the session. Prior to the testing period, E1 and E2 spent a few moments relaxing in the intention room, affirming the importance of the study and that the study would be a success. E1 brought P, who was usually waiting in the lounge area of the RRC, to the intention room. The procedure was explained to P, who then signed the information sheet/consent form.

Next, P was taken into the hemolysis room to meet E2 and see the sample of blood displayed in the Pyrex test tube next to the s-meter. Ps who asked whether they could handle the tube containing the blood were given a pair of rubber gloves for this purpose. Any questions about the general procedure were also answered at this time. As soon as P was happy with the general procedure, both E1 and P left the hemolysis room, closing the door behind them.

Orientation period. On return to the intention room, E1 set a timer to 0 for the 10-min orientation period. The timer was used to help E1 coordinate the activities in the intention room with E2's activities in the hemolysis room, and it was closely monitored by E1 throughout the session. After P was seated in the intention room, E1 went to open the envelope indicating the order of the runs. She then returned to the intention room and described the specific details of the study to E Ps were told that there would be two halves to the study, with a short break time in the middle, when they would be offered some refreshments. Ps were then shown a PowerPoint display illustrating a single red blood cell undergoing hemolysis. It was reiterated that P's task was to attempt to stop or slow down this process using mental intention and visualization. Ps were given an example of the signal beeps that they would hear at various times. They were also shown a screen shot of a healthy whole blood cell, which they could have on the computer monitor in front of them during the intention period if they wished.

At this point, the sequence of events began to vary, depending upon whether the test period or the baseline period was to be first. The test and baseline periods each lasted 25 min, separated by a 15-min refreshment break.

Test period. Ps were told that there would be three beeps during this part of the experiment. The first beep signalled the start of the preparation stage, which was timed to last 10 min. Nonhealers were told that at this point they would hear some relaxation instructions (in the voice of El), including music ("Discreet Music" by Brian Eno) and sounds of the sea in the background; the music was optional for healers. For all Ps, the recording included affirmations for success in the voice of El. Healers were told that the wording could be ignored, or other words substituted in their mind, if they preferred. At the end of the 8.5-min recording, Ps were told that they would continue to hear music (again, optional for the healers) and that this would be followed by a second beep, indicating the start of the 5-min protection/ intention phase. A third beep would signal to P to stop the intention.

Prior to the first beep, nonhealers were given a sheet containing written suggestions for visualization strategies that could be used to protect blood from the process of hemolysis. They were informed that they could also use their own visualization method or a combination of different methods. After Ps had read the sheet, they were asked to inform E1 which method they thought they might employ. To help them focus on the task, Ps were asked to press the down arrow key on the computer keyboard to see an example of a healthy blood cell during the protection stage. Healers were told that they should employ the methods that they usually use when undertaking their healing work as much as possible within the confines of the experimental setup. If the baseline period was first, these instructions were given at the end of the break period.

At the sound of the first beep, E1 started the relaxation music, reset the timer to 0 and left the intention room. When the intention period was over, the intercom was switched off. Nonhealers then completed the PIQ and engaged in some informal discussion with E1 about their experience of the experiment. Healers, on the other hand, were interviewed by E1 in depth about their subjective experience of healing, including an exploration of the methods that they employ in the "real world" and what they had just experienced in the laboratory situation. The interviews were tape-recorded for later transcription.

Baseline period. The intercom was switched off during the entire baseline period and turned on again during the break if the test period was to follow. (This assured that neither E1 nor P would hear the beeps being sent from E2, who needed to follow the same beep protocol for each run in order to remain blind to the identity of the test run.) During the baseline period the nonhealers completed the BQ and STS. Healers in their first session either began or continued with the in-depth interview during the baseline period, whereas in their second session they completed the BQ and STS during this period.

Conclusion. The whole experiment lasted 75 min, including the orientation period and break time. At the end of the experiment, Ps were thanked for their time, given a debrief sheet about the nature of the study, and asked if they wanted additional feedback after the experiment was completed.


Aborted Sessions and Replacements

Ten sessions early in the experiment had to be aborted because of procedural errors. All these replacement decisions were made by Palmer prior to his awareness of condition assignments and computation of hemolysis scores.

