Carlos S. Alvarado, PhD, Research Fellow, Parapsychology Foundation

I first met Dr. Wellington Zangari in 1993 when he visited the Institute for Parapsychology in Durham, NC. Since then Wellington has become a close friend who I have been able to visit twice in São Paulo, Brazil, where my wife and I stayed in his, and his wife Dr. Fatima R. Machado’s, home. From the beginning of our relationship I had many long and fascinating conversations with Wellington about parapsychology, including aspects of the field in his country, Brazil. I remember his early dreams of bringing parapsychology to a university environment, a dream that has come true.

Dr. Wellington Zangari

Dr. Wellington Zangari

Wellington has a Masters in Sciences of Religion from the Pontifical Catholic University of São Paulo (1996), and a PhD in Social Psychology from the University of São Paulo (2003). He is currently a Professor in the Department of Social and Occupational Psychology, which is part of the Institute of Psychology of the University of São Paulo, where he teaches and conducts research. He currently supervises the theses of students at the masters and doctoral level. Among other things, Wellington is the Vice-Coordinator of the Laboratorio of Social Psychology of Religion, and the Coordinator of INTER PSI – Laboratory of Anomalistic Psychology and Psychosocial Processes of the university. His main work centers within the areas of social psychology, psychology of religion, anomalistic psychology, hypnosis and altered states of consciousness, and the philosophy of mind.

Institute of Psychology University of São Paulo

Institute of Psychology
University of São Paulo

Interview

How did you get interested in parapsychology? 

My interest started when I was very young, at 11 years of age. I was interested in fantastic realism, and in science fiction and New Age books. At that time I bought the book Telepsiquia a Distância, by Paul-Clement Jagot. In the book there was a description of a quick way to induce hipnosis. I did this with a friend. When I looked at him he had his eyes closed, with the head leaning to one side. I asked him some simple questions and when he woke up I said to him “3, 2, 1, 0”! He looked at me and asked: “Are you going to hypnotize me?” Then I told him that he had his eyes closed and that he answered some questions. He did not remember. Then I read to him the replies he gave me. While I was telling him what he told me his eyes kept opening more and more until, with a face full of fear, he stood up and ran out! This was an impactful experience in my life. This defined my career and the things I have chosen.

I was lucky that my friend was probably highly susceptible to hypnosis. The experience raised my curiosity about what happened and I started to read everything I could find about hypnosis. But coming back to the book, which was about telepathy (telepsychism at a distance, as Jagot called it), the author proposed the possibility that hypnotic commands could be given mentally, without verbal means. Around that time, I practiced hypnosis with my friends. I always tried to send mental commands to them but only one out of many individuals I hypnotized seemed to have the capacity to respond to mental commands. I imagined his right arm was raised, and it went up. I asked for the name of his maternal grandmother and he answered without any word from me.

This experience led me to search for things to read about parapsychological phenomena. I soon began to take courses and because I read what was available in Portuguese in the libraries, I started reading books published in other languages (English, Spanish, French and Italian) to obtain further information.

Today I have a different view from what I had at the beginning. I currently follow psychological models of the experiences. But my early experiences affected me greatly and led me to hypnosis, parapsychology and anomalistic psychology. 

What are your main interests in the field and how have you contributed to its development?

I am currently interested in mediumship and in deception. My degrees, Masters in the Scientific Study of Religion, and my doctoral degree and post-doctoral work in social psychology, were about aspects of mediumship. Basically in the Masters I attempted to understand the importance of paranormal experiences for the construction of religion, particularly Kardecist Spiritism and Catholicism, two religions that are very influential in Brazil. In my doctorate I analyzed possession mediumship in Umbanda, a Brazilian religion, and what it means to be a medium from the point of view of mediums themselves.

The first part of my thesis was a phenomenological evaluation in which I gave mediums the chance to speak without any psychological analysis. In the second part I evaluated the medium’s narratives from a psychosocial perspective using the role theory proposed by a Swedish psychologist, Hjalmar Sunden. With this evaluation I was able to build a model of mediumship that other researchers in Brazil are using to understand various religious manifestations in general as well as with mediums.

