Academic journal article The Journal of Parapsychology

Learning to Lure the Rabbit: Charles Honorton's Process-Relevant ESP Research. (Special Issue: A Tribute to Charles Honorton)

Academic journal article The Journal of Parapsychology

Learning to Lure the Rabbit: Charles Honorton's Process-Relevant ESP Research. (Special Issue: A Tribute to Charles Honorton)

Article excerpt

confidence calls demonstrates nothing about discriminative learning of extrasensory cues. This caveat subsumes the effort (McCallam & Honorton, 1973) to show that participants' subjective descriptions of the bases of their confidence calls were related to pre- to post-feedback differences in confidence-call accuracy. The objective in these analyses apparently was to see whether subjects who attended to particular types of cues (or combinations of cues) were more successful in gaining insight as a result of feedback. To interpret such findings, we would need to know about the pre- to post-feedback ESP-task performance of subjects who reported specific types of cues as being associated with confidence None of the students who, in the early to mid-60's, eagerly imbibed the words of their hoary mentor and psi meister, J. B. Rhine, could easily forget his pithy advice to all who would study psi in the laboratory: "If you want to have rabbit stew, first catch the rabbit." It meant, "If you want to study psi in the laboratory, you must provide the circumstances that will insure the presence of psi in your study." Deliberate planning was needed to insure that there was "rabbit" in your larder from the beginning. These words came from the man who had regularly managed to elicit psi in the laboratory and had helped to put parapsychology on the scientific map. They had to be taken seriously by anyone planning a career as a laboratory parapsychologist, as all of us were. Failing to heed them would be the scientific equivalent of giving a party and no one turning up!

Perhaps no student of Rhine ever learned this lesson better or applied it more successfully than Charles Honorton. He always seemed to be having rabbit stew, while others were spending most of their time chasing the rabbit. There were probably several reasons for this, and this essay will touch on some of them. In essence, though, Honorton knew that if you wanted the rabbit, you had to lure it, not go chasing after it! You had to know something about rabbit psychology, even if learning about rabbit psychology was not your main objective.

A driving force--perhaps the driving force--in Honorton's professional life was to effectively put before the broader scientific community a reliable demonstration of ESP, a dependable recipe for rabbit stew, if you will. Honorton might well have cared less about rabbit psychology than about putting rabbit stew on his and on other scientists' intellectual menus. Studying rabbit psychology was a necessary step toward his ultimate goal, and he learned much about luring the rabbit. He learned it from his research and from diverse other sources, and he worked hard to pass this knowledge on to other researchers. (For this extended Rhineian metaphor I offer apologies to my fellow vegetarians and to animal rights advocates.)

If Honorton's interest in the psychology of psi function was in considerable degree a means to an end, this does not mean that he lacked interest in basic theoretical and even philosophical issues related to psi reality. My review of Honorton's research and writings persuades me that in these larger matters of the intrinsic nature of psi and its implications for a broader understanding of reality, he had keen interests. His tough-minded pragmatism probably shaped his important theoretical, methodological, and empirical contributions to process-oriented work, but that pragmatism itself seemed driven by his conception of psi reality as perhaps the single most important topic confronting science. In the contemporary worldview, rabbits just should not exist.

For Honorton, mind was a reality that could be demonstrated through psi research. This philosophical bent showed up, for example, in his concept (1977, pp. 466-467) of "Mind at Large." Following writers such as Henri Bergson and Aldous Huxley, he considered the brain and nervous system as filters that help to make manageable the potential influx of information from Mind at Large. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.