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J. E. Kennedy- Why is Psi So Elusive? A Review and Proposed Model

J. E. Kennedy- Why is Psi So Elusive? A Review and Proposed Model

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By J. E. Kennedy
 ABSTRACT: Eleven hypotheses that have been proposed to explain why psychic phenomena are so weak, unreliable, and/or rare are reviewed. The hypotheses are (1)alleged psi results are actually due to methodological artifacts and oversights, (2) few  people have psi, (3) psi depends on precarious psychological conditions, (4) psi occursfrequently without notice, (5) psi is an efficient goal-oriented process subject to shifting goals,(6)fearofpsisuppressespsi,(7)evolutionhasinhibitedpsi,(8)psiservesecologicalrather than personal purposes, (9) the purpose of psi is personal or spiritual growth, (10) psi effects are influenced by many people in the future, and (11) psi is controlled by nonphysical beings. To integrate available data, a model is presented that proposes 2distinct groups: those with many anomalous experiences and those with few or none.Genetic factors probably have a significant role in these differences. Those with actual psiexperiences are a subgroup of those with many anomalous experiences.
Psi practitioners 
area smaller subgroup who have an ability to reliably guide psi by intention or motivation.Psi-conducive experimenters are psi practitioners who influence their experimentaloutcomes in a goal-oriented manner. Further research is needed on the distribution of psi,the possible genetic aspects of psi experiences, the effects of psi experiences, and severalcharacteristics of psi that can be investigated with meta-analyses.
Oneofthemostimportantandperplexingquestionsinparapsychol-ogyiswhypsiphenomenaaresoweak,unreliable,and/orrare.Theusual working assumptions in parapsychological research appear to be that (a)many people have the ability to demonstrate psi (Pratt, 1978; J. B. Rhine,1966)and(b)psiisguidedbyhumanmotivation(J.B.Rhine,1964;Stan-ford,1993;Weiner&Geller,1984).Theseassumptionsleadtothepredic-tionthatpsieffectswouldbemuchmorewidespreadandconsistentthanthey are. The gap between these assumptions and reality is the centralchallenge of parapsychology.Parapsychology may benefit from adapting the “correspondenceprinciple” from quantum physics. The correspondence principle had animportant role in guiding the development of quantum physics. Severalconcepts from quantum physics already have been incorporated intoparapsychological thought, including “nonlocality” and the possible roleof the “observer.”Thecorrespondenceprinciplestatesthatthepredictionsfromquan-tum physics must agree with classical physics in those areas in which clas-sical physics was developed and works well. Quantum physics did not 
The Journal of Parapsychology 
, Vol. 65, September 2001 (pp. 219-246)
overturn classical physics, rather it supplemented it and made physicsmore complete. This principle prevented inconsistencies between thequantum predictions and established reality as we know it. In a sense, it defined the natural niche for quantum physics. After this initial under-standing of quantum physics was achieved, practical applications weredeveloped. A correspondence principle for parapsychology would suggest that psiphenomenawouldbeexpectedtobeweak,unreliable,and/orrare.If thiswerenottrue,physicswouldneverhavedevelopedasitdid.Eisenbud(1992) devoted the greatest effort to exploring the implications of thisbasic concept.Rather than viewing the elusive nature of psi as a temporary obstaclethatneedstobeovercome,thisapproachembracesitasavaluableguidingprinciple for learning about psi. In practical terms, the correspondenceprinciple shifts or expands the strategies for research. For example, most meta-analyses in parapsychology have not included relatively straightfor- ward analyses that might offer important insight into why 70% or more of the studies in most lines of research are not significant. Specific examplesare discussed later in the section on suggestions for further research. Whether or not the correspondence principle is useful for parapsy-chology, the question of why psi phenomena have historically been soelusive is a fundamental issue. Answers or assumptions for this questionare a necessary step for developing realistic models of psi phenomenaand for developing more reliable manifestations of psi.The present article reviews and evaluates 11 hypotheses that may ex-plain the elusive nature of psi phenomena. For each of the hypotheses,supporting and opposing positions are summarized and a conclusionpresented. The supporting and opposing positions are presented for thesake of discussion and do not necessarily represent my actual opinions.Finally, a model is proposed that integrates several of the topics.
Hypothesis 1. Alleged Psi Results Are Actually Due toMethodological Artifacts and Oversights
This is the skeptical hypothesis that psi does not exist. Most criticismsof psi research can be put into one of three categories: (a)
supportedcriti- cisms 
that identify methodological weaknesses and discuss empirical evi-dence for the occurrence and impact of the weaknesses, (b)
unsupported criticisms 
thatspeculatethatcertainmethodologicalproblemsmayhaveoc-curred even though the proponents have no evidence for the occurrence,and (c)
that argue that certain research findingsare more consistent with methodological artifacts than with the para-psychological assumptions or conclusions. The unsupported criticismsgenerally contribute little to scientific inquiry. The present discussion fo-cuses on wayward results criticisms because these are the current state of 220
The Journal of Parapsychology 
the art for psi criticism and they apply to studies without identified meth-odological flaws. It should be noted that most skeptics do not have suffi-cient knowledge of parapsychological research findings and of researchmethodology in general to proficiently implement this strategy of criti-cism. Hyman (1994, 1995) has done the most to develop this strategy.
Supporting Arguments 
Parapsychological findings do not have the statistical properties ex-pected for a real phenomenon amenable to experimental investigation.Statistical methods assume that the effects under study will be more reli-able with larger sample sizes (
score will be proportional to the squareroot of 
). However, parapsychological studies do not have this property.In an analysis of initial ganzfeld studies, the
scores were unrelated tosample size (Honorton, 1983). The subsequent ganzfeld series describedby Bem and Honorton (1994) had an equivalent unexpected result (ef-fectsizeinverselyrelatedtosamplesize)thatwasalsofoundinananalysisof early ESP tests (Nash, 1989). A meta-analysis of studies with randomnumber generators also found that the
scores were not related to sam-ple size (May, Radin, Hubbard, Humphrey, & Utts, 1986). These findingsare very consistent by parapsychological standards. The usual argument that the low reliability of psi results is due to poor statistical power (Utts,1991) is based on the assumption that larger studies have more reliableresults. The evidence indicates that this fundamental assumption doesnot apply for psi research. After decades of involvement with parapsychological research, thefounding statisticians expressed doubts that the experimental results were sufficiently consistent to meet the requirements for valid statisticalanalysis (Greenwood & Greville, 1979).Braud(1985)commentedthatexperimentsdesignedtoprovideuse-fulcomparativeinformationabouttheoperationofpsiseemlesslikelytogetsignificantresultsthansimpleexperimentsdesignedprimarilytopro- vide evidence for the existence of psi. This observation is implicitly sup-portedbythepervasiveandotherwiseinexplicablelackofcontrolgroupsin prominent psi research such as studies investigating ostensiblepsi-enhancing properties of the ganzfeld procedure.These findings and observations are more consistent with the hy-pothesisthattheresultsareduetomethodologicalartifactsthanwiththehypothesis that they indicate lawful but unexplained information trans-fer as conceptualized in parapsychological research. Although specific methodological flaws that could account for recent meta-analysis findings have not been identified, the history of psychical re-search suggests that methodological problems are a likely explanation fortheeffects.Foroveracentury,psychicalresearchhasbeenacontinuingse-quence of new test techniques heralded as definitive proof by their advo-cates and subsequently dropped from investigation when unrecognized
Why Is Psi So Elusive? 

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