Carlos S. Alvarado, PhD, Visiting Scholar, Rhine Research Center
Here are more references about survey studies published in recent years.
Haraldsson, E. (2011). Psychic experiences a third of a century apart: Two representative surveys in Iceland with an international comparison. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 75, 76-90.
In 2006 a large-scale representative survey of psychic beliefs and experiences, and various related local folk beliefs and experiences, was conducted in Iceland. Its purpose was to find out whether substantial changes in personal experiences and beliefs had taken place in the population since the same survey was conducted a third of a century earlier. Since that time there have been great changes in Icelandic society; it has become highly educated (6% of the 1974 sample had attended university compared with 36% of the 2006 sample) and (until the present financial crisis) one of most affluent societies in Europe, and with more contact with other countries than ever before in its history. Somewhat contrary to expectations, there was an increase in reporting almost every kind of psychic experience. Some of these increases may indicate a ‘Harry Potter effect’ among the younger generation, and perhaps there is also some sampling effect, but the findings may indeed show that more people experience real psychic phenomena than earlier, or — formulating this more conservatively — that they interpret their experiences more readily and more often as paranormal in nature. In 1974, 59% of the men reported some psychic experience, and 70% in 2006, while 71% of the women did so in 1974 and 81% in 2006. For some phenomena, such as perceiving a deceased person, there was a significant difference between genders, with more women reporting such experiences than men. But, generally speaking, the correlation between gender and psychic experiences was very low (averaging around 0.12). A similarly low negative relationship was found with level of education. In this paper some comparison is also made with surveys conducted in other countries.
Irwin, H.J., Dagnall, N., & Drinkwater, K. (2013). Parapsychological experiences as anomalous experience plus paranormal attribution: A questionnaire based on a new approach to measurement. Journal of Parapsychology, 77, 39-53.
When persons report a parapsychological experience, they may typically be asserting 2 occurrences: that of an anomalous or seemingly inexplicable event, and their interpretation of this event in paranormal terms. Previous studies identifying correlates of the report of parapsychological experiences may have confounded these 2 factors. The authors describe a new questionnaire which teases apart the 2 factors and report a survey which applied the new measure to the assessment of several potential correlates, namely, schizotypal tendencies, emotion-based reasoning, suspension of reality testing, and executive dysfunction. Data from a convenience sample recruited online supported the potential utility of the questionnaire, although it has yet to be demonstrated that the 2 underlying factors do have different correlates.
Landolt, K., Wittwer,A., Wyss, T., Unterassner, L., Fach, W., Krummenacher, P., Brugger, P., Haker, H., Kawohl, W., Schubiger, P.A., Folkers, G., & Rössler, W. (2014). Help-seeking in people with exceptional experiences: Results from a general population sample. Frontiers in Public Health, 2, doi: 10.3389/fpubh.2014.00051
Background: Exceptional experiences (EE) are experiences that deviate from ordinary experiences, for example precognition, supernatural appearances, or déjà vues. In spite of the high frequency of EE in the general population, little is known about their effect on mental health and about the way people cope with EE. This study aimed to assess the quality and quantity of EE in persons from the Swiss general population, to identify the predictors of their help-seeking, and to determine how many of them approach the mental health system. Methods: An on-line survey was used to evaluate a quota sample of 1580 persons representing the Swiss general population with respect to gender, age, and level of education. Multinomial logistic regression was applied to integrate help-seeking, self-reported mental disorder, and other variables in a statistical model designed to identify predictors of help-seeking in persons with EE. Results: Almost all participants (91%) experienced at least one EE. Generally, help-seeking was more frequent when the EE were of negative valence. Help-seeking because of EE was less frequent in persons without a self-reported mental disorder (8.6%) than in persons with a disorder (35.1%) (OR=5.7). Even when frequency and attributes of EE were controlled for, people without a disorder sought four times less often help because of EE than expected. Persons with a self-reported diagnosis of mental disorder preferred seeing a mental health professional. Multinomial regression revealed a preference for healers in women with less education, who described themselves as believing and also having had more impressive EE. Conclusion: Persons with EE who do not indicate a mental disorder less often sought help because of EE than persons who indicated a mental disorder. We attribute this imbalance to a high inhibition threshold to seek professional help. Moreover, especially less educated women did not approach the mental health care system as often as other persons with EE, but preferred seeing a healer.
The term empathy has been used to refer to two related human abilities: mental perspective taking (cognitive empathy) and the vicarious sharing of emotion (emotional empathy). Many psychic claimants seem to act more empathic than telepathic. Five specific hypotheses were tested here: People who have telepathic experiences, aura experiences, sense of presence, experience as psychic healers, and apparitional experiences have a higher capacity for (1) Perspective Taking and Emotional Comprehension (Cognitive empathy) and (2) Empathic Concern and Positive Empathy (Emotional empathy) than non-experients. The participants were 634 adults. Results showed that paranormal/anomalous experients scored higher on Perspective Taking, Emotional Comprehension, Empathic Concern, Positive Empathy and Empathy (total score) than nonexperients. Future studies should examine other variables associated with empathy.
