published: 07 June 2018
Frontiers in Psychiatry | www.frontiersin.org 1June 2018 | Volume 9 | Article 190
Institute of Neurobiology (BAS),
International Association for
Near-Death Studies, France
University of L’Aquila, Italy
This article was submitted to
a section of the journal
Frontiers in Psychiatry
Received: 21 February 2018
Accepted: 23 April 2018
Published: 07 June 2018
Martial C, Cassol H,
Charland-Verville V, Merckelbach H
and Laureys S (2018) Fantasy
Proneness Correlates With the
Intensity of Near-Death Experience.
Front. Psychiatry 9:190.
Fantasy Proneness Correlates With
the Intensity of Near-Death
Charlotte Martial 1
*, Héléna Cassol 1, Vanessa Charland-Verville 1, Harald Merckelbach 2
and Steven Laureys 1
1Coma Science Group, GIGA-Consciousness and Neurology Department, University and University Hospital of Liège, Liège,
Belgium, 2Forensic Psychology Section, Maastricht University, Maastricht, Netherlands
Little is known about the personality characteristics of those who have experienced a
“Near-Death Experience” (NDE). One interesting candidate is fantasy proneness. We
studied this trait in individuals who developed NDEs in the presence (i.e., classical
NDEs) or absence (i.e., NDEs-like) of a life-threatening situation. We surveyed a total
of 228 individuals. From those, 108 qualiﬁed as NDE experiencers (i.e., Greyson NDE
scale total score ≥7): 51 had their NDEs in the context of a life-threatening situation;
57 had their NDEs not related to a life-threatening situation. From those who did not
meet the criteria to be considered “experiencers,” 20 had their NDE in the absence of a
life-threatening situation; 50 had faced death but did not recall a NDE and ﬁnally, 50 were
healthy people without a history of life threat and/or NDE. All participants completed a
measure of NDE intensity (the Greyson NDE scale) and a measure of fantasy proneness
(the Creative Experiences Questionnaire). People reporting NDEs-like scored higher on
fantasy proneness than those reporting classical NDEs, individuals whose experiences
did not meet the NDE criteria and matched controls. By contrast, individuals reporting
classical NDEs did not show different engagement in fantasy as matched controls.
The reported intensity of the experiences was positively correlated with engagement in
fantasy. Our ﬁndings support the view that strong engagement in fantasy by individuals
recalling NDEs-like might make these persons more likely to report such subjective
experiences when exposed to suitable physiological and/or psychological conditions
(e.g., meditation, syncope).
Keywords: fantasy proneness, near-death experience, experiencer, near-death experience-like, creativity
When facing a life-threatening situation—or, at least, a situation perceived as such, some people will
later report having lived various phenomenological experiences (e.g., seeing a bright light and/or
a dark tunnel, out-of-body experiences, encountering deceased relatives) that are intriguing by
their paranormal appearance or are surprising by their extra-ordinary aspect (1). These distinct
perceptual experiences are commonly referred to as “Near-Death Experiences” (NDEs). To explain
NDEs and their phenomenal content, three main non-mutually exclusive explanatory models have
Martial et al. Fantasy Proneness in Near-Death Experiencers
been proposed (2,3). Spiritual theories assume a “dualistic”
approach toward the mind-brain relationship (4),
neurobiological approaches suggest that speciﬁc brain networks
and functions might underlie NDEs (5,6), whereas psychological
theories have advocated that NDEs are the result of a dissociative
defense mechanism in response to extreme danger (7). To
facilitate the identiﬁcation of NDEs and to assess core content
components and their intensity, researchers have used the
Greyson NDE scale (the Greyson NDE scale; (8)]. Yet, looking
at the empirical evidence [see (9) for review], the possible causes
and conditions under which NDEs appear remain unclear.