One of my students, Ricardo Ribeiro, for example, is comparing three other mediumistic religions (Kardecist Spiritism, Santo Daime, and Vale do Amanhecer) using the same model. Two other students have studied other aspects of mediumship. Everton Maraldi completed a psychosocial analysis of mediumship while Jeverson Reichow is studying psychopathology in mediums and non-mediums.

In post doctoral research I analyzed one of the phenomena reported by mediums, precognition. I did an experiment, following the technique of Daryl J. Bem called precognitive habituation. I invited more than 50 mediums to participate in the precognition experiment.

Some of my students did experimental precognition projects. Vanessa Corredato tested children for precognition and Fabio Eduardo da Silva studied the presentiment effect. I have also studied personality variables of mediums and other persons who claimed to have had paranormal experiences. Other students are following up on this line of research, among them Leonardo Breno Martins, who analyzed personality and psychopathological variables of persons claiming to have had different types of contact with aliens. Suely Mizumoto and Livea Martins did the same with members of a religious group called Sainto Daime that uses ayahuasca in its rituals in which both adults and children participate.

A fourth topic of interest is the incidence and social relevance of anomalous/paranormal experiences of Brazilians. This goes back to the 1980s when Fatima Regina Machado and I did the first survey with university students in Brazil. She continued to explore this in her doctoral research, enlarging the number and range of the respondents so that the sample did not consist solely of students. Two other students of mine are following up this line of research, but with different samples. Alessandro Shimanbucuru is surveying faculty at the University of São Paulo, and Camila Torres is comparing conventional protestant groups to neo-Pentecostal groups.

Why do you think that parapsychology is important? 

Parapsychology is important for various reasons. First, is important for its historical contributions. Much of psychology’s and psychiatry’s concepts and theories were supported and developed by the pioneers of psychical research. Several of these pioneers were also pioneers in psychology and in psychiatry. In the old days there were no clear separations between these fields as there are now. The study of seemingly psychic claims led to knowledge about the mind.

Second, parapsychology is important for methodological reasons. Experimental research in psychology and in other fields had their origins, and various of its techniques were developed, in the context of psychical research. Parapsychology researchers did much to develop controls over fraud and double blind techniques.

Another important issue is that the psi hypothesis may be the correct one! Although I personally have doubts about its existence and prefer more “simple” and common hypotheses to account for claims of the paranormal, it is not possible to ignore the results of many meta-analyses that favor the existence of psi. The evaluation of such results should not be rhetorical, but empirical! These results enlarge our understanding of the limits of human beings. So, even if future results are not favorable to the psi hypothesis, parapsychology has taught us much about the scientific process and other fundamental epistemological issues. Parapsychology prepares us for the revolutionary. It suggests things not considered by other sciences. This subversive aspect, of considering a scientific anomaly as a hypothesis, is a lesson that parapsychology gives to other sciences that are afraid of looking beyond what their theories can see!

In your view, what are the main problems in parapsychology today as a scientific field? 

From the epistemological point of view, one problem is its proto-scientific character. By this I mean its lack of a wide enough theory that has been empirically demonstrated and generally accepted. If psi exists it is something so elusive that it does not fit rigid models.

From the practical, cultural, and Brazilian point of view—although this is not solely a Brazilian occurrence—, there is a problem with pseudoscientists who use the term “parapsychology” to sell mind development techniques, parapsychological therapies, and all sorts of false science. This keeps away scientists who have a serious interest in the field, and makes productive contact between parapsychology and academia much harder. Not being in universities means having less contact with students who may be interested in conducting research, which diminishes the number of investigators in the field. This may also lead to a lack of financial resources for serious reseachers. Without resources there will be less studies, less publications, and less conventions in the field.

