A COMMENTARY ON THE BENEFICIAL SIDE EFFECTS RECEIVED BY SUBJECTS-PARTICIPANTS IN PSI RESEARCH

Human subjects throughout psi laboratories are recruited and asked to leap through our research hoops. Data and more data are generated, statistics are consulted, conclusions are drawn, speculations surface, and print meets paper. There is no doubt that this process is a necessary one in order to push forward knowledge of paranormal abilities, anomalies, and of reality. But let us not forget that it is often our subjects who provide us with many a key to unlock insights about psi phenomena.

And what of the subject? What are our obligations as experimenters to our subjects?

The use of human subjects as experimental participants, be they college students, children, or adult volunteers from the general community, is essential to the success and progress of parapsychology. Yet, the human· subject has often been treated as a mere object (typical of the psychology department on most university campuses), and we as researchers proceed in our endeavors with

a kind of blind neglect. It is unfortunate that some researchers in the laboratory as well as in the field, find themselves totally preoccupied with their data and not with the ramifications that their research or involvement may have on the psychological well-being of the individuals involved as subjects.

As responsible researchers we must be able to do justice to the primary purposes of our research programs, nevertheless, we must also provide a safe and meaningful experience for the individuals who participate in these experiments.

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These comments are not meant to imply that parapsychologists

as a whole demonstrate little concern for the experiences of their subjects. Quite the contrary. Rather, what I would hope to convey is that there is enough of an "indication" to suggest that some practitioners in the parapsychological community ought to evaluate or re-evaluate their procedures and program goals with regards to the involvement of human SUbjects. As

a matter of fact, the pendulum appears to have swung very favorably in the other direction. That is, there has been

a shift in emphasis across many institutions and laboratories toward the humanistic treatment of the psi research subject.

It will be the purpose of the remainder of this paper to address some of the positive "SIDE EFFECTS" that accrue to subjects who participate in psi research. Included in this discussion will be some of the reasons why subjects derive such benefits from their involvement. These positive side effects will be covered under three general topic areas: Technology: Resources; and Self-Help Techniques.

Before moving on, one more preface in the form of a question is

in order. Namely, who is the subject?

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Robert Morris in the 1975 Parapsychology Foundation Conference

on Education listed several major groupings of students who are likely to sign up for courses in parapsychology, each with different needs. Quite a direct analogy of the Morris list(which I encourage you to consult) can be drawn about those who choose to participate

as subjects in psi research._ The bottom line here, however, is that it is important to understand what motivated your subjects to become involved in a particular experiment. What was it about the study description or advert.isement that induced them to come to your lab? What harbored experiences or problems are they seeking answers for in some way? Comprehension and recognition of the needs of the subject will enhance the ability of the experimenter to deal effectively with the concerns and the potential problems that will inevitably be posed to them by their subjects_ For obvious reasons, research assistants should be cued or tra.ined as well on these matters.

TECHNOLOGY

Because of research ingenuity and powerful technological advances parapsychologists are working more and more with computers and other scientific apparatuses in their research. This technology has offered several advantages which can be evidenced in the designs, the amount, and the kind of PK data generated in recent experiments (Honorton & Barksdale, 1972: Schmeidler, 1977: and Schmidt 1970ab, 1974). This progress is also indicated by the opportunities for better controls: and in the abil~ties to process, store, retrieve and network large amounts of data.

This aspect of parapsychological research may, however, have tantamount implications for the participants in our experiments. These individuals, like some of us, may not necessarily have

come to terms with these technological advancements and especially

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with their own hands-on dealings with computers. Along with this, there is always the issue of working with the subjects

on IIjust the idean of their trying td influence by paranormal means certain events that are generated by a computer. That is, the experimenter may not only have to deal with the subject-participant on the plausibility of psychokinesis, but also on his varying degrees of "computerphobia n. This latter thought is not as light as one might perceive, for several clinical psychology practices are built entirely around the prevention and treatment of computer casualties. To quote one survey by

a California-based clinical psychology team that specializes

in computerphobia and other techno-stressors:

