Carlos S. Alvarado, PhD, Visiting Scholar, Rhine Research Center (http://Rhine.org)
Another person who has been conducting high quality work in parapsychology is Julia Mossbridge, whom I met at the convention of the Parapsychological Association held in Curitiba, Brazil, in 2011. Julia has an M.A. in Neuroscience and a Ph.D. in Communication Sciences and Disorders. She is a researcher and part-time faculty at Northwestern University. She is also the founder of the Mossbridge Institute, LLC, where she is concerned with developing software applications that help people learn how to get in touch with their internal physical states in order to make better life choices.
One of her best known contributions to parapsychology is a meta-analysis she conducted with psychologist Patrizio Tressoldi and statistician Jessica Utts entitled “Predictive anticipatory activity preceding seemingly unpredictable stimuli: A meta-analysis” published in Frontiers in Psychology. She refers to this study as follows: “We conducted a meta-analysis testing the unusual idea that human physiology anticipates what seem to be unpredictable events. This meta-analysis, which used statistically conservative methods to examine more than 40 studies published over the past three decades, found a small but highly significant overall effect in support of the hypothesis. After examining several possible explanations for the effect, my co-authors and I concluded that we do not understand the mechanism underlying it. However, we are sure to state in the paper and the abstract that the mechanism is of course not supernatural (because, of course, no observations of the natural world can be beyond it). If the results are not due to fraud or other difficult-to-test explanations, they support the idea that retrocausality or the “backward” temporal flow of information can occur in physiological systems, at least at the subconscious level. This paper was cited on the Wall Street Journal Ideas Market, Science Daily, and ABC 20/20 websites, among others.”
How did you get interested in parapsychology?
I know I’m not the first to say this, but I think that “parapsychology” is a misnomer. There is just psychology. Some psychological results are easy to understand in the current paradigm, and some are not. As in all sciences, psychologists have to do the work of understanding what is not currently understandable to us.
Having said that, I got interested in how time works when I was about 10. I had some dreams about simple events that seemed to occur the next day. Suzie lost her watch on the playground … stuff like that. I started writing my dreams in a journal each morning, because I knew that I had many dreams that didn’t come true … I have dreamed many times about being naked and late for a final exam, but thankfully so far this has never happened. I began to understand what characterized my seemingly precognitive dreams from my other dreams. Then I began to wonder about the nature of time.
In my early 20s, in graduate school, I began to remember these childhood experiences. I slowly realized that my scientific interests had always focused around temporal questions. From then on, I made sure that whatever I studied had a temporal question involved in it. Because time is critical for almost every experiment, this requirement has not limited my research much!
What are your main interests in the field and how have you contributed to its development?
My main research interests are: time, the nature of consciousness, and the subconscious mind. It’s hard to know how one has contributed to the field, and I’m quite new to it, having gotten started a little later in life than perhaps most academics. I like to think that I contribute both warmth and competence, but sometimes I am lacking in both of those areas. I know that the meta-analysis I wrote with Patrizio Tressoldi and Jessica Utts has been well covered in the popular media, and seems to be holding its own in the world of presentiment research. However, I am hoping that my best contributions are yet to come!
Why do you think that parapsychology is important?
Of course, the results that don’t fit with the present worldview accepted in science are the important things to understand. Trying to understand the seemingly non-understandable is what made humans figure out that the earth is round, that the sun is the center of the solar system, and that the subconscious mind exists.
In your view, what are the main problems in parapsychology today as a scientific field?
Again I have to point out that I think one main problem is that parapsychology is a field at all. Expertise in presentiment does not have much to do with expertise in PK. Each of the sub-fields in parapsychology should be subsumed in its proper place in the “mainstream” fields. For example, presentiment could be a sub-field in time perception of physics, PK could be a sub-field in motor control. I know that parapsychologists tend to blame mainstream folks for edging us out, but I think we are half the problem. I think we edge ourselves out by not being vocal and “out of the closet” with our work.
Can you mention some of your current projects?
I am excited to be developing a smartphone app that will allow us to gather data for presentiment experiments from thousands of people. The results should be interesting!
(Including Non-Parapsychological Research)
Mossbridge, J.A., Ortega-Torres, L., Grabowecky, M.F., & Suzuki, S. (2013). Rapid volitional control of apparent motion during percept generation. Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics. Online first, 1-10.
Dalkvist, J., Mossbridge, J.A., & Westerlund, J. (2013). How to handle expectation bias in presentiment experiments. Proceedings of the Parapsychological Association, 56th meeting.
Guzman-Martinez E., Ortega, L., Grabowecky, M.F, Mossbridge, J.A, & Suzuki, S. (2012). Interactive coding of visual spatial frequency and auditory amplitude-modulation rate. Current Biology, 22, 383-388.
Mossbridge, J.A., Grabowekcy, M.F., & Suzuki, S. (2011). Physiological markers of future outcomes: Three experiments on subconscious psi perception during concurrent performance of a guessing task. Proceedings of the Parapsychological Association, 54th meeting.
Mossbridge, J.A., Grabowecky, M.F., & Suzuki, S. (2011). Changes in auditory frequency guide visual spatial attention. Cognition, 121, 133-139.
Mossbridge, J.A., Grabowekcy, M.F., & Suzuki, S. (2009). Evidence for subconscious but not conscious psi in remote stare detection and precognition tasks. Proceedings of the Parapsychological Association, 52nd meeting.
Mossbridge J.A., Scissors, B.N., & Wright, B.A. (2008). Learning and generalization on asynchrony and order tasks at sound offset: Implications for underlying neural circuitry. Learning and Memory, 15, 13-20.
Mossbridge, J.A., O’Connor E., Fitzgerald, M.B., & Wright, B.A. (2006). Perceptual learning evidence for separate processing of asynchrony and order tasks. Journal of Neuroscience, 26,12708-16.
Mossbridge JA, & Thomas JA. (1999). An “acoustic niche” for Antarctic killer whale and leopard seal sounds. Marine Mammalogy, 15, 1351-1357.