Academic journal article The Journal of Parapsychology

Parapsychological Experience as Anomalous Experience Plus Paranormal Attribution: A Questionnaire Based on a New Approach to measurement/L'experience Parapsychologique En Tant Qu'experience Anomale Associee a Une Attribution Paranormale :

Academic journal article The Journal of Parapsychology

Parapsychological Experience as Anomalous Experience Plus Paranormal Attribution: A Questionnaire Based on a New Approach to measurement/L'experience Parapsychologique En Tant Qu'experience Anomale Associee a Une Attribution Paranormale :

Article excerpt

The fundamental objectives of this study were to devise a novel procedure for assessing potential predictors of the occurrence of parapsychological experiences and to implement this procedure in the form of a new questionnaire.

Earlier questionnaires have identified psychological correlates of the occurrence (or more pedantically, the report) of parapsychological experiences. Some routine procedures for surveying parapsychological experiences nevertheless may have theoretically significant limitations. Two specific observations in this regard will now be raised.

There is a fundamental measurement problem with one type of questionnaire item sometimes used to survey parapsychological experiences. This type of item identifies such an experience by name (e.g., "telepathy," "a ghost"), possibly adds a formal definition, and asks respondents if they have encountered this experience. Responses then may be correlated with potential psychological predictors. This approach was used, for example, by Richards (1991) and Kennedy and Kanthamani (1995), and is still evident today. Thus, in the Anomalous Experiences Inventory (AEI, Factor 1; Gallagher, Kumar, & Pekala, 1994; Kumar & Pekala, 2001), currently one of the most widely used inventories for surveying parapsychological experiences (see also Goulding & Parker, 2001), some items refer to experiences explicitly implicating paranormal phenomena (e.g., "I have had a psychic experience," "I have seen a ghost or apparition") or to behaviors based on an assumption of the paranormal by the respondent ("I visit fortune tellers, palm readers, tarot card readers or astrologers"). The metric problem with this type of item arises from the underacknowledged fact that some people may undergo an anomalous encounter without reconstructing it in terms of the paranormal; that is, the experience may be dismissed as mere coincidence, a misperception or illusion, and the like. With the above type of item, a conventional survey of parapsychological experiences would identify such people as nonexperients because they deny ever having experienced ESP and the like, yet an independent observer might well construe some of the respondents' experiences as parapsychological.

A second and more common type of questionnaire item does avoid this limitation. Such items do not refer to the parapsychological experience by name; rather, they provide a noncommittal phenomenological description of the experience and ask survey participants if they have had experiences of this ilk. By way of illustration, the Anomalous Experiences Inventory includes items such as "There have been events that I dreamed about before the event occurred" and "I often know what others are feeling or thinking without them telling me." Even people who eschew any suggestion of the paranormal may therefore be willing to concede they have had such experiences. This approach may have particular appeal to anomalistic psychologists, researchers who focus primarily on the bases of anomalous experiences rather than on the more specific investigation of hypotheses about paranormal processes.

On the other hand, while this second type of item taps the incidence of anomalous or uncanny events, it also nets people who interpret their experience as paranormal as well as people who do not. The status of the experience in the respondents' eyes therefore is not taken into account. This represents a loss of potentially instructive information. In addition, the technique limits the interpretation that may legitimately be applied to the data. For example, on the basis of responses generated by these items, many researchers are wont to draw conclusions about the correlates of "ESP experiences" and the like, despite the fact that the items merely address an anomalous experience of unattributed origin. Thus, in this type of item perceived "paranormality" on occasion may simply revert to the investigator instead of the respondent. …

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