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Personality Variables in Spontaneous Psi Research: Contextualizing the Boundary Construct in its relationship to Spontaneous Psi Phenomena Christine Simmonds-Moore,

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Presentation on theme: "Personality Variables in Spontaneous Psi Research: Contextualizing the Boundary Construct in its relationship to Spontaneous Psi Phenomena Christine Simmonds-Moore,"— Presentation transcript:

1 Personality Variables in Spontaneous Psi Research: Contextualizing the Boundary Construct in its relationship to Spontaneous Psi Phenomena Christine Simmonds-Moore, PhD. UTRECHT II – CHARTING THE FUTURE OF PARAPSYCHOLOGY

2 Spontaneous psi experiences  Are more common among certain individuals Boundary thinness, Transliminality, Positive Schizotypy, Temporal lobe lability, Dissociation, Absorption, Extraversion, Creativity  Are also more likely in certain states of consciousness/situations Dreams, hypnagogia, meditation, being wide awake, right hemisphere, consciousness binding processes, subliminal perception  “Boundaries” are a parsimonious way of understanding these superficially disparate variables

3 Introducing the “boundary construct” and its relevance to parapsychology Boundaries reflect the functional/anatomical level of connectivity between neural, biological, and cognitive structures in the mind-brain and the extent to which conscious experiences are experienced as fused or separated. Boundary thinness may also be observed interpersonally (e.g., as empathy) and between the person and the environment  Boundaries are not a new idea in parapsychology – (e.g., Myers, James, Bergson)  Recent attention to the idea in the work of Hartmann (1991) on Boundary Thinness and Thalbourne on Transliminality (e.g., Thalbourne & Houran, 2000)

4 Psychometric (trait) measures of boundary thinness 1. Hartmann’s Boundary Questionnaire (e.g., Hartmann, 1991) 2. Thalbourne’s Transliminality (e.g., Thalbourne & Houran, 2000) 3. Positive schizotypy (e.g., unusual experiences of Mason et al’s O-LIFE) 4. Temporal lobe lability (e.g., Persinger & Makarec’s Complex Partial Epileptic like Signs)  All correlate with psi experiences   These variables load on one unified factor (Simmonds- Moore, 2008; Thalbourne and Maltby, 2008).  Psychometric boundary thinness also relates to other psi relevant variables:- including dissociation, absorption, extraversion and creativity

5 Physiological boundaries  Neural connectivity  Reduced inhibition  Vertical connectivity or increased connection between sub-cortical and cortical brain structures Reduced cortical dominance  Lateral connectivity or increased connection between the left and right hemispheres Reduced dominance of left hemisphere, more input of RH processes

6 Cognitive-perceptual boundaries I  Representational /memory-related boundaries Associational processing Synaesthesia

7 Cognitive-perceptual boundaries II  Attentional boundaries Wider “attentional spotlight” Greater availability of subliminal information Thin boundariesThick boundaries Conscious awareness Preconscious processes

8 Boundaries of conscious experience  The extent to which meaningfulness/emotion/significance is attached to a perceptual experience E.g., thoughts are fused with feelings  Distinctness of states of consciousness E.g., sleep states interject into wakefulness  “Consciousness binding”

9 Interpersonal/environmental boundaries  Emotional closeness/empathic connection with another person or the world E.g, emotional closeness and psi

10 Types of boundary may have different relationships to psi and mental health  Personality boundaries relate in different ways to psi experiences  Different types of boundary may relate differently to psi experiences  Little empirical work has focused on attempting to test Psi and pseudo psi hypotheses associated with different boundary types Different types of boundary thinness and mental health/pathology

11 Boundaries as a state  The hypnagogic state of consciousness seems to be associated with several forms of boundary thinness Associated with over as well as under-arousal and can occur during the daytime More likely among those with psychometric thin boundaries  Meditation also seems to be associated with several forms of boundary thinness

12 Implication I of boundaries as state and trait  Reformulation of notion of boundary thinness – trait boundary thinness may reflect a greater likelihood of entering thin boundary states

