Academic journal article The Journal of Parapsychology

A Study of Nonintentional Psi in a Reciprocal Helping Task: Testing Pmir

Academic journal article The Journal of Parapsychology

A Study of Nonintentional Psi in a Reciprocal Helping Task: Testing Pmir

Article excerpt

JOHN RAVENSCROFT [1]

ABSTRACT: We tested a theoretical model and attempted a conceptual replication of a previous study suggesting that people may nonintentionally use psi to help others avoid unpleasant outcomes and instead experience pleasant outcomes. The model predicted: overall helping, measured by performance on a nonintentional psi task; more helping between friends than between strangers; less helping when it was costly to do so; a negative correlation between neuroticism and helping; and a positive correlation between openness and helping. Forty friend pairs and forty stranger pairs participated. Each participant did a nonintentional psi task, performance on which could help the other. There was a nonsignificant tendency towards helping on the nonintentional psi task t(79) 1.117. The effect of the relationship between participant pairs was nonsignificantly contrary to the predicted direction, F(1, 76) = 0.355, and there was no significant effect for cost of helping, F(1, 76) = 0.003. There was a weak correlation in the p redicted direction between neuroticism and helping, r,(79) = -.183, and no correlation was found between openness and helping, r,(79) = -.006. Exploratory analysis compared nonintentional psi and perceived luckiness.

The phrase "you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours" crudely conveys the concept that individuals within species may behave altruistically to one another if there is some kind of adaptive value or payoff for doing so. The influence of evolutionary pressures, and our adaptive response to them, on the development and expression of human characteristics provides a powerful perspective with which to expand our understanding of human psychology. Evolutionary psychology provides a fruitful new approach to many domains, including human social behavior and even human thought and knowledge (e.g., Crawford & Krebs, 1998; Plotkin, 1994).

Within parapsychology too, researchers (e.g., Broughton, 1988) have considered the role of evolutionary factors in the likely characteristics of "psi"--a postulated form of anomalous perception or anomalous communication in which an organism appears to exchange information or influence with its environment without the use of the currently understood senses or inference. This study aimed to test predictions arising from the Psi-Mediated Instrumental Response (PMIR) Model (Stanford 1974a, 1974b, 1977, 1990). The model assumes that the organism uses psi in everyday life to respond to its environment adaptively, in a way that fulfills its needs. For example, commuting home from work, one might follow an impulse to deviate from the normal route, and by so doing avoid the scene of an accident that had blocked the road. According to the PMIR model, psi is considered to operate often in daily life, and largely nonintentionally.

It would be of great value to parapsychologists to identify a theoretical model of psi that might productively guide and focus research efforts, and there have been several attempts explicitly to test the PMIR model's assumptions, as reviewed by Stanford (1990). Stanford's review found that, although supportive of PMIR, many of the studies were flawed. Some of these flaws concern failures to rule out sensory information leakage, such as inadequate procedures for random target selection (the "target" is the concealed information that the organism is hypothesized to perceive anomalously). Other flaws relate to other areas of design, such as the failure to ascertain the efficacy of experimental manipulations of theoretical constructs such as need-strength. In addition, numerous assumptions and predictions from the model have rarely, or never, been tested.

One of these little-tested aspects of the PMIR model concerns the social dimension of nonintentional psi. Based on real-life accounts of "good luck," in which people have helped a friend or relative by following an impulse, Stanford has suggested that interpersonal factors may be important in moderating the operation of nonintentional anomalous psi. …

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