Friday, January 30, 2009

Super Bowl XLIII Field RNG Demonstration (Part Two)

Super Bowl XLIII Field RNG Demonstration (Part Two)

By, Bryan Williams

In this post, I provide a basic summary of the procedures, statistical analysis, and predictions to be used for the planned Super Bowl XLIII field random number generator (RNG) demonstration at Public Parapsychology. The methods follow those used in my previous Super Bowl field RNG explorations (coming in Part Three), and are closely modeled after those developed by the PEAR Laboratory for use in their field RNG studies (Nelson et al., 1996, 1998), and by the Global Consciousness Project for individual event analysis (Bancel & Nelson, 2008; Nelson, 2001). For more complete details, interested readers are referred to these publications, as well as to other field RNG studies that have used these same methods (e.g., Bierman, 1996; Crawford et al., 2003; Hirukawa & Ishikawa, 2004; Nelson & Radin, 2003; Rowe, 1998). We invite any questions, comments, or concerns from readers regarding these methods.


For each Super Bowl exploration, an Orion RNG [1] is set up to run continuously on a personal computer (PC) one hour before the football game. This PC is located in a room about twelve feet from where B.W. usually watches the televised Super Bowl broadcast in the living room of his central New Mexico (USA) home. In order to mark the occurrence of notable events (such as kickoff, the scoring of the first two goals, and the halftime period), a paper time log is kept by B.W. as he watches the game, and the time for each event is noted in Mountain Standard Time using a wristwatch that is roughly synchronized to the PC’s internal clock beforehand. The PC’s clock is itself synchronized in advance with an Internet-based timeserver to ensure accurate time. Following the game, the RNG is allowed to run for up to 15 minutes, then it is shut off and the data stored in the PC’s memory is saved to hard disk for analysis.


The PC uses a custom software package [2] developed by researchers at the Institute of Noetic Sciences to collect 200 random bits per second (= 1 test “trial”) from the RNG. Each bit consists of a binary number (either a “1” or a “0”) that is randomly determined by sampling the electronic noise source. For simplicity, this process can be thought of as being analogous to flipping a coin, with “heads” representing the “1”-bit, and “tails” representing the “0”-bit. When we flip a coin, each side has a 50/50 chance of turning up, and the same goes for each kind of bit (i.e., the theoretical probability of occurrence for each kind of bit is 1/2, or p = .5). Thus, the RNG can be seen as flipping 200 electronic “coins” per second. The software then counts the number of “heads” (i.e., “1”-bits) that came up in the 200 flips, and stores the number as the trial outcome value. Given the 50/50 probability of occurrence in theory, roughly 100 “heads” and 100 “tails” should be generated on average by the RNG over a long sequence of trials. In a traditional test of psychokinesis (PK), the goal is to attempt to upset this balance of heads and tails through mental intention on the RNG, such that more of one outcome is produced over the other. If the mass “group mind” effect is related to PK, then presumably the same should be observed in the field RNG data during moments of focused group attention and emotional response.

Statistical analysis of the RNG data proceeds using techniques that follow from classical statistical methods (Aron & Aron, 1997; Snedecor & Cochran, 1980). For those readers with a technical mind who are curious about the details, the following steps are taken in the analysis (those of you unfamiliar with statistics may want to skip ahead to the predictions):

1.) The trial output of the RNG follows a binomial distribution that has a theoretical mean of 100 and a theoretical standard deviation (SD) of 7.071. [3] To represent a basic measure of the deviation from the mean, each trial outcome value is converted into a z-score using the equation:

z = (xM) / SD

where x is the outcome value for each trial, M is the mean, and SD is the standard deviation. Initially, the theoretical mean (100) was used for M, and the theoretical SD (7.071) for SD in the analysis of the Super Bowl data. However, it should be pointed out that, although the Orion RNGs tend to closely match the theoretical values for the binomial distribution overall, it is possible for an individual RNG to produce a small bias of the mean due to the nature of its random source. In other words, the mean and SD of each RNG should not be expected to exactly equal the theoretical values each and every time [4]. For that reason, in May of 2007, I made the decision to begin using the mean and SD empirically calculated from all of the RNG trial outcome values for M and SD, respectively, as a way to account for any potential mean bias in the RNG. This issue becomes relevant for the results of my previous Super Bowl explorations (discussed in Part Three).

2.) Each resulting z-score is squared to form a positive value that is Chi-Square distributed, and that has one degree of freedom (df).

3.) Given that Chi-Square values can be summed together as they are in the standard calculation of the Chi-Square statistic (e.g., Aron & Aron, 1997, p. 235), all of the individual values are added together across time to represent the overall measure of the deviation from the mean in the RNG data. Their associated degrees of freedom are similarly added together. A probability value can then be obtained from the total Chi-Square and degrees of freedom.

4.) The values can be cumulatively plotted over time in a graph as Chi-Square – 1 (i.e., the 1 df is subtracted from each of the associated Chi-Square values) to visualize the trends in the RNG data as time passes.

With the accumulation of RNG data that I collected from previous Super Bowls, it is also possible to examine a combined result across all Super Bowls using a Stouffer’s Z-score, calculated by adding together the z-scores for each individual second (Step 1) from each year, then dividing by the square root of the number of scores added (the analysis then proceeds as in Steps 2 – 4). This will be done with the previous field RNG data, along with the data collected during the planned demonstration, in order to assess the combined result across five consecutive Super Bowls.


