Tuesday, June 23, 2009

announcing a conference on Health, Mental Health and Exceptional human experiences

Liverpool Hope University will be hosting an exciting conference on Health, Mental Health and Exceptional Human Experiences on monday 7th September.Liverpool Hope University is an ecumenical university with a mission statement addressing mind, body and spirit, and the psychology department also has an active parapsychology research group.

The objectives of the conference are as follows:
•To provide a forum for cross disciplinary discussion on the interaction between mind and body
•To provide a forum for cross disciplinary discussion on the overlap between exceptional human experiences and physical health/well being
•To provide a forum for cross disciplinary discussion on the overlap between exceptional human experiences and mental health/well being
•An opportunity for the development of greater insight and understanding of exceptional human experiences in an applied context.

The conference will be a one day event, comprising two main sessions:

One on belief mind and body [including the placebo effect/how the mind might be involved in the healing process; the effects of belief on the efficacy of drugs/healing/mental health; [Religious] faith and health/mental health; Exploring and understanding anomalous healing effects - a review of distant healing effects; Hypnosis and (self) healing; exploring "will or intention" from a mainstream perspective; Altered states of consciousness, mental imagery and healing].

The second will be on mental health and exceptional human experiences [including exploring the overlaps between clinical psychology and paranormal experiences; Clinical parapsychology in practice; Exploring the differences between healthy and unhealthy exceptional human experiences; exploring ways of manipulating/controlling pathological/healthy anomalous experiences; Spiritual and paranormal emergencies; The flow state, mental health and optimal performance; Healthy and unhealthy reactions to extreme events; Meditation and mental health ].

Speakers include the following: John Gruzelier, Isabel Clarke, Stefan Schmidt, Eberhard Bauer, Martina Belz, David Luke, Ian Tierney, Christine Simmonds-Moore, Carl Williams, Diane Dutton, Nicola Holt and Ginette Nachman.

Registration for the event opened on monday 8th June (a registrationform may be downloaded from our website http://hopelive.hope.ac.uk/psychology/para/HealthConference.html),We hope to see you on September 7th,

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Haunted house tale

Duke's parapsychology lab gives author a plot, campus setting

BY SALEM MACKNEE - Correspondent Published: Sun, Jun. 21, 2009

While you're taking your staycation this summer and dining on local foods, you can also enjoy a classic haunted house story with a decidedly local flavor.

Alexandra Sokoloff says the idea for "The Unseen" came to her when she learned that 700 boxes of files from Duke University's Rhine parapsychology lab had been opened to the public.
The same discovery propels Laurel MacDonald, the heroine of "The Unseen," into a field experiment re-creating a (fictional) Rhine poltergeist study.

Laurel and a handsome colleague break out the old ESP cards and sign up students for testing. The two high scorers and the two professors, plus a small fortune in high-tech ghost-hunting equipment, move into the same house where a similar group held a shadowy experiment nearly 45 years earlier.

Laurel discovers after the experiment starts that everyone involved in the earlier one either died or went insane -- including her own uncle, whose lingering psychic attachment to the house becomes clear from his visits to her dreams.

The fictional "Folger House" provides another delightful North Carolina connection: It's based on the mansion in Southern Pines that houses the Weymouth Center , which among its many attractions offers a writer's retreat. Sokoloff spent a week there with several fellow writers to soak up the atmosphere. She faithfully reproduces the floor plan and many furnishings but concocts a lurid family history for the "Folger House" to account for its extreme paranormal activity.

Besides the dreams, there are classic poltergeist manifestations: a rain of rocks, pounding noises in the walls, paintings turned upside down while a room is empty. And what would a haunted house story be without a cracking good séance?

There's also plenty of sexual tension in "The Unseen," as everyone staying in the house is young, good-looking and brimming with hormones.

