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The Psychology of the Psychic The Psychology of the Sceptic.

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1 The Psychology of the Psychic The Psychology of the Sceptic

2 The Psychology of the Psychic Disbelief the default position The Psychology of the Psychic David Marks The Psychology of the Occult DH Rawcliffe, 1952 The Psychology of Anomalous Experience Graham Reed, 1988 Why People Believe Weird Things Michael Shermer, 1997

3 The Psychology of the Psychic Sceptic view of psi-researchers mystagogues in search of a soul (James Alcock) shamans, medicine men (David Marks) psi-nuts wide eyed nincompoops not rowing with both oars in the water decaying minds, thinking defects, disturbed relations to reality (James Randi)

4 The Psychology of the Psychic James Randi on Gary Schwartz a typical ivory tower resident footling experiments believes in Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy doesn’t apply for the Million Dollar Challenge because he so wealthy he doesn’t need the money (or doesn’t care about giving it to hungry children or AIDS research) (

5 The Psychology of the Psychic D.H. Rawcliffe, psychologist insidious effects of superstition dim underworld of psychological automatism, suggestion, hypnosis, hallucination, neurosis, hysteria, functional malady, sensory-hyperacuity, delusion, fraud, prestidigitation, and limitless credulity (The Psychology of the Occult, 1952, 326))

6 The Psychology of the Psychic Charles Richet, psychical researcher At the moment when these facts take place they seem to us certain, and we are willing to proclaim them openly; but when we return to ourselves, when we feel the irresistible influence of our environment, when our friends all laugh at our credulity – then we are almost disarmed, and we begin to doubt. May it not all have been an illusion? May I not have been grossly deceived? … And then, as the moment of the experiment becomes more remote, that experiment which once seemed so conclusive gets to seem more and more uncertain, and we end by letting ourselves be persuaded that we have been the victims of a trick. (Quoted in Brian Inglis, Natural and Supernatural, 1977, 394)

7 The Psychology of the Psychic Everard Feilding, SPR investigator We preferred to believe that we had been deceived in some way unknown, that we had been hallucinated, or had wrongly observed. We doubted our senses rather than our experience; were guided, in fact, by our emotions rather than our observation. Hence, at this séance we hailed with a kind of relief the fact that Eusapia had been caught substituting one hand for the other, and we regarded all the incidents that followed through the atmosphere of suspicion which this discovery had fortified. The result was that not only did we colour up certain possibly quite innocent actions into almost clear evidence of fraud, but certain other interesting and indeed inexplicable phenomena... passed out of our memory completely. (Proceedings SPR, 23, 1909, p. 396)

8 The Psychology of the Psychic Sir David Brewster, physicist Wrote in a private letter shortly after the sitting that he saw a handbell ring when nothing could have touched it. It then ‘came over to me and placed itself in my hand’. Four months later was telling friends: the handbell had not rung, and the tricks were caused by machinery attached to the medium’s feet. Discrepancy noticed when his papers were published after his death.

9 The Psychology of the Psychic Brian Silcock, Sunday Times reporter ‘It is utterly impossible to remain sceptical after seeing Uri Geller in action...’ (after seeing key bend) ‘I am convinced that Geller is a telepath too…’ (after Geller drew images that Silcock was thinking of) Some years later said: I became convinced in my own mind that it was just a conjuring trick. I’ve no idea how the trick was done, but I think there was a process of my natural scepticism reasserting itself. I tend to be of a rather sceptical, downbeat frame of mind, and I somehow got shoved out of it. I don't really understand how that happened, either.

10 The Psychology of the Psychic A.J. Ayer, philosopher In 1988 was clinically dead for several minutes. Later described being pulled towards a bright red light, and trying to cross the ‘River Styx’. Insisted he still absolutely disbelieved in life after death. A junior house doctor later claimed Ayer confided he had met a ‘divine being’ and would now have to ‘revise all his books and opinions’. (

11 The Psychology of the Psychic Miami poltergeist, 1967 A newspaper reported a claim by a police sergeant that a 19-year-old employee had confessed to causing the disturbances ‘I later learned … that the officer never examined the warehouse. However, Al Laubheim [the owner] arranged a meeting with him and Julio in his office the morning after the newspaper article appeared. Julio told the detective that he was lying and that he, Julio, had not confessed to having caused the disurbances fraudulently. Laubheim said that the sergeant did not deny the accusation and only became red in the face.’ (William Roll, The Poltergeist, p. 173)

12 The Psychology of the Psychic Norfolk rectory ‘liquids’ poltergeist, 1919 Mystery ‘resolved’ in a press account some ten days after the start of the disturbance Oswald Williams, an illusionist, laid a trap for the 15-year old maid. The couple had laid out glasses of water, concealed themselves and waited: sure enough, the girl came into the room, threw the water up onto the ceiling, and cried out that another shower had occurred. When confronted with her trickery she ‘broke down and made a clean breast of it’. Girl said the couple had persuaded her to go the house with them and then tried to bully her into confessing. I was told that I would be given one minute to say I had done it, or go to prison. I said that I didn’t do it. (A.R.G. Owen, Can We Explain the Poltergeist? p. 73-5)

