2007: Volume 7

Abstracts from Australian Journal of Parapsychology


 Volume 7(1), pp. 8-32

Science, Nonscience and Rejected Knowledge: The Case of Parapsychology


ABSTRACT: Parapsychologists purport to apply scientific method to the investigation of the bases of commonly reported parapsychological experiences such as extrasensory perception. Despite over a hundred years of associated research effort the status of parapsychology as a scientific endeavour is disputed by a substantial section of the contemporary mainstream scientific community. This paper identifies some of the major chronological shifts in the rationale for dismissing parapsychology as nonscientific, examining several historical attempts by parapsychologists to establish the scientific legitimacy of their discipline and the concomitant strategies of orthodox scientists to marginalise the findings of parapsychological research as rejected knowledge.


Volume 7(1), pp. 33-46

Does Your Animal Know You Are Going Out? A Survey in Portugal about Belief in Psychic Pets


ABSTRACT: Research was conducted on the relations between humans and animals to find out about animal behaviour and the types of beliefs associated with it. A survey in the form of personal interviews was carried out between February and March 2000, and comprised 1014 participants from five different regions of Portugal. R. Sheldrake’s (Brown & Sheldrake, 1998) questionnaire was used to examine pet owners’ beliefs about “psychic experiences” and the behaviour of their animals. Results showed that the majority of participants: (1) don’t agree that their pets get agitated before a family member arrives home, (2) recognise that their animals know they’re going to leave, and (3) disagree that their pets respond to their thoughts or silent commands. We advance the hypothesis that biases in environmental stimuli explain these alleged psychic experiences between owners and their pets.


Volume 7(1), pp. 47-51

Psi, Divination and Astrology: A Brief Introduction


ABSTRACT: Since it is alleged that astrology provides a method of gaining information about the personality of an individual, that might include advice and forecasts about future actions, the possibility exists that astrology depends on an anomalous process—a process that takes place outside the human brain, but nonetheless affects the human brain in ways so far undetermined. This short article is an introduction to the idea that ESP and astrology may be related.


Volume 7(1), pp. 52-71

Hopeful Findings, Unduly Neglected, on Stars and Human Affairs


ABSTRACT: In one of his careful astro-statistical studies, Arno Müller and Günter Menzer (1993) reported correlations between infants’ deaths in families of German nobles and Saturn positions at the infants’ birth hours. This result went unnoticed. Another neglected result of a well-controlled study is that of Timm and Köberl (1986) on astrologers. These major authors admitted that their participants’ interpretations of horoscopes were better than chance. They deemed this success due to paranormal (psi) effects. A recent case study on an astrologer’s efficiency at chart interpretation lead me to suspect that here, too, psi might be involved. Emergent phenomena like these should be taken as a challenge for further research.


Volume 7(1), pp. 72-76

Comment on Ertel (2007): Hopeful Findings Unduly Neglected


ABSTRACT: I am prompted to comment on some issues raised by Suitbert Ertel’s 2004 paper reprinted in Australian Journal of Parapsychology (Ertel, 2007). The first of his hopeful findings raises the question of a physical mechanism for parapsychological effects in general, an issue to which Spottiswoode (1997) and May (2001) have attached great importance. While looking at possible geophysical mechanisms we should not forget the equal need for a neurochemical pathway to explain such phenomena.


Volume 7(1), pp. 77-79

Planetary Effects and Psi, Related Through Geo- and Bio-Mechanisms? A Reply to Douglas (2007)


ABSTRACT: Speculations about mechanisms as expounded by Douglas (2007) are encouraging, but they also need to be thought over carefully and run through the appropriate tests. A connection between Gauquelin-type correlations of “neo-astrology” (Gauquelin, 1988) and Chizhevsky-type correlations of “helio-biology” (Chizhevsky, 1971) may exist. Neo-astrological correlations manifest themselves with birth peaks of eminent professionals after the rise or culmination of Mars (e.g., athletes), Jupiter (e.g., actors), and Saturn (e.g., physicians). Helio-biological correlations appear with peaks of social unrest and cultural-political revolutions during periods of high sunspot activity. I found sufficient evidence for neo-astrological (Ertel & Irving, 1996) as well as for helio-biological correlations (Ertel, 1996, 1997). But to my disappointment, I missed a connection between the two. Between the planetary and the solar or correlated geomagnetic processes no connection could be unearthed (Ertel, 1989).


Volume 7(1), pp. 80-85

Research Note: Interpreting Key Variables in Parapsychological Phenomenology by Single vs. Screening Questions


ABSTRACT: The article by Craig Murray and Jezz Fox (2006)—”From Dreams to (Virtual) Reality: Exploring Behavioural Embodiment in Out-Of-Body Experients”—is an example of how one question alone has been used for studying a key variable in parapsychological research. As a referee for that article, it has led to a crucial debate. Is this approach legitimate? More powerful would be a series of questions to establish whether the subjects’ experiences purport to what it should, and if it does not, to be able to establish why not.


