Academic journal article The Journal of Parapsychology

Psi and Associational Processes

Academic journal article The Journal of Parapsychology

Psi and Associational Processes

Article excerpt

If psi (1) is a real phenomenon, then logically it should follow some kind of psychological laws. One kind of model would posit that psi information, once it has entered the cognitive system, is subject to similar laws to other comparable incoming information (e.g., weak sensory stimuli--see Beloff, 1974; Nash, 1986; Schmeidler, 1986 for reviews). Furthermore, if the psi process somehow involves existing cognitive processes, then this could serve to reduce the amount of processing exclusive to psi that would otherwise be required. This is not a new suggestion; in 1946 Tyrell postulated that the psi percipient constructed a "mediating vehicle" which itself is the product of psychological processes. Tyrell was essentially suggesting that psi may "piggy-back" onto normal psychological processes and may influence the organism through its influence on these processes. This is an intuitively appealing notion, for if psi involves such ongoing processes, it might obviate the need for a unique process (or group of processes) dedicated to psi. This would reduce demands on processing capacity, and it may also be the reason why many spontaneous reports of ostensible psi phenomena take the form of normal psychological processes, e.g., associations, memories, feelings, etc. (see Stanford, 1974a). If psi processing could interact with these standard processes appropriately, then they would serve to be useful vehicles as a means for psi to influence the percipient in some way. Eliciting of these normal mental events will not be considered strange; therefore they will not be consciously recognised as being influenced by psi. This might be why spontaneous psi appears to be unconscious (see Stanford 1974a; 1990). A number of researchers have recognised this possibility, and have suggested ways in which psi may interact with cognitive processes. Roll (1966) proposed a model of ESP in which ESP is more like memory than perception. He claimed that certain information represented in some of the individual's memory traces is relevant to the psi source or target, and that extrasensory activation of those traces may result in mediation of the relevant information into consciousness.

Irwin (1979) followed a similar line of reasoning, proposing an information-processing model of psi, in which ESP occurs through paranormal activation of appropriate memory traces, bringing them into consciousness.

Stanford's PMIR (psi-mediated instrumental response) model (Stanford, 1974a, 1974b, 1977, 1982, 1990) also deals with the importance of ongoing processes in the mediation of psi information. Under the PMIR model, a psi-mediated response is accomplished through triggering of various cognitive processes that are already in the repertory of the organism.

One process that may be useful as a psi vehicle is associations. Roll (1966) claimed that mediation of psi information may be governed by the principles of normal cognitive processing, including what he called the "laws" of association. Similarly, in 1973, Stanford suggested that extrasensory information would have to become imposed on or mediated by, or would have to interact with, ongoing associative processes, and his PMIR model also emphasised the role of association in psi processing.

Stanford (1973) used word association as a directed free-response task. The rationale was that word association is a free-response task which is scorable in the same manner as a forced-choice task, thus having the advantages of a free-response test without the drawbacks associated with scoring. It is similar to a free-association task in that participants are given words and asked to respond with the first associated word that comes to mind. It can be scored as a forced-choice task in the sense that all of the responses generated can be categorised. In his 1973 study, Stanford used homophones as stimuli. Participants were instructed to respond with the first associated word that came to mind after hearing the homophone. …

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