Monday, April 21, 2014

Perceptual Bias in Parapsychology

Some parapsychologists suffer from the mistaken belief that ESP from a living person can explain the evidence for the afterlife. However, afterlife phenomena cannot be explained by ESP. One may wonder why some parapsychologists hold that mistaken belief, despite the strong evidence that ESP is produced by non-physical consciousness and that veridical perceptions during near-death experiences are best explained by out-of-the-body consciousness. The answer may be found in The Conscious Universe, a book by parapsychologist Dean Radin, which has a chapter Seeing Psi which discusses why some mainstream materialist scientists do not believe the evidence for psi (ESP). The chapter explains how a scientist's commitment to the mainstream scientific world view can cause a him to ignore the evidence for psi because it is not consistent with that worldview. This is a scientific way of saying that to a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail. But this same phenomenon might apply to parapsychologists who have spent a lifetime studying psi. They might be so committed to psi that they are unable to accept the evidence for the afterlife because they can only see it as psi. The title of the chapter Seeing Psi is about why some scientists can't see evidence for psi. But it might just as well be about why some parapsychologists are always seeing psi and are blind to the evidence for the afterlife.

In this excerpt from The Conscious Universe, Dean Radin discusses this phenomenon:

All this leads us to predict that a person's level of commitment to the current scientific worldview will determine his or her beliefs about psi. Because perception is linked so closely to one's adopted view of reality, people who do not wish to "see" psi will in fact not see it. Nor will they view any evidence for psi, scientific or otherwise, as valid. This effect should be strongest in people who are committed to a particular view, motivated to maintain it, and clever enough to create good rationalizations for ignoring conflicting evidence.


[T]he expectations of the scientific elite actually put them more at risk for being swayed by perceptual biases than the general public. After all, the scientific elite have lifelong careers and their credibility is on the line. They are strongly motivated to maintain certain belief systems. By contrast, most members of the general public do not know or care about the expectations of science. So if Joe Sixpack and Dr. Scientist both witness a remarkable feat of clairvoyance, we can predict that later, when we ask Joe what he saw, he will describe the incident in matter-of-fact terms. In contrast when we ask Dr. Scientist what he saw he may become angry or confused, or deny having seen anything unusual at all.

I have written elsewhere about the harm that denial of the afterlife can cause to individuals and society. Part of the problem is that individuals who are grieving or having difficulties with their own psychic experiences may turn to the parapsychological literature for information about the afterlife. It would be tragic if someone who turned to parapsychology for help was misinformed about the afterlife or the genuineness of mediumship. Health care providers also need accurate information on this subject. The way near-death experiencers are treated by medical staff can affect how they cope with their experiences, and sometimes people experiencing spirit contact seek help from psychiatrists because they may wonder if they are hallucinating.

Copyright © 2014 by ncu9nc All rights reserved. Texts quoted from other sources are Copyright © by their owners.