To explore a mass group mind effect, two test predictions are annually made for the Super Bowl. The first test prediction is for the football game itself, covering the time spanning from the moment of kickoff to the end of the televised broadcast (the latter was included to allow for any residual effects that may occur in conjunction with the trophy presentation and crowd response). Throughout this time period (averaging around 3.5 hours total), it is predicted that a steadily increasing non-random pattern (i.e., a positive deviation from the expected mean) will be observed in the field RNG data, which overall will be significantly different from chance (based on the resulting probability value for the total Chi-Square and df values).

Considering the excitement and focused crowd attention that is often generated by the halftime concerts, the second test prediction specifically concerns the halftime show, covering the time from the start of the halftime highlights to the beginning of the 3rd Quarter. During this halftime period (averaging around 30 minutes total), another steadily increasing non-random pattern is predicted to occur in the RNG data.

To be consistent with my previous Super Bowl explorations, both of these predictions will be further tested for the planned demonstration. In the next post, we will examine the results of my previous explorations.

The rest of the series can be found in Parts One, Three, and Four.

Bryan Williams

Bryan Williams is a Native American student at the University of New Mexico, where his undergraduate studies have focused on physiological psychology and physics. He is a student affiliate of the Parapsychological Association, a student member of the Society for Scientific Exploration, and a co-moderator of the Psi Society, a Yahoo electronic discussion group for the general public that is devoted to parapsychology. He has been an active contributor to the Global Consciousness Project since 2001.


[1] In brief, the Orion RNG is a small external hardware circuit that uses electronic noise as its source of randomness. It is manufactured by Orion/ICATT Interactive Media in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, and detailed specifications of the device can be found on the company’s website.

[2] This is the Microsoft Windows-based “FRED” software package, developed by researchers associated with the Institute of Noetic Sciences in Petaluma, CA.

[3] This value can be obtained by the statistical equation for the standard deviation of a binomial random variable: SD = Sqrt [Npq], where N is the total number of bits per trial (200), p is the theoretical probability for a bit (.5), and q = 1 – p (Utts & Heckard, 2006, Section 8.4)

[4] Put another way, whenever the mean and standard deviation of all the trial outcome values generated by the RNG are calculated, they should not be expected in every case to be exactly equal 100 and 7.071, respectively. Instead, they tend to fluctuate somewhere around these two values.


Aron, A., & Aron, E. N. (1997). Statistics for the Behavioral and Social Sciences. Upper Saddle River, NJ : Prentice-Hall.

Bancel, P., & Nelson, R. (2008). The GCP event experiment: Design analytical methods, results. Journal of Scientific Exploration, 22, 309 – 333.

Bierman, D. J. (1996). Exploring correlations between local emotional and global emotional events and the behavior of a random number generator. Journal of Scientific Exploration, 10, 363 – 373.

Crawford, C. C., Jonas, W. B., Nelson, R., Wirkus, M., & Wirkus, M. (2003). Alterations in random event measures associated with a healing practice. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 9, 345 – 353.

Hirukawa, T., & Ishikawa, M. (2004). Anomalous fluctuation of RNG data in Nebuta: Summer festival in Northeast Japan. Proceedings of Presented Papers: The Parapsychological Association 47th Annual Convention (pp. 389 – 397). Cary, NC: Parapsychological Association, Inc.

Nelson, R. D. (2001). Correlation of global events with REG data: An Internet-based, nonlocal anomalies experiment. Journal of Parapsychology, 65, 247 – 271.

Nelson, R. D., Bradish, G. J., Dobyns, Y. H., Dunne, B. J., & Jahn, R. G. (1996). FieldREG anomalies in group situations. Journal of Scientific Exploration, 10, 111 – 141.

Nelson, R. D., Jahn, R. G., Dunne, B. J., Dobyns, Y. H., & Bradish, G. J. (1998). FieldREG II: Consciousness field effects: Replications and explorations. Journal of Scientific Exploration, 12, 425 – 454.

Nelson, R. D., & Radin, D. I. (2003). FieldREG experiments and group consciousness: Extending REG/RNG research to real-world situations. In W. B. Jonas & C. C. Crawford (Eds.) Healing, Intention, and Energy Medicine: Science, Research Methods and Clinical Implications (pp. 49 – 57). Edinburgh, UK: Churchill Livingstone.

Rowe, W. D. (1998). Physical measurement of episodes of focused group energy. Journal of Scientific Exploration, 12, 569 – 581.

Snedecor, G. W., & Cochran, W. G. (1980). Statistical Methods (7th Ed.). Ames, IA: Iowa State University Press.

Utts, J. M., & Heckard, R. F. (2006). Mind on Statistics (3rd Ed.). Belmont, CA: Duxbury Press.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Super Bowl XLIII Field RNG Demonstration (Part One)

Super Bowl XLIII Field RNG Demonstration (Part One)

by, Bryan Williams

Based on the widespread interest and attention annually given to the NFL Super Bowl, I wish to take the opportunity to present on Public Parapsychology a demonstration of a field Random Number Generator (RNG) analysis of the upcoming Super Bowl XLIII on February 1, 2009, which I hope will be both interesting and informative for our readers. In this first post of three, I offer a brief background on field RNG studies of sporting events that provides the foundation for this planned demonstration.


