Pseudoscience and Studying Anomalistic Psychology

Characteristics of pseudoscience, studying extrasnsory perception using the Ganzfeld technique and studying psychokinesis.


Characteristics of Pseudoscience

Characteristics of Pseudoscience

Pseudoscience means false science, researchers claim to be scientific but fail to fulfill the criteria effectively.

  • Falisifiability - can it be proven wrong? Phenomena disappearing in presence of sceptics.
  • Controls - inadequate. When controls greater, effect disappears.
  • Replicability - unable to replicate
  • Theoretical explanations- none
  • Burden of proof - lies with the sceptics

Pseudoscientific ways of thinking

  • Uses theories that may be outdated
  • Rely heaviliy on myths
  • Not consistent with known facts
1 of 8

Evaluation of Pseudoscience


  • People may make money out of defrauding people with paranormal claims, we should seek substantial evidence.
  • Paranormal psychology is not the only pseudoscience, it should not be singled out, e.g. Freud.
  • Some research is respectable; 43% of parapsychology journal articles produced empirical results.
2 of 8

Extrasensory Perception and Psychokinesis

Extrasensory Perception (ESP)

Includes telepathy (between two minds), clairvoyance (ESP at a distance with no other mind involved e.g. anticipating something happening on the other side of the world) and precognition (knowing about future events).


Psychokinesis (PK) is the manipulation of objects without any physical contact. Can include macro-PK (i.e. spoon bending) or micro-PK (influencing output of probablility systems).

3 of 8

Jealous Phenomena and Occam's Razor

Jealous Phenomena

  • Paranormal psychologists claim lack of evidence for ESP is because of the presence of sceptics causing phenomena to go away (phenomena are jealous).
  • Experimenters who insist on vigorous controls demonstrate lack of belief - phenomena disappears.

Occam's Razor

  • Principle of simplicity.
  • If there are two competing explanations and all other things are equal, we will prefer the simpler of the two. We accept non-paranormal explanations because they are simpler not because they are better.
4 of 8

The Ganzfeld Technique

Outline of the Ganzfeld Technique

Technique used to study ESP in a highly controlled environment - situation of sensory deprivation.

Researchers claim that previous lack of success in studies of ESP is because it's such a weak force and is normally drowned out by other senses.

  • The receiver is in a red lit room, half table tennis balls taped to their eyes and headphones playing white noise.
  • Sender in another room and chooses an image at random to send.
  • Sender will send the image telepathically to the receiver
  • Afterwards, receiver must select correct image that had been sent telepathically. Alternatively the receiver may describe the image and an independant judge matches it up.
5 of 8

Methodological issues with Ganzfeld studies

Methodological Issues

  • Researcher bias - Woofit found evidence of researcher bias. Sceptical researchers much less encouraging when receiver was describing image. However it may not be researcher bias, may be jealous phenomena.
  • Biased analysis - Honorton meta analysis of 28 studies concluded performance significantly above chance, others found different. Depends on technique used to analyse. Meta-analyses are affected by methodology i.e. subjectivity of procedures and criteria used to select studies.
  • File-drawer effect - in a meta analysis, results can change massively if some studies are removed or favourable ones added - may depend on researchers beliefs of psi phenomena
  • Lack of control - Poor soundproofing, receiever may be able to hear sender. However, the autoganzfeld technique combats this as a computer system selects and displays target images. Experimenter won't know which image has been chosen - eliminates researcher bias.
  • Fraudulent research - largest methodological issue is simply fraud. Carl Sargent was caught using the ganzfeld technique with inadequate controls. He left the research field, showing his guilt. His research affected many meta-analyses.
6 of 8


Investigating micro-PK

  • Random event generator (REG) used.
  • It's essentially an electronic coin flipper producing an equal number of heads and tails
  • Volunteers asked to influence outcome i.e get more heads than tails.
  • REG experiments do minimise the chance of fraud or error.

Issues with Psychokinesis

  • The effect of expectation (macro-PK) - participants shown a video where fake psychic placed bent key on table and told participants the key would continue to bend. These participants reported bending of the key whereas those who were told nothing didn't.
  • Ecological validity - REG may be inappropriate when investigating PK, it concerns unobservable changes, PK may only function on an observable level.
  • Lack of control - well controlled studies tend to give no support for PK. Of 30 PK studies, 13 produced positive results and these were inaddequately controlled.
  • If PK exists, why isn't is used for the good of humans?
  • Nobody has claimed the $1 million from magician Randi's foundation.
  • Results violate well established laws of physics so need more than just weak effects observed.
7 of 8

Psychokinesis Research

Research Support

  • Jahn - 12 year study of PK. Effect people had on REG was only marginally above average, but the combined significance meant results were significant.
  • Stevens - participants asked to influence effect of split beam laser. They performed better than those not asked to influence the outcome.
  • Radin & Nelson - meta analysis of 500 studies, assessed methodological quality and outcome, found no significant relationship. Lack of control not reason for positive results.
  • File-drawer effect - predicted that a psychologist must intentionally leave out 10 studies per 500 to invalidate positive results. A survey conducted found they leave out on average one study, but will they be honest in the survey?

Contradictory Research

  • Bieman - analysed a large number of studies done over a long period of time. Found there had been a steady decline in effect size; if there is a real effect we should get better at spotting it.
  • Uri Geller - performed macro-PK in front of large crowds. He was on the Carson show and asked to repeat his PK live on props already set up and not touched by Uri's crew. Uri couldn't complete the tasks.
8 of 8


No comments have yet been made

Similar Psychology resources:

See all Psychology resources »See all Anomalistic psychology resources »