Psychology: Unit 4 - Anomalistic



  • Some people may look to pseudoscience instead of getting medical help.
  • Anomalistic psychology is a science since it shows the qualities of science and doesn't try to prove the paranormal; instead it tries to explain bizarre phenomena through exisiting known physical and psychological factors. However, parapsychology could be considered a pseudoscience because the people researching do believe in the paranormal and are working towards proving their theory. They try to use scientific jargon, but not scientific methods.
  • Occam's razor is the principle of simplicity - if there are two competing explanations then, all other things being equal, the simplier one to be preferred. Many pseudoscience explanations are very complicated, so Occams razor would suggest a simplier and often non-paranormal explanation is the better one.
  • Scientific findings are subjected to peer review before publication. Results of pseudoscience are published without peer review often in newspapers. Science requires experiments which should be replicable but the results of pseudoscience cannot be replicated. In science, hypotheses are formulated then data is gathered to test the hypothesis. In pseudoscience data is collected first then explanations are formulated to fit observations. Theories are usually unfalisifiable; evidence is not sound and frequently based on evidence; counter evidence presented by sceptics is usually dismissed; use of scientific jargon e.g. aura.
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Ganzfeld Procedure

  • ESP is extrasensory perception which involves reception of information not gained through the recognised physical senses but sensed with the mind. Telepathy is an example of this.
  • In a typical ganzfeld experiment, a receiver is placed in a room relaxing in a comfortable chair with halved ping pong balls over their eyes, having a red light shone on them. The receiver also wears a set of headphones through which white noise is played. The receiver is in this state of mild sensory deprivation for half an hour. The point of this is because if ESP exists it is probably very weak and could be drowned out by normal sensory input, so treating the receiver in this way reduces their normal sensory input, hence making them more able to receive. During this time, a sender in another location observes a randomly chosen target and tries to mentally send this information to the receiver.
  • In the judging procedure, the receiver is taken out of the ganzfeld state and given a set of possible targets, from which they must decide which one most resembled the images received. Most commonly there are three decoys along with a copy of the target itself, giving an expected overall hit rate of 25% over many trials if chance alone is involved. If something other than chance is involved - such as telepathy or other effects in the experiment, the hit rate is higher than this.
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Ganzfeld Studies

  • Honorton: Claimed that 23 out of 42 Ganzfeld studies that he reviewed had a hit rate of higher than 25%, although other psychologists disagree with his review.
  • Milton and Wiseman: A meta-analysis of 30 studies carried out in 1999 involving 1198 individual trials found a hit rate no greater than 25%.
  • Bem and Honorton: Carried out a meta-analysis of studies and found individual differences in hit rates between receivers: receivers who were believers in the paranormal, extroverts, creative people or those who practiced in meditation and yoga had a higher hit rate. Other researchers could not find evidence to support these effects, apart from yoga did score higher.
  • It is difficult to discount whether ESP exists because Honorton's study he found that 23 out of 42 of his participants scored over 25%, which is what we would be expected if its down to chance, so it suggests that there could be some sort of link.
  • When people replicated the study, they sometimes had very different results which suggests that the study isn't reliable which is very important as it could mean te findings are inaccurate.
  • Those who meditate may have a higher hit rate because they are more like sheep (willing to follow the crowd) then they are more likely to get a higher score.
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Ganzfeld: AO2

  • Sensory Leakage: For messages to be transmitted telepathically it is vital that information cannot be transmitted by the known senses. If it can be transmitted throug the known senses this would count as sensory leakage. For instance some procedures use the same set of target cards for the sender and the receiver; the receiver may pick up cues from the cards themselves - they may have more of an appearance of being handled or could be warmer. Experimenter bias could also lead to sensory leakage by the experimenter giving cues to the receiver. This could affect the validity of the findings as it could make the findings inaccurate.
  • Sensory leakage could be avoided by placing participants in seperate rooms so the receiver can't hear or see the sender; they could be given different targets so there is no way of telling which was chosen and it could be a double blind study so the experimenter can't influence it.
  • Non randomisation of targets: It is possible that the target for transmission is not sufficiently randomised, for instance it may always be the 2nd or 3rd choice. French: Reports that people have a natural tendency to avoid picking the end choice, which would be the 4th possible target. This would change the hit rate that people would get through chance, it would be 50%. This would mean that you are much more likely to pick the right target, which would make the findings from the research inncorrect.
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Ganzfeld: AO3

