Academic journal article The Journal of Parapsychology

Testing for Forced-Choice Precognition Using a Hidden Task: Two replications/Examinando Precognicion De Respuesta Limitada Usando Una Tarea Encubierta: Dos replicaciones/Ein Prakognitionstest Mit Begrenzter Wahl Unter Verwendung Einer Verborgenen Aufgabe: Zwei replikationen/Experimentation Pour la Cognition Anticipee Force En Utilisant Une Tache Cache : Deux Reproductions

Academic journal article The Journal of Parapsychology

Testing for Forced-Choice Precognition Using a Hidden Task: Two replications/Examinando Precognicion De Respuesta Limitada Usando Una Tarea Encubierta: Dos replicaciones/Ein Prakognitionstest Mit Begrenzter Wahl Unter Verwendung Einer Verborgenen Aufgabe: Zwei replikationen/Experimentation Pour la Cognition Anticipee Force En Utilisant Une Tache Cache : Deux Reproductions

Article excerpt

In its naturally occurring state among unselected persons, psi may be essentially an unconscious process. Broughton (1991, p. 350) considered this possibility when he had completed his review of parapsychology and was moved to conclude: "It is entirely possible that the sort of psi ability that has traditionally attracted the attention of parapsychologists ... may be aberrations, completely unlike 'normal' psi ability." If this were the case, then it would not be evident from collections of spontaneous cases, as these rely on the percipient recognising that something unusual had occurred, which clearly requires some level of conscious awareness--though this awareness may be quite rudimentary, as in Rhine's (1961) classification of intuitive cases or Hearne's (1989) notion of a vague foreboding. It might be possible for the spontaneous effects of an unconscious psi to be detected in more subtle ways (e.g., Cox, 1956), although interpretation of the behaviour patterns observed in such cases is fraught with difficulty.

But if psi were essentially unconscious, then it might be self-defeating to attempt to capture effects in the laboratory by asking participants to make conscious judgments about the identity of targets, even where other interventions are included that are intended to establish a psi-conducive frame of mind--or perhaps even render conscious what would ordinarily be unconscious--as found, for example, in dream ESP and ganzfeld protocols (Bem & Honorton, 1994; Sherwood & Roe, 2003). Asking participants to "be psychic" to order while under the scrutiny of lab personnel is likely to increase their autonomic arousal and disrupt performance much as it can do for other forms of psychological performance (cf. Blascovich, Mendes, Salomon, & Hunter, 1999; Geen & Gange, 1977). Similarly, in parapsychological experiments elevated anxiety typically inhibits performance in both PK (see Broughton & Perlstrom, 1986, 1992; Roe, Davey, & Stevens, 2003) and ESP tasks (e.g., Palmer, Ader, & Mikova, 1981; see Schmeidler, 1988, for a brief review). There seems to be a growing acceptance among laboratory researchers that more direct or unconscious measures of psi are more appropriate and more likely to be successful, as evidenced by the popularity of paradigms that test, for example, for prestimulus response (Radin, 1997), staring detection (cf. Baker, 2005, p. 60), precognitive habituation (Bem, 2003), and unintentional PK (Roe, Holt, & Simmonds, 2003).

Perhaps the earliest systematic laboratory exploration of psi as an unconscious process is to be found in Stanford and associates' tests of his Psi Mediated Instrumental Response (PMIR) model. Stanford has described the evolution of this model in extensive detail in a series of publications (Stanford, 1974a, 1974b, 1990). However, the essential features for the current discussion are that PMIR suggests that psi operates below the level of conscious awareness; is essentially goal oriented, responding to basic needs and environment threats or opportunities; and acts by facilitating pre-existing responses (actions, memory traces, and so on). Hence the participants needn't intend to use psi, nor be aware that the task requires them to use psi--indeed it might be counter-productive for them to know this. Empirical tests of the model have confirmed predictions that it makes concerning the effects upon psi performance of (1) the hidden nature of the task (e.g., Dwyer, Stanford, & Zenhausern, 1975), and (2) the existence of a reward or punishment that is contingent upon performance (e.g., Stanford and Associates, 1976).

Recently, Luke, Delanoy, and Sherwood (2008) have sought to extend this paradigm by attempting to identify those persons who might be most likely to capitalise on the action of PMIR in their daily lives to see if they perform similarly under controlled laboratory conditions. Luke et al. hypothesised that such people might experience the positive or negative outcomes that result from PMIR but attribute them to good or bad luck, so that if participants reported that they consistently benefited from fortuitous events they might describe themselves as particularly lucky whereas if they tended to suffer from them they might describe themselves as particularly unlucky. …

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