Intriguingly, similar phenomenological experiences termed
“NDEs-like” (i.e., containing a comparable phenomenological
content and intensity) have been reported in situations where
there was no genuine threat to the individuals’ life (10,11), such
as during a meditative state (12) or intense grief and anxiety
(13). Gabbard and Twemlow (14) argued that the expectancy of
an impending death or the strong belief of one’s death felt at
that moment, rather than the actual proximity of death, would
suﬃce to trigger NDEs. However, given that some NDEs-like do
not include any perceived threat to life, not all experiences in
this category can be explained by the expectancy or the belief
in an impending death (11). Although enigmatic, the NDE-like
phenomenon has been the subject of very few empirical studies
The current paper focuses on fantasy proneness (15) as one
potential variable that may shape people’s reports of NDEs and
NDEs-like. Fantasy proneness refers to a habitual engagement in
imaginative activities (16). Each individual has (to some extent)
imaginative capacities and can report a range of experiences that
are more or less related to imagination [e.g., daydreaming; (17)].
Yet, even within non-psychiatric samples, fantasy can distort
perception and memory thereby leading to reality monitoring
Cognitive researchers have argued that we constantly
use information gathered through the senses (“bottom-
up” processing) but we also construct meaning about our
environment (and our interactions with it) by using information
we have already stored in memory (“top-down” processing).
Indeed, our brain is constantly trying to make sense of the
world around us and the information it receives by using this
general dynamic process of two-way ﬂow of information (18).
In the case of NDEs, the phenomenal content would reﬂect
individuals’ attempts to make sense of the ambiguous perceptive
feature of NDEs in circumstances (i.e., during altered state
of consciousness) that enhance such ambiguous bottom-up
information (9,19). Related to this perspective are theories that
emphasize depersonalization and other dissociative symptoms.
When facing a life-threatening or aversive situation, a person
may feel disconnected from the external world and focus
attention on internally oriented fantasies (7,15,20). Yet, this
account assumes that the eliciting event was threatening and it is
not clear how it would explain NDEs-like phenomena.
Although many humans are exposed to life-threatening
situations (i.e., a severe brain injury) or have the feeling that they
have been close to death at some point in their life, only a limited
number of persons recall identiﬁable “classical” NDEs [i.e., (21,
22)]. Similarly, an important question is why some individuals
experience NDEs-like phenomena, when others do not, although
they have been exposed to physiological and/or psychological
conditions that are known to be associated with NDEs-like
(e.g., meditation, syncope). People reporting “classical” NDEs
(i.e., with a context of a life-threatening situation) do not seem
to show any deﬁcits in global cognitive functioning (21), but
Martial et al. (23) observed less optimal source monitoring
abilities and heightened illusory recollections in this population.
In addition, Greyson (24) found that experiencers report more
dissociative symptoms than people who had come close to death
without subsequently developing NDEs. As fantasy proneness is
strongly related to dissociative symptoms and source monitoring
breakdown (25), these ﬁndings suggest that people with NDEs
score higher on fantasy proneness than those without NDEs. An
unpublished conference presentation found stronger imaginative
activities [as indexed by the Inventory of Childhood Memories
and Imaginings; (26)] in experiencers reporting classical NDEs
compared with those reporting an event that brought them
near to death but did not feel that they had a NDE or with
healthy subjects (Council and Greyson, unpublished data, 1985).
By contrast, using the Childhood Experience Inventory, Ring
and Rosing (27) did not ﬁnd more pronounced imaginative
involvement in people reporting NDEs. These conﬂicting
ﬁndings may be due to the diﬀerent instruments that the authors
employed to measure fantasy proneness.
With this in mind, the present study aimed to assess fantasy
engagement in experiencers reporting NDEs [i.e., the memory
scored 7 or above on the Greyson NDE scale; (8)] (1) in and
(2) outside the context of an actual threat to life (i.e., NDEs-
like); (3) in individuals reported having had a NDE without a
life-threatening situation but not qualiﬁed as experiencers [i.e.,
the memory scored below the cutoﬀ score of 7 on [the Greyson
NDE scale; (8)]; (4) in matched control participants who had
been exposed to a life-threatening situation but did not report
any kind of NDE; and ﬁnally (5) matched control participants
who had neither faced a life threatening situation, nor had
any NDEs. To this end, the Creative Experiences Questionnaire
[CEQ; (16)] was administered to all groups. We also looked into
the association between fantasy proneness (i.e., CEQ total score)
and self-reported intensity of NDEs [i.e., Greyson NDE scale total
MATERIALS AND METHODS
Subjects were recruited from among individuals who contacted
us to share their experience. Initially, they were recruited
via the International Associations for Near-Death Studies
(IANDS France and Flanders) and the Coma Science Group
(GIGA-Consciousness, University and University Hospital
of Liège, Belgium). Control participants were recruited via
announcements by the Coma Science Group. The study was
approved by the ethics committee of the Faculty of Medicine of
the University of Liège.