Computation of Hemolysis Scores

Following Braud (1990), change scores were computed by subtracting the mean of the last 5 values in the 1-min trial period from the mean of the first 5 values. The beginning of the 1-min trial was defined as the highest value in the trial. On rare occasions when initial values were low due to a delay in getting the door of the GMF device closed on time, the beginning of the trial shifted in time slightly, so that the trial was defined as starting with the first valid measurement and extending 1 min from that time. These change scores were transformed into t scores representing the experimental manipulation by subtracting from the mean of the two concentration (experimental) trials the mean of the six control trials and dividing the difference by the unbiased standard deviation of all eight scores, assuming in each case unequal variances for the ts. Up to this point, the calculations essentially followed Braud (1990).

To correct for the expected confounding of these change scores by the initial values of the trials, corresponding t scores were computed for the initial values. A regression analysis of the change scores with the initial scores as predictor yielded R = .720. The residuals from the regression reflect the increase of absorption not associated with the initial values. The grand mean of the change-score distribution was added to each of these residuals, the results of which then became the revised change scores.

To eliminate gross skewness of the score distribution, outliers were moved toward the mean such that they were less than .5 SD from the most extreme nonoutlier, and a natural log transform was applied. (Details of these adjustments can be found in Palmer, Baumann, & Simmonds, 2005.) (2) Finally, a constant was subtracted from all the scores to bring the grand mean to 0 and the scores were then multiplied by 100. Negative scores indicate a decrease in the rate of hemolysis (retardation) and positive scores an increase (acceleration).

Only at this stage did Palmer, who performed the above analyses, break the code to determine which of the two runs in the session was test and which baseline. The 160 run scores were then transposed into two columns representing the scores for the test and baseline runs, respectively. The difference between these scores (test minus baseline) will be referred to below as D-scores. Again, negative scores indicate a decrease in the rate of hemolysis.

Adjustments of Other Scores

Global geomagnetism (Ap) scores. The Ap index "is a measure of the general level of geomagnetic activity over the globe for a given ... day. It is derived from measurements made at a number of stations world-wide of the variation of the geomagnetic field due to currents flowing in the earth's ionosphere and, to a lesser extent, in the earth's magnetosphere" (Northwest Research Associates, n.d.). We decided to examine the Ap indexes for the day preceding the day of testing, as this is where Braud and Dennis (1989) found their effect, but we also analyzed the day of the test, as this is the day one would expect on logical grounds to be the most relevant. These measures will be referred to as Ap(-1) and Ap(O) respectively. Again, adjustment of outliers and log transforms were applied to both measures, as well as to the BQ and the STS scores.

Tests of Hypotheses

The first three hypotheses were evaluated by ANOVAs and t tests of the hemolysis scores for the test and baseline runs. The mean D-scores for both sessions combined are presented in Table 1.

H1 stated that, for the sample as a whole, hemolysis will be retarded during concentration periods as compared to control periods. It was tested by examining the hemolysis main effect (test versus baseline) in the analysis of all 80 sessions. The difference was not significant, and slightly in the direction of hemolysis acceleration (opposite the prediction), F(1,72) = 1.07, p = .305.

H2 stated that healers will be more successful in the hemolysis task than nonhealers. It was tested by comparing the first sessions of the 20 healers and the 40 nonhealers. The healers accelerated the hemolysis slightly less than the nonhealers, but the difference was not significant, t(56) = 0.95, p = .348. Healers showed a slight retardation of hemolysis in their second sessions, F(1,18) = 0.50, p = .826, but this reversal of their Session 1 results was not significant, F(1,18) = .347, p = .563.

H3 stated that hemolysis will be retarded more successfully when an artificial, static GMF surrounding the blood specimen is present than when it is absent. It was tested separately for healers and nonhealers because GMF was manipulated between sessions in the former case and within sessions in the latter. For the nonhealers, consistent with the prediction, (3) the relative retardation of hemolysis was slightly greater with GMF present, F(1,36) = 1.72, p = .199. The same direction of scoring was found for the healers, again nonsignificant, F(1,18) = 0.35, p = .583.

Following Braud and Dennis (1989), H4 stated that hemolysis retardation will be positively correlated with the earth's GMF on the day preceding the test session. It was tested by dividing the D-scores for each session at 0, referring to negative scorers as hitters and positive scorers as missers. The mean Ap(-1) score for hitters was .906 compared to .782 for the missers. This result, although in the predicted direction, was not quite significant, t(78) = 1.42, p = .081, one-tailed.

H5 stated that high scorers on the BQ and STS will more successfully retard hemolysis than will low scorers. It was tested by computing correlations between the BQ or STS scores and the D-scores for the combined groups.