Anyone familiar with Duke will enjoy the campus backdrop, as when Laurel experiences a ghostly chill in "the arched walkway beside the Chapel." And it's interesting to see our home through the eyes of a West Coast transplant (Sokoloff is a screenwriter who divides her time between California and North Carolina); the unnatural feel of so many trees ("she sometimes felt as if she had been dropped into an enormous hedge labyrinth" and "surreally empty streets") that leave her feeling "as if she'd woken up in some postapocalyptic movie in which all the people on Earth had been vaporized."

This is Sokoloff's third book. Her first, "The Harrowing," set in a college dorm where several students are staying over Thanksgiving break, showed her cinematic influences with a very visual storytelling style and a brisk pace. The second, "the Price," involved a deal with the devil to save a child's life.

It's a solid formula: classic scary-story plots, updated and kept moving with strong visuals and more dialogue than exposition. Sokoloff has found a groove and has quickly become one of the names I'm glad to see among the new arrivals.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

"Do Ghosts Have ESP? Why Psi Is Necessary to Models of Apparitions, Hauntings & Poltergeists"

Loyd Auerbach, MS
90 minute telephone seminar
June 22nd, 2009,
at 7:30 Eastern and at 7:30 Pacific

Psychic abilities are part of all models of apparitions, hauntings and poltergeists, whether one puts those abilities with the witnesses or with the ghosts. How do ESP and PK (psychokinesis, or mind over matter) actually figure in to ghost encounters, haunted houses and poltergeist cases? How did such models come about and why do so many parapsychologists stick to them so strongly?
Have you wondered how a ghost – a person without a body – can move objects? Or communicate with us without a mouth or voicebox? Or cause voices to appear on recording media (EVP)? Have you had any curiosity as to why some apparent ghosts seem to be un-intelligent and non-aware – recordings, so to speak? Or why parapsychologists consistently look to living people rather than the deceased in poltergeist cases?

Psychic abilities are part of all models of apparitions, hauntings and poltergeists, whether one puts those abilities with the witnesses or with the ghosts. How does ESP and PK (psychokinesis, or mind over matter) actually figure in to ghost encounters, haunted houses and poltergeist cases? How did such models come about and why do parapsychologists stick to them so strongly?

These and other questions will be addressed as Loyd Auerbach discusses the relationship between psi experiences and abilities to the more ghostly phenomena, and why the connection is so important to the phenomena. These models should be understood and considered by any who have such experiences or who investigate them, whether one accepts them or not.
If time permits, there will also be some discussion of the parapsychological view of demons, angels and other similar non-human entities.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The International Remote Viewing Association Questions Details of Twitter Remote Viewing Experiment

June 7, 2009

In just the past few days, parapsychologist and skeptic Dr. Richard Wiseman has launched an innovative experiment on the Internet-based social networking service Twitter which aims to test the reality of the ESP-based phenomenon known as remote viewing (RV). In the tradition of similar mass experiments such as that conducted by Stephan Schwartz’s Moebius Group via Omni magazine in the 1980s, Dr. Wiseman hopes to enlist the aid of everyday humans in creating a large statistical sampling that will either tell for or against remote viewing.The International Remote Viewing Association, founded in 1999 by prominent former military and civilian members of the remote viewing community to disseminate information about and responsible investigation into remote viewing, applauds the imaginative way Dr. Richard Wiseman is using Twitter to explore the existence of this interesting phenomenon. We find the premise behind the experiment’s structure to be interesting and generally sound, and wish Dr. Wiseman well in demonstrating a successful outcome once all results are calculated.We do, however, have some reservations about details of the experiment, and are concerned that they may act to dampen the full success a mass experiment model of this sort might otherwise promise. These concerns are (in no order of importance):

1. That there may be too much similarity among some of the five targets in each of the four sets. To have the clearest chance of success, a remote viewing experiment of this sort requires there to be as much difference between the targets and as little similarity as possible (in technical terms, the targets should be as “orthogonal” as possible). However, in several of the target sets chosen for this experiment there is much overlap in composition, shape, color, and content which will likely make it harder for viewers to discriminate between them during the judging phase, when they must decide which of the targets they perceived during their remote viewing attempts.