"As best we can

estimate, about 30% of the population feels some anxiety the first time they approach a computer (Fuller, 1983). ',',

Pilot s$ey data from the educat.ion institution for which I

am employed suggests that about 1 in 10 teachers and admi.nd s t r at.or s in an entire school district feel some anxiety about eventually interfacing with a computer. One in six persons in this group

who have had some exposure report that their experiences were definitely negative. The point being made here is that we must explore with our subjects their fears and concerns with automation and advanced technologies not only because these aversions may influence data, but because it is unfair to expose the subject

to such stress. The current work by Robert Morris and his associates at the Syracuse University may soon shed some light

on this issue of how our attitudes and experiences with computers and technology affect our subsequent psi and non-psi performance on these instruments.

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The potentials here for the benefits to the subject therefore

reside in the abilities of the psi research.staff. In their

studies they need to make the subjects' experiences with the

computer a supportive and interesting one. Within the psi

research context, be it an ESP or PK task, the subject is often

introduced to computers and t.echnology in ways they did not

imagine.

In experiments conducted by this writer along with

others at the University of California, Santa Barbara (Morris,

Nanko & Phillips, 1982) I at Citrus College (Nanko, 1981a), and

for the Southern California Society for Psych~cal Research

(Nanko, 1981b), participants not previously exposed to computers,

including those with admitted anxieties (computerphobic), were

so intrigued by their experiences of doing ESP and PK tasks on

these instruments that they often volunteered themselves for

any future experiments on the machines.

Thus, parapsychologists with their computers are undoubtedly

meeting with subjects who are prone to some degree of computer-

phobia. However, we. are probably ahead of the pack with .regards

to helping others make the transition to an accepting and positive

experience with computers. For many subjects the idea alone

that they could possibly be "in control," and influencing or

"willing" the computer in its action, was a pleasll:-7'able thought ...'

in itself!

The anecdota.l reports by the s ub j e c t.s have led this investigator

to believe that the innovative displays, feedback, and a supportive

researcher, in concert with a thought-provoking experiment typic-

ally yield a positive encounter for the subject.

RESOURCES

Another positive byproduct of some psi resea-rch is indicated by the "resources" that are made available to subjects and to others who request it. Counseling is but one aspect of the potential resources, albeit an important one. This point was brought to focus in a paper delivered by Debra Weiner at the 1979 Parapsychological Association Convention (weiner, 1980). She told of the FRNM experience with regard to fielding spontaneous

case reports, psi counseling, and other requests for assistance. Ten or more phone calls, letters, and visits were reportedly processed on a weekly basis. For that organization, counseling and guidance to these individuals were performed in an informal manner.

Most other members of the parapsychological community share similar experiences if they are known in their respective locations. These inquiries from the general public and the media as well, are especially increased when a new movie on the paranormal comes forth •. One recent example of this phenomenon occurred with the release of a movie entitled: THE ENTITY.

In this film a woman is the focus of poltergeist-style events and is also the unfortunate victim of beastly rapes by an invisible being(s) of sorts unknown. After this film had been out 2-3 months my office received several letters from women claiming to have had similar experiences and now looking for answers and help. Two of those cases were reported as ongoing. Experience has shown many of us that when there is a flurry of reports of the paranormal one needs to scan the local listings

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to see what stimulated such a proliferation of inquiries.

The issue being brought forth here is that most parapsychologists,

be they in the field or whether they operate primarily within

the laboratory, serve as quasi-therapists and as resource

persons. One reason why-individuals are likely to seek sOl!1e

therapeutic consultation with a "parapsychologist" is because

of the word "psychologist" in our popularly assumed professional

title. This compounded title often leads some persons to

assume clinical expertise along with knowledge of the psychic

realm.

Most parapsychologists among the Parapsychological Association

suggest the contactee seek professional help when necessary.