The total sample consisted of 128 people who claimed to
have experienced a NDE. Reported experiences were assessed
according to the Greyson NDE scale (8). Fifty-one participants
(40%) described experiences that met the accepted criteria of
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Martial et al. Fantasy Proneness in Near-Death Experiencers
NDEs [i.e., Greyson NDE scale total score ≥7/32; (8)] in the
context of a life-threatening situation (“NDErs/LTS” group).
Fifty-seven (44%) described experiences that also met the
accepted criteria of NDEs [i.e., Greyson NDE scale total score
≥7/32; (8)] but in the absence of a life-threatening situation
(“NDErs/non-LTS” group). Twenty (16%) described experiences
in the absence of a life-threatening context but that did not meet
the accepted criteria of NDEs (i.e., Greyson NDE scale total score
<7/32; (8); “non-NDErs/non-LTS” group). We recruited a cohort
of 100 control participants: 50 people who had come close to
death at some point in their lives but did not recall a NDE
(“controls/LTS” group) and 50 healthy people who had never
reported to have experienced NDEs (“controls/non-LTS” group).
Completion of the anonymous questionnaire was voluntary and
written informed consent was obtained from all participants
enrolled in the study.
Participants were invited to participate in a study on creativity.
To that end, they were mailed a questionnaire including the
Creative Experiences Questionnaire [CEQ; (16)] and items
of socio-demographic (gender, age) and clinical (time since
experiences, presence of life-threatening event) data. To gauge
the presence of a life-threatening event (i.e., a severe brain
injury), we asked participants whether they had gone through
a period of coma and whether they had stayed in intensive
care. The term “fantasy proneness” was not used either in the
explanatory letter or in the questionnaire itself. The CEQ (16) is
a self-report instrument which is a measure of fantasy proneness
including 25 true/false items. A total score is derived from the
sum of all the true responses and referred to as a validated index
of propensity toward fantasy [higher scores indicate higher levels
of fantasy proneness; (16)]. Illustrative items are: “As a child,
I had my own make believe friend or animal,” “Many of my
fantasies have a realistic intensity,” and “When I imagine I have
eaten rotten food, I really get nauseous.”
The Greyson NDE scale is a validated 16-item multiple-
choice tool used to obtain a standardized identiﬁcation of NDEs
with a validated cut-oﬀ score of 7 (8). For each item, scores
are arranged on an ordinal scale ranging from 0 to 2. This
scale also permits the intensity of the NDE to be quantiﬁed
(i.e., total score ranging from 0 to 32), because it considers
both the number of experienced dimensions (i.e., item marked
0=“not present” or present) and the gradation of intensity in
the scoring provided (i.e., 1 =“mildly or ambiguously present”
and 2 =“deﬁnitively present”). The instrument includes four
subscales: cognitive, aﬀective, paranormal, and transcendental
components. Participants whose experience did not meet the
accepted criteria [i.e., total score <7/32; (8)] were included in the
“non-NDErs/non-LTS” group (see below).
Pearson’s χ2tests were used to assess frequency distributions.