2. The photos of the targets may perhaps be too narrowly cropped to minimally capture surrounding detail that might be perceived by would-be viewers. RV is a largely perceptual and minimally cognitive process, so the realities of human perception must be taken into account when selecting the targets to be used in the sets. Further, remote viewing is not a telepathic process. Thus, a viewer’s attention may not necessarily be drawn to the same things the experimenter chooses to focus on, but rather to some other attention-getting object or scene in the vicinity. Obviously, too wide a focus would include too much, making deciding between targets harder in a different way. There is a happy medium between too wide and too narrow which, though difficult to specify with precise selection rules, can easily be learned through experience or in consultation with someone who has such experience. It goes without saying that to maximize chances of success, each target location should be selected to be as uniform within the respective target area itself as it is different from other target settings.

3. Testing a large body of naive subjects may not demonstrate a strong effect, as initial success will vary dramatically across individuals with no or little prior remote viewing experience. Strong results produced by some individuals may be canceled out by the statistical noise of others who don’t yet “get” how to do remote viewing.

4. In line with point 3, the absence of even rudimentary instructions on how one might do remote viewing leaves it up to naive viewers to try to figure out how to do it themselves. This may have a further dampening effect on results, as many novice viewers may not have a grasp on how to put the process into effect, and will find their efforts frustrated and unsuccessful. One would not, for example, present a bicycle to someone unfamiliar with the principles of bicycle riding and then conclude that bicycle riding was impossible if the person fails to successfully ride the bike. Future remote viewing experiments such as this might recommend, or even borrow from, simple remote viewing procedures such as those outlined on the Association’s website at http://www.irva.org/

5. It is unclear in the experimental design what measures have been taken to guarantee that all responses will be authentic (that is, unique and individual). It is technically feasible for groups or persons disenchanted with the purpose of the experiment to “spam” the results with large numbers of randomly chosen responses. This would have the effect of diluting or even completely submerging any real effect that might otherwise emerge. Such a strategy can only work to adversely affect the experiment – it cannot produce artificially inflated results, since that would require a large number of votes for the correct choice, which is not known (other than via ESP) for each trial until after it has been closed and no further responses are possible. In order to avoid this, the website and voting process must be constructive to eliminate the possibility of automated randomized or “spoofed” votes.

One final note related to the experiment but not having directly to do with its conduct: Dr. Wiseman’s statistical assessment (if accurately represented in media articles) that three “hits” of four in the series would yield odds against chance of 1 in 125 may inadvertently overstate the case. After consulting with statistician and IRVA board member Professor Jessica Utts, it seems the actual statistical consequence of three “hits” would yield a more modest (but still significant) odds against chance of 1 in 36. As Dr. Utts observed, "The odds against chance of 1/125 would be appropriate if 3 hits were required in just 3 trials, rather than at least 3 hits in 4 trials."Nothing said here is meant to criticize Dr. Wiseman for undertaking this commendable effort to demonstrate a remote viewing effect. We are pleased to see such research being conducted and stand ready to contribute advice or assistance when invited. We hope our comments above will be useful to future experiments, even if this one should turn out not to be as successful as we might like.
Paul H. SmithPresident, The International Remote Viewing Association

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

NewsTwitter Experiment Explores ESP

By Benjamin Radford, LiveScience's Bad Science Columnist
posted: 01 June 2009 06:13 pm ET

A novel experiment using Twitter by British psychology professor Richard Wiseman, in conjunction with "New Scientist" magazine, is set to be the largest ESP ("remote viewing") experiment in history.

According to Wiseman, this is how it works:
"At 3 PM (GMT) each day, I will travel to a randomly selected location. Once there, I will send a Tweet, asking everyone to Tweet about their thoughts concerning the nature of my location. Thirty minutes later, I will send another Tweet linking to a Web site that will allow everyone to view photographs of five locations (the actual location and four decoys), think about the thoughts and images that came to them in the 30 minutes before, and vote on which of the five they believe to be the actual target location. If the majority of people select the correct target, then the trial will count as a hit."