Many Americans would probably agree that Super Bowl Sunday is an event they look forward to every year with anxious anticipation. The big football parties with family and friends, the amusing TV commercials and halftime concerts, and the general excitement of the football game itself are all things that tend to make this particular Sunday stand out from all the rest in terms of enjoyment. Given that the Super Bowl is such a social sporting event in the United States, with the excitement stirring the attention and emotions of millions of football fans across the country, it might seem reasonable to think that it could be conducive to short-lived psi effects, particularly psychokinesis (PK, or “mind over matter”). If millions of fans are cheering in unison – not only those in the crowd at the stadium, but also those sitting at home watching the live TV broadcast – then one might be able to metaphorically envision a unified cheer, a mass chorus of raised voices that at times may be as rhythmic as an orchestra. Another metaphor may be that as a large group of fans watch the game together and share the same emotional reactions, they can be seen as sharing the same frame of mind. Focusing their collective attention on the game, cheering along with family, friends, and other spectators – they are not acting like individual minds. Rather, they are acting, in a sense, like a single mass “group mind” that is being moved by the excitement. And if such a mass group mind is moved during the game, then perhaps it might subtly move the matter in the surrounding physical environment along with it.

During the 1990s, as part of an effort to extend and apply their extensive laboratory findings on PK to more natural settings [1], researchers at the Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research (PEAR) Laboratory began deploying portable random number generators (RNGs)[2] at various group events to explore the plausibility of such a mass “group mind” effect on matter. These events included ceremonial rituals, stage performances, parties, and healing workshops. Rather than being purely random as expected, the combined streams of data from the RNGs during these events tended to show a steady non-random pattern that was significantly different from chance by statistical standards (Nelson et al., 1996, 1998), hinting that there could be something to the notion of a mass “group mind.” From these experiments, one may wonder: Could sporting events like the Super Bowl be conducive to a mass “group mind” effect on matter?

Field RNG Studies of Sporting Events

When they began these “field RNG” studies [3], the PEAR researchers did examine a small number of sporting events, including several Princeton University football games. The RNG data showed little indication of a group mind effect, although the researchers noticed that most of the games were rather lacking in crowd enthusiasm (Nelson et al., 1998, pp. 442 – 443).

Despite the null results of the PEAR group, other researchers tried looking at other sports in their own field RNG studies. Dick Bierman (1996) of the University of Amsterdam had set up a field RNG in the home of a Dutch family for a study that coincided with the 1995 European soccer final. While the family (and presumably many other people throughout the Netherlands) watched the soccer match on TV and cheered the Dutch team to victory, the RNG ran silently in the background. The RNG data during the 90-minute game showed a steadily increasing non-random pattern that was significantly beyond chance, while the control data collected 90 minutes before the start of the game for comparison were purely random as expected.

In a similar study, German researchers Johannes Hagel and Margot Tschapke (2004) of the Institut für Psycho-Physik in Köhn had collected streams of data from three field RNGs during a highly charged home soccer game won by the local Köhn team. Analysis revealed increasing non-random patterns in the data from two of the RNGs that persisted for several hours following the game, when the people of Köhn had walked through the streets in celebration.

At least two field RNG studies have previously looked at the Super Bowl directly. As part of their examination of sporting events, the PEAR researchers had run two separate field RNGs during Super Bowl XXX in January of 1996. Although the data from each of the RNGs showed modest increases away from expected randomness, their overall results were insignificant (Nelson et al., 1998, pp. 440, 443). While at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, Dean Radin (1997, pp. 167 – 168) had made his own independent examination of Super Bowl XXX using six field RNGs. To see how the RNG data might correlate with audience attention, Radin split the six data streams into periods of “high” and “low” interest, based on ratings given to each period by one or more experimenters watching the broadcast. Periods of “high” interest might include the game itself and the halftime concert, while periods of “low” interest might include pre-game broadcast commentary and the commercial periods (of course the latter is debatable now, since the commercials tend to be quite amusing, and the interest they draw often competes with the game itself). While not notable by statistical standards, there were slight indications that the RNG data during the “high” interest periods were gradually moving away from expected randomness, while the data from “low” interest periods remained random.

Inspired in part by the field RNG studies, the Global Consciousness Project (GCP) was founded in 1998 to further explore “group mind” effects on global scale when major world events occur. To do this, the GCP set up and monitors an Internet-based global network of RNGs that continually run 24/7, sending their data to a server in Princeton, NJ, for archiving and analysis (Bancel & Nelson, 2008; Nelson, 2001). In addition to examining formally defined global events, the GCP informally explores local events of interest on occasion. One such event was Super Bowl XXXVII in January of 2003 [4]. Although not statistically significant overall, the data from the 50 active RNGs in the GCP network at that time seemed to show a strong non-random trend during the start of the game that was consistent with the predicted effect. Despite interesting internal trends in some cases, GCP examinations of other sporting events, including the 2002 World Cup (Event #112) and two World Series games (2001 & 2008; Event #89 & #279, respectively), have produced insignificant outcomes for reasons that remain unclear.

In all, field RNG studies of the Super Bowl and other sporting events have produced a “mixed bag” of results, making it unclear as to whether such events are conducive to a mass “group mind.” In the next post, I will provide a summary of additional field RNG explorations of the Super Bowl carried out by myself, which have further motivated Public Parapsychology’s planned field RNG demonstration, and I will provide an overview of the planned procedures, analysis, and predictions for the demonstration.

