Society for Psychical Research
|Society for Psychical Research|
|Legal status||Non-profit organisation|
|Location||49 Marloes Road, Kensington, London W8 6LA|
|Main organ||SPR Council|
The Society for Psychical Research (SPR) is a non-profit organisation in the United Kingdom. Its stated purpose is to understand "events and abilities commonly described as psychic or paranormal by promoting and supporting important research in this area" and to "examine allegedly paranormal phenomena in a scientific and unbiased way." It does not however, since its inception in 1882, hold any corporate opinions: SPR members have a variety of beliefs or lack thereof about the reality and nature of the phenomena studied, and some sceptics have been active members of the Society.
The SPR was founded in 1882 in London by a group of eminent thinkers including Edmund Gurney, Frederic William Henry Myers, William Fletcher Barrett, Henry Sidgwick, and Edmund Dawson Rogers. The SPR was the first organisation of its kind in the world, its stated purpose being "to approach these varied problems without prejudice or prepossession of any kind, and in the same spirit of exact and unimpassioned enquiry which has enabled science to solve so many problems, once not less obscure nor less hotly debated."
Initially six committees were established: on Thought-Transference, Mesmerism and similar phenomena, Mediumship, Reichenbach Phenomena (Odic Force), Apparitions and Haunted Houses, physical phenomena associated with séances, and the Literary Committee which studied the history of these phenomena. One significant undertaking was the Census of Hallucinations, in which 15,000 people were asked to report on hallucinatory experiences while awake and in good health. Some 10% of those reported such experiences, and a small number of 'veridical hallucinations' were reported - that is, hallucinations which appeared to convey information not known to the person hallucinating at the time, which was believed by the authors to be suggestive of telepathy.
Critical SPR investigations into purported mediums and the exposure of fake mediums led to a number of resignations in the 1880s by Spiritualist members, but the Society continued to investigate mediums, studying Leonora Piper and Eusapia Palladino among others. In 1885 Richard Hodgson's report on Theosophical Phenomena expressed the opinion that the founder of the Theosophical Society, Helena Petrova Blavatsky, was "neither the mouthpiece of hidden seers, nor... a mere vulgar adventuress; we think she has achieved title to permanent remembrance as one of the most accomplished, ingenious and interesting imposters in history". This report, which had a marked effect on Theosophy, remains as with all SPR reports the opinion of the member concerned; the SPR holds no corporate opinions. In a 1986 press release to the newspapers and leading magazines in Great Britain, Canada and the USA, the SPR retracted the Hodgson report, after a re-examination of the case by the Fortean psychic Dr. Vernon Harrison, past president of The Royal Photographic Society and formerly Research Manager to Thomas De La Rue, an expert on forgery, as follows: "Madame Blavatsky, co-founder of the Theosophical Society, was unjustly condemned, new study concludes."
The SPR gained a reputation for being scientific and highly critical. Mrs Salter recorded W. B. Yeats as saying "It's my belief that if you psychical researchers had been about when God Almighty was creating the world, he couldn't have done the job".
The SPR is frequently referred to in Victorian and Edwardian literature as "the Psychical Research Society". The term psychical was adopted to distinguish the purported phenomena from those classified as psychic, (that is simply mental processes such as thought, memory, etc.) and the SPR were to introduce a number of other neologisms which have entered the English language, such as 'telepathy', which was coined by Frederic Myers.
The Society is run by a President and a Council of twenty members, and is open to interested members of the public to join. The organisation is based at 49 Marloes Road, Kensington, London, with a library and office open to members, and with large book and archival holdings in Cambridge University Library, Cambridgeshire, England. It publishes the peer reviewed quarterly Journal of the Society for Psychical Research (JSPR), the irregular Proceedings and the magazine Paranormal Review. It holds an annual conference, regular lectures and two study days per year and supports the LEXSCIEN on-line library project.