13 Suggestion one for future research/development:  Develop more of an understanding regarding which boundaries and psychometric measures of overall boundary thinness relate to which anomalous and psi phenomena Some boundaries relate more to pseudo psychic experiences, whilst others may relate to genuine ESP Some boundaries (and combinations of boundaries) relate to mental health, while others may relate to ill health

14 Implication II of boundaries as state and trait  If boundaries are a state, we might be able to manipulate them and potentially learn more about how to gain control over experiencing paranormal experiences Implications for mental health Implications for parapsychology

15 Suggestion two for future research/development:  Explore different ways of manipulating “boundary thinness” Previous work implies that a range of variables/circumstances may affect boundary thinness  Fasting (Persinger, 1989)  Sleep quality (Simmonds, 2005a)  Reduced nocturnal dreaming (after Giesbrecht & Merckelbach, 2004)  Meditation (Persinger, 1989; Travis & Arendander, 2006; Woodfolk, 1975)  Intense emotional states (Thalbourne, Crawley & Houran, 2003). Boundaries might be manipulated by exploration of improving sleep/systematically reducing sleep, meditation, the use of “hemi-sync” stimulation.

16 Suggestion three for future research/development:  Use profiles of personality rather than unidimensional scales Anomalous experiences are associated with both pathology and transcendence There are adaptive and less adaptive components associated with boundary thinness (as positive schizotypy) which underpins the tendency to experience anomalies Recent evidence - employing cluster analysis - implies that there are two types of positive schizotype  This reflects scoring on how people score on the other aspects of schizotypy (cognitive disorganisation, introvertive anhedonia and to a lesser extent impulsive nonconformity)

17 Four Profiles of schizotypy 1. Happy or healthy positive schizotypy  high scoring on unusual experiences in isolation  High score on a measure of mental health 2. Low schizotypy  Low scoring on all aspects of schizotypy  - Highest score on a measure of mental health 3. Negative schizotypy  High scoring on introvertive anhedonia  Low score on a measure of mental health 4. High or mixed schizotypy  High scoring on unusual experiences, cognitive disorganisation and introvertive anhedonia  Lowest score on a measure of mental health

18 Suggestion five for future research/development:  Consider boundary thinness from the perspective of evolution It has been argued that there may be adaptive elements associated with the schizophrenia gene - observed in positive schizotypy  Mainstream literature argues that these are creativity and religion/spirituality; I argue that this might also include psi

19 Evolutionary considerations:  Traits should have a genetic component, associated with better survival benefits  Increased “fitness” (traits are associated with mating success)  Traits demonstrated an original adaptation to the environment  Traits demonstrate current adaptiveness  Behaviour will favour those carrying similar genes  Behaviour will be biased toward biological survival of self and genes

20 The evolutionary context of boundary thinness and psi  There is evidence for schizophrenia as an adaptation  There is evidence for adaptiveness of schizotypy related (thin boundary) traits  Evidence for psi from an evolutionary perspective  Recent work indicated that healthy positive schizotypy was the only cluster to be associated with significant psi performance (Holt & Simmonds-Moore, 2008) Might psi be selected indirectly by evolution?

21 Summary of evolutionary approach to boundaries and psi:  Allows for greater insight into the reasons for and purpose of psi experiences  Allows for greater understanding of when psi experiences might happen in those with thin and thicker trait boundaries  Adds to existing arguments in favour of an adaptive element to the schizophrenia gene

22 Suggestion five for future research/development:  Consider boundary thinness and psi phenomena in terms of interactionism and situationism Boundaries are state and trait and as such anyone can experience phenomena associated with thinner boundaries, given the right circumstances Boundary thinness interacts with other variables (geomagnetism, gender) with regard to anomalous experiences  Different circumstances may encourage psi/pseudo psi experiences for some but not others

23 Summary of suggestions for future research/development for personality variables in spontaneous psi research 1. Delineate which boundaries (psychometric and types of boundary) relate to which anomalous and psi phenomena and mental health 2. Explore methods for manipulating boundary thinness to control anomalous experiences 3. Use personality profiles rather than scoring on unidimensional boundary scales/develop new scales to distinguish healthy from unhealthy forms of boundary thinness 4. Consider boundary thinness and psi phenomena from an evolutionary perspective 5. Consider boundary thinness in terms of interactionism and situationism

24 Thank you for your attention


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