Introduction - There has been a recent growth in interest amongst experimental parapsychological researchers in attempting to capture psi effects through tacit means. Such interest can partially be accounted for by the notion that psi phenomena such as extra sensory perception may serve advantageous or adaptive functions as has been inferred from numerous ‘happy ending’ anecdotes of spontaneous, every day instances of reported psi. Indeed, Broughton (1991) has suggested that, in its naturally occurring state, psi may be an entirely unconscious process and has more recently alluded to an evolutionary explanation of psi (Broughton, 2010). In the laboratory, these ideas have been operationalised into experimental methods which attempt to capture the nature of psi by modelling it as a process which occurs outside of conscious awareness, with examples including prestimulus response (Radin, 1997), staring detection (cf. Baker, 2005, p. 60) and precognitive habituation (Bem, 2003).
More recently, Luke, Delanoy and Sherwood (2008), Luke, Roe and Davison (2008) and Luke (2009) conduct a series of four experiments which were designed to test some elements of Stanford’s (e.g. 1990) ‘Psi-mediated Instrumental Response’ (PMIR) model of psi. The PMIR model is multi-faceted, but could be summarised as suggesting that psi can operate unconsciously, facilitating advantageous outcomes for the organism by triggering pre-existing behavioural functions in response to opportunities or threats in the environment. By implication, experimental psi tasks do not necessarily require the conscious intent of the participant, nor even their awareness of the requirement of psi. Indeed, such awareness and intent could be counter-productive.
Thus, the Luke, Delanoy & Sherwood (2008) computer-based method comprised of presenting participants with ten sets of four fractal images and assigning them a quick response preference indication task of selecting which image out of each set they found the most aesthetically pleasing. Unbeknown to the participants, this constituted an implicit, forced-choice precognition task as, after each time participants registered their preference, the computer program would pseudo-randomly select one of the images as a target, with the selection being scored on a hit or miss basis. Subsequent to the ten trials, participants were directed towards a second task, the nature of which was contingent on their performance on the covert psi task. If the participants outperformed the mean chance expectations, they were administered with a positive reward, whereas if they scored below the mean chance expectation (MCE), they were given a negative reward. In each case, the contingent task was intended to be graded in pleasantness according to the level of over- or under-performance of chance. Taken together, the four studies yielded an above chance mean psi score of 2.92 (SD = 1.46, MCE = 2.50) which was highly significant (t = 4.036, p = 0.000078, two-tailed, z = 3.88).
These studies also considered a number of psychological factors which concern the extent to which an individual may be sensitive to a psi stimulus, and in turn, their propensity to respond behaviourally in a goal-serving manner. In particular, the research gave credence to Broughton’s (1991, p.193) notion that psi may “look like luck” by analysing psi task performance in relation to beliefs about luck and perceived personal luckiness using the Questionnaire of Beliefs about Luck (Luke, Delanoy & Sherwood, 2003). Furthermore, the effects of paranormal beliefs, openness to experience and creativity on the action of psi were examined. Across the four studies, correlations pertaining to each subscale of the QBL as well as the other psychological measures were inconsistent, but suggested some promise. The current study has been designed to refine the Luke, Delanoy and Sherwood (2008) paradigm in an effort to reproduce the overall psi effect and shed further light upon the psychological correlates of covert psi task success.
Study design - The study will use the same essential computer based method developed by Luke, Delanoy and Sherwood (2008), described above. Crucially, the computer program has been completely re-written in an updated programming language (VB.NET) in order to incorporate data collection of individual difference measures and provide participants with a smoother and more intuitive experience. Furthermore, the number of trials in each session has been increased from 10 to 15, which is considered a more optimal trade off between statistical power and potential declines in participant interest and enjoyment. Moreover, whereas the previous studies allowed participants to view erotic images or cartoons in the reward condition, the current study will utilise more suitable sets of images constructed from the International Affective Picture System (IAPS) in order to yield a more pertinent, sensitive and carefully graded measure of reward.
Prespecified Analyses - Data collection is ongoing and is expected to be completed in time for presentation at the conference. The primary analyses will involve both a statistical comparison of psi scores against the mean chance expectation as well as correlation analysis concerning the relationship between psi task success and beliefs about luck, perceived personal luckiness, paranormal beliefs, openness to experience and creativity.
|Hitchman, C.A., Roe, C.A., & Sherwood, S. (2010, September). A replication of studies concerning PMIR, psi, beliefs about luck, paranormal beliefs, openness to experience and creativity. Paper presented at the Society for Psychical Research 34th International Conference, Sheffield University, UK. Abstract retrieved from http://www.spr.ac.uk/main/page/conference-abstracts-2010#hitchman|