On the other hand, in spite of these difficulties, parapsychology has been able to survive. The resilience of researchers in the field is amazing! These limitations have not been able to extinguish the field. On the contrary, currently we see continuous progress in the field, especially in Europe, with the growth of laboratories in important universities. Today, parapsychology and anomalistic psychology are in various universities of Europe, as well as in Brazil, something that shows that academia is not totally closed to the psi hypothesis nor to the study of psychological variables related to paranormal claims. At this point instead of focusing on problems we should recognize that the problems do not stop scientific research on the topic.

Can you mention some of your current projects?

Still in the topic of religion, I have studied how religion helps mediums cope with stress. One of my students, Mônica Huang, did the same, but with a group of immigrant Protestant Chinese women.

Recently I returned to work with hypnosis, mainly because of interest in the topic by one of my students, Guilherme Raggi, who is translating into Portuguese and adapting the Stanford Hypnotic Susceptibility Scale to use with Brazilians.

It is important to say that with these students, and other investigators from other universities (such as Gabriel Medeiros from the Federal University of São Paulo, who studies phenomenological aspects of out-of-body experiences), we are active in our laboratory at the University of São Paulo (Inter Psi – Laboratory of Anomalistic Psychology and Psychosocial Processes) and we offer various courses, including graduate ones, at the University’s Institute of Psychology.

Selected Bibliography

Books and Anthologies

MACHADO, Fatima Regina; ZANGARI, W.; CHIRIACHI, Roberto (Eds.). Caderno da 9ª Jornada do Centro de Estudos Peirceanos e Third Advanced Seminar on Peirce´s Philosophy and Semiotics. 1. ed. São Paulo: Centro de Estudos Peirceanos/COS/PUCSP, 2006.

MACHADO, Fatima Regina; ZANGARI, W.; CHIRIACHI, Roberto (Eds.). Caderno da 8ª Jornada do Centro de Estudos Peirceanos. 1. ed. São Paulo: Centro de Estudos Peirceanos/COS/PUCSP, 2005.

PAIVA, Geraldo Jose de ; ZANGARI, W. (Eds.). A Representação na Religião: Perspectivas Psicológicas. 1ª. ed. São Paulo: Loyola, 2004.

MACHADO, Fatima Regina; ZANGARI, W.; CHIRIACHI, Roberto; BACHA, Maria de Lourdes (Eds.). Caderno da 7ª Jornada do Centro de Estudos Peirceanos e Second Advanced Seminar on Peirce´s Philosophy and Semiotics. 1. ed. São Paulo: Centro de Estudos Peirceanos/COS/PUCSP, 2004.

MACHADO, Fatima Regina; ZANGARI, W. (Eds.). Caderno da 6ª Jornada do Centro de Estudos Peirceanos. 1. ed. São Paulo: Centro de Estudos Peirceanos/COS/PUCSP, 2003.

MACHADO, Fatima Regina; BACHA, Maria de Lourdes; ZANGARI, W. (Eds.). Caderno da 5ª Jornada do Centro de Estudos Peirceanos e First Advanced Seminar on Peirce´s Philosophy and Semiotics. 1. ed. São Paulo: Centro de Estudos Peirceanos/COS/PUCSP, 2002.

ZANGARI, W. ; MACHADO, Fatima Regina . Conversando sobre Hipnose. São Paulo: Paulinas, 1996.

MACHADO, Fatima Regina ; ZANGARI, W. Conversando sobre Aparições e Fantasmas. São Paulo: Paulinas, 1996.

ZANGARI, W. ; MACHADO, Fatima Regina . Conversando sobre Parapsicologia. 1ª. ed. São Paulo: Paulinas, 1995.

MACHADO, Fatima Regina ; ZANGARI, W. Conversando Sobre Casas Mal-Assombradas. São Paulo: Paulinas, 1995.

Chapters in Books

MARALDI, E. O. ; ZANGARI, W. ; MACHADO, F. R. ; KRIPPNER, S. Anomalous Mental and Physical Phenomena of Brazilian Mediums: a review of the scientific literature. In: Jack Hunter; David Luke. (Eds.). Talking with the Spirits: Ethnographies From Between the Worlds. Brisbane: Daily Grail Publishing, 2014, p. 259-301.