Since very few parapsychologists are therapists, referrals

must be made outside the parapsychology community. Unfor-

tunate1y, very few therapists are knowledgeable about the

dynamics of spontaneous case mat.erial as well as the findings

and implications of laboratory studies. Geography also poses

a problem in the referral process since some requests come from

out of one I s area. " The problem of referrals is exacerbated

by the difficulty of assessing the parapsychological expertise

of a therapist if she or he is not particularly known in the

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field. Also, there are no standards for assessing such expertise~

Parapsychologists could and do contribute to the remedy of this

problem by serving as consultants for therapists (and should

promote this aspect). contributions are also made through the

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courses made available at onels research institute or university. Further, continuing education workshops and mini-courses that are required of professionals to maintain their licenses CQuid be developed on psi-related topics. Briefing your local college or university counseling staff on parapsychological subjects and illustrative cases is another way of stimulating and/or locating competent and sympathetic referral resources for your subjects and other inquiring individuals.

Another strategy is to provide open conferences on these topics and invite personnel from the therapeutic community as presenters and as audience. From the reservation requests one might find potential therapists to follow-up with and explore their expertise and interest in networking with parapsychologists. This latter technique has been employed to some extent by the Southern California Society for Psychical Research at their last two conferences.

In sum, parapsychologists for the most part, provide a vast repertoire of resources to their subjects who seek further assistance from them. They help by referring to knowledgeable therapists; responsible societies and organizations; through coursework~ through the bibliotherapies they facilitate~ and through the feedback and attention they give the subject on

his or her attitudes, beliefs, concerns, and potential abilities with regards to psi.

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SELF - HELP

Besides psi counseling and the resource referrals, and the potentials for reducing computerphobia, the psi research contex.t makes available several opportunities for naive subjects to derive positive side effects from their participation. For example, there are many techniques and strategies employed

in studies to bring about psi-conducuve conditions which appear to be of value to the subject long after their experimental participation.

Under the auspices of general extrasensory perception and psychokinesis research, subjects have been provided with

such items as: concentration exercises; relaxation techniquesi quasi-meditative procedures; proactive and receptive visualization techniques; and strategies for affirmation and positive thinking i all which can be generaliz.ed and cross-fertilized across many contexts.

There is much anecdotal evidence from psi researchers who have employed the above techniques at UC Irvine, UC Davis,

UC Santa Barbara, Syra.cuse University, and elsewhere, to justify thertSe1f-Help" title of this section. Robert Morris found in his Airport Project (1975) that many of the "psychic development" and other "occu1tn pulp books easily found in airport lobbies were in agreement on the advice they gave to their readers. His survey of 74 books basically recoI1U11ended that one strive for mental and physical health, maintain a

positive -attitude, cultivate a belief ln psychic powers,

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develop concentration abilities; relaxation, visualization,

and other "mind-clearing" techniques. Also., most authors

advocated that one try to always keep a goal in mind, practice

a great deal, not be disappointed with failures, not be too

ego-involved, but still maintain confidence in one's abilities.

Many of these same techniques to facilitate psychic abilities

described in the Airport survey have also been described in the

pop psychology genre of self-help and personal growth advice

material. From this literature, (and of others) researchers

like Morris or Tart have designed developmental research programs

to work with individuals under controlled circumstances to

examine growth in psi ability upon application of these procedures.

For my understanding the results of these research efforts are

mixed. A few studies produce psi, some demonstrate improvement

effects. On the other hand, similar studies at the same labs

also produce chance results when employing these same techniques.

But whether the study demonstrates psi, potential for psi, or

yields some other provocative information about psi, the subject

still comes away with the benefits of the experience itself.

Among the benefits derived from the concentration exercises

are: enhanced study skills, learning and memory. If concentration

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exercises are practiced as prescribed in the Morris et ale (1982)

research at UCSB, the subject will invariably find a spill-over

into his study habits.