In both cases, the results were in the predicted direction but nonsignificant. For the BQ r(58) = -.071, p = .590; for the STS, r(58) = -.067, p = .612.

H6 stated that healers will score higher on the BQ and STS than nonhealers. It was tested by computing the difference between the means of the BQ and STS for the first sessions of the healers and nonhealers. The mean of the 20 healers on the BQ was 84.38 (SD = 15.94) compared to 90.05 (SD = 18.65) for the 40 nonhealers. This nonsignificant trend indicates thinner boundaries for the nonhealers, opposite the prediction, t(58) = 1.37, p = .177. The STS mean of the healers was 105.15 (SD = 4.02) compared to 89.88 (SD = 9.77) for the nonhealers, t(57.8) = 8.87, p <<. 001. Thus H6 is strongly supported for the STS. The variance on the STS was also significantly lower for the healers than for the nonhealers, F = 7.16, p = .010, by Levene's Test.

H7 states that BQ and STS will correlate positively with subjective estimation of success in the hemolysis task. It was tested by correlating the BQ or STS scores with the responses of nonhealers to the PIQ question asking them to estimate their degree of success in retarding the hemolysis. For the BQ, the result was in the predicted direction but not significant, r(38) = .200, p = .228. For the STS, the result was highly significant in the predicted direction, r(38) = .597 p << .001.

For the overall sample, the BQ and STS were uncorrelated, r(58) = .050, p =.705. However, they were correlated positively to a significant degree for the healers, r(18) = .345, p = .029, with a reversal for the nonhealers, r(38) = -.204, p= .387. The difference between these correlations approaches significance, z = 1.94, p = .053.

Significant Post-Hoc Analyses

Age. The only psychological or demographic variable to correlate significantly with the first session D-scores was age. The healers had a mean age of 49.84 compared to 41.36 for the nonhealers, t(53.5) = 2.98, p = .004. The ages of the nonhealers were significantly more variable than those of the healers, F = 11.32, p = .001.

Older Ps were more prone to accelerate the hemolysis than younger Ps, r(56) = .294, p = .025. Nonhealers conformed to this overall pattern, r(37) = .461, p =.003, but the correlation reversed for healers, r(17) = -.276, p = .253. The two correlations differ significantly, z = 2.60, p = .010.

The age distribution of the nonhealers was bimodal: a younger group (N = 12) with a range of 15-30 years, and an older group (N = 27) with a range of 36-63 years. The mean D-scores of the older and younger groups were virtually identical in magnitude, but of opposite direction (5.861 versus -5.635). The mean for the older group was significant, t(26) = 2.77, p = .010, but the mean was not quite significant for the younger group because of the smaller sample size, t(11) = 1.75, p = .108. However, the difference between the two groups is now comfortably significant, t(37) = 3.00, p = .005. The point of this exercise is to show that the age/ hemolysis relationship is best interpreted bi-directionally: nonhealers over 35 tended to accelerate the hemolysis and nonhealers under 31 tended to retard it.

GMF and run order. In the original ANOVA for nonhealers, a significant main effect for GME F(1,36) = 6.44, p = .016, was superseded by a significant GMF x run-order interaction, F(1,36) = 4.58, p = .039. The relevant hemolysis scores (T scores) are based on the combined results of the test and baseline runs. Although the interaction does not include the run-order control, it is a psi effect because E2 was blind to the run order. An adjustment of one outlier brought the skewness of the distribution within acceptable limits.

As illustrated in Figure 2, the interaction is such that the effect of GMF on the T scores is restricted to Run Order A (test run given first), for which the mean T score was -3.292 with GMF absent, t(9) = -2.53, p = .032. With GMF present, the mean T score was +3.899, t(9) = 2.53, p = .032. The difference between these two means is highly significant, t(18) = 3.56, p = .002. The means for Order B do not differ significantly from 0 or each other.


For healers, the corresponding interaction was not significant, F(1,18) = .821, p = .377, but it was in the same direction as for the nonhealers, with the biggest difference in Run Order A. The result of the GMF x run-order interaction for the two groups combined is associated with Stouffer Z = 2.08, p = .038, two-tailed.

Finally, it was found that Ps with thin boundaries on the BQ contributed most to the retardation of hemolysis (negative T scores) in the first run with Order A and GMF absent, r(18) = -.451, p = .046. With GMF present, the corresponding correlation was close to chance: r(8) = .127, p = .727. The two correlations do not differ significantly from each other, z = 1.37, p = .170.