The rest of the series can be read in Parts Two, Three, and Four.

Bryan Williams

Bryan Williams is a Native American student at the University of New Mexico, where his undergraduate studies have focused on physiological psychology and physics. He is a student affiliate of the Parapsychological Association, a student member of the Society for Scientific Exploration, and a co-moderator of the Psi Society, a Yahoo electronic discussion group for the general public that is devoted to parapsychology. He has been an active contributor to the Global Consciousness Project since 2001.


[1] The details of these findings can be found in a journal article describing the PEAR Lab’s 12-year research database on PK (Jahn et al., 1997). Electronic copies of this and other PEAR publications cited here have been made available for download at the PEAR Lab’s archival website.

[2] The PEAR Lab regularly uses the term “random event generator” (REG) as another name for RNG. For the most part, the two terms – RNG and REG – are synonymous, and we will use only one term (RNG) here for convenience.

[3] As first explained by Nelson et al. (1996, p. 112), the name “field RNG” can have a double meaning. Besides reflecting the fact that the RNGs have been taken out of the laboratory and into the field, the name can also provide a symbolic reference to a concept derived by Nelson et al. to think about the “group mind” effect. To affect the field RNG, the group mind effect might be thought of as an invisible PK-related “field” that extends out into the surrounding environment to affect matter, analogous to the way a magnetic field seems to extend out from the magnet to affect iron. It should be kept in mind that while this concept provides a useful way to think about how a group mind effect may work, it is purely metaphorical in nature and not currently supported by any clear evidence.

[4] This informal GCP exploration of Super Bowl XXXVII can be found at the GCP website. Links to GCP examinations of the other sporting events mentioned elsewhere in the text can be found on the GCP’s formal results page.


Bancel, P., & Nelson, R. (2008). The GCP event experiment: Design, analytical methods, results. Journal of Scientific Exploration, 22, 309 – 333.

Bierman, D. J. (1996). Exploring correlations between local emotional and global emotional events and the behavior of a random number generator. Journal of Scientific Exploration, 10, 363 – 373.

Hagel, J., & Tschapke, M. (2004). The local event detector (LED) – an experimental setup for an exploratory study of correlations between collective emotional events and random number sequences. Proceedings of Presented Papers: The Parapsychological Association 47th Annual Convention (pp. 379 – 388). Cary, NC: Parapsychological Association, Inc.

Jahn, R. G., Dunne, B. J., Nelson, R. D., Dobyns, Y. H., & Bradish, G. J. (1997). Correlations of random binary sequences with pre-stated operator intention: A review of a 12-year program. Journal of Scientific Exploration, 11, 345 – 367.

Nelson, R. D. (2001). Correlation of global events with REG data: An Internet-based, nonlocal anomalies experiment. Journal of Parapsychology, 65, 247 – 271.

Nelson, R. D., Bradish, G. J., Dobyns, Y. H., Dunne, B. J., & Jahn, R. G. (1996). FieldREG anomalies in group situations. Journal of Scientific Exploration, 10, 111 – 141.

Nelson, R. D., Jahn, R. G., Dunne, B. J., Dobyns, Y. H., & Bradish, G. J. (1998). FieldREG II: Consciousness field effects: Replications and explorations. Journal of Scientific Exploration, 12, 425 – 454.

Radin, D. I. (1997). The Conscious Universe: The Scientific Truth of Psychic Phenomena. San Francisco: HarperEdge.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Review of Introduction to Parapsychology

Harvey J. Irwin, an Australian psychologist at the University of New England, has written four editions of An Introduction to Parapsychology. Caroline A. Watt, of the University of Edinburgh, has joined him for an updated fifth edition. Written as a textbook, it’s 300 pages include an overview not only of extrasensory perception (ESP) and psychokinesis (PK), but relevant aspects of poltergeist, near-death, out-of-body, apparitional, and reincarnation experiences as well as unique chapters on parapsychology’s history, phenomenology, relevance to other disciplines, belief systems, and –possibly most important—parapsychology as a scientific enterprise.

All of this material produces a volume that is thick but authoritative; rigorous but approachable. Though, laypeople beware. With such an extensive volume of data, it’s not for those with short attention. For those who truly feel captivated by parapsychological material though, it is a treasure trove.

One of the most poignant aspects of the book is, perhaps, the perspective in which it is written. The authors are as transparent about the topic of parapsychological phenomena as is possible. They make no great claims to the field but do take a well-grounded and a cautious stance on its potential impact. This perspective is well illustrated by the final statement in the book:

If all of the phenomena do prove to be explicable within conventional principles of mainstream psychology surely that is something worth knowing, especially in relation to counseling practice; and if just one of the phenomena should be found to demand a revision or an expansion of contemporary psychological principles, how enriched behavioral science would be. (p. 261)

The achievement of the level of transparency in this book is not without a well positioned grudge or two regarding the aforementioned ‘mainstream psychology’ and science community. Against a subject I generally refer to as ‘science dogma’ the authors state, “some scientists reject parapsychology as a science simply because they cannot accept its empirical findings” (p. 251). An exemplary quote is then given from the prominent psychologist Donald Hebb, who in a 1951 issue of the Journal of Personality wrote “why do we not accept ESP as a psychological fact? Rhine has offered us enough evidence to have convinced us on almost any other issue…I cannot see what other basis my colleagues have for rejecting it…My own rejection of [Rhine’s] views is – in the literal sense – prejudice.”

