2003: Volume 3

Abstracts from Australian Journal of Parapsychology

Vol. 3(1), pp. 3-19

“Are you there, Spenser?” Attempts at ‘PK by Committee’ in a Séance-like Situation


ABSTRACT: The term PK by committee refers to a group psi effect that was hypothesised by D. Scott Rogo (1986) as being more consistent than a psi effect produced by an individual psychic. The Philip group (Toronto, Canada), formed by I. M. Owen with M. Sparrow (1976), was essentially a ‘committee’ of individuals attempting to elicit PK effects. The Philip group inspired the formation of the Spenser group (Adelaide, South Australia), which was comprised initially of a team of eight professional and amateur paranormal investigators. The Spenser group attempted to generate a fictional entity, the sea captain Spenser Blake (1770-1850), with whom conversation was attempted. No visual manifestations of Spenser were sought or produced. Spenser group sitters’ attempts at table-tilting and table levitation met with failure. Doubt remains over the cause of some rapping and scratching sounds. Attempts at influencing a candle-flame psychokinetically produced a statistically significant effect. The more salient anomalous effects produced across a series of 27 sittings are reported and attempts to explain them in rational terms are presented.


Vol. 3(1), pp. 20-35

Technical Paper No. 4

Temporal Lobe Lability and Self-Reported Haunting Type Experiences: A Questionnaire Study with an Undergraduate Sample


ABSTRACT: This study examined the hypothesis that self-reported haunting type experiences are positively associated with the temporal lobe lability of the experient. Sixty-two participants completed a brief personal history questionnaire about brain trauma and drug usage, the Temporal Lobe Dysfunction Scale, and the Haunting Type Experiences Index. As expected, temporal lobe scores were positively correlated with haunting type experience scores, r(62) = .45, p < .001. High temporal lobe scorers also scored significantly higher on the Haunting Type Experiences Index than low temporal lobe scorers, t(60) = 4.27, p < .001. Brain trauma and drug usage showed no significant relationship to temporal lobe scores or haunting type experience scores. Exploratory analyses found that sub-samples, defined by gender and program of study (Fine Arts or Psychology), scored comparably on the Temporal Lobe Dysfunction Scale and the Haunting Type Experiences Index. The present results conceptually replicate previous research linking temporal lobe symptomatology and haunting type experiences, but further research is warranted given the methodological confounds in the present study.


Vol. 3(1), pp. 36-42

The Demise of the Survival Hypothesis — or the Errors of Harvey Irwin?


ABSTRACT: Harvey Irwin’s article (Irwin, 2002) in which he argues not merely for the abandonment of the survival hypothesis but for its specific exclusion from the area of legitimate parapsychological studies is important, timely, stimulating and challenging.  It is also wrong. Dr. Irwin errs in two ways.  One arises from factual errors or misrepresentations when he discusses the strength and nature of evidence which appears to support a survival hypothesis.  The second is his conclusion that survival research can never meet the conditions required for acceptable scientific (i.e., pragmatic) work.  After commenting on the disturbing implications of Irwin’s thesis for scientific progress in general and psychical research in particular, I examine these errors in some detail below.


Vol. 3(1), pp. 43-58

Response to Lance Storm’s Review of “PSI: What it is and how it works”


ABSTRACT: Lance Storm is to be commended on a very sound review of PSI. It is not my intention to “cross swords” with him in this article because he has not revealed enough of his own position to justify a debate and in any case I think more is gained from collegial dialogues than adversarial debates. My approach, therefore, will be to clarify and expand points about which Storm has indicated the strongest reservations. To that end, rather than track and reply to his comments point by point in the same sequence he presents them, I have chosen to address them in the context of the fundamental issue that cuts across them all, namely, the philosophy of Mental Realism.


Vol. 3(1), pp. 59-64

A Reply to Chandler (2003)


ABSTRACT: It is unusual for a scientific journal to accept an article by an author (in this case, Keith Chandler) that is basically a response to a book review (the book is titled PSI: What it is and how it works by Chandler, 2001). I was the author of that book review, which appears in a previous issue of the Australian Journal of Parapsychology (Storm, 2002). Perhaps, more unusual is my being given the opportunity to reply to Chandler’s article. Nevertheless, in the interests of clearing up some misconceptions that appear to have been made by both of us, I have taken this opportunity to set the record straight. As much of Chandler’s theory is driven by philosophical principles and speculation, I will add little comment, as my review covered my sentiments on these matters. So I will be brief, feeling as I do, that I have adequately expressed all I needed to express, and therefore, feel that not a great deal more needs saying, apart from some clarification.


