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Anomalous information reception by mediums: A meta-analysis of the scientific evidence

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  • University of Padova - Italy
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Abstract

Background and purpose: Mediumship is the ostensible phenomenon of human-mediated communication between deceased and living persons. In this paper, we perform a meta-analysis of all available modern experimental evidence up to December 2019 investigating the accuracy of apparently anomalous information provided by mediums about deceased individuals.

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Sudduth provides a critical exploration of classical empirical arguments for survival arguments that purport to show that data collected from ostensibly paranormal phenomena constitute good evidence for the survival of the self after death. Utilizing the conceptual tools of formal epistemology, he argues that classical arguments are unsuccessful.
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Frederic William Henry Myers (1843-1901) was a classical scholar who in mid-career turned to the investigation of psychic phenomena. After studying, and later teaching, Classics at Trinity College, Cambridge he resigned his lectureship in 1869, became an inspector of schools, and campaigned for women's higher education. With the encouragement of former colleagues he began a scientific investigation of spiritualism and related phenomena, and in 1882 he helped to found the Society for Psychical Research. This two-volume work, first published posthumously in 1903, contains the fullest statement of Myers' influential theory of the 'subliminal self', which he developed by combining his research into psychic phenomena with his in-depth reading about the latest advances in psychology and related fields. His deeply intellectual approach is evident throughout the book, which analyses a huge amount of interesting data. Volume 2 discusses apparitions, trances and bodily possession.
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Presents an account of two mediumship sessions in Bali, describing the ritual involved with quotes from parts of the transcripts. Mediumship within the Balinese context is interpreted within the worldview of that culture, and compared with the traditional Western perspective. Mediums are viewed as (and called) healers in Bali. Employing an explanation of the Balinese view of illness and health, mediumship is placed within that healing context. The information-giving function of mediumship, which is primary in Western views of mediumship, is attenuated in Bali because, in an important sense, the medium becomes the message. It is suggested both that psi may play an important role in the latter process and that this view may help us to understand psi. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
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Reports the case of a "drop-in" communicator who manifested at a sitting in Italy in 1948 and furnished correct information about a murder that had occurred in the US nearly 20 yrs before the sitting. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
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I discuss the construction of Balinese trance behaviors using two examples of trance possession in temple ceremonies. The view that trance states are socially constructed has long roots in anthropology. However, a closer examination of this view is warranted. In particular, I am interested in the question of the possible diversity of the constructed behavior. On the one hand, one may expect a set of general trance behaviors or experiences throughout a given society—e.g. that vision quests in a particular tribe will contain common elements, but these will vary from tribe to tribe (Lowie 1963). On the other hand, a society may offer the general outlines of acceptable trance behavior or experience, but expect them to be radically individual, depending, e.g., on the particular revelatory experience of the person. The Balinese construction of trance fits neither of these poles; rather, trance behaviors are contextualized to a particular temple but not to individual persons. Thus, the trances of the Balinese exhibit a high degree of variety from locale to locale. This unusual variety is due to two factors: a key element of Balinese Hinduism, adat (local custom), as well as a unique feature of how Balinese deities (who possess individuals in trance) are conceived.
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Growing public interest in the phenomenon of mediumship, particularly among bereaved persons, suggests the need for renewed controlled studies of mediums, both to provide potential clients with criteria for judging mediums and to help researchers learn whether they can produce specific and accurate information to which they have had no normal access and, if so, under what conditions. Two research studies were conducted in which mediums provided readings about particular deceased persons to a proxy sitter. The real sitters then blindly rated the reading that was intended for them along with several control readings. In the first study, the results were not significant. In the second, much larger study the results were highly significant (z = -3.89, p < 0.0001, 2-tailed). The authors discuss 2 possible weaknesses of the successful study and indicate some directions for further research.
Article
Investigating the information reported by mediums is ultimately important in determining the relationship between brain and consciousness in addition to being of deep concern to the public. This triple-blind study was designed to examine the anomalous reception of information about deceased individuals by research mediums under experimental conditions that eliminate conventional explanations. Eight University of Arizona students served as sitters: four had experienced the death of a parent; four, a peer. Eight mediums who had previously demonstrated an ability to report accurate information in a laboratory setting performed the readings. To optimize potential identifiable differences between readings, each deceased parent was paired with a same-gender deceased peer. Sitters were not present at the readings; an experimenter blind to information about the sitters and deceased served as a proxy sitter. The mediums, blind to the sitters' and deceased's identities, each read two absent sitters and their paired deceased; each pair of sitters was read by two mediums. Each blinded sitter then scored a pair of itemized transcripts (one was the reading intended for him/her; the other, the paired control reading) and chose the reading more applicable to him/her. The findings included significantly higher ratings for intended versus control readings (p = 0.007, effect size = 0.5) and significant reading-choice results (p = 0.01). The results suggest that certain mediums can anomalously receive accurate information about deceased individuals. The study design effectively eliminates conventional mechanisms as well as telepathy as explanations for the information reception, but the results cannot distinguish among alternative paranormal hypotheses, such as survival of consciousness (the continued existence, separate from the body, of an individual's consciousness or personality after physical death) and super-psi (or super-ESP; retrieval of information via a psychic channel or quantum field).
Simulating questionable research practices
  • P A Bancel
Bancel, P.A. (2018). Simulating questionable research practices [Preprint]. doi:10.1314/RG.2.2.12941.64487.
Explicit anomalous cognition: a review of the best evidence in ganzfeld, forced choice, remote viewing and dream studies
  • J Baptista
  • M Derakhshani
  • P E Tressoldi
Baptista J, Derakhshani M, Tressoldi PE. Explicit anomalous cognition: a review of the best evidence in ganzfeld, forced choice, remote viewing and dream studies. In: Cardeña E, Palmer J, Marcusson-Clavertz D, eds. Parapsychology: a handbook for the 21st century. Jefferson, NC, US: McFarland; 2015:192-214.
Psi Encyclopedia. London: The Society for Psychical Research
  • J Beischel
Beischel, J. (2018). "Mental Mediumship Research." Psi Encyclopedia. London: The Society for Psychical Research. Retrieved from https://psi-encyclopedia.spr.ac.uk/articles/mentalmediumship-research. Retrieved 29 December 2019
Weightr: estimating weight-function models for publication bias
  • K M Coburn
  • J L Vevea
Coburn, K.M., & Vevea, J.L. (2017). Weightr: estimating weight-function models for publication bias (R package Version 2.0.2) [Computer software].
The study and practice of astral projection
  • R Crookall
Crookall, R. (1961). The study and practice of astral projection. London, UK: Aquarian Press.