  • Replication: The precise ganzfeld procedure is often not fully reported and ganzfeld procedures can vary from study to study. This will mean that replicability will be low as different researchers could do the studies differently which would mean that different results would be received, due to too many extraneous variables.
  • This could be remedied by using standardised procedures so that everyone uses the same procedures, which would mean that the findings should be more accurate.
  • Problems with statistical analyses: Sometimes when a researcher fails to find a significant result from planned statistical analysis the results are reanalysed in a different way e.g. outliers are removed or a different test is used. Then a significant result may be found. While this is acceptable practice any significant results found in this way should be confirmed by follow up studies. This could be a problem as it could mean that findings are inaccurate and make it seem as if there is a significant hit rate when there isn't.
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Psychokinesis: AO1

  • It refers to the moving or influencing of physical things by the intent of the mind alone.
  • There are two types of psychokinesis (PK):
  • Macro PK: Is the movement of objects by intention alone where the movement can clearly be seen, including spoon-bending, or moving an object on a table without touching it.
  • Micro PK: Is the influence of objects ona sub-atomic scale; it involves the manipulation of chance. E.g. being able to influence what numbers are thrown on a set of dice, or what numbers will be drawn in a lottery.
  • Macro PK has never been convincingly demonstrated in controlled conditions. Some people who claim to have PK powers have refused to be tested under controlled conditions; others have been exposed as frauds; others have failed to show any PK power under lab conditions. It is possible that those claim to have PK powers really do have then and the stark and controlled condtions of a lab upset their PK powers to the extent that they cannot perform them - so PK inhibition occurs.
  • It is most likely that PK does not exist and lab studies are controlled so fraud cannot easily be performed in them. Scientific psychologists feel that should disaprove theories until there is evidence that the theory is true.
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Psychokinesis: AO2

  • Radin and Ferrari: Conducted a meta analysis of 128 dice throwing studies, which collectively involved over 2500 participants and over 2.5 million dice rolls. They found a very small effect - 50.02% hit rate in control studies where no one tried to influence the dice and 51.2% hit rate in experimental studies with someone trying to perform PK. This difference is small but with such a large sample it is statistically significant.
  • The problem with dice throwing studies is the way someone throws a dice could influence what hit rate they get e.g. if they want a 5 and they see a 5 is on their palm, they may roll it sofly. It means that the validity of these studies decreases as the findings will not be very accurate as people could cheat to get the result they want.
  • Radin: Appeared to indicate that Micro PK existed.
  • Bosch et al: Carried out a later meta analysis and came to a different conclusion. They analysed 380 studies and found that a very small but significant effect did exist, which appeared to support PK. However, they also noted that studies with the most significant results were early studies that had the smallest samples; larger scales filed to replicate significant findings. Early studies would lack representativeness/generalisability which could mean that findings were less accurate. The samples would have been more bias.
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Psychokinesis: AO3

  • Bosch et al: Also commented on publication bias - studies with a significant finding are more likely to be published - so the studies available for meta-analysis are more likely to indicate a significant finding. Studies that don't indicate a significant finding are more likely not be published but simply filed away somewhere, which is known as the file draw effect.
  • Publication bias is usually a problem for methodological studies as they might try to use studies that have more or less significant results, to show what they want to show. It could mean that they are stereotyped as being less accurate because it is so easy for researchers to influence what they find.
  • Investigator effects may also contribute to findings that suggest that PK exists. For instance, if a researcher is pro-PK, they could communicate this to the participants therefore enchance the participants powers.
  • The participants might try harder to show they have PK to make themselves look good, because they know thats what the researcher wants. This could mean that the findings are less accurate.
  • Occam's razor would suggest that evidence is caused by methodological flaws as the study had too many assumptions and Occam's razor wants as little as possible.
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Coincidence: AO1