13 The Psychology of the Psychic North Dakota poltergeist, 1944 Children reported burning coals leaping out of a bucket, starting fires. Dictionary moved by itself. Parents worried about devils and witchcraft. Authorities desperate. Mystery resolved! Four pupils confessed to 'planning this ‘exercise in terror’. Used long rulers to stir up the coal scuttle, used matches to start the fires, pushed the dictionary as if it moved on its own. (Milbourne Christopher, Seers, Psychics and ESP, p. 148)

14 The Psychology of the Psychic Scientific and academic critics Effects of psi claims on some scientific minds noted by Walter Prince in The Enchanted Boundary, 1930 Fear of psi noted by Charles Tart in a 1984 article. The vehement denial of the existence of psi, as in the case of some pseudocritics whose behaviour suggests they are protecting their “faith” against heresy, strongly suggests that fear of psi is quite strong in them at an unconscious level. Insofar as psi is an aspect of reality, its denial is inherently psychopathological. (Charles Tart, ‘Acknowledging and Dealing with The Fear of Psi’, JASPR, 78, April 1984, 137)

15 The Psychology of the Psychic James Alcock, psychologist Fears ‘chaos’ ‘There would, of course, be no privacy, since by extrasensory perception one could see even into people’s minds. Dictators would no longer have to trust the words of their followers; they could “know” their feelings. ‘How would people react if they could catch glimpses of the future? How could the stock market function if traders could use precognition? If most people could foresee the future, how would life be with millions of people all attempting to change present circumstances so as to optimize their personal futures? What would happen when two adversaries each tried to harm the other via PK? The gunfights of the Old American West would probably pale by comparison.’ (Parapsychology: Science or Magic? 1981, p. 191 )

16 The Psychology of the Psychic Warren Weaver, mathmetician I find this whole field intellectually a very painful one. I cannot reject the evidence and I cannot accept the conclusions. (Dartford Conference, 1960)

17 The Psychology of the Psychic Alan Turing, computer scientist These disturbing phenomena seem to deny all our usual scientific ideas. How we should like to discredit them! Unfortunately the statistical evidence, at least for telepathy, is overwhelming. It is very difficult to rearrange one’s ideas so as to fit these new facts in (‘Computing Machinery and Intelligence’, 1950)

18 The Psychology of the Psychic Anonymous peer reviewer Could find no fault with the an article describing successful experiments in remote viewing. But recommended it not be published. ‘It’s the kind of thing I would not believe in even if it existed.’ (Hal Puthoff and Russell Targ, ‘A Perceptual Channel for Information Transfer…’ Journal of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, 1976, 329-54)

19 The Psychology of the Psychic Hermann von Helmholtz, physicist and philosopher ‘Neither the testimony of all the fellows of the Royal Society, nor even the evidence of my own senses, would lead me to believe in the transmission of thought from one person to another independently of the recognised channels of sense. It is clearly impossible.’ (Quoted in William Barrett, ‘Address by the President’. Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, 18, 329)

20 The Psychology of the Psychic Scot Morris, psychologist There was a newspaper story about poltergeist — very exciting and mysterious. I believed, and I tried to convince others, until two weeks later when I read in a follow-up story that the boy confessed to fooling his parents and the investigators ‘for a little excitement.’ ‘The experience was embarrassing, but it taught me a valuable lesson - that I could be fooled. I was determined not to be fooled again. I am convinced that the best way to develop a healthy skepticism toward the many incredible tales one hears in life is not to go about disbelieving everything blindly, but first to believe, with all one's heart, and then suddenly and dramatically be disabused of the idea. The lesson, like a pie in the face, is never forgotten.’ Kendrick Frazier, ed., Paranormal Borderlands of Science

21 The Psychology of the Psychic David Leiter, member of the Society for Scientific Exploration Was involved with the “Philadelphia Association for Critical Thinking” (PhACT). Found them to be phobic about being exposed to material that contradicts their beliefs. ‘Such scientifically inclined, but psychologically scarred people tend to join Skeptics’ organizations much as one might join any other support group, say, Alcoholics Anonymous. There they find comfort, consolation, and support amongst their own kind. Anyone who has spent much time engaging members of Skeptics’ organizations knows about their strong inclination toward ridicule and ad hominem criticism of those with differing viewpoints.’ Journal of Scientific Exploration, Vol. 16, No. 1, pp. 125–128, 2002 0892-3310/02

22 The Psychology of the Psychic Greater focus on sceptic psychology ? Go beyond complaints about ‘intellectual dishonesty’ Educate about cognitive dissonance and its effects Parapsychology fated always to deal with subjectivity and should embrace it and lead the way

23 The Psychology of the Psychic The Psychology of the Sceptic

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