Filter theories of psi postulate that psi-mediated information operates as a ‘weak stimulus’ that is likely to be filtered out of conscious awareness (e.g. Myers, 1903/2001; Thalbourne, Bartemucci, Delin, Fox, & Nofi, 1997), and that psi might more commonly function at a subliminal level, without representation in awareness (e.g. Roney-Dougal, 1986). As such, states of consciousness that reduce ‘cognitive noise’ (e.g. Honorton, 1977) and unstructured states with wide, diffuse attention (e.g. Braud, 2002) have been implicated in models of psi-awareness, augmenting faint impressions; as have characteristics associated with increased openness to weak stimuli, such as low perceptual-defence (Watt, 1994) and schizotypy (Simmonds, 2003). This paper presents the methodology of a study in which an experimental paradigm, developed to examine the efficacy of hypothesised filtering mechanisms of consciousness, is adapted to include a psi component.
Inhibitory processes are thought to play a role in selective attention (Milliken & Tipper, 1998), discarding behaviourally irrelevant information in order to reduce working memory load (Wuthrich & Bates, 2001). A stream of research has focused on ‘cognitive inhibition’, through experimental paradigms such as latent inhibition (LI). LI assesses inhibitory processes in selective attention. In a typical LI experiment there are two conditions, where, during a masking task, participants are either: 1) repeatedly exposed to a particular stimulus (the pre-exposure [PE] condition); or 2) not exposed to this stimulus (the non-pre-exposure [NPE] condition). The stimulus is irrelevant to this initial task and serves no function. Thus, it is hypothesised that those in the PE condition will inhibit its representation from awareness. In a subsequent task (the experimental task), this stimulus assumes relevant status; it must be attended to in order to solve a problem. Those in the NPE condition solve the problem faster; this is presumed to be because the stimulus has not been inhibited (e.g. Gray, Fernandez, Williams, Ruddle & Snowden, 2002).
The study that will be presented assesses whether psi-mediated information might be inhibited from awareness when it is not needed, thus affecting subsequent cognitive performance. A standard visual LI protocol has been replicated, and two conditions added: 1) psi-pre-exposure (?PE), where a sender will attempt to transmit the stimulus telepathically during the masking task; and 2) non-psi-pre-exposure (N?PE). Thus, we ask whether psi works in a similar manner to the unattended stimulus in the normal processes of attention.
There is some evidence to suggest that high schizotypy and creativity abolish the LI effect (Carson et al., 2003; Gray et al., 2002) – where pre-exposure to the stimulus (with irrelevant status) does not lead to impaired performance on the experimental task. It has thus been inferred that schizotypy and creativity have in common less stringent filtering of mental elements into awareness. Creativity and schizotypy are incorporated in the current study to address the idea that certain profiles will relate to increased awareness of the (psi) stimulus. Further, it is predicted that belief in and experience of ESP in daily life will be associated with increased awareness of the (psi) stimulus.
It is hypothesized that: 1) performance on the experimental task will be impaired in the PE condition compared to the NPE condition; 2) there will be a significant difference in performance on the experimental task between the ?PE and the N?PE conditions (direction is not predicted, as the effect of pre-exposure has been shown to be bi-directional in LI research where weak pre-exposure improves rather than impairs performance); creativity characterised by ‘intrapersonal awareness’ (Holt et al., 2004), the positive dimensions of schizotypy (Simmonds, 2003) and belief in the paranormal (Thalbourne & Delin, 1993) will: 3) correlate significantly and negatively with performance in the PE condition (i.e. with enhanced performance on the experimental task); and 4) correlate significantly with performance in the ?PE condition.
|Holt, N., Simmonds-Moore, C., & Moore, S. (2007, September). Exploring the filter theory of psi-awareness: Do we inhibit psi-mediated information when it is not needed? Paper presetend at the 31st International Conference of the Society for Psychical Research, University if Cardiff, Wales. Abstract retrieved from: http://www.spr.ac.uk/main/page/conference-abstracts-2007|