Academic journal article The Journal of Parapsychology

Revealing Psi Secrets: Successful Experimenters Seem to Succeed by Using Their Own Psi/ Die Enthullung Von Psi-Geheimnissen: Der Erfolg Erfolgreicher Experimentatoren Scfieint Sich Ihrem Eigenen Psi Zu verdanken/Develando Los Secretos De Psi: Los Experimentadores Con Exito Usan Su Propio psi/Reveler Les Secrets Du Psi: Les Experimentateurs a Succes Semblent Employer Leur Propre Psi

Academic journal article The Journal of Parapsychology

Revealing Psi Secrets: Successful Experimenters Seem to Succeed by Using Their Own Psi/ Die Enthullung Von Psi-Geheimnissen: Der Erfolg Erfolgreicher Experimentatoren Scfieint Sich Ihrem Eigenen Psi Zu verdanken/Develando Los Secretos De Psi: Los Experimentadores Con Exito Usan Su Propio psi/Reveler Les Secrets Du Psi: Les Experimentateurs a Succes Semblent Employer Leur Propre Psi

Article excerpt

This paper has its roots in a cooperative project which we carried out many years ago. At that time we initiated what has proved to be an all-too-rare cooperative enterprise between one of us (Adrian Parker) who was successful at finding high-scoring participants and therefore became a proponent in the field, and the other (Brian Millar) who consistently had the opposite experience and became a psi-skeptic. The results of this small project, which we will discuss more fully later, led to our being among the first to raise the issue of experimenter psi (Parker, 1978). Since that time the issue has steadily gathered momentum to such a degree that we now see experimenter psi as the driving force behind the replication and credibility problems that have come to bedevil contemporary parapsychology.

The situation is a serious one. If we are right and the pervasiveness of experimenter psi has become parapsychology's best-kept secret, then it is what underlies the contemporary crisis of academic parapsychology. The crisis has led to a declaration of the field's "demise" by the veteran and inexorable critic of the field, Ray Hyman (2012). Even one of the most renowned experts in our field, Donald West, recently raised some very legitimate concerns as to "why parapsychology has not become an accepted science" (West, 2012). In his reply to West, David Ellis (2012) mentioned the Gothenburg ganzfeld series as one of the three most "extraordinary findings" in the last 20 years. Perhaps it is precisely because of these extraordinary results that the series has given one of us some valuable experience and possible insights concerning experimenter psi effects, insights which are shared later in this paper.

Until now, relatively little attention has been given to the issue of experimenter psi. Although it was the subject of a comprehensive review by John Palmer (1997), his paper, despite being well founded, provoked little reaction. The reason may be that most psi-conducive experimenters preferred to believe in a social interaction theory of the experimenter effect rather than a psi-based one. Indeed, Palmer (1997) had already foreseen this when he remarked in his paper that amongst his academic peer group there would be much greater approval for possessing social skills than any proclaimed psychic ones.

Nevertheless, the time may now be appropriate for facing this issue head-on. Very recently, we discovered that Dick Bierman and James Spottiswoode independently of our input sought to challenge the psi-research community by claiming that the unresolved elusiveness of psi will hinder any future breakthrough. Bierman and Spottiswoode (2012) sum up their take on the situation as: "It seems to us that in most of our lab-research the participants are possibly just excuses for the psi-gifted experimenter to get rid of the responsibility for creating an anomaly" (p. 5).

Where Bierman and Spottiswoode as well as other authorities such as James Kennedy (2003) differ from us is that they see the evidence for this basic elusiveness in the paradoxical decrease in effect sizes with the increase in the size of the samples used, and the supposed "meta-analysis destruction effect." The alternative notion that we are presenting is that this elusiveness can be understood as vacillations in the strength of psi effects deriving from the influence of all the participants rather than in the very nature of psi. We, the joint authors of this paper, do, however, differ in our opinions somewhat concerning the proportion of the results in parapsychology that can be attributed solely to experimenter psi (emphasised by Millar) and the proportion that can be attributed to the participants (emphasised by Parker).

The lack of attention given in the research literature to the specific issue of experimenter psi stands in contrast to that given to the social skills of the researchers. It is often assumed this occurred because J. …

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