More recently the skeptical commentator Ray Hyman admitted he could not find any methodological flaws in a series of psi experiments, yet he still refused to concede their support for the psi hypothesis in part on the ground that “it is impossible in principle to say that any particular experiment or experimental series is completely free from possible flaws” (Hyman, 1996, p.40).

One can observe that in at least a 40 year time span there has been an unfortunate persistence of such “science dogma” which is why An Introduction to Parapsychology stands as beacon to truth and impartiality in the scientific method.

Bottom line is that the 5th edition of Irwin’s, and now Watt’s, work is clearly the most balanced, accurate and current text for anyone interested in a true introduction to parapsychology.

Hebb, D. O. (1951). The role of neurological ideas in psychology. Journal of Personality, 20, 35-55.

Hyman, R. (1996). Evaluation of a program on anomalous mental phenomena. Journal of Scientific Exploration, 10, 31-58

Sidian M.S. Jones

Sidian M.S. Jones is a graphic designer and rock vocalist living in Boise, Idaho who also heads the Redefine God – Religion 2.0 spiritual movement at

Review of The Hidden Whisper

The Hidden Whisper is an interesting, fast-paced detective story with a paranormal twist. The author, JJ Lumsden, is a professional parapsychologist and full member of the Parapsychogical Association, giving his story the depth, realism and unique perspective from his own experience in the field. The setting and the characters are well established, with a dash of humor in just the right spots. The story starts off a little uneven, with scenes and characters flashing by as the author sets the stage for all the characters from several different angles and settings, but as the story progresses, the characters and settings take on a cohesive life of their own.

The main character is a parapsychologist, who is asked to investigate an apparent haunting while visiting his grandmother deep in the Arizona desert. This favor is asked of him right as a close relative of his has died. The investigation pulls him from his family, creating friction that adds a depth of character and history to the story beyond a mere detective story.

The investigation itself is a clever detective story, with the parapsychologist scrutinizing every angle and following the branching pathways of a true mystery, from strange haunting sounds in the night to engaging in fisticuffs and frightening encounters in dark parking lots. The overarching feel of the paranormal, combined with an underlying menace that the reader is drawn into, is complimented nicely with the shoe-leather detective style of the parapsychologist investigator.

Beyond an interesting and captivating story, the author also successfully adds an extra dimension that provides his readers with an excellent education in the basics of real life parapsychology. Footnotes during the story lead the reader to a broad and satisfying glossary of relevant information from the field of parapsychology. The glossary is full of interesting information, stories, and details about parapsychology and its critics, as well as supplying a large number of further reading references.

Skeptics and believers in the paranormal alike will enjoy JJ Lumsden’s The Hidden Whisper; it contains elements that will appeal to everyone.

Mark Wilson

*Mark Wilson is an avid reader of fiction and science, and is a writer of short stories. He is an information technology professional with an interest in the paranormal.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Utrecht II Parapsychology Conference Review

Are Parapsychologists Living or Are they Dead? A Review of the Utrecht II Conference
by Renaud Evrard

The first International Congress of Parapsychology in Utrecht, Netherlands, was in 1953. That conference helped to advance the field and to professionalize researchers. In October 2008, the Parapsychology Foundation organized a second Utrecht conference as a tribute to that conference and an assessment of the field. It was titled Utrecht II: Charting the Future of Parapsychology. As shown in the program, the topics approached covered many aspects of the field.

The Parapsychology Foundation has published an extensive review of Utrecht II. We can thank all the team for the great organization during the four day conference. Attending the conference was a great opportunity, especially for students like me who are quite newcomers in the field, to be able to allowed so much time for informal discussions with researchers who, for the most part, were just virtual names or inaccessible celebrities like the Nobel Prize winner Brian Josephson.

However, this conference was not perfect. Here are my impressions:

- There wasn’t enough time for peer-debates. There were five minute discussion periods at the end of each presentation, and after three presentations, a 30 minute discussion period with the three lecturers on the scene. By contrast, the Euro-PA Congress of October 2007 in Paris privileged discussion (2/3) over presentation (1/3). This format allowed everyone to develop their ideas, criticisms and responses (especially for non-native English speakers who need time to exceed their shyness!).
- There was a high heterogeneity between lecturers, maybe because of cultural differences. Methodological requirements, theories, stances in regard to the authenticity of psi phenomena, and personal involvements were not the same from one researcher to the other. Does parapsychology really have a community? It seems that the backgrounds of the presenters were very different. The gap was particularly noticeable between native and non-native English speakers. PF did, however, a marvellous work when putting all these researchers together, since 1953!
- Another problem is that some of the lectures were too introductory. A few of the lectures could have been made at least by ten people present at the conference.
- Most of the presentations were retrospective assessments, rarely asking ardent questions assessing the future of the discipline. This palette of assessments drew a fragmented field, each wanting to pull the cover in his or her direction. Is it because parapsychology seems to attract so creative personalities as even this small group of researchers can’t conform itself to a common orientation?
- Maybe as a consequence of previous points, I left the congress without any impression that pragmatic decisions were taken. That’s a big difference with Utrecht I, where researchers formed committees to bring more organization to the field making that earlier conference, as Carlos Alvarado remarked in his review, “a milestone in the 20th-century history of the field, helping to shape the 50 years that followed.”

