The relationship between performance and belief in Essay

This essay has a total of 2133 words and 12 pages.

The relationship between performance and belief in paranormal phenomena

The RelationshipBetween Individual Belief and Performance in Parapsychological Phenomena


The phenomenon of ESP has been the subject of increased interest in recent years. The
series of tests carried out formed an observational study into the ESP – related
phenomena of telepathy and water divination.

For the telepathy test, the subjects worked in pairs - each individual acting alternately
as sender and receiver. When water dowsing, participants worked in threes, with two acting
as experimenters and one as the dowsing subject. Before the participants underwent the
tests, they were asked to rate their belief in ESP on a score from 1 (belief in ESP) to 10
(no belief).

Of the sixty-six subjects, thirty-one scored higher in the telepathy test than
probability; whilst for water dowsing, forty-one scored less – indicating that they
were closer to the location of water than probability predicted. Twenty-two participants
out-performed probability on both tests.

Unfortunately, as the data was found to be unduly biased, no firm conclusions could be drawn.

Parapsychology is the study of phenomena that are either unusual, or unexplainable in
terms of standard scientific principles. In general, they occur very infrequently, but
there are ‘a few exceptional “stars” that have regular paranormal
experiences and may show seemingly consistent paranormal activity’. (Daniels, M.

Extra-sensory perception (ESP) is the general term which has been given to any
manifestations of ability that cannot be attributed to standard human sensory function.
Its main forms are: telepathy – the ability to ‘read’ the thoughts of
others, or to receive information from another person without using standard senses;
clairvoyance – where individuals are able to use ESP to gain information about their
environment; and pre-cognition – the ability to predict future events. Many forms of
ESP overlap, so investigators tend to refer to just ESP.

In the last twenty or so years, there have been many studies into the existence of ESP.
the main technique used, is the Ganzfeld (German for ‘whole field’)
procedure, which was pioneered by Avant (1965). Avant, when researching Gestalt theory,
isolated his subjects and placed them in a state of ‘semi-sensory
deprivation’. It was Honorton, however who developed the technique for use in
parapsychology, whilst trying to measure telepathy. The participant who would be acting as
the receiver was placed in a reclining chair with halved, translucent ping-pong balls
taped over their eyes and headphones, playing a continuous loop of ‘white
noise’, are placed over the ears. A red floodlight directed toward their eyes
ensures a uniform visual field (Honorton, 1977). The sender is placed in similar
conditions, away from the receiver, and is presented with a visual stimulus of what must
be sent. To aid concentration, each pair of subjects undergoes a series of relaxation
exercises before the test.

The main, and indeed, obvious, advantage of this technique, is that it removes the
possible effects of external stimuli, which would undoubtedly be to the detriment of the

This study will aim to look at two of the afore-mentioned main forms of ESP: telepathy;
and clairvoyance, in the form of water dowsing.

Water dowsing/detection is a skill that has both scientific and commercial value: some
businesses employ ‘dowsers’ to help locate unmarked pipes or ducts. It has
also been hailed as a universal skill; indeed, the American Society of Dowsers has claimed
that “Everyone is born with the ability”. The major hypothesis this study will
consider is whether or not all individuals are capable of ‘divining’ the
location of water when given basic water dowsing ‘equipment’. A secondary
hypothesis is that water dowsing abilities are present in at least some people. That is,
although it is unlikely that everyone will perform significantly better than probability
(p*0.05); some individuals may do particularly well compared to the sample at large.

A similar set of hypotheses can be stated with regards to telepathy. Is everyone capable
of reading other peoples thoughts? Or is it an ability confined to a few members of a
sample? Indeed, to what degree can people perceive the thoughts of others: are those who
are deemed to be telepathic capable of receiving unconsciously projected information, or
does the process only work with the full co-operation of the sender? Also, will there be
any overlap with those scoring above probability in each test? In other words, are some
individuals exhibiting more than one form of ESP?

Finally, to what extent will people’s belief in parapsychology in general, and ESP
in particular, influence their scores; will those scoring higher than chance in the tests
be confined to the individuals who claimed to be believers in ESP? one theory is that
those who disbelieve will, either consciously or sub-consciously, try to sabotage the
results to reinforce their beliefs.


The series of tests carried out formed an observational study. The participants were
divided into three groups and each practical was carried out separate from the others. The
individuals in each section were divided into pairs, for the telepathy tests, and then
threes for participation in the dowsing test. In order to minimise the effect of anomalous
results a series of repeat readings were taken: telepathy was repeated thirty-five times;
dowsing seven.

The number lists used in the telepathy test contained a sequence of randomly generated numbers.

The participants in the study were the bulk of first –year psychology
undergraduates. This can be taken to mean that the majority were of above-average
intelligence, and around eighteen or nineteen years of age. Additionally, most were

Telepathy: number lists featuring a sequence of thirty-six randomly generated numbers between 1and 6.
Water dowsing: pairs of ‘dowsing rods’: two pieces of relatively strong wire
bent to 90, with ball-point pen shells as handles;

specially constructed boxes, consisting of ten adjacent spatial positions where a cup of water can be hidden.

Due to the large sample used, the participants in the study were split into three groups.
Each group undertook both series of tests.

For the telepathy test, the subjects worked in pairs - each individual acting alternately
as sender and receiver. Senders worked with the number lists mentioned earlier and tried
to telepathically project the sequence to the receiver. The pairs concentrated on each
number for six seconds intervals and noted the number of hits, or correct identifications
of the number. Five different sets of lists were used. This helped to cut down the
possibility of the sender in the first trial simply remembering the sequence when they
acted as receivers.
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