Carlos S. Alvarado, PhD, Visiting Scholar, Rhine Research Center

In recent years many surveys of psychic experiences have been published. Here I present the first part of a list of references and abstracts that will give you a good idea of the types of studies that have been published.

Fach, W., Atmanspacher, H., Landolt, K., Wyss, T., & Rossler, W. (2013). A comparative study of exceptional experiences of clients seeking advice and of subjects in an ordinary population. Frontiers in Psychology, 4: 65.  doi:  10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00065

Exceptional experiences (EE) occur frequently within the populations of many countries and across various socio-cultural contexts. Although some EE show similarities with mental disorders, it would be a mistake to identify them in general as disorders. In fact, the vast number of individuals reporting EE includes subclinical and completely healthy subjects. We conducted a comparative empirical study of several characteristics of EE for two samples – one from ordinary population and the other from clients seeking advice. We found surprisingly similar phenomenological patterns of EE in both samples, but the frequency and intensity of EE for clients seeking advice significantly exceeded those for the ordinary population. Our results support the hypothesis of a continuous spectrum between mental health and mental disorder for the types of experiences analyzed.

McClennon, J. (2013). A community survey of anomalous experiences: Correlational analysis of evolutionary hypotheses. Journal of Parapsychology, 77, 55-78.

A questionnaire, administered to a predominantly African-American sample in Northeastern North Carolina (N = 965), surveyed incidence of anomalous experience, psychological symptoms, psychological variables related to shamanism, scales pertaining to psychological well-being, and demographic variables. Multidimensional scaling analysis allowed evaluation of hypotheses drawn from sheep, goat, and “black-sheep” theories. Sheep theories predict that paranormal experiences provide direct survival advantages, derived from psi. Goat theories argue that psi does not exist; anomalous experiences are associated with psychopathology and provide no direct evolutionary benefit. A “black sheep” theory has sheep and goat elements; it portrays a psychosis-spirituality continuum, with benefits derived from spirituality, psi may exist but does not provide direct evolutionary benefits sufficient to overcome psychopathological costs. Within the black sheep paradigm, the ritual healing theory argues that shamanic variables and associated genotypes facilitated coping skills and hypnotic/placebo effects. Study findings provide mixed support for sheep and goat hypotheses but fully support black sheep hypotheses.

Dr. Fatima Regina Machado

Dr. Fatima Regina Machado

Machado, F.R. (2010). Experiências anômalas (extra-sensório-motoras) na vida cotidiana e sua associação com crenças, atitudes e bem-estar subjetivo [Anomalous (extrasensory-motor experiences in daily life and their association with beliefs, attitudes and subjective well-being]. Boletim Academia Paulista de Psicologia, 30, 462-483.

The aims of this research were to verify the prevalence and psychosocial relevance of anomalous extrasensory-motor experiences (or psi experiences); to compare psi experiencers (EXPs) and non experiencers (NEXPs) on demographic variables, practices, beliefs, religiosity and levels of subjective well-being; and to examine attributions of causality that EXPs give to their experiences and the implications of these attributions. Method: Cross-sectional survey. Instruments: Questionnaire of Psi Prevalence and Relevance (QPRP) developed for and semantically validated in this research; Albuquerque and Tróccoli’s Scale of Subjective Well-Being (EBES). Participants: 306 university students and/or workers/businessmen (ages ranging from 18 to 66) who study and/or work in Greater São Paulo (convenience sample). Results: 82.7% of participants claimed at least one psi experience and the great majority indicated that their experiences influenced their attitudes, beliefs and decision making processes. This influence is related to causal attributions that participants related to their psi experiences and are consistent to EXPs’s beliefs, religious identity and religiosity. No significant differences were found between EXPs and NEXPs in terms of sex, income, marital status, religion, religiosity and whether they had gone in search for mental health professionals. Specific significant differences between NEXPs and EXPs in terms of beliefs and practices indicate that EXPs are more open to psi experiences than NEXPs. EXPs tended to score significantly higher on “negative affect” than NEXPs, suggesting that EXPs have a lower level of subjective well-being than NEXPs. Results are not conclusive but indicate tendencies that should be taken into account in their clinical practice by psychologists as well as investigated in future studies.

Dr. Alejandro Parra

Dr. Alejandro Parra

Parra, A. (2011). Examen correlacional entre experiencias anómalo/paranormales, disociación, absorción y propensidad a la fantasía: Exploracion sobre una muestra de estudiantes [Correlationsl study of anomalous/paranormal experiences, dissociation, absorption and fantasy proneness: Explorations with a student sample]. Revista Iberoamericana de Diagnóstico y Evaluación, 1, 77-95.