Are parapsychologists living or are they dead? That’s the question I asked myself after the conference, even though I just have seen in real life some well-known personalities in the field. But this question rose from a specific definition of the parapsychologist as the scientist who challenges the issue of the authenticity of psi phenomena. This was not the case of all the researchers present at the conference. Some of the current major contributors in experimental parapsychology (Radin, Sheldrake, Bierman, Bem, and Parker) were not there, and their absence induced a strange atmosphere.

The challenge of proof-oriented research is difficult, because of the pressures that researchers face both inside and outside the field. Only a small group of scientists produce the majority of empirical data. They are psi-conducive experimenters with the time and money to ask the question, “Does psi exist?” The undecidability of the question maintains the interest of both the public and researchers. But for most parapsychologists, this question is not asserted directly. These researchers cautiously work on surroundings topics such as psychological variables.. Some scientists have no doubt about reality of psi, but at the conference their assertions made me feel some embarrassment, as if they had crossed the line of the current consensus. Is the parapsychologist dead when he or she stops asking if psi exists?

This problem increases in complexity when we take a sociological perspective. There is the issue of personal experiences and beliefs. Can a parapsychologist bracket aside his or her own life experiences while doing research? The necessity of personal distance is a strong requirement in the sciences, but it seemed to me stronger in Europe than in America. During the conference, it was my impression that many of the non-European researchers had a more “psi is proven” attitude, with more self-disclosure on their personal beliefs and experiences. While more academic opportunities in parapsychology emerge in Europe as American institutions close down, the original stance of a pragmatic pro-psi attitude appears to be breaking up. The living parapsychologist must enter in a dissociative state. Two types of research have emerged, as if two trends living side by side.

As Deborah Delanoy pointed it in her invited address, there are pros and cons of doing research in private institutes versus the university setting. Financing, broadcasting, recognition, constraints, and perpetuity vary completely from one institution to another. For somebody who wants to make a living while doing research in parapsychology, it is better to be known for something else than successful proof-oriented psi research. Robert Morris’s legacy at Koestler Parapsychology Unit is an academic success with 27 PhD students, with 18 working currently in universities, but at what price? Psi phenomena are still far from proved. Only surrounding approaches, like studies of altered states of consciousness, paranormal beliefs, anomalous experiences and historical studies assure these academic positions. I wonder if certain properties of the paranormal entail inevitably the dissolution of its subversive reach when it penetrates into strongly structured and conformist circles (such as universities) as suggested in George Hansen’s Trickster theory (Hansen, 2001).

But the differences between private and academic institutions do not completely describe the reality. The private Institute of Border Areas of Psychology and Mental Hygiene in Germany is probably the most active in private parapsychological research. Its stance is, however, both careful and brave. It asks differently the question of the authenticity of psi phenomena by basing itself on theoretical models (such as Generalized Quantum Theory), which goes at the same moment farther and less far than the common representations. This model, where the psi is not a physical signal, allows the construction of a new field where psi receives a positive operational definition.

An exchange at the Utrecht II was very revealing of this aspect: in his lecture, Professor Harald Walach of the University of Northampton went so far as to say that parapsychology was dead, but Mario Varvoglis, president of the private Institut Métapsychique International in France, stated that if this model (GQT) of psi showed itself exact, it would be the death of one parapsychology, one view of psi accompanying one specific discourse. And it would be for that reason that parapsychologists still have a spark of life in the middle of a hostile world.

Hansen, G. (2001). The Trickster and the Paranormal. Philadelphia: Xlibris.

After receiving some new information, a few things must be clarified about my criticisms:
- The Parapsychology Foundation was not alone in making the decisions about the organization of the Utrecht II conference, in particular about the timing of discussions. Longer time periods were proposed, but there were many talks on various topics, so some logistical choices were made.
- Many of the people who missed the conference had been invited, but many had life circumstances that prevented them attending. In fact, the Parapsychology Foundation sent more than 100 invitations!
- My impression was that some of the lectures were too introductory; but, actually, the guidelines were to review the basics in each area and then speculate on the future. Maybe this style of presentation didn't work well this time because the basics are quite large, and the future quite hard to imagine.
I hope that with this addendum, my criticisms have become less unfair and more what they tried to be: part of charting the future of parapsychology.

Renaud Evrard is a French psychologist, preparing a Ph.D in clinical and differential aspects of exceptional experiences at the University of Rouen. He is an active member of the Student Group of Institut Métapsychique International since 2004, and a student affiliate of the Parapsychological Association since 2007. He co-founded in 2007 the Service for Orientation and Help of People with Exceptional Experiences (SOS-PSEE) in Paris.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Precognition Study at Liverpool Hope University

Research Participants Needed for Study on Eye Movements and the Precognition of Emotional Faces

Researchers at Liverpool Hope University in the UK are studying conscious and unconscious measures associated with the precognition of emotional faces. Prior to coming to the scheduled experimental session, you would be asked to complete a short personality questionnaire. At the experimental session, you would be seated in front of a computer screen and asked to take part in one or two calibration tests such that the Eyetracker equipment can accurately measure your eye movements during the experiment itself (this is non invasive and undertaken by simply watching some images appear on the screen in front of you).

