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Parapsychology and Psychology Relationships

“Parapsychology involves the study of anomalous experiences, such as OBEs, (out-of-body experiences) that may be primarily due to quite normal psychological processes, as well as the study of what we might call the “core phenomena” of parapsychology: phenomena such as ESP, PK, and DMILS, which may suggest the operation of processes that are beyond what science and psychology currently understand.” (Watt, p.215). The paranormal experiences of believers are considered a reality by them while sceptics rule this out (Henry, p.2). Psychology forms the basis of explanation of the paranormal experiences and results of research. The behaviors and mental processes are studied in psychology while the “the apparent ability to interact with one’s environment through means other than the currently understood sensory channels” is studied in parapsychology. (Henry, p.64). The history of psychology and parapsychology are the same and intertwined. Previously they were together called psychic research (Watt, p.215) Respected academicians like Frederick Myers and Henry Sidwick have studied phenomena like life after death, mesmeric phenomena and the strange incidents during séances. These phenomena are today classed under parapsychology but earlier they were under psychology (Oppenheim, 1985). Historians have shown that psychical research has influenced what is mainstream psychology; studies of Gurney and Myers concerning hypnosis were instrumental in asserting the concepts of dissociation and subconscious mind (Alvorado, 2004). Carlos Alvorado is a researcher who has made significant contributions to the study of parapsychology: he has discussed the concepts of psychical study to those on psychology and psychiatry (Watt, p 215).

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Ideas of the mind in psychology were studied by Ellenburger (1970) in the areas of the psi phenomenon and spiritism. Regine Plas (2000), a historian, has also reiterated that the research in psychic phenomena has a role in the development of psychology. He says that the interest in the subconscious mind has been connected to telepathy among the French researchers. That ideas of the mind which arose from parapsychology have influenced the therapists who treat the mind-body problem inclusive of the non physical is the belief of many researchers (Alvorado, 2003). Myers had indicated this in his book “Human Personality and Its Survival of Bodily Death” which is a hundred year old classic (1903). Transformations of individuals have occurred through psychic experience (Palmer, 1979). Recent studies are mostly focused on the relationship of out-of-body experiences with psychological processes like dissociation (Irwin, 2000) and dreams. Past life experiences under hypnosis are questionable. The term psi refers to the extrasensory perception (ESP) and psychokinesis (PK). In ESP the mind appears to get information from the environment while in PK, the mind appears to influence the environment. Psychological explanations have been provided for the various paranormal experiences (Henry, 66). There is a psychological explanation for the hypnosis. Hypnosis makes people highly amenable to suggestions. Leading questions could push them into modifying their own experiences. Fantasizing and role playing are also inherent in hypnotized individuals. Imaginary scenes can thereby be concocted. They have the drawback of accepting the memories recovered as their own. Psychokinesis is less frequently seen when compared to ESP. Individuals possess an illusion of control over random events. This is understood to be a demonstration of psychokinesis (Henry, 67).

The ambiguity of paranormal experiences makes way for the pseudo psi entity. Both psychology and parapsychology deal with open systems. Attitudes and expectations of experimenter interact with the participant’s expectations, behavior and performance in laboratory parapsychology (Henry, 74).


Alvarado, C.S. (2003). Reflections on being a parapsychologist. Journal of Parapsychology. Vol.67, No. 2, Parapsychology Press

Alvarado, C.S. (2004). On the centenary of Frederic W. H. Myers’s Human personality and its survival of bodily death. , Journal of Parapsychology. Vol. 68, 3-43

Ellenberger, H. F. (1970). The discovery of the unconscious: The history and evolution of dynamic psychiatry. New York: Basic Books.

Henry, J. (2004). Parapsychology: Research on exceptional experiences. Routledge.

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Irwin, H.J. (2000). The disembodied self: An empirical study of dissociation and the out-of-body experience. Journal of Parapsychology, 64, 261-277.

Oppenheim, J. (1985). The other world. Spiritualism and psychical research in England, 1850-1914. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Palmer, J. (1979) A community mail survey of psychic experiences, Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research,Vol. 73, 221-51.

Plas, R. (2000). Naissance d’une Science Humaine: La Psychologie: Les Psychologues et le “Merveilleux Psychique” [The birth of a human science: Psychology, psychologists, and the “psychic marvellous.”] Rennes: Presses Universitaires de Rennes.

Watt, Caroline, (2005) Parapsychology’s contribution to psychology: A view from the front line (1).Journal of Parapsychology, Vol. 69, No. 2, Parapsychology Press.

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