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Relaxation exercises that subjects are put through and requested

to learn and practice (on their own) also proves to be of value

to many participants. Progressive relaxation and the various

breathing/Yogic relaxation procedures in conjunction with medi-

tative imagery proves to be highly conducive to a positive and

lasting affect. Many past participants have expressed how they

have incorporated the relaxation and imagery techniques for

stTess-reduction purposes. Others have reported "that this same

process has suggested to them a way to generate sensitivity

to their environment and for creative problem solving. A few

say that the experiences of using these techniques have provided

an avenue for focusing on their own personal and career goals."·

The process of making affirmation~, that is, verbally stating

onels wishes as if they have been actually attained and experienced,

along with visualization in a goal-oriented manner of how you

want to be in the world, has proven to be effective in educational,

therapeutic and business circles. In fact, many con~ultants r:

and entrepeneurs employ a combination of the above approaches I\.

in such specialties as sports psychology, executive training

(New Age Thinking 1980), and in some applied psi situations.

Before closing this section on self-help I would like to discuss

briefly the issue of feedback, and not just feedbaqk on an attempted psi task. In studies that are currently underway by this inves-

tigator at CitTUS College and with the SCSPR, respondents have

been asked to complete demographic information, personality

questionnaires, and belief in psi measures. Moreover, respondents

are also requested to describe ostensible paranormal experiences

they have had over the years. Not only are these surveys yielding interesting data and suggesting avenues for research projects, they are also providing the partic.ipants with important feedback. I will elaborate on this latter point.

A pseudo-random sample was taken of 12 studies among the multitudinous personality and psi abilities studies that were reviewed by John Palmer in Advances in Parapsychology (1978). None of the studies in this sample were found to have offered subjects any feedback on the surveys or personality tests taken. Although not a scientific sample it is a suggestive

one. In the present research we are conducting, all respondents are offered written feedback afterwards with regard to

the purpose of the surveys. .Hore importantly, they are offered specific information on their own psychological type (The Keirsey Sorter is the test used to provide temperament and psychOlogical typology, Keirsey & Bates 1978). A large number of those who have read and processed the feedback offered to them have asked almost equally for further resources to study their personality type, and for information with regards to their psychic experiences.

Although this procedure has become somewhat of a management problem and will become even more so over time, it is still hoped that it will remain an important aspect of the studies. The experimenters gain more in-depth knowledge of their subjects and the subjects get a definite (tangible?) return on their investment.

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Shafer (1981) of Washington University also emphasizes the creation of worthwhile and positive experiences for subjects

in psi experiments. He also feels that psi researchers

should provide feedback of results and instruction in their i.rtterpretation. Suggestions to the subjects about how to integrate psi with their everday life in a way that would result in its responsible use, was another bonus aspect

that he attempts to offer his subjects. Shafer feels that

by providing the subject with further activities such as: a tour of the laboratory; conversing with them on their interests and questions on psi phenomena; by structuring the experimental situation so that it is responsive to the concerns or needs that might come up; and by thanking the subject for· their part.icipation, he provides for a more humanistic and fulfilling experience for the subject.

Charles Tart (1983)mentions that some of the subjects in: his research program report two kinds of positive side effects. One side

effect is a byproduct of participation in Tart's ESP learning studies. Many subjects have come back to report to Tart that

their experiences on obtaining feedback during ESP training led

to a richer "daily psychic life." They became more "tuned iny more attentive to their imagery, inlnitions, and potentially psychic thoughts. Second, Tart reports that many individuals who have participated in his research program have come back

to describe their experiences as !imind-stretching." These persons valued the opportunity to talk with scientists about the paranormal and about psi research. They also found it very Lmpo.r-t an t; .t,o

be able to reconcile their personal experiences, thoughts, and

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concerns about psychic matters. Tart also observes that for many subjects the fact that a "scientist" does psi research

lends credence to the subjects' own thinking about the paranormal.

At the very least, subjects who participate in experimental psi research are being reciprocated to some degree for their involvements.

SUMMARY

In summary, it must be mentioned that what comments and observations have been brought forth in this paper are but the tip of the iceberg. The areas of Technology, Resources, and Self-Help .that were expounded upon are only a select few aspects of psi research that have proven beneficial to the subject. There are many more responsible psi research programs that have produced positive side effects for the subject, however, limitations of space have precluded their mention.

