Parapsychology

parapsychology, study of mental phenomena not explainable by accepted principles of science. The organized, scientific investigation of paranormal phenomena began with the foundation (1882) of the Society for Psychical Research in London. Such early efforts attempted to dissociate psychical phenomena from spiritualism and superstition, and particularly to investigate mediums and their claims of evoking spirits or apparitions. The society also studied automatic writing, levitation, and ectoplasmic and poltergeist activities. One of its principal founders, Frederic William Henry Myers, summed up the society's early efforts in Human Personality and Its Survival of Bodily Death (1903). An American Society for Psychical Research was also founded, with James Hervey Hyslop as its leading spokesman. Considerable experimentation has been conducted, perhaps the best-known being that of Joseph Banks Rhine at Duke. The Foundation for Research on the Nature of Man, created in the early 1960s, has since replaced the Duke program. In Great Britain the work of Whately Carington and Samuel George Soal paralleled that of Rhine. The great majority of parapsychological studies have focused on the area called extrasensory perception (ESP), which includes telepathy, clairvoyance, and precognition. The popular press often reports stories that are parapsychological in nature. Many scientists criticize the claims made by parapsychologists, arguing in particular that there can be no proof of such phenomena.

See S. Coblentz, Light Beyond: The Wonderworld of Parapsychology (1981); A. P. Dubrov and V. N. Pushkin, Parapsychology and Contemporary Science (1982); H. Edge et al. Foundations of Parapsychology (1986); A. Berger, Lives and Letters in American Parapsychology (1988).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2014, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Parapsychology: Research on Exceptional Experiences
Jane Henry.
Routledge, 2005
A Skeptic's Handbook of Parapsychology
Paul Kurtz.
Prometheus Books, 1985
Educating Parapsychologists
Smith, Matthew D.
The Journal of Parapsychology, Vol. 63, No. 3, September 1999
Paranormal Borderlands of Science
Kendrick Frazier.
Prometheus Books, 1981
Librarian’s tip: "Is Parapsychology a Science?" begins on p. 5
The Psi Controversy
Palmer. John.
The Journal of Parapsychology, Vol. 57, No. 2, June 1993
Demonstration Research and Meta-Analysis in Parapsychology
Krippner, Stanley; Braud, William; Child, Irvin L.; Palmer, John; Ramakrishna Rao, K.; Schlitz, Marilyn; White, Rhea A.; Utts, Jessica.
The Journal of Parapsychology, Vol. 57, No. 3, September 1993
The Ganzfeld Experiment
Bem, Daryl J.
The Journal of Parapsychology, Vol. 57, No. 2, June 1993
The Transcendental Temptation: A Critique of Religion and the Paranormal
Paul Kurtz.
Prometheus Books, 1991
Librarian’s tip: Chap. XIII "The Paranormal: Psychics, ESP, and Parapsychology"
Spiritual Motivations of Parapsychologists? Empirical Data
Tart, Charles T.
The Journal of Parapsychology, Vol. 67, No. 1, Spring 2003
Reality and Empathy: Physics, Mind, and Science in the 21st Century
Alex Comfort.
State University of New York Press, 1984
Librarian’s tip: "The Rank Outsider: Is Parapsychology Real, and Does It Matter?" begins on p. 210
Cultivating Consciousness: Enhancing Human Potential, Wellness, and Healing
K. Ramakrishna Rao.
Praeger Publishers, 1993
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 10 "Current Hypotheses about the Nature of the Mind-Brain Relationship and Their Relationship to Findings in Parapsychology"
Flim-Flam! Psychics, ESP, Unicorns, and Other Delusions
James Randi.
Prometheus Books, 1982
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