1. Survival Hypothesis - Our spirit survives after death and can communicate.
2. Sceptical Hypothesis- There is no communication. Medium's messages are so vague and general, they can apply to any one.
Research is usually based on seances - intentional attempts to communicate with spirts.
One of the most famous studies is the Scole Experiment
Started in a small village called Scole in England hence where by thr name comes from, where a basement known as the 'cellar scole hole' of a house was used to communicate to unknown spirits.It consists of mediums getting together around a table in a basement, in an attempt to communiacte with any spirits which would come through. Whereby desist personalities take over the medium's body.
Experiments involved photography and voive recordings, in the after life spirits would come through to the mediums asking for certain things in order to prove themselves these spirits are known as the 'spirit team' - which are thought to of been scientists.
One experiment placed a camera in the middle of the table, the mediums where all sat around the table and could here the camera taking photographs above there heads. There was orginally a blank film, when it was checked extradondinary photos were found, which could not be explained. In further analyis of the photos they found partial faces, which were considered areas of communication within the spirit world projected from spirits.
A further experiment involved a plain polaroid tape in the middle of the table, the scole team invited an independent investigator to stop the evidence being criticed for fruad. The indpendent investigator placed the film on the table and removed it away. When he checked the 'plain film' they found writing of latin statements.
In italy a Direct Radio Voice - is considered to communicate with the after life having two way conversations.
Investigators believed that it was fraud, they conducted voice prints which are used to identify a person once threy had identfied the person they compared another voice print of the person and found a 97% analysis the same.
Scole experiment - support
- Took place in Norfolk between 1993 and 1998. Fontana et al witnessed 37 seances in rooms that were thoroughly searched beforehand to prevent trickery.
- A professional magician was also asked to identify attempts of fraud.
- During the seances a number of paramonal occurrences were reported- including materialisation of objects, levitation, patterns of light, voices, and the appreance of whole people or body parts
For some, this experiment provided evidence of life after death and meadiumship. No evidence of fraud was shown, and the magician confirmed that no current known tickery could account for the findings.
BUT the experiment has been widelt condemned:
- Experimenter conditions were unreliable and largely controlled by the mediums themselves. The researchers were not allowed to use infra-red imaging.
- The experimenters belived in the paranormal, and so may have shown experimenter effects.
Support Schwartz 2001
Tested 5 mediums using 2 'sitters', the sitters were both 40 and had experienced a number of deaths recently. Mediums could not see the sitters, ans the sitters could only answer yer or no. The two women judged the accuracy of the statements as 83% and 77% respectively.
When the same statements were given to a group of undergraduates, 36% were rated as accurate - suggesting that the mediums' performance was well above chance.
BUT cold reading whereby the medium uses clues to help them them produce accurate readings, could account for some of the findings.
The fact that students reported a lower degree of accuracy was not surprising, as the statements would have be geared towards older women who had recently been bereaved.
Against O'Keeffe and Wiseman 2005
Heavily criticised that lack of experimental control demonstarted by Schwartz. They arranged for 5 mediums to do 5 sitters. The end result was 25 readings. Each sitter read the 25 readings and rated them accordingly to the personal relevance of each of the statements.
The sitter's ratings were lowest for the statements that had been speifically written about them.
Wiseman demonstarted in one of his experimental seances that, even when pps knew it was fake, they still tended to be taken in by events.
- Majority of mediums have been caught cheating. contradictory evidence O'keeffe and wiseman 2005.
- Conjurors can duplicate most if not all of the effects of mediumship.
- The sheep goat effect- In general the quality of research conducted on mediumship is poor. Most people are content to believe it without scientific evidence so there is less motivation to conduct well controlled research. What research is conducted tends to show the usual pattern of postive findings from belivers and negative from skeptics.
Why do people still believe?
- Sensitivity to cues - There are many cues that can help a talented medium produce accurate information (cold reading). Even without sight of their sitter they can pick up information from the sitter's tone of voice and the sitters replies to previous answers.
- The Barnum effect - A cold reader starts with some general statements that could apply to anyone ' i see a recent loss o life' i see the letter 'J' (Barnum statements). The willingness of sitters elaborate on limited information helps the medium appear to have specail powers.
- Fraud- A medium might hire an accomplice to visit a regular sitter. During this time, the accomplice asks to use the toilet and is able to steal a treasured possession. Later the medium asks if the person has lost something treasured and tells her where it can be found. (Hines 2003).