When the experiment begins, you would take part in some practice trials prior to the start of the experimental session. During each trial, you would be asked to watch the screen as a series of seven randomly ordered emotional faces are presented to you. You do not have to do anything other than watch the screen (the eye tracker will be monitoring the way your eyes are processing each face).

The emotions that you will see reflect happy, neutral, sad, fear, anger, disgust and surprise the emotions. After you have seen all seven faces, you would be asked to make a choice as to which of the seven faces will be selected by the computer and appear in the future. You will do this by making a button press on the computer key pad.

Following your choice, you will receive feedback on whether you were correct or not (and see the face that was selected by the computer). You will take part in 35 “trials” after which time, the computer will give you feedback on your overall ESP performance.

This study takes around 30 minutes to complete!

Please contact Christine Simmonds-Moore on or (0151) 291 2158 if you would like to take part in this study.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

ESP Study at Liverpool Hope University

Aesthetic Preference, Subliminal Perception and ESP Study

Researchers at Liverpool Hope University in the UK are studying processes that affect people’s preferences for visual images. In total, the study takes approximately 90 minutes to complete. Prior to coming to the scheduled experimental session, you will complete a personal information questionnaire which includes a short battery of questions about your experiences and attitudes. This part of the experiment will take approximately 30 minutes to complete.

At the experimental session, the first part of your participation will be administered by a computer. The second part of your participation will consist of the completion of the NEO-PI personality inventory. This part of the experiment will take approximately 60 minutes to complete.

At the experimental session, you will be asked to watch the screen as pictures are flashed very briefly, and then asked to rate how well you like a series of pictures.

The pictures range from marginally negative to pleasant, and none contain explicit sexual content. The marginally negative pictures are no different to being exposed to images that one might see on the television (e.g., in the news).

By signing up and coming to the laboratory at the appointed time, you are only giving your initial consent to participate in the study. You are free to withdraw your participation at any time without any penalty – even after the study has begun.

The hypotheses of the study will be fully explained to you as soon as you complete your session. The identity of your data will be kept confidential, and only group results will be reported.

To thank you for your time, and to cover refreshment expenses we will pay each participant £5.00.

Please contact Christine Simmonds-Moore at or (0151) 291 2158 if you would like to take part in this study.

Parapsychology Education Opportunities

The Parapsychological Association has recently compiled and presented a list of education opportunities in parapsychology around the globe. Here you will find everything from online courses to PhD programs mentored by professionals in the field. The PDF is available here.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Online Parapsychology Course Reviewed

French philosophy student Louis Sagnières recently completed Dr. Caroline Watt's online course, Introduction to Parapsychology. Please welcome Louis as he shares his experiences as a student of the course in his first guest post for Public Parapsychology.

In September, I started Dr. Caroline Watt’s new online parapsychology course offered by the University of Edinburgh. I already have a bit of non-academic training in parapsychology. I’ve been a member of the student group of L’Institut Métapsychique International (IMI) in Paris for four years now, so I’ve had time to learn a bit about the field. But this course was a first for me, and I really enjoyed it. I would definitely recommend it to someone with interest in parapsychology with some or no previous knowledge.

Content of the class

The structure of the course was quite simple. Each week we were assigned one or two articles to read and some chapters of the Introduction to Parapsychology book by Harvey Irwin and Caroline Watt. And there were interviews by Dr. Watt of some parapsychology figures (pro-psi or skeptics). Everything but the book was downloadable through the site (WebCT of University of Edinburgh). Each week focused on one theme, “Psi in the laboratory”, “Unconcious Psi” etc. The interviews are organized to give the “expert of the week” the opportunity to discuss the week’s topic but also broader issues in parapsychology, which is a really good thing. And the mix of parapsychologists and skeptics is also a plus. Students are thus showed the whole picture instead of just the positive side of the psi quest.

Whereas the interviews are fun and easy to listen to, the readings required a lot more work. The book chapters were quite clear, but they were sometimes too quick on certain subjects. The articles, on the other hand, were sometimes really difficult. I wondered if everyone, especially those with no scientific background, was following the points made in the articles. I don’t think that technical articles are unnecessary in that kind of class, on the contrary, but maybe they could have been better introduced. The interviews did introduce material sometimes when the expert was the author of the article. Overall the whole content of the class is great, but it may be hard to follow for those with no previous background in parapsychology.

Class setup

The whole class is online, everything takes place on the website of the University of Edinburgh. And this was for me a big disappointment. Not that I dislike online classes, I’ve experienced a few and they are generally good, but an online course website needs to be easy to use and that wasn’t really the case. WebCT manages the environment of the site, and it really wasn’t great at all. Things are sometimes a bit hard to find, and the whole site is slow. Instead of using just one window and some tabs, every time you open something you get a popup window. Then you end up with three or four windows at the same time and you get lost. But I may be a bit picky since the after-class survey shows most students found the site good or very good. Actually, it appears that I was the only student that had a bad experience with the website.

Each week, one student gets to write a short essay (500 word) on the week’s topic, which is used to start up conversation. The forum that is used to do that wasn’t really easy to use, and I think it might have inhibited participation. The window in which one was supposed to write his essay was so small it could barely fit three words in a line. Reading wasn’t easy either. Nevertheless people did participate and conversations were enjoyable. Dr. Watt often intervened to give relevant information, to answer student questions, or to ask questions to bring better focus to the conversation. Her participation allowed the group to have feedback about their discussions and not be left in the blind.