As it remains possible that Braud's (1990) variance scores reflected psi, we wanted to learn if there were any variance effects in the present experiment. The one legitimate way we could think of to test for this was to compare the variance of scores around mean chance expectation in the test and baseline runs. This ratio was not significant, F(78,78) = 1.36, p = .354, and the higher variance was in the baseline run. It made no difference whether GMF was present or absent.


Failure to Replicate Braud (1990)

The failure to find significant evidence of an effect on hemolysis by either healers or nonhealers is not surprising in view of the fact the effect we sought to replicate (Braud, 1990; Palmer, in press) was not significant. If Braud's results are real, it is conceivable that the failure to replicate is attributable to the fact that, in contrast to Brand, we chose, for practical/ ethical reasons, not to have any of our Ps attempt to influence their own blood. Thus, Braud's Ps may have been more motivated than ours, on the theory that most persons would be more motivated to heal themselves than others. In fact, for only half of Braud's Ps was their own blood the target, and the results of these Ps did not differ significantly (p = .469) from the results of the other Ps. However, Ps' beliefs about the target are more relevant to the issue at hand than what the targets actually were. Braud informed me that his Ps were told that the targets might or might not be their own blood (W. G. Braud, personal communication, October 18, 2007). Although the motivational difference would have been more pronounced if Braud's Ps had been told their own blood was the target (or even if they had been told nothing at all, as they all donated blood and would likely assume their own blood was the target in this case), there still was likely enough of a difference in mean motivation to contribute to Braud's superior results (if the latter were not due to the statistical artifact referred to earlier).

Ambient GMF

We came close (p = .081, one-tailed) to successfully replicating Braud and Dennis's (1989) finding of a positive relationship between naturally occurring GMF and success at producing hemolysis retardation. As this was the only legitimate significant finding to emerge from Braud's hemolysis experiment, perhaps this result should not be too surprising either.

It is odd that the effect of ambient GMF would be significant only on the day prior to the test session. In discussing results from the only other study to produce this "day-1" effect, Adams (1985) suggested solar flares as the origin of such a factor, as GMF activity is elevated the day after these flares. This implies that some consequence of solar flares that registers on earth at the time of the flare (light?) might play the causal role, although the infrequency of solar flares presents a challenge to this speculation.

GMF at the Target Site

The failure of the GMF manipulation at the target site to affect the success of hemolysis could be due to the fact that we manipulated the DC component rather than the AC component, which the literature indicates is associated with psi effects. Moreover, the effective energy at the target site may not be limited to, or even include, the AC frequencies associated with the earth's GME We suggest that future explorations test a broader version of H3 and expand the "GMF present" condition of this experiment to include all the available energy (except that produced by the spectrophotometer), so that it represents the ambient environment in which hemolysis occurs naturally.

However, the GMF manipulation may not have been entirely ineffectual, as it contributed to a complex post-hoc effect that applies to the combined hemolysis scores of both the test and the baseline runs. (4) The finding was restricted to the first sessions of Ps who received the test run first. Hemolysis was accelerated if the GMF was present and retarded if it was absent. The retardation appeared more strongly with Ps who had thin boundaries on the BQ. The fact that the baseline run contributed to the effect is not surprising, as other evidence exists that PK can occur without awareness of the target system (e.g., Berger, 1988; Stanford, Zenhausern, Taylor, & Dwyer, 1975). The fact that the effect was restricted to the test-first condition is consistent with El's observation, solicited by Palmer before she was told of this outcome, that Ps' motivation for the task tended to be dampened when the test run was delayed. On the other hand, E1 noted that this tendency was more noticeable for the healers, whereas the effect was more prevalent in the nonhealers. It may be that the interview given the healers was a more convincing and enjoyable filler than the questionnaire completed by the nonhealers, reducing the effect of trial order in the former. (5)

The differential effect of the GMF manipulation per se is harder to account for. We have no plausible explanation for why the EM environment surrounding the test tube should affect the direction of the hemolysis. However, we note that, paradoxically, even the absence of an EM field might have some kind of effect on hemolysis, because such absence represents an electromagnetically different environment from that in which the hemolysis process evolved. It is also relevant in this connection that the earth's GMF has at times reversed, and such reversals have had consequences for biological organisms (Courtillot, 1999).