  • The probability of coincidences occuring are vastly underestimated by most people because of poor understanding of probability. Since people underestimate the probability of coincidences occuring, when they do occur they mat seek to explain them by invoking the paranormal.
  • A hidden cause: May be able to explain coincidence. For instance, if you're at a party with an old friend and you suddenly think of a mutual friend and the friend you are with mentions them, you would think this is a coincidence. This is a cognitive explanaion for coincidences.
  • Multiple end points: Makes a coincidence more likely. For instance someone sharing your exact birthday is a close match, but someone born on a day near you or on the same day in a different month may also count as a coincidence, but by counting multiple end points as a match, it is far more likely that we will find coincidences happening to us.
  • The law of truly large numbers: If enough opportunities exist, even very unlikely coincidences will occur. For instance, billions of dreams occur every night - by the laws of probability some of the dreams will happen in real life.
  • Probability Misjudgement Hypothesis: Believers in the paranormal may be poorer at estimating the probability of coincidence, those who are particularly bad at this may find themselves looking for non-chance factors like the paranormal to explain this.
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Coincidence: AO2

  • Blackmore and Troscianko: Asked participants to assess how likely chance outcomes were. They found no difference between believers and disbelievers and their ability to estimate probabilities accurately. However, in a second larger study, believers did perform significantly worse on probability judgements.
  • Musch and Ehrenberg: Discovered an overall correlation between paranormal beliefs and error rates on performance at probability reasoning tasks. However, when they took general cognitive ability into account (looked at grades) this correlation disappeared.
  • This research is low in reliability because over a period of time the scores changed suggesting that there is some methodological error.
  • Musch and Ehrenberg's study lacks internal validity as they may not have been studying what they wanted to study, as it may have been cognitive reading that they were studying into. This study is not neccessairly measuring what it is supposed to, so we can't draw strong conclusions from the research.
  • We don't have particularly strong evidence from the studies to suggest that poor probability judgement is the cause of anomalous belief.
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Superstitious Behaviour: AO1

  • Superstitious behaviour which is based on a false belief that one occurence caused another, so the behaviour is based on an inaccurate causal relationship.
  • Coincidence can lead to superstition. When two events occur together people may assume that one event has caused the other; this is a false belief that we have that the eventts are related when in fact they are not.
  • Behaviourists would argue that operant conditioning may lead to superstitions, since positive reinforcements causes the repeat of superstitious rituals. So, if you have a good night out whilst wearing a particular item of clothing the reinforcement of the good night out may lead you to wear that clothing again to receive future rewards of good nights out.
  • Superstitions can also be culturally transmitted through social learning theory. For instance, superstitions vary from culture to culture and people often have the same superstitions as their parents.
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Superstitious Behaviour: AO2

  • Skinner: Put very hungry pigeons in a box and then fed them. Over time they carried out odd behaviour e.g. one pigeon turned anti-clockwise that appeared to be ritualistic which was especially present before the arrival of food. He argued that their behaviour was reinforced by the arrival of food, so they persisted in this behaviour. However, later research failed to replicate this finding and it has been noted that pigeons often perform odd behaviour.
  • It may be difficult to generalise this to humans because they couldn't be locked in a box and given food as a reward as this would obviously be against their human rights, this means we don't know if humans would react in the same way.
  • Maute: Made computers in a library make loud sounds, people tried pressing various buttons to make it stop. The noise started and then stopped again, people were observed to press whichever button they had pressed when the noise first stopped. Therefore the participants demonstrated that they had acquired a superstitious behaviour.
  • There wouldn't be any demand characteristics as participants didn't know they were being studied. There could be problems in generalising this in real life context as they might not have been testing what they want to test, as this is quite a reasonable thing to do and may have had nothing to do with superstition.
  • Research suggest research is culturally influenced e.g. in the UK 7 is judged as a lucky number whereas in Thailand it is 7. This can be explained by SLT as the child may observe their parents behaviour e.g. lucky numbers and imitate this themselves.
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Magical Thinking: AO1

  • It is definied as believing that one event happens as a result of another without a plausible link of causation. E.g. carrying a charm when you go deep sea diving.
  • The Cognitive Deficit Hypothesis: Irwin suggested that people who engage in magical thinking are "illogical, irrational, uncritical and foolish". People who engage in magical thinking do so because they do have the necessary cognitive resources to think in a more rational way. The hypothesis predicts that those who engage in magical thinking would score worse on a range of cognitive tasks than a rational control group. Many paranormal sceptics favour this.
  • Psychodynamic Functions Hypothesis: States that some people see life as chaotic and unpredictable and this makes them anxious; magical thinking thats develops can reduce this anxiety by offering the illusio of control over future events. It suggests that it is a coping strategy for some people. It usually happens in times of stress or uncertainty e.g. war.
  • The Law of Contagion: This is based on the principle "once in contact, always in contact". There is a tendency to believe that there can be a permanent transfer from one object to another by brief contact. It is believed that one objects have been in contact with eac other, they may influence each other through transfer of some of their properties via an essence. The influence remains after physical contact has ceased and may be permanent. E.g. people don't want to buy a house that someone has died in, because they believe their essence is still there.
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Magical Thinking: AO2