Vol. 3(2), pp. 94-104

The Concept of Coincidence


ABSTRACT: This paper analyses the concept of coincidence as it is applied in everyday life, and examines the processes whereby we come to feel that some coincidences are “extraordinary”, or “remarkable.” It does so by pointing out, examining and illustrating three different senses of the word “coincidence.” The first, coincidence in sense A, is coincidence as a description of a situation or set of events, prior to any question of whether this outcome has arisen by chance, or through some as yet unidentified causal agency. Thus, we may suggest it is a “coincidence” that Kennedy’s secretary was called Lincoln, while Lincoln’s secretary was called Kennedy. The second sense, coincidence in sense B, is the one we invoke when we say such things as “it’s only a coincidence,” or “it was purely coincidental.” What we are doing is to accept that a coincidence in sense A has occurred, but to deny that any causal explanation for its occurrence is either necessary or appropriate. Coincidence in sense B, then, is coincidence in sense A arising by some chance process. Finally, coincidence in sense C is the sense of “coincidence” we are usually using when we say things like “It’s a very remarkable coincidence,” or “What an extraordinary coincidence!” Hovering in the background is the notion that it needs explanation in some causal or quasi-causal way; in other words that it is not a coincidence in sense B. We may even say something like “That can’t be just a coincidence!” In this paper, these three senses of coincidence are invoked in order to show that many of the events we think of as remarkable coincidences in sense C may not be quite as remarkable as we feel they are.


Vol. 3(2), pp. 105-122

Harvey J. Irwin’s Introduction to parapsychology (3rd edition): A Reinterpretation in Terms of the Theory of Psychopraxia


ABSTRACT: One of the best, perhaps the best, textbooks of parapsychology is currently Harvey J. Irwin’s Introduction to Parapsychology (3rd edition). In this book Irwin uses as key concepts extrasensory perception (ESP) and psychokinesis (PK). The theory of psychopraxia (“the self accomplishing goals”) does not make use of these terms, considering instead the endosomatic functions (within the mind-body complex) and exosomatic functions (outside the mind-body complex) of a unitary principle called psychopraxia. In this article the author attempts to redescribe parapsychology in terms of psychopraxia instead of ESP and PK, using Irwin’s book as a vehicle for the reinterpretation.


Vol. 3(2), pp. 123-13

The John Edward Phenomenon “I Want To Believe”


ABSTRACT: Much international interest has been generated by psychics such as John Edward who purport to communicate with the deceased. In this article, contemporary decision theory is used as a possible explanatory factor in determining why individuals unquestioningly believe this notion, whilst empirical support against the theory appears overwhelmingly negative at this stage in research into this phenomenon.


Vol. 3(2), pp. 140-146

The I Ching and the Lotto Game: Trying to Beat the Odds Using an Ancient Chinese System of Divination


ABSTRACT: The I Ching (or Book of Changes) is an ancient Chinese form of divination. A numbered hexagram (or six-line symbol) and its associated reading or forecast, is generated using the modern ‘coin-throwing’ method (three coins are thrown, six times). In the present study, the coin-throwing method was adopted for the sole purpose of establishing a consistent means of generating ‘lucky’ numbers to be used in a form of gambling known as ‘Lotto’-a televised game in which eight ping-pong balls with winning numbers printed on them are drawn every Saturday night from a pool of 45 such balls. Participants in the present study took turns throwing coins to generate their own hexagram numbers. A total of eight numbers were entered for each Lotto game. Over a period of months, ten games were played. Half the games played (5 games) independently produced significant amounts of winning numbers (p < .05). Individual hit-rates for key players ranged from approximately 17% up to 36% over the ten games. It was concluded that such high success rates might bode well for the system, but a ‘control’ condition would be necessary in a replication study to confirm the viability of the procedure.


3(2), pp. 159-174

Technical Paper No. 5

Personality Factors and Psi-Ganzfeld Sessions: A Replication and Extension


ABSTRACT: This is a report of a study of the relationship between personality factors and ESP scores obtained using the ganzfeld technique, which has had a modest but consistent number of successes in various laboratories. Eysenck’s (1967) linking of extraversion and arousal was deemed potentially important to ESP performance. The relationship between ESP performance and individual differences and several personality dimensions have been studied, according to Honorton’s model which predicts the personality characteristics of successful ganzfeld participants. One hundred and thirty-eight participants attended one ganzfeld session (telepathy-focused) at the Institute of Paranormal Psychology, Argentina. The first author (AP) was the experimenter, who received each participant, and the second author (JV) was sender for each participant. Two personality inventories (the Eysenck Personality Inventory and the Sixteen Personality Factor Questionnaire) were administered before each ganzfeld session. Overall results of this experi­ment offered some four personality profiles that arise from a combination of N and E scores. Though this study did not show significant results relating direct hits to E or N scores or the 16PF factors, they were found for sanguine females and choleric male subjects. Cholerics obtained more hits than did melancholics.