MARTINS, LEONARDO BRENO ; ZANGARI, W. ; MACHADO, F. R. . Possibilidades darwinistas para o estudo de experiências anômalas. In: Clarissa de Franco; Rodrigo Petronio. (Eds.). Possibilidades darwinistas para o estudo de experiências anômalas. São Leopoldo: UNISINOS, 2014, p. 127-154.

ZANGARI, W. Alteração de consciência numa cultura globalizada: o caso da mediunidade de incorporação como exemplo de ?permanência fenomenológica”.. In: Marta Helena de Freitas; Geraldo José de Paiva; Célia de Moraes. (Eds.). Psicologia da Religião no mundo ocidental contemporâneo: desafios da interdisciplinaridade. 1ed.Brasília: UNIVERSA, 2013, v. II, p. 375-406.

ZANGARI, W. ; MARALDI, E. O. ; MARTINS, L. B. ; MACHADO, F. R. . Estados Alterados de Consciência e Religião. In: João Décio Passos; Frank Usarski. (Org.). Compêndio de CIência da Religião. 1ed.São Paulo: Paulinas, Paulus, 2013, v. 1, p. 423-435.

TOFOLI, L. F. ; MOREIRA-ALMEIDA, Alexander ; Menezes. A. ; ZANGARI, W. . Transtornos Dissociativos e Conversivos. In: Jair Mari; Christian Kieling. (Eds.). Psiquiatria na prática clínica. Barueri: Editora Manole, 2013, v. 1, p. 111-131.

MOREIRA-ALMEIDA, Alexander ; ALVARADO, C. S. ; ZANGARI, W. . Transtornos dissociativos (ou conversivos). In: Mario Rodrigues Louzã Neto; Hélio Elkis. (Eds.). Psiquiatria Básica. 2ed. Porto Alegre: Artmed, 2007, v. 1, p. 285-297.

PAIVA, Geraldo Jose de ; ZANGARI, W. . Apresentação. In: Geraldo José de Paiva; Wellington Zangari. (Eds.). A representação na religião: perspectivas psicológicas. São Paulo: Edições Loyola, 2004, v. 1, p. 7-9.

Articles

ALVARADO, C. S. ; MARALDI, E. O. ; ZANGARI, W. ; MACHADO, F. R. Théodore Flournoy’s contributions to Psychical Research. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 78, 149-168, 2014.

MARTINS, LEONARDO BRENO ; ZANGARI, W. Fatores da personalidade e experiências anômalas contemporâneas. Boletim – Academia Paulista de Psicologia, v. 33, p. 162-178, 2013.

MARALDI, E. O;  ZANGARI, W. Individual and group dialectics in the study of mediumship: a psychosocial perspective. Paranormal Review, No. 66, p. 14-18, 2013.

MARALDI, E. O. ; ZANGARI, W. . Funções projetivas e terapêuticas das práticas dissociativas em contexto religioso. Boletim – Academia Paulista de Psicologia, v. 32, p. 424-452, 2012.

MARTINS, LEONARDO BRENO ; ZANGARI, WELLINGTON . Relações entre experiências anômalas tipicamente contemporâneas, transtornos mentais e experiências espirituais. Revista de Psiquiatria Clínica, v. 39, p. 198-202, 2012.

ZANGARI, W. ; MACHADO, F. R. . The paradoxal disappearance of parapsychology in Brazil. Journal of Parapsychology, v. 76, p. 66-67, 2012.

ZANGARI, W. ; MACHADO, Fatima Regina . Science and spirit. Journal of Scientific Exploration, v. 25, p. 419-426, 2011.

MARALDI, Everton de Oliveira ; ZANGARI, W. ; MACHADO, Fatima Regina. A psicologia das crenças paranormais: Uma revisão crítica. Boletim – Academia Paulista de Psicologia, v. 31, p. 394-421, 2011.