The trials will be held this Tuesday through Friday, and Twitterers can participate here.
Previous scientific experiments by the U.S. government failed to find good evidence for psychic powers. Starting in the 1970s, a project called Stargate explored the possibility of using psychic powers to gather military intelligence. The research went on for about two decades until CIA scientists concluded that the psychics did no better than chance, and that psychic information was neither validated nor useful.

Like all experiments, Wiseman's test has inherent limitations. The participants are a self-selected, volunteer subset of Twitter subscribers, and any result may not generalize to the population at large. The experiment cannot (and is not designed to) conclusively prove or disprove the existence of psychic abilities.

Still, thousands of Twitterers are expected to participate, and if nothing else, it is an interesting way to get the public thinking about how scientific methodologies can be applied to paranormal claims.

If the results are positive — that is, the majority of Twitterers correctly identify the locations in three or more of the four trials — that would be an intriguing result that would raise even more questions:

Can the results be replicated, and generalized to other groups in other situations?

Would that pool of Twitter users achieve the same result if they didn't use Twitter?

Do Twitter users somehow have more psychic ability than non-Twitterers, or could Twitter technology itself somehow enhance latent psychic powers?

Since the experiment tests group effects instead of individual ones, how small can the group be to still retain the same level of accuracy? What will Wiseman's test finally prove?

The world will find out June 5, when the results and raw data will be made available to the participants and public.

Benjamin Radford is managing editor of the Skeptical Inquirer science magazine. He questioned Twitter's usefulness in a column last month. His books, films, and other projects can be found on his website.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Twitter's Psychic Experiment

In the first scientific experiment to be conducted via the social messaging service, experts will investigate "remote viewing" - the psychic ability to identify distant locations.

Members of the public will be asked to "tweet" their impressions of a randomly chosen spot in the UK visited by one of the researchers. Then they will vote for which of five photographs on a website shows where the visitor was standing. The trial will be repeated with visually different locations four times. If at the end of the experiment the votes correctly identify at least three targets, it will support the existence of extra-sensory perception.

Study leader psychologist Professor Richard Wiseman, from the University of Hertfordshire, who specialises in investigating psychic phenomena, said: "Personally, I'm sceptical, but three hits would be against odds of one in 125, which would be quite impressive."

He hopes as many as 10,000 people will take part in the research, being conducted in collaboration with New Scientist magazine. Prof Wiseman will travel to each target location and send a message to thousands of participants to "tweet" their thoughts about his surroundings.
Twenty minutes after sending this message he will transmit another containing a website address on which participants can view photographs of the actual location and four decoys. They will then cast their votes.

"I have staged several mass participation studies over the years, but this is the first to use Twitter," said Prof Wiseman. "The instant nature of tweets allows thousands of people to take part in real time, making it perfect for an extra-sensory perception experiment. If the effect does exist then having so many people participate will help detect it."

Prof Wiseman is not the first scientist to investigate remote viewing. At the height of the Cold War in the 1970s, the CIA spent $20 million (£12.5 million) conducting remote viewing experiments in a real-life case of the "X-files". The "Stargate Project" was aimed at conducting "psychic spying" missions against the Soviet Union.

"The Russians were doing the same thing, and there was evidence from laboratory studies that suggested there might be something going on," said Prof Wiseman. "The CIA just thought it was worth a try and ran the programme for about 10 years."

Remote viewing has been linked to astral projection and telepathy, but no-one knows how it might work. Unlike the CIA, Prof Wiseman will be looking for a group effect rather than individual ability. This is a phenomenon known as "the wisdom of the crowds".

"If you have a jar full of jellybeans and you want to know many are in it, you get the most accurate estimate by averaging a number of different people's estimates," said Prof Wiseman.

The results of the experiment should be known on Friday. Sumit Paul-Choudhury, online editor at New Scientist, said: "There have been mass participation experiments since the start of mass communication and this is the next step.

"If we find some sort of effect then we can get into speculating about how it works."
Anyone can take part in the experiment by visiting the site.

Visit Richard Wiseman's Blog for more details about the experiment which began June 1, 2009. Tune into Twitter at 10am EST to participate in the experiment.