|Coined by||B. P. Wiesner (1942)|
|Definition||A term used to demarcate processes or effects associated with cognitive or physiological activity that fall outside of conventional scientific boundaries (ESP, for example).|
|Pronunciation:||Pronounced with a silent p, sounding like "sigh".|
In parapsychology, psi is the purported process of information transfer or energy transfer in extrasensory perception or psychokinesis that is unexplained in terms of known physical or biological mechanisms. The term is derived from the Greek, ψ psi, 23rd letter of the Greek alphabet; from the Greek ψυχή psyche, "mind, soul".
The Parapsychological Association divides psi into two main categories: psi-gamma for extrasensory perception and psi-kappa for psychokinesis. There is no scientific evidence for psi. In popular culture, "psi" has become more and more synonymous with special psychic, mental, and "psionic" abilities and powers.
The term was coined by biologist Berthold P. Wiesner, and first used by psychologist Robert Thouless in a 1942 article published in the British Journal of Psychology. Psi was argued by Thouless and Wiesner to offer a non-theoretical manner of referring to extrasensory perception and psychokinesis.
According to Ray Hyman psi is negatively defined as any effect that cannot be currently explained in terms of chance or normal causes and this is a fallacy as it encourages parapsychologists into using any peculiarity in the data as a characteristic of psi. On the definition of psi, James Alcock wrote:
Parapsychology is the only realm of objective inquiry in which the phenomena are all negatively defined, defined in terms of ruling out normal explanations. Of course, ruling out all normal explanations is not an easy task. We may not be aware of all possible normal explanations, or we may be deceived by our subjects, or we may deceive ourselves. If all normal explanations actually could be ruled out, just what is it that is at play? What is psi? Unfortunately, it is just a label. It has no substantive definition that goes beyond saying that all normal explanations have apparently been eliminated. Of course, parapsychologists generally presume that it has something to do with some ability of the mind to transcend the laws of nature as we know them, but all that is so vague as to be unhelpful in any scientific exploration.
Parapsychologists have admitted it is impossible to eliminate the possibility of non-paranormal causes in their experiments. There is no independent method to indicate the presence or absence of psi. There is no known mechanism for psi. Psi would contradict laws of science such as the conservation of energy.
The physicist John Taylor in a series of experiments was concerned to establish whether there is an electromagnetic basis for psi but his experiments were negative and after failing to find it, wrote there could not be any other explanation in physics. The parapsychologist John Palmer has written of "the source of psi problem" which states that even if there is evidence for psi in an experiment there is no way of knowing where it originates from. As there is no repeatable evidence for psi, the scientific community consider it a pseudoscience. There is also an issue of non-falsifiability associated with psi, on this subject Terence Hines wrote:
The most common rationale offered by parapsychologists to explain the lack of a repeatable demonstration of ESP or other psi phenomena is to say that ESP in particular and psi phenomena in general are elusive or jealous phenomena. This means the phenomena go away when a skeptic is present or when skeptical “vibrations” are present. This argument seems nicely to explain away some of the major problems facing parapsychology until it is realized that it is nothing more than a classic nonfalsifiable hypothesis... The use of the nonfalsifiable hypothesis is permitted in parapsychology to a degree unheard of in any scientific discipline. To the extent that investigators accept this type of hypothesis, they will be immune to having their belief in psi disproved. No matter how many experiments fail to provide evidence for psi and no matter how good those experiments are, the nonfalsifiable hypothesis will always protect the belief.
The first president of the Parapsychological Association R. A. McConnell wrote "psi phenomena are "non-physical" and thus show the existence of a non-physical realm in which the existence of a "God" becomes a possibility." The parapsychologist Charles Tart has written that psi is non-physical in basis and does not operate to known physical laws. Ray Hyman has pointed out that some parapsychologists such as Dick Bierman, Walter Lucadou, J.E. Kennedy, and Robert Jahn have admitted the evidence for psi is "inconsistent, irreproducible, and fails to meet acceptable scientific standards." Some parapsychologists have also claimed psi is not amenable to investigation by the scientific method.
