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Research in Parapsychology, 1990: Abstracts and Papers from the Thirty-Third Annual Convention of the Parapsychological Association.

Research in Parapsychology, 1990, the abstracted proceedings of the thirty-third annual convention of the Parapsychological Association, has appeared after a longer-than-usual delay. The conference was held in August of 1990 in Chevy Chase, Maryland, a suburb of Washington, DC. Research in Parapsychology, 1990 contains abstracts of the papers, symposium, panel discussions, and poster sessions that were presented at the convention. The volume also contains the full text of K. R. Rao's Presidential Address; but, as Linda Henkel notes in her Editorial Introduction, the authors of the Invited Addresses chose to submit only abbreviated summaries of their talks for publication. In their prefatory remarks, both Schmeidler and Henkel warn the reader that the volume contains only very abbreviated versions of the papers presented and provide cautions regarding the somewhat accelerated nature of the refereeing process for the convention. One notable improvement in Research in Parapsychology, 1990 is that the typeface appears more readable than in past volumes.

The first section of the book is devoted to abstracts of the convention papers, and the first group of papers falls under the heading "Innovative Procedures." The first study reported is by Mario Varvoglis and Michel-Ange Amorim and involved computer-constructed faces as ESP targets. The computer randomly selected four facial features, and the subject attempted to guess which features characterized the target face. The 16 possible values for each feature were entered in a matrix array by similarity. Varvoglis and Amorim found the relation between the matrix positions of the guessed feature and the target value to display nonrandom patterns; no such departures from randomness were found in a randomly simulated control experiment. The nonrandom pattern of correspondences between targets and guesses seemed to be confined to the "timing" condition, in which the subject pushed a button during a rapid sequential presentation of the facial features to indicate his guess. No significant departures from randomness were found in the "scanning" condition, in which the subject picked a feature out of a matrix array. Varvoglis and Amorim speculate that the timing condition involved less conscious effort on the part of the subject than did the scanning condition. One possible problem is that the subjects were allowed to terminate the test when they desired to, thus raising the question of optional-stopping.

William Braud, Donna Shafer, and Sperry Andrews report two studies in which changes in electrodermal activity (EDA) were observed when subjects were watched by an agent on a television monitor. In the first study, 16 untrained subjects displayed greater EDA when being watched by an unseen observer than during control periods. In the second study, 16 subjects who had undergone training in "interconnectedness with other people" displayed a reduced EDA in comparison with control periods. The difference between the two groups was signficant, although it should be noted that the groups were run at different times.

Nevin Lantz, Edwin May, and Thomas Piantanida provide a very brief abstract of a study attempting to determine if remote-viewing success is due to precognition of future feedback to the subject rather than "real time" ESP. They found no correlation between remote-viewing scores and the intensity of tachistoscopically presented feedback, in opposition to the former hypothesis.

Michaeleen Maher and George Hansen investigated a haunting in a residential building in New York City. They used Schmeidler's floor grid methodology to see if outside observers could accurately state where the haunting phenomena had occurred. Four sensitives were asked to mark the sites of ghostly activity on such a gridded floor plan, and four skeptics were asked to state where they thought someone more credulous than themselves would say that ghostly activity had occurred. Both groups, sensitives and skeptics, achieved a significant correspondence with witnesses' reports of the phenomena. Maher and Hansen acknowledge that these site correspondences could be due to the fact that human observers may have stereotypical expectancies about where ghostly phenomena might occur. One sensitive achieved a significant correspondence with witnesses' descriptions of the nature of the phenomena. One problem with such studies is that any differences obtained between the performances of skeptics and sensitives may be due, not to genuine psychic perception of the phenomena by sensitives, but to the skeptics' inability to predict the common behavior of sensitives and witnesses. Maher and Hansen also attempted to detect ghostly phenomena through photography and the differential behavior of a portable random number generator at target and control sites, but no positive results were obtained with either of these methods.

The second group of papers falls under the heading "Innovative Use of Statistics." The first paper in this group is by Dean Radin, who used himself as the single subject in a study designed to see if the majority-vote technique of "sequential sampling" might enhance psi-hitting rates. In Radin's experiment, each button-push by the subject resulted in a pseudorandom sequence of "0"s and "1"s being output by a computer. A majority-vote technique was used to determine whether the trial represented a "0" or a "1." Each trial could result in a hit, a miss, or no decision (if neither number received the requisite number of votes). Radin found this procedure to be effective in raising the hitting rate and increasing the psi effect size. In particular, the hitting rate using "filtered raw bits" (bits taken only from trials resulting in a "0" or "1" decision) was significantly above chance, as was the hitting rate using "weighted sequential coupling" (in which trials that required more bits to reach a statistical decision criterion were weighted more heavily).

