Objectives: This project sought to further explore the psychometric correlates of different types of apparitional experiences, with a particular focus on synaesthesia, creativity, perceptual sensitivity, different types of boundary thinness and body-based awareness (interoception and somatic focus). We predicted that there would be a difference between synaesthetes and non-synaesthetes in the general tendency to experience apparitional experiences. We also predicted that synesthesia (scored as a dummy variable), creative tendencies, sensitivity, body awareness and boundary thinness would positively predict scoring on a
general tendency to experience apparitions (in a regression analysis). We also planned to explore differences between ways of experiencing apparitions (including eyes open compared to closed; visual compared to other sensory experiences and spatial versus in the body) on personality scoring (using MANOVA). We also planned to sample a subset of different types of apparitional experience to develop a theory of apparitional experiences using grounded theory.
Design & Methods: This study was run as an online survey using Qualtrics. A series of questions that describe a range of different
apparitional experiences were developed from existing measures. This included 2 items pertaining to apparitions from the Anomalous Experience Inventory and 5 items from Irwin, Drinkwater and Dagnall (2013). The research team added an item pertaining to “visit dreams” (a type of encounter with the deceased that only occurs during the dream state). Questions were written neutrally, but with response options that allowed for paranormal or mainstream appraisals for experiences. Additional questions asked about different ways of experiencing apparitions (including whether eyes were open or closed, the senses that were involved in the experience, the spatial location of the experience and the nature of the apparitional experiences; presented as an open-ended question). A battery of individual difference measures included a measure of creativity (Weibel, Martarelli, Häberli & Mast, 2017); synesthetic experiences; locus of control, the Revised Transliminality Scale; Hartmann’s Boundary Questionnaire a measure of hyperaesthesia and two measures of body awareness (interoception - Multidimensional Assessment of Interoceptive Awareness (MAIA), Mehling, 2012) and a brief measure of somatic focus). The study url was distributed locally (to students in the psychology department at UWG, all staff and faculty at UWG and the community surrounding UWG) in addition to psychology students at Northwest Missouri State University and via social media.
Results: Data will be analyzed using quantitative and qualitative methods. Quantitative analysis will include difference tests (synaesthetes versus non-synaesthetes) and correlations between individual difference variables and general tendencies to experience apparitions. Regression analyses will explore the statistical predictors of apparitional experiences (from the battery of individual difference measures). Comparisons between different ways of experiencing an apparition in terms of scoring on personality variables will be calculated using a series of MANOVA calculations. A grounded theory will be undertaken on a subset of openended responses concerning different types of apparitional experiences to develop a theory of this type of experiences.
Conclusions: This research extends existing knowledge about the psychology of apparitional experiences.