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We Ask, Does Psi Exist? But is this the right question and do we really want an answer anyway?

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Abstract:

Although the question 'Does psi exist?' has become a recurrent and intransigent problem for psychological science, seen from a historical and social context, there appear to be reasons as to why no determined effort has been made to resolve the question. The sporadic exchanges from parapsychologists and critics appear only to reinforce the status quo: At most, it is agreed that some form of 'anomaly' has been established but there is no consensus about its nature. Yet such a defeatist stance shies away from the long tradition of research into spontaneous phenomena, as well as experimental research with dreams and hypnosis, all of which suggests that, if psi is real, it is not just an anomaly but has true information content and dynamic effects. This work is briefly reviewed and then, since much of the current controversy has centred on the ganzfeld technique, this is used as an example of the issues involved. The ganzfeld induces sleep-onset imagery during which randomly selected film clips are viewed by a sender as a source of psi-mediated information to be incorporated into the imagery. Our current development of the ganzfeld technique, known as the digital autoganzfeld, takes the work beyond 'anomaly status' since it enables real-time recordings to be made of apparently high-quality psi as it enters consciousness. Initial findings from this illustrate the complexity of the phenomena and the need for more adventurous designs in order to stimulate theory development. There is no doubt that technology now exists which would enable us to resolve the issues raised. Whether the area turns out to be a mixture of rampant fraud, artefact and subjective validation or to present genuine phenomena, a resolution of the issue may be seen as having unwanted implications for psychology -- which may be one of the factors explaining why the controversy is left to continue as it is, unresolved. New questions are needed which take into account the natural context in which psi appears to occur, along with the support needed to reach clear answers.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Dept of Psychology, University of Gothenburg, Box 500, SE 405 30 Gothenburg, Sweden., Email: adrian.parker@psy.gu.se

Publication date: January 1, 2003

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