John Palmer conducted an analysis to determine how effective hand-shuffling is as a randomization procedure. He found that jumps between initially adjacent cards in the shuffled deck were smaller than would be expected under complete randomization. This effect was significant after one and three shuffles and approached significance even after five and nine shuffles. There was also a tendency for originally adjacent cards to be very close or very far from each other in the shuffled deck. A significantly high number of cards remained in their original positions after one and three shuffles. The last deck shuffled by a subject tended to be the most nonrandom, which Palmer ascribes to exhaustion on the part of the subject. Palmer notes that some traces of nonrandomness remain even after a deck has been shuffled nine times (using "dove-tailed" shuffles), which is somewhat opposed to Aldous and Diaconis's mathematical analysis suggesting that seven "riffle" shuffles are sufficient to randomize a deck of cards.(1)

Finally, Topher Cooper presents a computer algorithm for evaluating sum-of-ranks statistics when combining trials that use different numbers of decoy targets and different weighting schemes for the ranks in free-response experiments.

Next follow reports of two meta-analyses. Charles Honorton, Diane Ferrari, and Daryl Bem performed a meta-analysis of experiments examining the relationship between extraversion and performance on ESP tests. The overall correlation between these traits in a sample of 60 studies was significantly positive. For forced-choice experiments, this positive relationship was confined to studies in which the ESP test was given prior to the measurement of extraversion, which suggests that the effect may be an artifact of subjects' and experimenters' not being blind to ESP scores at the time the extraversion tests were administered (i.e., knowledge of the ESP scores might have biased the measurement of extraversion). For free-response studies, there was a significant positive correlation between extraversion and ESP success that was not confined to studies in which the ESP test was given first.

Dean Radin and Diane Ferrari report the results of a meta-analysis of 148 PK experiments in which subjects attempted to influence the fall of dice in such a way that certain faces a would appear more often than would be expected by chance. The results of the combined experimental runs were highly significant (p |is less than~ |10.sup.-70~), whereas control runs were at chance. The effect did not seem to be due to results contributed by a few exceptional investigators. A "file-drawer" of 17,974 unpublished studies averaging null results would have to be assumed to attribute the results to data selection. The sizes of the effects reported were not significantly related to measures of the quality of the experimental procedures used; thus, the overall positive results do not seem to be due to artifacts produced by known methodological errors.

Four ganzfeld studies constitute the next group of papers. Marilyn Schlitz and Charles Honorton found a very high hitting rate (50%) in an automated ganzfeld experiment, using students from the Juilliard School for the performing arts as subjects. The overall results were significant (p = .014), and there were some suggestive correlations between scoring rates and measures of creativity.

John Palmer and H. Kanthamani obtained a significant psi-missing effect in a ganzfeld experiment in which the target was presented to the agent subliminally and was also flashed subliminally to the percipient after the trial as a form of precognitive feedback. In an interposed "POINK" computer PK game, subjects produced a significant psi-missing effect in silent trials (for which the subject received no feedback), with this effect most concentrated in subjects who found the POINK game interesting.

H. Kanthamani and Anjum Khilji report an experiment in which subjects attempted to obtain imagery related to the same target both in a ganzfeld session and in dreams at home. Higher scoring was obtained with dreams than in the ganzfeld condition (p |is less than~ .05). The ganzfeld results were in the missing direction, although in neither condition did the scoring rate reach statistical significance. When the data were analyzed using ranks rather than ratings, the significant difference between the conditions remained, and the hitting trend in the dream condition became significant (although perhaps not when a correction is made for multiple analysis, as the authors themselves note).

Rex Stanford and Sheryl Frank failed to find a predicted interaction between a decline in utterance length (reflecting lower arousal) and the presence or absence of noise accompanying the ganzfeld stimulation among extraverted subjects. They also failed to confirm several other previously reported findings relating measures based on utterance length trends to ganzfeld ESP performance and relating psychological variables to one another.

The next two papers fall under the heading "Brain Responses and ESP." Edwin May, Wanda Luke, Virginia Trask, and Thane Frivold provide an abstract of an experiment in which the root mean square phase shift in a percipient's magnetoencephalogram corresponded, not only to sinusoidal gratings presented to an agent, but also to "pseudostimuli" (control stimuli consisting of simple time markers during the experiment). They speculate that these results could be due to electromagnetic influence from the equipment.