As a byproduct of their participation in psi research projects, subjects have had the opportunity to explore the underlying reasons for their volunteerism. Concurrently, they also had access to resource persons and materials for future.".explorations and insights. As stated previously, subjects in many cases were able to delve into their belief systems, attitudes, and concerns about the paranormal through the referrals, bibliotherapies, and through other informal guidance maqe available to them.

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Two more general points need to be addressed· regarding the purposes of this paper. First, it is through our subjects

in parapsychology, both those who are sophisticated and those who are naive, that we further promote parapsychology and educate society. Many of those who have participated in

psi research go on to become advocates for the legitlmacy

of this field for its potential contributions toward the understanding of human nature and reality. A second major purpose for this commentary was to stimulate interest and concern among parapsychology professionals to take a good long look at their own research programs.

Parapsychologists may want to ask themselves several questions. For example; how do my staff and I perceive the subjects in

our experiments? Do we respect and explore with them their concerns? Do we create an experience of value for them?

Do we fully debrief our participants and offer sufficient feedback? How can the experimental situation in the laboratory be made more pleasant for the subject? Why is the subject really here - and what can we do to assist the subject with

his or her inquiries? Do we have referrals to offer?

Wh.at better field of study is there than this multi-disciplinary science we call parapsychology to institute a philosophy 'of working with experimental subjects in a humanistic (and reciprocal) manner?

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REFERENCES

Fuller, D.B.. Computerphobia: fudern malady spawns new industry offering a cure. Los Angeles Times :Business Section, March 20, 1983, pp. 1-3.

Honorton, C.,· and Barksdale, W. PK performance with waking suggestions for muscle tension versus relaxation. Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 66, 1972, pp .• 208-214.

Keirsey, D., and Bates, M. Please Understand Me. Prometheus Nemesis Books:

Del Mar, CA. 1978.

Morris, R.L. Lecture given at the PARAPSYCHOLOGY and NEAR-DEATH EXPERIENCE Conference. Co-sponsored by the Southern california Society for Psychical Research and John F. Kennedy University, Pasadena, CA. March 12, 1983.

Morris, R. L. The Airport Project: .A survey of the techniques for psychic development. advocated by popular books. In J.D. Morris, W.G. Roll & R.L. Morris (Eds.), Research in Parapsychology, 1976, l1etuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press, 1977.

Morris, R. L., Nanko; M.;, and 'Philips, D. 'A comparison of two popularly advocated visual imagery strategies in a psychokinesis task. Journal of Parapsychology, 46(1), 1982 pp. 1-16.

Nanko, M .. Use of goal-oriented imagery on a psychokinetic task with "selected" subjects. Journal of the Southern California Society for Psychical Research, 2, 1981a, pp. 1-5.

Nanko, M. PK on a PET computer. Unpublished study conducted at Citrus College. 1981b.

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Palmer, J. Extrasensory Perception: research findings. In S. Krippner (Ed.), Advances in parapsychology, Vol 2, 1978.

Schmeidler, G. Recent findings in psychokinesis. In S. Krippner (Ed.), Advances in Parapsychology, Vol I, Plenum Press, New York, 1977, pp. 79-132.

Schmidt,. H. A PK test with electronic equipment. Journal of Parapsychology, 34, 1970a, pp. 175-181.

Schmidt, H. A quantum-mechanical .random number generator for psi tests. Journal of Parapsychology,34, 1970b, pp.219-224.

Schmidt, H. Comparison of PK action on two different random number generators. Journal of Parapsychology, 38, 1974, pp. 47-55.

Shafer, M. Creating an experience of value for experimental Subjects. In W.G. Roll., R.L. Marri::;, s R. White (Eds.), Research in Parapsychology ,1980,

Metuchen Press, N. J .. : Scarecrow Press, 1981.

Tart, C. Personal communications in l'-1arch and April, 1983.

Weiner, D. Psi counseling: the situation at research laboratories. In W.G.

Roll (Ed.), Research in Parapsychology, 1979, Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press, 1980, pp. 45-46.

New Age Thinking. A manual developed by The Pacific Research Institute, Inc. Seattle, Washington 1980.

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