MARALDI, Everton de Oliveira ; MACHADO, Fatima Regina ; ZANGARI, W. Importance of a psychosocial approach for a comprehensive understanding of mediumship. Journal of Scientific Exploration, v. 24, p. 181-186, 2010.

ZANGARI, W. ; MARALDI, Everton de Oliveira. Psicologia da mediunidade: do intrapsíquico ao psicossocial. Boletim. Academia Paulista de Psicologia, v. 77, p. 233-252, 2009.

PAIVA, Geraldo Jose de; ZANGARI, W. ; VERDADE, Marisa Moura ; PAULA, Jose Rogerio Machado de ; FARIA, David Gaspar Ribeiro de ; GOMEZ, Denise ; FONTES, Fátima ; RODRIGUES, Catia Cilene Lima ; TROVATO, Maria Luisa ; GOMES, Antonio Maspoli de Araujo. Psicologia da religião no Brasil: a produção em periódicos e livros. Psicologia: Teoria e Pesquisa, v. 25, p. 441-446, 2009.

ALVARADO, C. S. ; MACHADO, Fatima Regina ; ZANGARI, W. ; ZINGRONE, N. L. . Perspectivas históricas da influência da mediunidade na construção de idéias psicológicas e psiquiátricas. Revista de Psiquiatria Clínica, v. 34, p. 42-53, 2007.

ZANGARI, W. Experiências anômalas em médiuns de Umbanda: uma avaliação fenomenológica e ontológica. Boletim. Academia Paulista de Psicologia, v. 2/07, p. 67-86, 2007.

MACHADO, Fátima Regina ; ZANGARI, W. Review of Proceedings of the Third Psi Meeting: Real-life Implications and Applications of Psi. Journal of Scientific Exploration, v. 21, p. 624-628, 2007.

ZANGARI, W. ; MACHADO, Fatima Regina. Review of Behind and Beyond the Brain. Journal of Scientific Exploration, v. 20, n.2, p. 312-315, 2006.

ZANGARI, W. Uma leitura psicossocial do fenômeno de incorporação na Umbanda. Boletim. Academia Paulista de Psicologia, v. 3, n.05, p. 70-88, 2005.

RADIN, D. I. ; MACHADO, Fatima Regina ; ZANGARI, W. . Effects of distant healing intention through time & space: Two exploratory studies. Subtle Energies and Energy Medicine v. XI, n.3, p. 207-240, 2002.

ZANGARI, W. . Aspectos psicossociais das experiências psicológicas anômalas na religião: O caso do Espiritismo e da percepção extra-sensorial. Anuário Brasileiro de Parapsicologia 2002, Recife, p. 237-266, 2002.

ZANGARI, W. . Uma reflexão sobre o ceticismo. Fator Psi, v. II, n.2, p. 119-121, 2001.

PAIVA, Geraldo José de ; FARIA, D.G.R. ; GOMEZ, D.M. ; GOMEZ, M.L.T. ; LOPES, R. ; NUNES, L.C. ; VERDADE, M.M. ; ZANGARI, W. . Processos psicológicos da conversão religiosa: imaginário e simbólico, categorização e prototipicalidade. Revista de Psicologia da Puc Rj, Rio de Janeiro, v. 12, n.2, p. 151-169, 2001.

ZANGARI, W. ; MACHADO, Fatima Regina. Parapsychology in Brazil: A science entering young adulthood. Journal of Parapsychology, v. 65, p. 351-356, 2001.

ZANGARI, W. . Charles Sanders Peirce e a pesquisa psíquica. Revista Virtual de Pesquisa Psi, v. 1, p. 15, 2001.

ZANGARI, W. . Estudos psicológicos da mediunidade: Uma breve revisão. Revista Virtual de Pesquisa Psi, 2001.

ZANGARI, W. ; MACHADO, Fatima Regina. Incidência e relevância social de experiências psi de estudantes universitários brasileiros. Revista Virtual de Pesquisa Psi, São Paulo, 2001.

