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Introduction to Scientific Literature on Parapsychology

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Introduction to Scientific Literature on Parapsychology

from: Charles Tart

to: jcs-online@hermes.zynet.net

Recently I've pointed out that if you want to speak as a scholar or scientist on the subject of parapsychology and its relation to consciousness, you should have made a thorough study of the scientific literature. It should hardly be necessary to point out something so basic, but the topic gets people excited enough to let opinions override scholarly training.

Following my posts about this, quite a few people wrote me off line agreeing and curious, but rather daunted by the sheer size of the scientific literature, and asking for a few basic introductory references. The following are a brief introduction to the scientific literature here that will give you a reasonable familiarity with parapsychological methodology, basic experimental findings, and some samples of contemporary research foci. There is much, much more, of course, but I will control my urge to be comprehensive and keep it brief! A number of experimental parapsychologists assisted me in recommending basic readings.


I use two recent books for my graduate level parapsychology course.

-- Irwin, H. J., 1994 An Introduction to Parapsychology, 2nd edition.
Jefferson, NC and London, McFarland & Co. Irwin is a professor of psychology in Australia who has done considerable work in parapsychology and write in that dry journal style we have all come to love and hate, bending over backwards to look at all sides of the issue. Excellent overview even if some of my students are driven mad by the fact that Irwin never states whether he actually believes there are any real psi phenomena or not!

-- Broughton, R. S. 1992 Parapsychology: The Controversial Science.
New York: Ballantine Books. This is the paperback edition ($12) and should be readily available. A chattier and easier to read style than Irwin, but just as solid. Broughton is a psychologist by training and currently director of research at the Rhine Institute in Durham, NC.

An excellent review book on the psychological aspects of ESP functioning (there are many) by professor of psychology Gertrude Schmeidler (City College of New York, emerita) is:

-- Schmeidler, G. (1988) Parapsychology and Psychology: Matches and Mismatches Jefferson, NC and London: McFarland & Co.).

For those planning ahead, psychologist and leading parapsychological researcher Dean Radin (U. Nevada) informed me that his upcoming book, The Conscious Universe: The Scientific Truth of Psychic Phenomena, reviews over 1,000 articles in what he hopes will be a widely accessible, meta-analytic way. The publisher is Harper San Francisco, and the scheduled publication date is August 1997.

Periodical Articles and Book Chapter:

-- Radin D. & Nelson R. (1989) Evidence for consciousness related anomalies in random physical systems. Foundations of Physics, 10, 1499-1514.

-- Bem, D. & Honorton, C. (1994). Does psi exist? Replicable evidence for an anomalous process of information transfer. Psychological Bulletin, Vol. 115, 4-18. Full text available.

-- Braud, W. & Schlitz, M. (1991). Consciousness interactions with remote biological systems: anomalous intentionality effects. Subtle Energies, Vol. 2, 1-46.

-- Varvoglis, M. (1996). Nonlocality on a human scale: psi and consciousness research. In Hameroff, Kaszniak and Scott (Eds.). Toward a Scientific Basis for Consciousness. MIT Press: London. Pp. 589-596.

For extensive background, both technical and non-technical on the statistical issues:

-- Utts, J.M. (1991) Replication and Meta-Analysis in Parapsychology, Statistical Science, 6(4), 363-403. Utts comments: Includes discussions by statisticians including some very well known ones (M.J. Bayarri and James Berger, Ree Dawson, Persi Diaconis, Joel Greenhouse and Frederick Mosteller) as well as by Ray Hyman and Robert Morris. Surveys the available meta-analyses at that time. This is a VERY mainstream Statistics journal, and should be available at almost all academic libraries.

-- Utts, J.M.(1995) An Assessment of the Evidence for Psychic Functioning. Utts comments: "This is the report I wrote for Congress, reprinted in Journal of Parapsychology, Dec. 1995 (59), 289-320.

-- Utts, Jessica (1996) Exploring Psychic Functioning: Statistics and Other Issues Stats, 16 (Spring 1996), 3-8. Utts comments that .I wrote an article in almost laypersons' terms for a magazine distributed to statistics students, called Stats. It lays out the story and the data in a conversational way.

Utts also notes that "Brian Josephson and I wrote an article for the Times Higher Education Supplement, available on the internet.

It first briefly discusses the evidence, then talks about implications for consciousness, so it might be of particular interest to this group."

For a look at some sophisticated contemporary research foci, you might try:

-- May, E. C., Utts, J. M., and Spottiswoode, S. J. P. (1995). Decision Augmentation Theory: Applications to the Random Number Generator Database. Journal for Scientific Exploration, Vol. 9, No 4, 453-488.

-- May, E. C., Spottiswoode, S.J. P. and James, C. L. (1994). Shannon Entropy: A Possible Intrinsic Target Property. Journal of Parapsychology. Vol. 58, 384-401.


There's a CD-ROM on parapsychology soon to be on sale, compiled by psychologist, Mario Varvoglis, although I haven't seen it yet. Info on it is available.

My own work:

In my part-time parapsychological career I have never bothered with proof-oriented parapsychological research, having been convinced of the reality of the basic phenomena long ago, but focused on process oriented work in the hope of either finding out something about the nature of psi and/or learning to make it function better. Being a part timer and never having much in the way of resources to put into such studies I don't think of my own work as particularly conclusive, although it supports the general picture of psi the field as a whole has produced. Some of this work is easily accessible in my ftp area.

I hope these references will give interested parties a start on the literature and so improve the quality of our discussions.

Charley Tart