  • Dudley: Carried out an experiment where students attempted a solvable or unsolvable anagrams. Those in the unsolvable group weren't aware of this. They had increased their level of superstition and those in the solvable group didn't. This has been replicated.
  • Keinan: Found that residents living in areas under threat of military action during the Gulf War scored higher on measures of magical thinking than those who lived in areas that were not under threat.
  • This supports the psychodynamic functions hypothesis because it shows that people in stressful situations make up superstitions. The strengths of Dudley's study is that he used more controlled condtions which means that extraneous variables are less likely to effect the study, which makes it more valid. The strengths of Keinan's study is that it would have high ecological validity as it was taken from a real life setting. However, it would also be impossible to replicate this study and it lacks validity as extraneous variables could effect it.
  • Some studies have tested the prediction that paranormal belief will correlate negatively with IQ.
  • Wildman and Wildman: Found the more believing you were, the lower your IQ.
  • Watt and Wiseman: Found no relationship between superstitions and IQ.
  • Jones et al: They found a positive reationship between supersititions and IQ.
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Magical Thinking: AO3

  • This supports the cognitive deficit hypothesis as it states that there is a relationship between cognitive ability and belief in the paranormal. There evidence is not considered to be very strong because some studies say there is a negative correlation, and others state a positive correlation and some have even stated there is no correlation at al, which means they lack relability. We would criticise these studies because they are socially sensitive because it is wrong to suggest that people who believe in superstitions will not be intelligence, and they have weak evidence.
  • The psychodynamic funtions hypothesis as the evidence is much stronger and is not so socially sensitivem as it is not so judgemental. Cognitive deficit hypothesis lacks validity and reliability.
  • Research has shown that laundered shirts previously worn by a disliked person are rated as less desirable that those previously worn by a liked or neutral person. This supports the Law of Contagion as the essence of that person still remains as the study states "once in contact, always in contact".
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Personality Factors: AO1

  • Neuroticism: It is constantly being in a negative emotional state; if you are neurotic it means you are more likely to experience anxiety, anger, guilt and depression. The psychodynamic functions hypothesis can be used to explain why neurotic people have greater belief in anomalistic experience. This is because people are more likely to have this belief because it helps to relieve them of some of their anxiety due to negative beliefs.
  • Creativity: Research has linked creaticity to increased belief in the paranormal. Creativity simply refers to how original or inventive your thinking is.
  • Extraversion & Sensation Seeking: Personality is characterised by positive emotions and tendency to seek extra stimulation to increase brain arousal levels. Extraverts have low levels of cortcial arousal and thus are driven to maintain an optimal level of arousal by seeking sensory info. Low levels of cortical arousal might allow weak stimulo e.g. ESP.
  • Fantasy Proneness: It is the tendency to be be so deeply involved in a fantasy that it feels as if it is actually happening. Paranormal believers are more fantasy prone as they have vivid imaginations.
  • Locus of Control: It refers to the extent to which individuals believe they can control events affecting them. People with external locus are more likely to believe in the paranormal than those with internal locus of control.
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Personality Factors: AO2

  • Williams et al: Students had their personality traits and their belief in the paranormal measured. There was no significant correlation between paranormal beliefs and extraversion or between paranormal beliefs and psychotocism. However, there was a moderate and significant correlation between neuroticism and paranormal beliefs (+0.32).
  • All the participants are from the same secondary school and are all around the same age, which would mean the population validity is low, as it is not generalisable. It is difficult to prove a cause and effect as this would be a correlational relationship, so there could be other variables.
  • Wiseman & Watt: 4339 participants had their neuroticism assessed by rating the phrase "I tend to worry about life" and this is then correlated with a test on paranormal beliefs. It was found that there was a correlation between neuroticism and belief in the paranormal.
  • The internal validity could be low as they only use one statement to assess neuroticism which means participants didn't have much to choose from, and could be inaccurate. However, the research does have reliability as there were similar results. It could be socially sensitive as people with neuroticism could be labelled as believing in the paranormal and could mock their coping method.
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Personality Factors: AO3