Charles Warren, Bruce McDonough, and Norman Don report an experiment in which a single subject (Malcolm Bessent) attempted to guess which of four stimuli sequentially presented on a computer screen was the target stimulus. Bessent's guessing results were essentially at chance. There was some evidence of a decline effect, although this might be questioned on the basis of multiple analysis. Some differences were noted in the event-related potentials in Bessent's electroencephalogram between target and control pictures. Specifically, there was a greater amplitude P100 positive wave for target than control pictures, as well as a greater late-appearing negative slow wave for targets. These effects were particularly prominent in right-hemisphere sites, which Warren et al. take as confirming previous findings indicating a right-hemisphere involvement in the processing of psi information.

The next section of the book consists of four papers addressing displacement effects. Shigeki Hagio compared forced-choice guessing tasks involving (a) ESP cards and (b) simple behavioral acts by an agent as targets. No significant overall psi effect was found in either condition.

Don, McDonough, and Warren found, in an analysis of data from six studies, some evidence that displacement effects may display wavelike properties as a function of displacement length.

Richard Broughton analyzed old data for evidence of the psi-missing displacement effect (PMDE) reported by James Crandall. The PMDE consists of a tendency for psi-missers to obtain above-chance scores on +1 and -1 displacement targets (i.e., when their guesses are compared with the targets immediately following or preceding the intended target) under psi-favorable conditions. Broughton notes that, of the 13 studies examined in Crandall's meta-analysis, 12 were conducted by Crandall himself, and Broughton wished to determine whether the PMDE could be found in data obtained by other investigators. Broughton analyzed the data from one of his own experiments conducted 15 years previously, in which subjects were required to pick objects out of a bag while reading a difficult passage of prose. Evidence of a PMDE was indeed found in these data.

Crandall himself reports a new experiment attempting to find a PMDE under conditions unfavorable to the manifestation of psi. He presented himself as a skeptic to subjects in an effort to decrease the subjects' belief in ESP. In the ESP experiment used, some of the targets were salient (red), and the rest were nonsalient (printed in black). Crandall obtained significant evidence of a negative displacement to nonsalient targets (p = .025), and a nonsignificant trend toward positive displacement to salient targets. The difference in displacement scoring between the two types of targets was significant. Goats (subjects disbelieving in ESP) displayed a significant negative displacement effect; the displacement effect for sheep (believers) was not significant.

The next two papers fall under the rubric "Historical Analysis." John Beloff traces the relationship between parapsychology and spiritualism. He argues that parapsychology would have arisen even if the spiritualist movement had not existed, noting that many parapsychological phenomena were reported by investigators of mesmerism, for example. He does acknowledge that spiritualists played a central role in founding and sustaining the Society for Psychical Research and that mediumship provided much of the subject matter studied by the early psychical researchers.

Caroline Watt reviews the literature relating ESP performance to scores on the Defense Mechanism Test (DMT). She observes that the DMT has several drawbacks as a psychological instrument, including the intensive training needed to administer it and the lack of any clear data regarding its validity. She suggests that a more effective approach to investigating defensiveness in relation to ESP might be to compare subjects' ability to identify threatening target material in subliminal perception and ESP tasks.

The next three papers are classified under the heading "Opinions About Parapsychology." Robert McConnell and Thelma Clark report the results of a survey regarding attitudes toward parapsychology among the membership of the prestigious National Academy of Sciences (who sponsored the Enhancing Human Performance report on mental development programs that was highly critical of parapsychology). The authors sent questionnaires to a sample consisting of 31% of the Academy's membership, 49% of which were returned. Only 2% of the members believed that the existence of psi has been demonstrated through scientific investigations, although an additional 2% believed that psi phenomena sometimes occur; 25% felt that parapsychological research should be discouraged, 63% felt that it should be allowed but not encouraged, and 10% felt that it should be encouraged. Neuroscientists were the most hostile to psi research of the all the specialty groups.