One-way ANOVAs and t-tests were performed to compare age,
age at experience, time since experience, and reported intensity
of the NDE within groups. Pairwise planned comparisons were
then conducted to determine which groups diﬀered signiﬁcantly
from each other. The distribution of CEQ total scores was
skewed. For this reason, non-parametric tests were used. Thus,
group diﬀerences regarding the CEQ were evaluated with the
Kruskal–Wallis test. Next, we performed post-hoc comparisons
using Bonferroni-corrected (p<0.01) Mann–Whitney U-tests
to examine possible diﬀerences across groups. Spearman’s
rank-order correlations were computed to examine associative
strength between CEQ total scores and Greyson NDE scale total
scores and subscale scores. All participants who reported having
experienced a NDE were included, also those who obtained
a score of <7 on the Greyson NDE scale. In addition, we
calculated Spearman rank-order correlations between CEQ and
Greyson NDE total scores for each of the two experiencer groups
separately. Finally, we used Fisher’s r-to-ztransformation to test
the signiﬁcance of the diﬀerence between these two correlation
coeﬃcients. To avoid type I errors, Bonferroni adjustments
(p<0.007) were applied.
The ﬁve groups did not signiﬁcantly diﬀer with regard to gender
and age distributions (see Table 1). Experiencers groups and the
non-NDErs group did not diﬀer either for age at experience or
for time elapsed since the experience.
As to the intensity (i.e., Greyson NDE scale total score) of
reported NDEs, NDErs/LTS (mean total score =16 ±5), and
NDErs/non-LTS (mean total score =15 ±6) groups did not
score diﬀerently [t(106) =0.25, d=0.20, p=0.79].
TABLE 1 | Demographic data of subsamples.
Demographics NDErs Non-NDErs non-LTS
LTS (n=51) non-LTS (n=57) LTS (n=50) non-LTS (n=50)
Gender–female 27 (53%) 36 (63%) 11 (55%) 32 (64%) 29 (58%) 0.76 –
Age 57 ±13 57 ±14 62 ±14 53 ±11 55 ±12 0.11 0.03
Mean in years ±SD
Age at experience 35 ±17 28 ±16 35 ±20 29 ±13 – 0.14 0.03
Mean in years ±SD
Time since experience 22 ±16 28 ±17 27 ±20 24 ±12 – 0.16 0.03
Mean in years ±SD
NDErs, near-death experiencers; LTS, life-threatening situation; SD, standard deviation.
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Martial et al. Fantasy Proneness in Near-Death Experiencers
TABLE 2 | CEQ total scores of subsamples (on the ﬁrst line: total scores summing all items; on the second line: total scores excluding the three items overlapping with the
Greyson NDE scale items).
Scale NDErs Non-NDErs non-LTS
Controls p d
LTS (n=51) non-LTS (n=57) LTS (n=50) non-LTS (n=50)
CEQ total score 7 (5-11) 11 (7-13) 7 (4-8) 6 (3-9) 6 (2.5–8) <0.0001 0.85
CEQ total score (excluding item
21, 23, and 25)
7 (4–9.5) 9 (5-12) 6 (4-7) 5 (3-8) 6 (2-8) – –
NDErs, near-death experiencers; LTS, life-threatening situation; IQR, inter-quartile range.
Total CEQ scores were signiﬁcantly diﬀerent between groups
(see Table 2; see Supplementary Material for endorsement
percentages for each CEQ item across subsamples). The
NDErs/non-LTS group obtained signiﬁcantly higher CEQ total
scores than the NDErs/LTS (p<0.005, d=0.56), non-
NDErs/non-LTS (p<0.001, d=0.83), and control/non-LTS
(p<0.0001, d=1.2) groups. By contrast, CEQ total scores
of NDErs/LTS and controls/LTS groups were not signiﬁcantly
diﬀerent (p=0.019, d=0.47). Finally, non-NDErs/non-LTS and
control/non-LTS groups did not obtain diﬀerent CEQ total scores
Among individuals who claimed to have had a NDE
(whether or not they reached the cut-oﬀ of 7/32 on the
Greyson NDE scale; i.e., NDErs/LTS, NDErs/non-LTS, and non-
NDErs/non-LTS groups), Greyson NDE scale total scores were
positively correlated with total CEQ scores (see Table 3). To
investigate whether the correlational result observed in this
analysis eﬀectively reﬂects an association between experiencers’
investment in fantasy and the reported intensity of the NDE, we
performed a Spearman’s rank-order correlation between Greyson
NDE scale and CEQ total scores but without including the three
CEQ items (item 21, 23, and 25) showing some overlaps with
certain items of the Greyson NDE scale. We observed a similar
signiﬁcant positive correlation (Spearman r=0.26; p<0.005;
see Table 2 for raw median CEQ scores without the three items).