MACHADO, Fátima Regina; ZANGARI, W. Percepção extra sensorial: Uma breve revisão dos estudos e algumas reflexões. Revista Virtual de Pesquisa Psi, São Paulo, 2001.

ZANGARI, W. O estatudo científico da Parapsicologia. Revista Virtual de Pesquisa Psi, São Paulo, 2001.

ZANGARI, W. Psicopatologia e experimentos psi: Dr. Tart desmente Pe. Quevedo. Revista Virtual de Pesquisa Psi, São Paulo, 2001.

ZANGARI, W. Pe. Quevedo: Os melhores livros de parapsicologia do mundo? Revista Virtual de Pesquisa Psi, São Paulo, 2001.

MACHADO, Fátima Regina ; ZANGARI, W. A psicologia do poltergeist. Revista Virtual de Pesquisa Psi, São Paulo, 2001.

ZANGARI, W. Estudos psicológicos da mediunidade: Uma breve revisão. Revista Portuguesa de Parapsicologia, Braga, Portugal, v. VII, n.58, p. 8-12, 2000.

ZANGARI, W. The poltergeist in Brazil: A review of the literature in context. International Journal of Parapsychology, v. XI, n.1, p. 113-143, 2000.

ZANGARI, W. Experiências psicológicas anómalas. Revista Portuguesa de Parapsicologia, Braga-Portugal, v. VII, n.62, p. 04-05, 2000.

ZANGARI, W. Contra a parapsicologia. Boletim Informativo da Aipa Associación Iberoamericana de Parapsicología, v. 3, n.1-2, p. 7-9, 1999.

BARRIONUEVO, V. L. ; PALLÚ, T. R. ; MACHADO, Fatima Regina ; ZANGARI, W. . Tributo a Nancy Zingrone. Boletim Informativo da Aipa Associación Iberoamericana de Parapsicología, v. 3, n.1-2, p. 19-20, 1999.

ZANGARI, W. ; MACHADO, Fatima Regina. Brazil: The adolescent parapsychology. Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, v. XX, n.23, p. 233-239, 1998.

MACHADO, Fátima Regina; ZANGARI, W. ESP: Uma breve revisão das pesquisas e algumas reflexões (Partes 1 a 5). Revista Portuguesa de Parapsicologia, v. 51, p. 11-20, 1998.

ZANGARI, W. . Émile Durkheim, a origem das crenças religiosas e as experiências psicológicas anômalas. Anuário Brasileiro de Parapsicologia, v. 1, p. 319-247, 1997.

ZANGARI, W. ; MACHADO, Fatima Regina . A psicologia do Ganzfeld. Jornal de Parapsicologia, v. 36, p. 4-8, 1997.

MACHADO, Fátima Regina ; ZANGARI, W. A psicologia do poltergeist. Jornal de Parapsicologia, v. 36, p. 8-12, 1997.

ZANGARI, W. ; MACHADO, Fatima Regina. Incidencia e importancia social de las experiencias psiquicas en los estudiantes universitarios Brasileños. Revista Argentina de Psicología Paranormal, v. 7, n.1, p. 19-35, 1996.

ZANGARI, W. ; MACHADO, Fatima Regina. Survey: incidence and social relevance of Brazilian university students’s psychic experiences. European Journal of Parapsychology, v. 12, p. 75-87, 1996.

ZANGARI, W. ;MACHADO, Fatima Regina. A psicologia do poltergeist. Jornal de Parapsicologia, v. V, n.12, p. 13-19, 1996.

ZANGARI, W. . Por que paranormal? Revista Brasileira de Parapsicologia, v. 2, p. 14-19, 1993.

ZANGARI, W. . Uma introdução ao estudo das experiências parapsicológicas. Revista Brasileira de Parapsicologia, v. 1, p. 4-9, 1992.

ZANGARI, W. . Parapsicologia: Técnica psicológica? Jornal do Conselho Regional de Psicologia 6º Região, v. 66, p. 8-8, 1990.

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