Academic journal article The Journal of Parapsychology

Target and Sender Dependencies in Anomalous Cognition Experiments

Academic journal article The Journal of Parapsychology

Target and Sender Dependencies in Anomalous Cognition Experiments

Article excerpt

The ganzfeld database has received considerable attention since Bem and Honorton's (1994) publication. They reported a significant difference between static and dynamic targets, although they did not report significant hitting with static targets.(1) None of the 355 ganzfeld trials analyzed by Bem and Honorton were done in a clairvoyance mode; all of these trials used senders.

These data inspired two questions:

1. Is a sender a necessary or sufficient participant in the process?

2. Is target-type dependency real?

An earlier version of this paper was presented at the 37th Annual Convention of the Parapsychological Association, held in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, August 7-10, 1994.

The answer to the first question is settled for forced-choice. Clairvoyance ESP card studies (Honorton, 1975) show significant hitting - senders are not necessary. But what is the situation for free-response? As part of a cooperative effort between Psychophysical Research Laboratories and the Cognitive Sciences Laboratory, we asked Honorton to conduct a meta-analysis of the ganzfeld database to determine the answer (Honorton, 1992). In that review, Honorton examined the ganzfeld studies that were published in the English-language parapsychology literature between 1974 and 1991. Besides published reports, the meta-analysis also included doctoral theses and abstracts of otherwise unpublished studies. Honorton found that only 12 of 73 studies reported not using a sender, and their combined results did not reach statistical significance (z = 1.31, p [less than or equal to] .095). The difference was in favor of the sender protocol ([z.sub.diff] = 1.49, p [less than or equal to] .137).

We agree with Honorton's criticism that the studies do not attempt a differential comparison between sender and no-sender. As a result, none of the studies were blind to the sender condition. In parallel to the experiments we report here, we asked Honorton to design and conduct such a study. Robert Morris and the research group in the Psychology Department at the University of Edinburgh have taken over that task.

This paper reports on two nonganzfeld experiments that we conducted in 1992 and 1993 to address sender and the target dependencies.


We used a 2 x 2 design to study the effects of sender versus no-sender and static-versus-dynamic target type on the quality of anomalous cognition (AC).(2) The details of the design, results, and conclusions from the study are described in this section.

Target-Pool Selection

The static targets were 50 of the 100 magazine photographs that have been used in our laboratory for many years. By design these targets had the following characteristics:

Topic homogeneity. The photographs contained outdoors scenes of settlements (e.g., villages, towns, cities), water (e.g., coasts, rivers and streams, waterfalls), and topographical features (e.g., mountains, hills, deserts).

Size homogeneity. Target elements are all roughly the same size. That is, there are no size surprises such as an ant in one photograph and the moon in another.

Affectivity homogeneity. As much as possible, the targets include only material that invokes neutral affectivity.

This set was divided into 10 sets of five photographs that were determined to be visually dissimilar by a fuzzy set analysis (May, et al., 1990) and fine-tuned by inspection.

For the dynamic targets, we digitized and compressed 30 video clips from a variety of popular movies or documentaries. With the exception of cartoons and sexually oriented material, the clips contained nearly anything. Examples included an indoor motor bike race and a slow panoramic scan of the statues on Easter Island.

The overall intent of these dynamic targets was to control for cognitive surprise, to provide target elements that are easily sketched, and to mimic the content of the successful ganzfeld dynamic targets. …

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