Traditionally the term has had two sub-categories:
- Psi-Gamma - Pertaining to paranormal cognition (ESP, remote viewing, etc.)
- Psi-Kappa - Pertaining to paranormal action (psychokinesis, etc.)
In 2003, James Alcock published Give the Null Hypothesis a Chance: Reasons to Remain Doubtful about the Existence of Psi, where he claimed that parapsychologists never seem to take seriously the possibility that psi does not exist. Because of that, they interpret null results as indicating only that they were unable to observe psi in a particular experiment, rather than taking it as support for the possibility that there is no psi. The failure to take the null hypothesis as a serious alternative to their psi hypotheses leads them to rely upon a number of arbitrary "effects" to excuse failures to find predicted effects, excuse the lack of consistency in outcomes, and to excuse failures to replicate.
Basic endemic problems in parapsychological research include amongst others: insufficient definition of the subject matter, total reliance on negative definitions of their phenomena (E.g.- psi is said to occur only when all known normal influences are ruled out); failure to produce a single phenomenon that can be independently replicated by neutral researchers; the invention of "effects" such as the psi-experimenter effect to explain away inconsistencies in the data and failures to achieve predicted outcomes; unfalsifiability of claims; unpredictability of effects; lack of progress in over a century of formal research; methodological weaknesses; reliance on statistical procedures to determine when psi has supposedly occurred, even though statistical analysis does not in itself justify a claim that psi has occurred; and failure to jibe with other areas of science. Overall, he argues that there is nothing in parapsychological research that would ever lead parapsychologists to conclude that psi does not exist, and so, even if it does not, the search is likely to continue for a long time to come. "I continue to believe that parapsychology is, at bottom, motivated by belief in search of data, rather than data in search of explanation."
In January 2008 the results of a study using neuroimaging were published. To provide what are purported to be the most favorable experimental conditions, the study included appropriate emotional stimuli and had participants who are biologically or emotionally related, such as twins. The experiment was designed to produce positive results if telepathy, clairvoyance or precognition occurred, but despite this no distinguishable neuronal responses were found between psychic stimuli and non-psychic stimuli, while variations in the same stimuli showed anticipated effects on patterns of brain activation. The researchers concluded that "These findings are the strongest evidence yet obtained against the existence of paranormal mental phenomena."
- Charles M. Wynn, Arthur W. Wiggins. (2001). Quantum Leaps in the Wrong Direction: Where Real Science Ends...and Pseudoscience Begins. Joseph Henry Press. p. 152. ISBN 978-0309073097
- What do parapsychologists study?. Parapsychological Association (2007-02-03)
- Psi - Glossary of Key Words Frequently Used in Parapsychology. Parapsychological Association (2007-01-29)
- Simon Hoggart, Mike Hutchinson. (1995). Bizarre Beliefs. Richard Cohen Books. p. 145. ISBN 978-1573921565 "The trouble is that the history of research into psi is littered with failed experiments, ambiguous experiments, and experiments which are claimed as great successes but are quickly rejected by conventional scientists. There has also been some spectacular cheating."
- Robert Cogan. (1998). Critical Thinking: Step by Step. University Press of America. p. 227. ISBN 978-0761810674 "When an experiment can't be repeated and get the same result, this tends to show that the result was due to some error in experimental procedure, rather than some real causal process. ESP experiments simply have not turned up any repeatable paranormal phenomena."
- Charles M. Wynn, Arthur W. Wiggins. (2001). Quantum Leaps in the Wrong Direction: Where Real Science Ends...and Pseudoscience Begins. Joseph Henry Press. p. 165. ISBN 978-0309073097 "Extrasensory perception and psychokinesis fail to fulfill the requirements of the scientific method. They therefore must remain pseudoscientific concepts until methodological flaws in their study are eliminated, and repeatable data supporting their existence are obtained."