Three hypotheses are tested. People who have a number of paranormal/anomalous experiences have a higher capacity for dissociation, absorption, and fantasy proneness than non-experients. These hypothesis were supported, the mean for experients was significantly higher than for non experients. Five hundred sixty undergraduate students, 76% females and 24% males (age range 17-57), completed four scales: the Dissociative Experiences Scale, Tellegen Absorption Scale, Creative Experiences Questionnaire, and Paranormal Experiences Questionnaire. Experients scored higher on dissociation, absorption and fantasy proneness than non experients. Probably the present findings are reasonably representative of people who are not actively interested in paranormal phenomena, but many of these kind of experience reach predictable emotional reactions such as amazement, surprise, curiosity and puzzlement, and fear. On the other hand, some people are disturbed by psychic experiences and may need counseling, such as precognitive dreams, telepathy, poltergeist, perception of lights, out-of-the-body experiences, past lives memories, spiritual contacts, and mediumship. This study demonstrated the viability of adopting a psychological approach to better understand the anomalous/paranormal experiences.

Dr. Thomas Rabeyron

Dr. Thomas Rabeyron

Rabeyron, T., & Watt, C. (2010). Paranormal experiences, mental health and mental boundaries, and psi. Personality and Individual Differences, 48, 487–492.

Previous research has suggested that paranormal beliefs and experiences are associated with thinner mental boundaries and traumas during childhood. This paper examines more thoroughly the relationship between paranormal experiences, mental health and boundaries, and psi abilities. One hundred and sixty two participants completed questionnaires about paranormal experiences (AEI), mental health (MHI-17), mental boundaries (BQ-Sh), traumas during childhood (CATS) and life-changing events (LES). A controlled psi experiment was also conducted. Significant correlations were found between paranormal experiences and mental boundaries, traumas and negative life events. The overall results were non-significant for the psi task and no significant correlation was found between psychological variables and psi results. These findings suggest that mainly mental boundaries concerning unusual experiences and childlikeness are associated with paranormal experiences. They also highlight the importance of association between emotional abuse and paranormal experiences, and that paranormal experiences occur especially frequently after negative life events.

Dr. Christine Simmonds-Moore

Dr. Christine Simmonds-Moore

Simmonds-Moore, C. (2009-10). Sleep patterns, personality, and subjective anomalous experiences. Imagination, Cognition, and Personality, 29, 71-86.

An opportunity sample comprising 281 participants completed a battery of questionnaires, which included questions on sleep, the Anomalous Experience Inventory [1], the STA scale (for measurement of positive schizotypy) [2], the Complex Partial Epileptic-like signs scale of the Personal Philosophy Inventory [3], Hartmann’s Short Boundary Questionnaire (BQ) [4], and the revised Transliminality scale [5]. There was no difference between long and short sleepers on anomalous experiences. All personality variables correlated positively with anomalous experiences. A significant difference was found between short and average and average and long sleepers on positive schizotypy. No other personality variables related to sleep variables. A regression path analysis indicated that the strongest predictors of anomalous experiences were personality factors (in particular, Transliminality and Temporal lobe lability). Reduced sleep quality was also a direct predictor. Reduced sleep need was found to be an indirect predictor of anomalous experiences. Findings support the idea that anomalous experiences could be associated with reduced sleep quality, but not sleep length. The relationship between personality and anomalous experiences may be partially modulated by sleep variables. Further research is needed in this area.

Woodward, F.J. (2012). A phenomenological study of spontaneous spiritual and paranormal experiences in a 21st-century sample or normal people. Psychological Reports, 110(1), 173-132. 

This paper presents a phenomenological study using the methodology of Woodard’s phenomenological and perceptual research. This method examines individuals’ internal meanings during spontaneous spiritual and paranormal experiences, as described from their point of view. A group of 40 adults was phenomenologically interviewed after they responded to a newspaper announcement in New Hampshire asking for volunteers who had had spiritual and paranormal experiences. Using the method, Six Individual Situated Structures and a General Structure were identified and examined. Nine major themes were explicated during the participants’ spontaneous experiencing: unexpectedness, contrariness to belief, certainty, contradictory experiencing, language as a barrier to expression, external influences, internal dialogue, evil as separateness, and some social psychological influences. Several themes observed in hypnotic experiencing, such as the characteristics of the Adequate Personality in Perceptual Psychology, are interpreted and discussed. This research illustrates how subjective experience can be adequately researched in a qualitative manner outside the confines of the laboratory setting. Limitations of the study and suggestions for further research are given.