The effects of paranormal experiences in the life of people were investigated. The results of a sample of 24 people actively interested in new age and esoteric issues that reported having at least one paranormal experience were collected. Such experiences increased their interest in spiritual matters as well as the subjective sense of well-being. They also showed a decrease in fear of death, depression or anxiety, isolation and loneliness; concerns and fears about the future. A large majority of the respondents indicated that these effects were a combination of more than one spiritual, paranormal and transcendental experience. The magnitude of the changes in welfare and spirituality were positively associated with the number of anomalous experiences. Well-being scores and the importance of spirituality were positively associated with changes in welfare and spirituality which resulted from the anomalous experiences. Although 45% of respondents indicated that the paranormal experience had been frightening, this fear seemed to be temporary or mixed with positive feelings.
Sar, V., Alioğlu, F., & Akyüz, G. (2014). Experiences of possession and paranormal phenomena among women in the general population: Are they related to traumatic stress and dissociation? Journal of Trauma and Dissociation, 15, 303-318
This study sought to determine the prevalence of experiences of possession and paranormal phenomena (PNP) in the general population and their possible relations to each other and to traumatic stress and dissociation. The study was conducted on a representative female sample recruited from a town in central eastern Turkey. The Dissociative Disorders Interview Schedule, the posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and borderline personality disorder sections of the Structured Clinical Interviews for DSM–IV Axis-I and Personality Disorders, and the Childhood Abuse and Neglect Questionnaire were administered to 628 women. Of these, 127 (20.2%) women reported at least 1 type of PNP and 13 (2.1%) women reported possession. Women with a dissociative disorder reported all types of possession and PNP (except telepathy) more frequently than those without. Whereas women with a trauma history in childhood and adulthood or PTSD reported possession more frequently than those without, PNP were associated with childhood trauma only. Factor analysis yielded 4 dimensions: possession by and/or contact with nonhuman entities, extrasensory communications, possession by a human entity, and precognition. These factors correlated with number of secondary features of dissociative identity disorder and Schneiderian symptoms. Latent class analysis identified 3 groups. The most traumatized group, with predominantly dissociative and trauma-related disorders, had the highest scores on all factors. Notwithstanding their presence in healthy individuals, possession and PNP were associated with trauma and dissociation in a subgroup of affected participants. Both types of experience seem to be normal human capacities of experiencing that may be involved in response to traumatic stress. Given the small numbers, this study should be considered preliminary.
Schmied-Knittel, I., & Schetsche, M.T. (2005). Everyday miracles: Results of a representative survey in Germany. European Journal of Parapsychology 20, 3-21. (A longer and updated report of this research appears in the journal Mind and Matter, 2012, 10, 169-184.)
This essay introduces the central results – for the first time in the English language – of a representative survey which was carried out at the Institut fur Grenzgebiete der Psychologie und Psychohygiene in Freiburg in the year 2000. Over 1500 persons of the Federal Republic of Germany were questioned in a telephone interview about their attitude towards paranormal phenomena and about personal experiences in this field. The results are surprising: Germans are quite open-minded about paranormal phenomena, and more than half of the people even give an account of personal exceptional experiences. Interestingly, it is primarily young people who believe in the existence of psi phenomena and who are increasingly having personal experiences in this field. Presented are qualitative results, as well as descriptive statistics. In a second telephone interview more than 200 persons were questioned once again, this time in detail, about their personal experiences. It was found that dealing with the paranormal is not seen as problematic at all.
Zingrone, N.L., Alvarado, C.S., & Agee, N. (2009). Psychological correlates of aura vision: Psychic experiences,dissociation, absorption, and synaesthesia-like experiences. Australian Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, 37, 131-168.
Five survey studies, three conducted from 1995 to 1997 and two more in 2007 and 2008, are reported in which we hypothesized that individuals who claimed to be “aura viewers” would report a higher frequency of other seemingly psychic, mystical and lucid dream experiences and a higher number of discrete psychic experiences than “non-aura viewers.” For Studies 2 through 5, it was also hypothesized that aura viewers would obtain a similar relationship with synaesthesia-like experiences and with measures ofdissociation (using the Dissociative Experiences Scale), absorption (using Tellegen’s Absorption Scale), and depersonalisation (using the Cambridge Depersonalisation Scale). The studies also differed in terms of the language of administration (either Spanish or English) and study populations (from special interest groups to college students to members of the general public). In all five studies, the main hypotheses were confirmed with the exception of lucid dreams, a significant difference between the groups being found only in Studies 3 and 5. In Studies 2 through 5, the predicted relationship of aura vision to synaesthesia and personality variables was confirmed. All five studies suggest that aura vision experiences relate to an overall pattern of claims of psychic and mystical experiences. The consistency of the results was surprising, given the differences in sample selection, language of administration, and study location.