  • Gianotti et al: Asked participants to think up words which would meaningfully connect two others. He found that there was a positive correlation between originality of the words and paranormal beliefs. This could have low internal validity as it is just about vocabulary, they might actually be measuring something that they don't want to.
  • Peltzer: Found extraversion was associated with paranormal beliefs.
  • Honorton et al: Conducted a meta analysis of 60 studies relating extraversion to ESP performance and found a positive relationship.
  • Gav et al: Compared a group claiming UFO sighting. Those who reported seeing UFO's had higher levels of fantasy proneness and were likely to be believers.
  • Wiseman et al: Found deep absortion may enable people to overlook facts and believe in the paranormal. In a mock seance where everyone knew it wasn't real. One actor suggested that the table was levitating. Believers believed this, as they were more deeply absorbed, despite knowing that it was fake, also explains how believers are fooled easier.
  • Davies: Found there is a positive correlation between internal locus of control and belief. However, the results may be unreliable due to the way that the belief was measured.
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Psychic Healing: AO1

  • Psychic healing refers to any method used to alleviate health problems by purely psychic means.
  • One explanation is that psychic healing works beause its a placebo effect - people really do improve, but they improve because they think an effective treatment has been received.
  • Another explanation is that it works because of anxiety reduction. The psychic healing works as a form of social support because it is contact with a sympathetic person. As such, it promotes relaxation, reduces anxiety and stress so the body is better able to heal. This explanation ties in with Keicolt-Glaser's research showing that stress increases your probability of being ill.
  • Lyvers et al: Used a volunteer sample of 20 participants with chronic back pain and randomly assigned them to a control or experimental group. They all thought they were getting treatment. The psychic was in one room looking at a photo of the participant and the participant was in another room. Each participant assessed using a pain questionnaire before and after treatment and it was found that there was no significant difference between the two groups. It was found that belivers were more likely to believe that they had recieved healing benefits regardless of which group they were in. So, it seems as if belief plays a key role in the success of psychic healing.
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Psychic Healing: AO2

  • The healer and the participant weren't in the same room, neither was the researcher, so that got rid of a lot of bias and meant there would be no sensory leakage. It was also good that the participants didn't know which group they were in. This supports the placebo effect as some people felt better due to the fact they were believers and felt the psychic could help them.
  • Kreiger: Found higher haemoglobin levels in a group with a range of illnesses who had received psychic healing than a control group who did not receive psychic healing. The control group had a similar range of illnesses. The experimental group still had higher haemoglobin levels one year later.
  • This supports anxiety reduction as it promotes relaxation and reduces anxiety which lets the body heal quicker. There could be lots of extraneous variables that could effect these levels, meaning that it wasn't actually due to the psychic healing. We can't know for sure why these lveles actually changed, so we can't discount or prove psychic healing.
  • Keller et al: In a double blind study 60 participants with tension headaches were randomly assigned to receive either theraputic touch or a placevo form of therapy. Those received the true therapy found significant benefits compared to the placebo therapy.
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Psychic Healing: AO3