Class population

For the class to be manageable, groups of ten were created. It enabled people to know each other quickly, and each of the participants had its own week essay assigned. It also made conversation easy to follow. Class discussions were nice, but they depended a lot on the group dynamic. On average, people participated once or twice per discussion. Dr. Watt told me that with the new group there was already three times the number of messages that there was with the previous group. So participation may depend a lot on the group dynamic.

People attending the class came from different backgrounds. Most of them never had followed a parapsychology class, but they all had certain knowledge of the field, some through readings and others because they were psychics. I don’t recall anyone being skeptic. But the class survey shows that some had actually been skeptics even though they weren’t really vocal about it.


My overall impression is a good one. Class material was good, sometimes a bit hard, but always appropriate. The few lows about the website are surely thing that can be fixed over time. This class is a good thing, and definitely somewhere to start for anyone interested in parapsychology. I would not suggest it for people who already have a good background in the field, because it is only an introductory class, but it’s a really good one.

Louis Sagnières

Louis is a PhD student in philosophy. He specializes in political philosophy and the impact that the Internet has on society. He has been a member of L’Institut Métapsychique International (IMI) student group for four years, and has done his master’s thesis on the impact of parapsychology on philosophy (the text can be found in french here).

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Review of Soul Shift: Finding Where the Dead Go

Public Parapsychology welcomes guest reviewer, Rosemarie Pilkington in her first contribution to the site. Below is her review of Soul Shift: Finding Where the Dead Go, by Mark Ireland.

Mark Ireland is the son of the gifted psychic/medium Dr. Richard Ireland, who amazed and entertained thousands in churches, halls and on television with his prodigious gifts in the 1960’s through the 80’s. Although he was an entertainer, Dr. Ireland was also a minister who tried through his psychic demonstrations to spread the message, "there is no death and there are no dead."

Mark, although he learned much from his father, and absorbed I’m sure even more than he knew of his belief, didn’t discover his own inherited abilities until he had a premonition about the death of his son, Brandon. This tragic event led him to try to make contact with his son’s spirit, and in so doing, Mark became immersed in the world of mental mediumship. Soul Shift: Finding Where the Dead Go documents this journey

As with many others who have lost loved ones, Ireland embarked on a quest for the meaning of life and death. The unexpected demise of his son, and perhaps even more his precognitive sensing of the impending tragedy, changed his world view. He became more spiritual and desirous of contributing to the universe by developing his own latent powers.

Those who believe in survival after death will find much in Ireland’s interpretation of the phenomena he has experienced to support their belief. Although he says at one point that he still has doubts and expects readers to form their own conclusions (p. 173), his narrative is designed to convince us that human personality continues after death. In Soul Shift’s 200 pages, he spends merely half of one paragraph in a cursory nod to any other view (p. 147).

Ireland gives short shrift to those who contend that the information provided by psychics/mediums may be attributed to their own psychic abilities rather than communications from the dead. He dismisses this theory by stating, “super psi is a very elaborate concept, which appears nearly impossible to test” (p. 147). One might say the same, and many have, about the spirit hypothesis of course. Neither theory has ever been proven. Serious scholars and experimenters in psychical research have argued both the spirit and psi hypotheses for more than a century and are still no closer to agreement than they were when Charles Richet and Oliver Lodge argued each side in the 1920s.

By the way, I dislike the term “super-psi.” Psi is super. No one knows the range or limits of psychic ability or indeed if there are any limits.

Ireland’s father could read notes while completely blindfolded. He telepathically picked up names and gave accurate clairvoyant and precognitive information to strangers. (Films from some of his TV appearances may be found on You Tube). If he could pick up names of living friends and relatives, tell when babies would be born and what their sex was, or what moves or business ventures would profit the person he was ‘reading’, Ireland’s father could just as easily pick up information about their dead loved ones by using his psychic powers. As Richet would say, “there is no reason to suppose the intervention of the soul of a deceased person.” Because we don’t yet understand the mechanism of psi, how it works, and to what extent, we cannot assume that the information given by psychics/mediums is obtained from beyond.

I can understand Mr. Ireland’s need to believe his son is still with him and it’s also much simpler to accept at face value that the messages we receive are indeed from our loved ones and that we will meet them again some day. I would like to think he is right. I too have lost a child and it is a comforting thought.

Having said that, whether or not one subscribes to the survival theory there is much to ponder in this very readable work. Dr. Ireland’s brother was also psychically gifted, as are the author and his surviving son, which demonstrates that psychic talent may be inherited. There is also evidence that Brandon, whose untimely death prompted his father’s quest, was a spiritual and probably psychically talented person as well. But I found especially interesting the prodigious talent of Dr. Richard Ireland. His story is alone worth the price of the book and should be of interest to anyone learning about psychic ability.

Rosemarie Pilkington, Ph.D.

Rosemarie is a writer, musician, and educator who holds a Ph.D. in Psychology from Saybrook Graduate Institute in San Francisco. She is an associate member of the Parapsychology Association. In addition to writing many articles and book reviews on psychic phenomena, her latest book is The Spirit of Dr. Bindelof: The Enigma of Seance Phenomena, which focuses on one little known episode of physical mediumship. Gilbert Roller's utterly charming and disarming autobiographical account of a group of teenagers who experimented with seance phenomena and contacted an alleged spirit named Dr. Bindelof.