Academic journal article The Journal of Parapsychology

Motor Automatisms as a Vehicle of ESP expression/Automatismos Motrices Como Vehiculo De Expresion De la PES/Les Automatismes Moteurs En Tant Que Vehicule De L'expression De l'ESP/Motorische Automatismen Als Vermittler Von ASW-Inhalten

Academic journal article The Journal of Parapsychology

Motor Automatisms as a Vehicle of ESP expression/Automatismos Motrices Como Vehiculo De Expresion De la PES/Les Automatismes Moteurs En Tant Que Vehicule De L'expression De l'ESP/Motorische Automatismen Als Vermittler Von ASW-Inhalten

Article excerpt

This study was aimed at exploring ESP in dissociative states. Dissociation was defined as the tendency for actions or thought processes to occur involuntarily and separately from the normal stream of consciousness. The underlying hypothesis was that ordinary conscious mental activity interferes with psi, and if the psi process could be split off from this mental activity it would be more likely to manifest. Trance mediums have often produced relatively strong psi effects, and modern altered-state induction procedures such as hypnosis and the ganzfeld seem to create states that are at least mildly dissociative while arguably enhancing psi performance (Honorton, 1977; Stanford & Stein, 1994).

I previously conducted a series of ESP-dissociation experiments in which participants made ESP responses through a form of motor automatism, random eye fixations on the elements in a matrix of symbols. Before either each run or each trial, a motivational visual stimulus was flashed to participants subliminally. Overall significant results with this procedure, when they occurred, tended to be either psi-missing or tight variance, suggesting a negative reaction to the test (e.g., Palmer &Johnson, 1991). Desiring a measure of autonomous ESP that participants could relate to more easily, I decided to employ a psi task based on the popular Ouija board, for which the automatisms are hand movements.

Sargent (1977) conducted two experimental series in which groups of volunteers played with a Ouija board in an informal atmosphere, mostly unaware that an ESP test was involved. In both experiments, below-chance scoring was obtained when the sequences of characters that participants selected from the board were structured (e.g., meaningful words) and above chance when they were unstructured. For the present experiment, I chose to employ a free-response procedure rather than the forced-choice procedure used by Sargent. To increase the number of potential associations to the target, I chose as targets simple, one-syllable homographs (words with more than one meaning). Subliminal perception research using words as stimuli suggests that associates to target words often are more pre-potent than the target words themselves (Bornstein & Pittman, 1992), and subliminal perception may involve discrimination mechanisms similar to psi (Schmeidler, 1986).

Both a "state" and a "trait" approach were utilized to assess whether participants with the greatest tendencies toward dissociation would get the highest scores on the alphabet board task. For the state approach, participants were asked whether they had the impression during the session that the pointer was being guided by an outside force. For the trait approach, participants completed the Complex Partial Epileptic Signs (CPES) scale (Persinger & Makarec, 1993), which measures tendencies toward temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE), which is characterized by dissociative behavior, often including motor automatisms such as involuntary chewing motions. The CPES scale correlates very highly with Bernstein and Putnam's (1986) Dissociative Experiences Scale, which is used to measure tendencies toward multiple personality (Persinger & Makarec, 1993). However, I have found that the CPES also correlates highly with the Tellegen Absorption Scale (TAS; Tellegen, 1978), which measures the tendency to become absorbed in one's phenomenological experience. Thus, the TAS was added as a suppressor variable re the CPES. In a previous survey of Ouija board users, the suppressed CPES scores correlated with reports of negative experiences using the board (Palmer, 1999).

Because it is possible that psi information might come through other vehicles than motor automatism, such as visual imagery, participants were asked to make separate ratings for impressions that came directly from the board and other impressions. As such impressions are not sought, they would be more dissociative, and arguably more likely to be psi-mediated, than many of those obtained in standard free-response experiments in which participants try to produce imagery. …

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