Finally, this is a good time to remind the reader that all post-hoc findings must be considered only suggestive pending replication.


A positive correlation was found post hoc between age and the primary hemolysis difference scores for nonhealers, such that Ps 35 or above seemed to accelerate the hemolysis and Ps 30 or below seemed to retard it. We have no good explanation for the effect of age, which is only rarely reported as a significant correlate of psi in adults (e.g., Morris, Dalton, Delanoy, & Watt, 1995, Novomeysky, 1984; Palmer, 1978).

Personality Questionnaires

In line with Hypothesis 6, it was demonstrated that healers scored higher than nonhealers on the STS, despite the fact that many nonhealer Ps also seemed to adhere to a spiritual worldview (as reflected in the negative skew in the data). One of the reasons for the inclusion of spiritual transcendence as a variable in this study was the observation that healers are often considered to be spiritual individuals, even offering "spiritual" healing in their advertisements. During the interviews, many healers spoke of their personal spiritual development and focused on healing "with love" for the benefit of humanity and "the greater good." Spiritual transcendence has been related positively to mental health measures (e.g., Cooper, 2003). As such, healers might be considered a well-adjusted group of people, and the subjective experience of undertaking healing and feeling successful may be related to good mental health.

There are limitations to the shortened version of the BQ, which may account for the failure of Hypothesis 6 to be confirmed with this instrument. Although boundaries may be considered in terms of global thinness or thickness, there are different types of boundaries that may function very differently with regard to certain behaviors and beliefs (see Houran, Navik, & Zerrusen, 2005, on boundaries and celebrity worship). For example, Houran et al. (2005) found a mixture of thin and thick boundaries provided the best understanding of celebrity worship. Therefore, future work should use the full BQ of 138 items.

Implications for Healing

If we assume that the effects we have uncovered are real and due to PK on the part of the Ps, what implications do they have for psychic or spiritual healing? First, they demonstrate that practicing healers produce such effects no more strongly or reliably than do ordinary volunteers of the type tested by Braud (1990). Second, the results with the GMF manipulation suggest that the effect can be produced in the absence of specific intention or effort to produce them. The most sobering implication of our data (again, if reliable) derives from the evidence of hemolysis acceleration. Translated into healing terms, this means that healers could unintentionally "mis-direct" their PK to make an illness worse rather than better. Psi-missing is a well known feature of psi, so one should not be surprised to see it apply to PK that occurs in the context of healing. If the finding with the Ap index continues to hold up, it may suggest that healing should be performed on a day following that when the global GMF is relatively high. If the higher GMF is in fact related to solar flares that precede the elevated GMF, then monitoring data from solar observatories that is posted on the internet could be used to predict the best time to conduct an experiment.

Finally, it should be noted that the failure of healers to show exceptional ability in this experiment says nothing about their abilities to perform the different kinds of healing tasks involved in their practices.


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(1) An earlier version of this paper was presented at the 48th Annual Convention of the Parapsychological Association. We are grateful to the Bial Foundation for supporting this research.

(2) These adjustments were implemented to normalize the score distributions and thereby justify parametric statistical tests on our data. This admittedly novel approach slightly biases the score distribution, but not nearly as much as the standard solution of "trimming."

(3) In the earlier report of this experiment (Palmer et al., 2005), this trend was incorrectly described as inconsistent with the prediction.

(4) Although this effect was found from "data snooping," it was limited data snooping. It is reported only because its primary component was represented by a significant main effect and significant interaction in the same ANOVA used to test the hypotheses. The other analyses were conducted solely to explicate the primary finding.

(5) We are under the impression that many psychologists find it inappropriate to suggest interpretations of post hoc effects that may not be real. We disagree, because we also have the impression that many psychologists base their estimates of the likelihood that an effect is real on its plausibility. By providing what we think is the most plausible interpretation of an effect (if it is real), we can help readers make this estimate. The practical consequence of such an estimate is its influence on whether a researcher would want to expend the time and effort to attempt to replicate the effect. In such a case, the interpretation might also guide the nature or methodology of the attempted replication.

Participant group Mean
 Absent Present total

Healer 1.255 -.621 .317
Nonhealer 4.409 -.025 2.192
Mean total 2.832 -.323 1.255

Note. Positive scores refer to hemolysis acceleration.
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Article Details
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Author:Palmer, John; Simmonds-Moore, Christine A.; Baumann, Stephen
Publication:The Journal of Parapsychology
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 22, 2006
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