Letter on Capricious PSI – 2004

Research Item

The article by J.E. Kennedy (JP, 67, 55-74) is a sign that parapsychology takes its hardest problems seriously. Being one of the pioneers of research into experimenter effects, Kennedy challenges parapsychology as a science to come to terms with the difficult – “capricious, actively evasive, unsustainable” – properties of its subject matter. However, such challenges may overstretch the abilities of the researchers: The scope of experimenter effects became clear in the 1970s, and this resulted in a crisis in process-oriented research because any experimental result could be due to the preferences of the experimenter instead of the subjects partaking in the experiment. However, as forgetfulness of uncomfortable facts is part of human nature, experimenters could not resist the temptation to try both old and new experimental paradigms, such as the ganzfeld, in the hope that the experimenter effects would somehow not play an important role. Interesting results were obtained, although the experimenter effect was never resolved by a better methodology. That is, the success of the ganzfeld was “merely” fortuitous, for reasons which still have to be thoroughly understood.

 

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