Total CEQ scores were also positively correlated with aﬀective,
paranormal and transcendental subscale scores but not with
cognitive subscale scores (Table 3). Looking at the subsamples,
for the NDErs/non-LTS group only, we found a signiﬁcant
positive correlation (Spearman r=0.33; p<0.007) between
Greyson NDE scale total scores and total CEQ scores. By
contrast, in the NDErs/LTS group, the correlation between both
total scores did not attain signiﬁcance (Spearman r=0.28;
p=0.054). Nevertheless, the Fisher’s ztest showed that the two
associations were not signiﬁcantly diﬀerent (z=0.28; p=0.39).
The sample of individuals who reported NDEs-like scored
higher on self-reported measures of fantasy proneness than
matched control individuals who had never experienced NDEs
and individuals who had reported similar experiences that did
not meet NDEs criteria. Interestingly, although both groups of
experiencers did not diﬀer in terms of intensities of experience
[as also reported in previous studies; (10)], experiencers recalling
NDEs-like showed a greater engagement in fantasy than those
with classical NDEs. Thus, compared with control participants
who exhibited moderate fantasy engagement [in line with
previous non-clinical population studies; (16,28)], the CEQ
scores of individuals who reported NDEs-like is suggestive of
heightened fantasy proneness levels.
The retrospective and correlational design of this study does
not permit conclusions to be made about the casual pathway; that
is, whether NDEs-like occur more frequently in individuals with
(previously established) high engagement in fantasy or whether
such experiences encourage fantasy proneness in individuals
who were previously not prone to fantasy. Yet it is reasonable
to hypothesize that high engagement in fantasy, as a habitual
tendency, makes people more likely to report subjective NDEs-
like when exposed to certain physiological and/or psychological
conditions (e.g., meditation, syncope). Indeed, some items of the
CEQ allude to retrospective recall of childhood experiences (16),
supporting the idea of an enduring predisposition toward fantasy
in those who score relatively high on the CEQ. It can then be
assumed that the core experience of a NDE would be common
to all experiencers and physiologically determined. However,
top-down mechanisms would then interact by inﬂuencing
mnesic details of the content and the interpretation thereof.
Any unusual sensations—potentially engendered by a disrupted
brain—or “fantasy guesses” (29) could then be integrated into
the individual’s model of reality, which could account for some
elements perceived during NDEs.
By contrast, we found no indication that individuals
with classical NDEs are more fantasy prone than matched
controls, including individuals who had come close to
death without having NDEs. Given the sample size in
the current study, we believe that there is little reason to
believe that a NDE per se is the result of fantasy prone
Interestingly, we found an association between experiencers’
investment in fantasy and imagination and the reported intensity
of the NDE. More speciﬁcally, individuals’ engagement in fantasy
were correlated with aﬀective, paranormal, and transcendental
NDE features [as assessed by the Greyson NDE subscale scores;
(8)], but not with their cognitive features. Yet, the correlational
analyses performed within each of the two experiencers’ groups
revealed diﬀerential patterns depending on whether (or not)
a threat to the individual’s life was experienced. That is, the
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Martial et al. Fantasy Proneness in Near-Death Experiencers
TABLE 3 | Spearman rank correlations between CEQ total score and Greyson
NDE scale scores and subscale scores for the total sample (n=128).