James McClenon conducted a survey of African-American and Japanese students regarding their experiences of anomalous phenomena. The African-American sample was composed of students at Elizabeth City State College in rural North Carolina, whereas the Japanese sample was composed of students at Tsukuba University, an elite college south of Tokyo. A similar proportion of the respondents in both groups reported having ESP-type experiences (35% in both groups) and out-of-body experiences (13% and 18%, respectively); however, a greater proportion of the African-American sample (25%) reported having experiences suggestive of contact with the dead than did the Japanese students (10%). McClenon asserts that the data support the experiential source hypothesis (i.e., that the phenomena are experienced by all human beings, rather than being a product of indoctrination in a particular culture) for ESP and out-of-body experiences (OBEs), but that the data support the cultural source hypothesis for experiences involving contact with the dead. The less religious African-American students reported ESP experiences and OBEs at higher rates (79% and 81%, respectively) than did the more religious students (34% and 21%, respectively). A reverse trend was found in the Japanese sample, with ESP and OBEs being reported at lower rates (34% and 21%) for the less religious students than for the more religious students (43% and 29%). No significant differences were found among the religious denominations in the American sample with regard to the reporting of anomalous experiences, which McClenon sees as evidence against the cultural source hypothesis. In general, McClenon contends, the data do not support the cultural source hypothesis with regard to ESP and OBEs, as one would expect cultural bias to produce more psi experiences among the highly religious. This is not entirely clear, however; it might well be that one would expect to find an increased reporting of psi experiences among the unconventionally religious, who might not belong to any organized religion and thus might regard themselves as unreligious.

Finally, Douglas Richards reviews methods from the areas of psi research and psychotherapy research that might be brought to bear on the study of psychic counseling (i.e., "readings" for clients by alleged psychics). He notes that a classification of psychic readers' utterances according to Stiles's verbal response mode taxonomy, used in psychotherapy research, reveals that most utterances by psychic readers are "advisements" or "interpretations," rather than the "data-fishing" interrogatives that would be expected under Ray Hyman's skeptical "cold reading" theory of psychic counseling and mediumship.

The convention's one symposium was entitled "International Communication and Collaboration in Parapsychology." Deborah Delanoy leads off by detailing the problems confronting attempts at collaboration among European parapsychologists, including language barriers and the physical isolation of researchers. She advocates regular meetings of the European parapsychological community as a way to foster communication, noting that the first Euro-PA conference was held in Holland in 1988. Other problems include the general lack of funding for parapsychological research in Europe and the dearth of established research centers.

Mario Varvoglis discusses cultural and philosophical disparities between American and French parapsychologists. He notes that parapsychology is a more organized enterprise in the United States, and that the "rationalist" outlook in France creates a climate of hostility toward psi research. He observes that American parapsychologists tend to have a dualist philosophical outlook, whereas the French tend to adopt a more monist approach, which may lead them to be more receptive to such quasi-physical hypothetical entities as "bio-fields." He notes that the French are oriented more to comprehensive theoretical structures than to the minute, atomistic research findings favored by the Americans (because of their empiricist and behaviorist traditions). Varvoglis sees this stance as a further example of the influence of the "rationalistic tradition" in France and notes that it often results in the ideas of the French researchers being dismissed on methodological grounds by their American colleagues. This leads to barriers against publication by French researchers in the American-dominated major parapsychological journals.

David Hess reviews the parapsychological scene in Brazil. He observes that there are few professional parapsychologists in Brazil and that parapsychological debate is often conducted between rival groups of Catholic and Spiritist intellectuals, with the Catholics tending to deny Spiritist interpretations of various phenomena. There is, Hess states, almost no quantitative experimental work in Brazil, and few detailed case investigations have been carried out. He sees Brazilian parapsychology as being nonetheless more vital than the brand practiced by the Parapsychological Association because of the more inclusive definition of its subject matter and its emphasis on applications. Hess does suggest bringing Brazilian students to American for training in more rigorous parapsychological methods, citing the FRNM's summer study program as a possible venue for such training.

The first of the two panel discussions at the convention was entitled "Shall We Give up the Ghost?" Michaeleen Maher leads off by noting that haunting cases sometimes involve the acquisition of veridical information that is not of personal significance to the percipient, which suggests a source in the external environment. She concludes that it is unwise to relinquish the ghost as a theoretical entity at this point.

Carlos Alvarado provides a short review of haunting research, after which George Hansen traces the similarities and connections among parapsychological experiences, ghost sightings, UFO encounters, Elvis appearances, and Bigfoot sightings. He notes that these phenomena often overlap in particular cases and that a subset of the population claims experiences of multiple types.

William Roll contends that we should give up the idea of the ghost as the surviving trace of an encapsulated psyche. In Roll's view, the psyche is not encapsulated, but is interrelated with the world. Roll speculates that some hauntings may be due to interpersonal memory traces associated with particular physical locations.

Gertrude Schmeidler recommends that the motives of ghosts be taken into account in haunting research. For instance, if ghosts are attached to locations, it might be possible to provoke a ghost to appear by threatening to destroy the location.

The second panel discussion was entitled "Children and Psi." Sally Ann Drucker cites several writers who have suggested that children may manifest psi more easily than adults do. She reviews previous, largely inconsistent results with children, and notes problems in separating age-related and decline effects in longitudinal studies of children.

