Academic journal article The Journal of Parapsychology

Remote Facilitation of Attention Focusing with Psi-Supportive versus Psi-Unsupportive Experimenter Suggestions

Academic journal article The Journal of Parapsychology

Remote Facilitation of Attention Focusing with Psi-Supportive versus Psi-Unsupportive Experimenter Suggestions

Article excerpt

A continuing problem for parapsychology is why certain experimenters seem to consistently obtain positive psi results while others have a track record of null results (e.g., Kennedy & Taddonio, 1976). This experimenter effect question has been systematically examined within the EDA-DMILS paradigm (1) by Schneider, Binder, and Walach (2000), who compared neutral and personal experimenter-participant interactions and found a greater DMILS effect size for the neutral condition. Also in the EDA-DMILS paradigm, Richard Wiseman (a psi counteradvocate) and Marilyn Schlitz (a psi advocate) conducted two joint remote staring detection experiments with the same laboratories, equipment, and participant pool, yet found that Wiseman obtained chance results while Schlitz obtained significant evidence for psi (Wiseman & Schlitz, 1997, 1999). This pattern was consistent with their previous psi research findings. This research ruled out differences in participant population and equipment as contributory factors to the experim enters' different results. However, participants were not randomly allocated to experimenters, and there remained many uncontrolled differences between the two experimenters, such as personality, appearance, and sex differences, potential procedural differences, and differences in psi belief and possibly psi ability, any of which might contribute to their differing psi results.

In an attempt to control for many of these factors, Watt and Brady (2002) conducted two studies using remote facilitation of focusing of attention as the psi task. This psi task had only been reported twice before (Brady & Morris, 1997; Braud, Shafer, McNeill, & Guerra, 1995), and both studies had obtained positive evidence for a psi effect. In Watt and Brady's study, the experimenter Caroline Watt (CW) was the remote helper throughout. Prior to the session, half of the participants read an article intended to give the impression that CW had a track record of previous positive psi results, whereas the other half read a similar article that suggested CW had a history of null psi results. Thus, the experimenter's sex, appearance, personality, and psi belief and ability were controlled in these studies. The principal manipulation was of the participants' beliefs about their experimenter. During the session CW attempted to treat the participants identically; however, CW was not blind to the suggestion condition. Participants in the positive suggestion condition consistently gave CW more positive ratings for warmth, professionalism, and ability to instil confidence in the task; however, no difference in psi scoring was found between the positive suggestion and negative suggestion groups. (2) These studies suggest that, when experimenter variables are controlled and limited to varying the participants' beliefs about the experimenter's previous psi research track record, this has little effect on participants' psi performance. However, the Watt and Brady studies showed that participants' perceptions of the experimenter could be affected by even a small difference in how the experimenter is portrayed prior to them meeting the experimenter.

Watt and Brady (2002) investigated the effect of varying participants' prior knowledge about their experimenter. To build on our findings, we decided to conduct a study that systematically varied the psi supportiveness of suggestions made by the experimenter to the participants during the session. Hall of the participants were randomly allocated to the positive suggestion condition and half to the negative suggestion condition. In the positive condition, during the presession chat, the experimenter actively and explicitly referred to his positive psi belief and attempted to encourage the participants to consider and discuss possible psi experiences that they might have had. In addition, he referred to previous successful research using the same psi task and made positive suggestions for success in the session. …

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