  • It is good that neither the participants or researchers knew which group was which so they couldn't influence the study, which would help stop bias. This could possibly be explained through anxiety reduction as the people having the true therapy may have felt better because they felt less anxious which reduced their headaches.
  • Psychic healing cannot be entirely discounted as there is no evidence that it isn't real, however the studies cannot prove it definetly is real either.
  • It seems that anxiety reduction is the most likely explanation as the social support would help people with their stress, and therefore with certain problems would make people feel better.
  • There is not much empirical research for psychic healing which lowers the validity of the theories, making it harder to evaluate how truthful the findings actually are because of the things influencing them.
  • There could be some ethical problems with psychic healing as it could stop people from going to get medical help for their problem, which could make someone much worse.
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  • Out of Body Experience (OBE) is an experience in which a person seems to perceive the world from a location outside the physical body. Scientists agree that the vast amount of OBE's are not made up by the reporter, the experience is real to them. What is open to debate is the causes of OBE.
  • A neurological explanation for OBE looks at problems with a specific area of the brain. The area is the right temporal-parietal junction (TPJ). The TPJ is a region of the brain where the temporal lobe and the parietal lobe come together and it is involved in our spatial perception. The region is thought to be important to the brain's analysis of sensory information that allows us to perceive our own bodies in space. If the area misfires in some way it is theorised that the effected can include OBE.
  • A cognitive explanation of OBE is provided by the breakdown of sensory input. Whilst people normally view the world as if they are behind their eyes, sometimes this sensory input breaks down and the brain attemtpts to reconstruct the visual field using memory and imagination, hence they see from a birds-eye-view and experience an OBE. When normal sensory input returns the OBE ends.
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  • Blanke et al: Electrically stimulated the brain of an epileptic whose epilepsy meant that they had lesions in the right TPJ region. This caused her to have a sense of floating and producing an artificially induced OBE. This was replicated on the patient. In people without epilepsy, it was shown that it depends on where was electrically stimulated. When the right TPJ was stimulated people where able to have an out of body experience.
  • It supports the neurological explanation as it agrees the TPJ can cause OBE. However, the OBE was caused by the researcher, so we can't really find out for sure what causes OBE, so the study lacks validity because it is harder to tell if the findings are truthful.
  • Ehrsson: He scrambled a person's visual and touch sensations. This is done by placing a pair of video displays in front of the participants eyes. This showed a video recording them from behind, making them feel as if they were sitting behind themselves. The experimenter prodded the participants with a plastic rod and another rod prodded where the illusory body would be located. Participants reported that they felt themselves being prodded by both rods.
  • It supports the congnitve explanation as it manipulates people's sensory output which makes people feel as if they were having an OBE. It is hard to say if this is valid because the participant is merely being shown how it would look if they were having an OBE, but instead of the images coming from their brain, its coming from the recording.
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  • Both studies are preferable to anecdotal evidence as it is more scientfically valid as the participants could infuence the studies more if they only had had to give what they saw of their OBE. However, these studies are more valid as they should be more truthful as it is harder to influence the findinfs as the researchers look at more than just than their anecdotal data.
  • This area is so difficult to study empirically because we can't actually see the data through our own senses such as sight and sound because when people have an OBE, they have it in their head, which we can not see. Thus, this could lead to research not being very valid as we can't tell how truthful participants are being because we can't see their OBE ourselves.
  • Irwin suggests that OBE may be linked to fantasy proneness because lots of explanations state that you have to be using your imagination to get an OBE, which you would also have to do a lot if you had a fantasy proneness personality. This could end up discounting OBE as a theory because it suggests that it may just be someone's overactive imagination causing it e.g. daydreaming.
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  • Near Death Experiences are vivid and dramatic experiences reported by a sizeable minority of people who have, or believe they have, come close to death. Often people who have NDE's have a sense of peace and their is the presence of strong light. Some report this as a religious experience. Other common themes are a life review (my life passed before my eyes, feelings of joy, sense of mystical entity or the sense of a point of no return.
  • One neurological explanation is that when people are near death, a huge amount of endorphins may be released as a reponse to stress or pain. Endorphins produce feelings similar to opioids (morphine etc) and may account for feelings of peace and euphoria in NDE's.
  • Another neurological explanation is that when near death hypoxia occurs (the brain and body are starved of oxygen). This causes unstable cerebral physiology and may account for effects such as seeing a light at the end of the tunnel. Furthermore, when hypoxia occurs the brain may flood with the neurotransmitter glutamate; if too much glutamate is released neuron death occurs so the brain responds to the flood of glutamate by blocking the receptors which glutamate binds to. This blockade causes the NDE.
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  • Ring: Carried out semi-structured interviews of 102 people who had been near death and identified a NDE: feelings of deep peace and well-being, a sense of seperation from the body, entering darkness, passing through a tunnel, seeing a light and entering a light or a beautiful garden.
  • This may link to the explanations as it supports that you may feel peaceful and have europhoria and it supports the theory of unstable cerebal physiology which can cause effects like seeing a light. You cannot do experiments on people to create NDE's as this would be unethical and very dangerous which means that the only way we can find out about NDE's is by interviewing people who have already had them.
  • Jansen: Has revealed how the effects of an NDE can be induced by ketamine. Ketamine produces a range of symptoms that tie in with NDE. Jansen reports that ketamine adminstered by intravenous injection, in an appropriate dosage, is capable of reproduing all the features of NDE. Ketamine triggers the same blockade in the brain as glutamate.
  • This links to the explanation as ketamine causes similar effects as glutamate which is blocked by the brain because it floods it when a NDE is happening and this blockade is what can cause NDE's.
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  • Augustine: Reviewed causes of NDE in different cultures and found that NDE's differed between cultures, although there was also similarities between cultures. In India, NDE often involved encounters with Hindu figures and in Japan there was a lack of light appearing in NDE, which is a phenonmena usually reported in the West.
  • This suggests that there is a psychological component because people from different cultures will have similar biology but they will not have similar socialisation and this could be why they have different NDE's because their brains play a part.
  • It is difficult to study empirically because we can't actually collect the data through our senses as NDE only happens in someone's head when they are dying, so any information we collect has to be from their memories.
  • No single neurological explanation can account for the richness of NDE experiences which could suggest that these explanations may not be the only explanations for how/why NDE's happen as it is suggested that there could also be a psychological component which could explain it better.
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Psychic Mediumship: AO1