Athena Drewes also reviews research suggesting that psi abilities decline with age. She notes that the dependence of psi results on personality variables is similar for children and adults.

H. Kanthamani discusses research relating psi scores to personality variables in children and adults, and James Matlock reviews field studies of young children who claim to remember previous lives.

Stanley Krippner describes a series of informal studies conducted with children in China by a delegation of California-based parapsychologists. Results were mixed, and some evidence of fraudulent activity was uncovered.

Raymond Lee also describes investigations in China. One subject named Chang manifested a wide variety of phenomena, including the identification of Chinese characters written on folded and crumpled paper, as well as a variety of electromagnetic effects, including his inducing a film camera to rewind by blowing on it. Some of Chang's feats were highly polished (e.g., blowing on a card that had been chewed and destroyed and making it whole with its printing restored and then blowing on it again and restoring a Chinese character that had been written on it)--an act so unusual that one suspects the use of legerdemain.

The next section of the book is devoted to papers presented in the poster sessions. The first contribution is by Lester Lomax, who speculates that some of Ted Serios's "misses" in producing psychic photographs of target pictures may be displacements onto off-camera features of the target sites.

Michael Roig presents evidence that the sheep-goat variable is not related to the tendency to give socially desirable responses to personality inventories, as determined by a correlational analysis.

Zoltan Vassy reports the results of a survey of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences with regard to the members' views of psi research. Of the total respondents, 55% thought the existence of ESP was likely or certain, and 71% viewed scientific research on ESP as necessary or important. Vassy notes that the influence of the scientific literature relating to parapsychology on these opinions was minimal; the members' attitudes seem more often to be based on personal experiences relating to psi.

Erlendur Haraldsson and Joop Houtkooper present the results of a survey of psychic experiences in 14 countries. Americans and Italians report the highest rates of psychic experiences (60%); Norwegians, the lowest (24%).

Only brief summaries of the Invited Addresses appear in the volume. Robert McConnell gave a talk entitled "The Enemies of Parapsychology." He discusses the harm to parapsychology resulting from the activities of the skeptical organization CSICOP and the activities of self-proclaimed psychics, as well as parapsychologists' own refusal to accept the reality of psi by cloaking their data under the neutral term anomaly.

Gertrude Schmeidler's address is entitled "Is Psi a Subcognitive Process?" She notes that psi scoring is not consistently correlated with variables relating to cognitive functioning, and she sees spontaneous psi as associated with "pre-cognitive" processes such as pattern recognition.

K. Ramakrishna Rao's Presidential Address is entitled "Heretical Psychology: On The Scope and Substance of Psychical Research." Pointing to the revival of cognition and consciousness in mainstream psychological theorizing in recent years, Rao notes that the times would seem favorable for the exploration of parapsychological phenomena. But, he observes, rather than flourishing, the field of parapsychology finds itself with a deteriorating financial base. Rao insists that we must recognize parapsychology for what it is, a truly heretical field. He points out that parapsychological anomalies that may be of fundamental importance for an understanding of the mind are ignored or denied even by the leaders of the so-called "cognitive revolution" in psychology.

Rao contends that we should not accord primacy to physical modes of explanation over mental modes, and he speculates that different sorts of laws might govern the two domains. He notes that cognitive psychologists have tended to substitute the concept of information for that of consciousness and that most cognitive psychologists adhere to the theory of mind-brain identity. In Rao's view, an understanding of consciousness is more likely to emerge from the study of phenomena that defy physical explanation, such as psi.

Rao sees attention as being centrally involved in consciousness and at the core of meditative practices. He suggests that voluntary attention may require an act of will or consciousness. He notes that psi seems to be facilitated by procedures that result in reduced sensory and/or proprioceptive input, thus freeing attention from distraction and rendering the attentive process less reactive. Finally, he compares decline effects in psi research to performance decrements in viligance tasks and suggests that the similarity between the two may point to the critical role of attention in psi tasks.

It is sometimes difficult to summarize the mood of a convention, but in reading through Research in Parapsychology, 1990 I got the sense of a renewed vigor in the field, which was due not only to the many significant results reported, but also to the aggressive creativity with which the elusive psi signal is being pursued. Rao's pessimistic assessment of the field's financial and organizational state at present may be accurate, but there are also signs of hope and reasons for (guarded) optimism.

1 D. Aldous & P. Diaconis (1986), "Shuffling Cards and Stopping Times," American Mathematical Monthly, 93, 333-348.
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Author:Stokes, Douglas M.
Publication:The Journal of Parapsychology
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 1, 1992
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