Volume 7(2), pp. 112133

Pro Attitude and Macro-PK: A Pilot Study Using Neuro-Feedback and EMG Biofeedback


ABSTRACT: Using the ProComp+ neuro-feedback apparatus, intermittent feedbackwas given to eight participants as they performed an alternating bimodal  (i.e., normal and paranormal) task, switched at irregular intervals. Duringnormal modes, participants were required to keep EEG alpha rhythm above  threshold, and/or EMG amplitude below threshold, in order to elicit positive feedback of a ‘Spinning Man’ animation. The man spun only when one or both threshold contingencies were met. During paranormal modes, regardless of alpha and/or EMG amplitudes, the participants were required to keep the man spinning, but they were blind to the fact that their attempts could only elicit micro-PK changes (i.e., ‘anomalous perturbations’) on a single frame taken from the Spinning Man animation sequence. If psi was elicited during this mode, anomalies were expected as a result of participants’ focussed attention. It was hypothesised that (i) video anomalies might occur during the paranormal modes, and (ii) EEG alpha amplitude might be higher, and/or integrated EMG amplitude might be lower, during paranormal modes. Stills of the video frame caught during paranormal modes were later analysed. No evidence was found for (i) or (ii). Three un-hypothesised ‘anomalous’ effects occurred during the running of the experiment but, on parsimonious grounds, these were attributed to software flaws. It is argued that lack of biofeedback during paranormal modes may have been psi-inhibitive. Previous meditation and biofeedback experience had no effect on EEG alpha amplitude or EMG. Some participants showed evidence of waveform training. Transliminality correlated with alpha and EMG in the directions hypothesised, but only approached significance in the Transliminality/alpha correlation.


Volume 7(2), pp. 134163

Pueblo Parapsychology: Psi and the Longbody from the Southwest Indian Perspective


ABSTRACT: The concept of the longbody traces its origin to the language and spiritual tradition of Native American tribal cultures, particularly that of the Iroquois Indians. Within these cultures, it represents a worldview quite different from that of Western cultures, in that it posits a broad degree of spiritual interconnection between all things in the natural world, living and material alike. From this view, a tribal member’s experience of self is not solely limited to their individual living body, but also includes other family and tribal members (both living and deceased), the objects they possess, and the geographical locations that they inhabit or consider sacred. These can all be seen as extensions of the individual small body and the self that, when taken as a whole, comprise the larger tribal “longbody.” The concept was first introduced to parapsychology by Christopher Aanstoos (1986), and was adopted by William Roll (1987, 1989, 2005) as a metaphorical way to understand the interconnection between mind and matter that is suggested in one form or another by all the known types of psi phenomena. The concept does not seem to be unique only to the Iroquois; several Indian tribes of the American Southwest also have aspects of their oral-based spiritual tradition that reflect something very similar to the longbody. In this paper, the similar aspects from four Southwest tribes (the Hopi, the Navajo, Laguna Pueblo, and Zuni Pueblo) are reviewed, and their implications for tribal psi experiences and Roll’s longbody hypothesis are discussed. It is suggested that tribal oral tradition, which is based in memory, opens the way for psi as a means to ensure the survival of the tribes and their respective longbodies across space-time. It is further suggested that the geophysical properties of the location of certain Pueblos and sacred tribal sites may display anomalous activity similar to that observed in investigations of reportedly haunted sites, which may aid in giving rise to tribal psi through their possible energetic effects on the brain. Possible directions for future research are also offered.


Volume 7(2), pp. 164171

The Assumption of Grand Identity and Belief in Reincarnation


ABSTRACT: Sometimes people in psychotic episodes purport that their identity has changed, and the most famous personage to whom there is a change is Jesus Christ. Clearly, even if true, the person has not arrived on Earth by celestial spectacle, but rather by being born in the normal way. This fact suggests that such people may be more likely to believe in reincarnation. In this research project belief in reincarnation was correlated with belief that one has on at least one occasion experienced being literally a famous person, such as Jesus Christ. The evidence, using a questionnaire approach and a total of 1,025 people, is that there is a positive and significant association between the two variables, r(1023) = .083, p = .008, but it is extremely small and must therefore act in concert with other more important variables to produce the assumption of grand identity.


Volume 7(2), pp. 172181

Casting Shadow and Light on the Peer Review Process: A Reply to Neppe’s (2007) “InterpretingKey Variables in Parapsychological Phenomenology by Single vs. Screening Questions”


ABSTRACT: In the previous issue of the Australian Journal of Parapsychology [A.J.Para.], Vernon Neppe presented a critique of the use of a single item to differentiate a sample into out-of-body experients and non-experients (Neppe, 2007). Although this is a discussion generally meriting attention, Neppe’s critique is made directly in response to his experience of reviewing our earlier paper, and of its subsequent inclusion in the December 2006 issue of A.J.Para. (Murray & Fox, 2006). Indeed he states that “As a referee of that article, it has led to a crucial debate. Is this approach legitimate?” (Neppe, 2007, p. 80).


Volume 7(2), pp. 182183

Reviewer’s Response to Neppe (2007)


ABSTRACT: Neppe’s (2007) criticism of Murray and Fox’s (2006) “From Dreams to (Virtual) Reality: Exploring Behavioural Embodiment in Out-Of-Body Experients” is correct but somewhat misleading. That is, Neppe (2007) is absolutely correct when he states that “No matter how well a single question is fashioned it could create both false negatives and false positives due to misinterpretation” (p. 82), and he correctly notes that the use of multiple questions give greater assurance that “what is subjectively measured is as appropriate a measure of the subjective phenomenon as possible” (p. 82). In some cases a single question might well suffice (e.g., “Did you ever get legally married?”), whereas establishing the presence of Out-of-Body Experiences might indeed require more than one question.


Volume 7(2), pp. 184188

Peer Review and Phenomenological Analyses in Research


ABSTRACT: I was asked by the editor to contribute a response to Murray and Fox (2007) whose scientific work I respect. I comment on two issues: Peer review and phenomenology.  Peer review is important. The object is to improve the quality of the submitted article and the quality of the current research and sometimes impact on future studies. Peer reviewers should not be regarded as the only experts. They are there to assist having been selected generally because, like the submitting authors, they, too, have expert knowledge in that discipline. Peer review optimally assists the authors in improving articles and their future research. Refereeing processes are not intended to be rewrites of articles. Certain interchanges in the review process are made available to authors, others only to the editor himself.