- Terence Hines. (2003). Pseudoscience and the Paranormal. Prometheus Books. p. 144. ISBN 978-1573929790 "It is important to realize that, in one hundred years of parapsychological investigations, there has never been a single adequate demonstration of the reality of any psi phenomenon."
- Thouless, R. H. (1942). "Experiments on paranormal guessing". British Journal of Psychology, 33, 15-27.
- Robert Todd Carroll. (2010). "Psi". The Skeptic's Dictionary.
- Ray Hyman. Evaluating Parapsychological Claims in Robert J. Sternberg, Henry L. Roediger, Diane F. Halpern. (2007). Critical Thinking in Psychology. Cambridge University Press. pp. 216-231. ISBN 978-0521608343
- James Alcock. (2003). Give the Null Hypothesis a Chance: Reasons to Remain Doubtful about the Existence of Psi. Journal of Consciousness Studies 10: 29–50.
- Charles M. Wynn, Arthur W. Wiggins. (2001). Quantum Leaps in the Wrong Direction: Where Real Science Ends...and Pseudoscience Begins. Joseph Henry Press. p. 165. ISBN 978-0309073097 "One of the reasons scientists have difficulty believing that psi effects are real is that there is no known mechanism by which they could occur. PK action-at-a-distance would presumably employ an action-at-a-distance force that is as yet unknown to science... Similarly, there is no known sense (stimulation and receptor) by which thoughts could travel from one person to another by which the mind could project itself elsewhere in the present, future, or past."
- Mario Bunge. (1983). Treatise on Basic Philosophy: Volume 6: Epistemology & Methodology II: Understanding the World. Springer. p. 225. ISBN 978-9027716347 "Precognition violates the principle of antecedence ("causality"), according to which the effect does not happen before the cause. Psychokinesis violates the principle of conservation of energy as well as the postulate that mind cannot act directly on matter. (If it did no experimenter could trust his own readings of his instruments.) Telepathy and precognition are incompatible with the epistemological principle according to which the gaining of factual knowledge requires sense perception at some point."
- Lawrence McGinty. (1978). What price Geller now?. New Scientist. p. 338
- V. Gowri Rammohan. (2002). New Frontiers of Human Science: A Festschrift for K. Ramakrishna Rao. McFarland. p. 143. ISBN 978-0786414536
- Massimo Pigliucci, Maarten Boudry. (2013). Philosophy of Pseudoscience: Reconsidering the Demarcation Problem. University Of Chicago Press p. 158. ISBN 978-0226051963 "Many observers refer to the field as a "pseudoscience". When mainstream scientists say that the field of parapsychology is not scientific, they mean that no satisfying naturalistic cause-and-effect explanation for these supposed effects has yet been proposed and that the field's experiments cannot be consistently replicated."
- Terence Hines. (2003). Pseudoscience and the Paranormal. Prometheus Books. pp. 117-145. ISBN 978-1573929790
- Who was Robert A. McConnell? (1914 - 2006). Parapsychological Association
- Charles Tart. (2009). The End of Materialism: How Evidence of the Paranormal is Bringing Science and Spirit Together. New Harbinger Publications. ISBN 978-1572246454
- Ray Hyman. (2008). Anomalous Cognition? A Second Perspective. Skeptical Inquirer. Volume 32. Retrieved October 24, 2013.
- Simon Hoggart, Mike Hutchinson. (1995). Bizarre Beliefs. Richard Cohen Books. p. 148. ISBN 978-1573921565
- Moulton, S. T., & Kosslyn, S. M. (2008). Using Neuroimaging to Resolve the Psi Debate. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 20, 182-192.
- "The Parapsychological Association"
- "The Institute of Noetic Sciences"
- Rhine Psi Research Center
- Society for Psychical Research
- Princeton Global Consciousness Project