CEQ total score p
GREYSON NDE SCALE
Total score 0.32 <0.0005
Cognitive 0.22 0.015
Affective 0.27 <0.007
Paranormal 0.26 <0.007
Transcendental 0.28 <0.007
more individuals described intense NDEs in the absence of
a life-threatening situation, the higher they scored on fantasy
proneness, whereas there was no signiﬁcant correlation between
the intensity of the NDE and an engagement in fantasy
for experiencers reporting classical NDEs. Nevertheless, when
comparing the two correlation coeﬃcients obtained in the
two experiencers’ groups, we did not observe diﬀerence in
the strength of association between the engagement in fantasy
and the intensity of the NDE. Again, these correlations (or
their absence) do not imply any form of causality (or the
absence thereof). Still, another hypothesis is that when no
life-threatening situation was present, the reported intensity
of the experience depends on how strongly the individual is
involved in fantasy and imaginative processes. In the extant
literature, functional neuroimaging studies have demonstrated
that spontaneous thoughts [accompanied by a disengagement
from the external environment; (30)] are constrained by the
organization of our neurocognitive system even though they
arise independently of external input (31). While it appears that
subjective NDEs are intensively experienced by the experiencers’
inner world and that variation in spontaneous thoughts is (at
least partly) constrained by the network organization of the
brain (31), further studies should investigate structural and
functional connectivity proﬁles using neuroimaging techniques
in people who have recalled NDEs and people who do not.
Moreover, whether classical NDEs and NDEs-like phenomena
are underpinned by similar neural mechanisms remains an
The present ﬁndings warrant follow-up investigation.
Speciﬁcally, it is important to look into factors (e.g., reality
monitoring failures) involved in fantasy proneness that may
generate NDEs-like. One possibility might be that individuals
with NDEs-like are more “open to experiences,” a personality trait
of the Five-Factor Model (32). It is likely that the experiencers
recalling NDEs-like are unusually sensitive to internal states
and possess a special propensity to pick up certain perceptual
elements that other individuals are blind to. This formulation is
consistent with the notion of a “NDE-prone personality,” deﬁned
as “the capacity to shift into states of consciousness that aﬀord
access to non-ordinary realities coupled with strong tendencies
toward psychological absorption” (27). In line with this, fantasy
prone individuals’ lives appear to be experientially richer (33)
and as a consequence, their fantasies are “as real as real” (15).
This is consistent with Thonnard et al.’s (34) results showing
that experiencers usually report a sense of “hyper-reality”
regarding their experiences (due to extremely vivid
Alternatively, the reality monitoring model (35) could provide
a framework for understanding why some individuals may
report NDEs-like accounts. The CEQ (16) used in this study
speciﬁcally assesses the frequency in which individuals engage
in fantasy and their diﬃculties in distinguishing fantasy and
reality. Thus, it may be the case that these experiences arise
as a consequence of source-monitoring errors, whereby inner
thoughts and feelings are wrongly interpreted as memories of
events that occurred in reality. Fantasy proneness goes along
with lenient criteria and is closely related to suboptimal reality
monitoring (35,36). Thus, extreme internal focus in individuals
could, in some cases, result in memories of subjective experiences
meeting the identiﬁcation criteria of NDEs but occurring without
a life-threatening situation (i.e., NDEs-like).
In addition to potential inﬂuences of top-down mechanisms
in the emergence of NDEs-like, it would be interesting
to investigate top-down inﬂuences in the meaning, form,
and content of the experience itself. In keeping with the
reconstructive view described above, the NDE experiencers’
religiosity and cultural background have been suggested to
inﬂuence the NDEs’ content and the features (29,37,38).
However, most of the conducted studies are case studies and
surveys are mainly conducted in Western cultures, thus limiting
the generalizability and the conclusions that can be drawn.
Translated versions of the Greyson NDE scale are now available
[e.g., see for the Italian version: (39)], thereby facilitating future
In line with the present ﬁndings and as previously stressed
(11), NDEs-like phenomena call for a reappraisal of the (more
general) NDE phenomenon. The label itself—NDE—does not
appear to adequately describe the diversity of experiences (3,6).
Because there is no clear universal deﬁnition of NDEs, an implicit
consensus between investigators has emerged where NDEs were
deﬁned in terms of their commonalities (40). However, while
similar phenomenal content has been described for various states
of consciousness [e.g., trance states, general anesthesia; (10,11)],
it appears that the classic features of the NDE phenomenon
are not associated exclusively with actual confrontation with
life-threatening circumstances. We believe that NDE research
might beneﬁt from employing a more ﬁne-grained classiﬁcation.