  • Psychic mediums claim to be able to communicate with people in the afterlife. The contact a deceased person on behalf of a sitter, generally in a trance state.
  • Biological explanations focus on psychic mediumship as an altered state of consciousness, so they look at what happens to the medium when they are in a trance. These explanations argue that the brain of the medium is operating differently when they are in a trance state. Emphasis is placed on the role played by the limbic system in the trance like state. The system is a large area of the brain associated with emotions. It is argued that the trance state is characterised by a shigt toward right hemisphere dominance, along with a domincance of the parasympathetic nervous system. This only suggests that there is a trance state not that the mediums actually contact the dead.
  • Psychic mediumship does not really exist, instead it relies on the non-physic skill of cold reading. This is a form of deception on behalf of the psychic, although not all psychics are consciously deceiving their readers - they may be unknowingly deceiving and really be convinced that they have psychic powers.
  • Examples of this are barnum statements, recapping, blaming spirits and self deception.
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Psychic Mediumship: AO2

  • Newberg at al: Studie 5 expert and 5 less expert mediums. They were brain scanned whilst writing normally and whilst practising psychography. The brain scans (SPECT) revealed that for the expert mediums they had a lower level of activity in their left hippocampus (limbic system) and less activity in their frontal lobes. For the less expert mediums they had more activity in these regions. Newberg suggests this is because less expert mediums needed to work harder because they were newer to psychic mediumships.
  • This supports the biological explanation as it agrees that when people go into these trance states something does change in their brain activity. However, we would expect expert mediums to have more activity and it doesn't prove psychic mediumship exists. It is scientific because it used controlled conditions and used scientific equipement. This is good as if a theory has scientific evidence then it is more likely to be valid as it should be more truthful.
  • Schwartz et al: Tested five mediums. Two women were the sitters, they were over 40 and had recently experienced a number of deaths. The mediums were seperated by a screen but could hear the sitters answers. The two women judged the accuracy of the mediums statements as 83% and 77%. A control group of undergraduate students were shown the statements and rated them as 36% accurare, suggesting that the mediums were good.
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Psychic Mediumship: AO3

  • Sensory leakage may have occured as the mediums could hear the sitters answers which they could use as a foundation for ther next statement e.g. ask what gender the deceased person is, then use generic names. The control group is poor as they are so different to the others sitters. They are much younger, and probably haven't dealt with death, so most of their answers would be no , which would lead to the findings showing false conclusions.
  • O'Keeffe and Wiseman: Carried out a replication of Schwartz's study with improved methodology and found no evidence of psychic ability. Five mediums gave readings to five sitters. No sensory leakage was possible since the sitters and mediums were in seperate rooms. Each medium was given 1 hour per reading and asked to contact spirits for the sitter and speak whatever they found out. Later each of the readings were transcribed. Each sitter read all of the 25 readings and rated the relevance to them. The sitters' ratings were actually lowest for the statements that were written for them.
  • This shows that the study wasn't replicated as this suggests that the findings were inaccurate, which tells us the study lacks reliability. This test is more valid as there was no sensory leakage which means that no cold readings could be used, making their findings more accurate.
  • It seems rather unlikely that psyhic mediumship does exist, but it is shown that these people's brain activity does change when they contact the dead.
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