Finally, we think that it is also important for NDE experiencers
themselves. Indeed, the NDE label per se might contribute to
the reluctance of people with NDEs-like phenomena to talk
openly about their experience: some of them might consider their
experiences as deviant because they were not in a critical context
of impending death.
Our study has several methodological constraints. First,
participants enrolled in the study were mostly self-selected
and might not be representative due to a possible selection
bias. Importantly, the personality construct of fantasy proneness
itself could have biased the recruitment. Indeed, fantasy prone
individuals might be less reluctant to share their experience as
they could be more accustomed to dealing with non-ordinary
experiences. Second, our study was cross-sectional and relied
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Martial et al. Fantasy Proneness in Near-Death Experiencers
on self-report measures. Third, it should be point out the
lack of medical information regarding the presence of a life-
threatening event. Finally, one can ask to what extent there
is an overlap between the items of the two scales and to
what extent they assess the same construct. While it can be
observed that there is a part of overlap between certain items,
the primary diﬀerence between the two scales is in resolution:
the CEQ focuses on lifetime experiences whereas the Greyson
NDE scale focuses on one major event. Indeed, the latter focuses
on the content of a speciﬁc type of experience (i.e., classical
NDE or NDE-like) and its intensity at a phenomenological
level, while the CEQ assesses a more broadly personality trait.
Importantly, we further realized the correlation analysis without
including the items showing an overlap with some items of
the Greyson NDE scale and we still observed a signiﬁcant
positive correlation (see the Results section). This suggests
that even in removing the critical items, we still observed an
association between experiencers’ engagement in fantasy and the
reported intensity of the experience. Except the present study,
no research has previously looked at the link between fantasy
proneness and the occurrence of NDEs-like. The association
may have important ramiﬁcations for studies addressing the
phenomenon of NDEs-like and may open new theoretical
To date, it is not clear whether NDEs are a randomly occurring
phenomenon or whether some speciﬁc psychological factors
play an important role in their generation (or recall). Although
much has been learned regarding the NDE phenomenon
per se, considerably less research has been directed at
exploring the psychological mechanisms that might lead to
the occurrence of such memories. Fantasy proneness (15) may
constitute a psychological predisposition for the occurrence
of NDEs-like. Because NDEs can subsequently induce life-
changing consequences on the experiencers’ set of values and
attitudes toward death (22), further understanding of their
cognitive functioning remains an important focus for clinical
This study was carried out in accordance with the
recommendations of the ethics committee of the Faculty of
Medicine of the University of Liège with written informed
consent from all subjects. All subjects gave written informed
consent in accordance with the Declaration of Helsinki. The
protocol was approved by the ethics committee of the Faculty of
Medicine of the University of Liège.
CM and SL designed the protocol. CM, HC, and VC-V obtained
the data. CM analyzed the data; CM, HC, HM, and SL:
interpreted data. All authors contributed to the writing of the
manuscript. CM and SL were the main investigators. All authors
were involved in editing the paper and approved the ﬁnal text.
This work was supported by the University and University
Hospital of Liège, Belgian National Funds for Scientiﬁc
Research (FNRS), French Speaking Community Concerted
Research Action (ARC - 06/11 - 340), NSERC discovery
grant, Human Brain Project (EU-H2020-fetﬂagship-hbp-sga1-
ga720270), Luminous project (EU-H2020-fetopen-ga686764),
IAP research network P7/06 of Belgian Government (Belgian
Science Policy), BIAL Foundation, the European Commission,
James McDonnell Foundation, Mind Science Foundation,
European space agency (ESA), Public Utility Foundation
Université Européenne du Travail and Fondazione Europea di
The authors would like to thank our subjects for contributing
their time to participate in this study and the International
Associations for Near-Death Studies (IANDS France and
Flanders) and particularly J.-P. Jourdan and G. Vander Linden
who helped with near-death experiencers recruitment.
The Supplementary Material for this article can be found
online at: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyt.
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Conﬂict of Interest Statement: The authors declare that the research was
conducted in the absence of any commercial or ﬁnancial relationships that could
be construed as a potential conﬂict of interest.
Copyright © 2018 Martial, Cassol, Charland-Verville, Merckelbach and Laureys.
This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons
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