Psychological study 
A psychological study involving 174 members of the Society for Psychical Research completed a delusional ideation questionnaire and a deductive reasoning task. As predicted, the study showed that "individuals who reported a strong belief in the paranormal made more errors and displayed more delusional ideation than skeptical individuals". There was also a reasoning bias which was limited to people who reported a belief in, rather than experience of, paranormal phenomena. The results suggested that reasoning abnormalities may have a causal role in the formation of paranormal belief.
The following is a list of presidents:
|Society for Psychical Research|
|1882-1884||Henry Sidgwick (1838-1900), Philosopher|
|1885-1887||Balfour Stewart (1827-1887), Physician|
|1888-1892||Henry Sidgwick (→ 1882)|
|1893||Arthur Balfour (1848-1930), later Prime Minister, known for the Balfour Declaration|
|1894-1895||William James (1842-1910) American Psychologist and Philosopher|
|1896-1899||Sir William Crookes (1832-1919), Physician and Chemist|
|1900||Frederick William Henry Myers (1843-1901), Altphilologe and Philosopher|
|1901-1903||Sir Oliver Lodge (1851-1940), Physician|
|1904||Sir William Fletcher Barrett (1845-1926), Physician|
|1905||Charles Richet (1850-1935), French Physiologist and Nobel Prize winner|
|1906-1907||Gerald Balfour (1853-1945), Politicianr, brother of Arthur Balfour|
|1908-1909||Eleanor Sidgwick (1845-1936), Mathematician, wife of Henry Sidgwick, sister of Arthur Balfour|
|1910||Henry Arthur Smith (1848-1922), Lawyer|
|1911||Andrew Lang (1844-1912), Altphilologe, Religious scientist and writer|
|1912||William Boyd Carpenter (1841-1918), Bishop|
|1913||Henri Bergson (1859-1941) French and Nobel Prize winner for Literatur 1927.|
|1914||Ferdinand Canning Scott Schiller (1864-1937), Philosopher|
|1915-1916||Gilbert Murray (1866-1957), Altphilologe|
|1917-1918||Lawrence Pearsall Jacks (1860-1955), Professor of Philosophy in Oxford|
|1919||John Strutt, 3rd Baron Rayleigh (1842-1919), Physicoian, Nobel Prize winner 1904|
|1920-1921||William McDougall (1871-1938), Psychologist|
|1922||Thomas Walter Mitchell (*1869; †1944), Publisher of the British journal of medical psychology|
|1923||Camille Flammarion (1842-1925), French Astronomer|
|1924-1925||John George Piddington (1869-1952), Businessman|
|1926-1927||Hans Driesch (1867-1941), German Biologist and Natural philosopher|
|1928-1929||Sir Lawrence Jones (1885-1955)|
|1930-1931||Walter Franklin Prince (*1863; †1934), Clergyman|
|1932||Eleanor Sidgwick (→ 1908) und Oliver Lodge (→ 1901)|
|1933-1934||Edith Lyttelton (geb. Balfour; 1865-1948), Writer|
|1935-1936||C. D. Broad (1887-1971), Philosopher|
|1937-1938||Robert Strutt, 4th Baron Rayleigh (1875-1947), Physician|
|1939-1941||Henri Haberley Price (1899-1984), Philosopher|
|1942-1944||Robert Henry Thouless (1894-1984), Psychologist|
|1945-1946||George N. M. Tyrrell (1879-1952), Mathematician|
|1947-1948||William Henry Salter (1880-1969), Lawyer|
|1949||Gardner Murphy (1895-1979), Psychologist|
|1950-1951||Samuel George Soal (1889-1975), Mathematician|
|1952||Gilbert Murray (→ 1915)|
|1953-1955||Frederick Stratton (1881-1960), Astrophysicist, Professor in Cambridge|
|1956-1958||Guy William Lambert (1889-1984), Diplomat|
|1958-1960||C. D. Broad (→ 1935)|
|1960-1961||Henri Haberley Price (→ 1939)|
|1960-1963||Eric Robertson Dodds (1893-1979), Gräzist, Professor in Birmingham und Oxford|
|1963-1965||Donald James West (* 1924), Psychiatrist and criminologist|
|1965-1969||Sir Alister Hardy (1896-1985), Zoologist|
|1969-1971||W. A. H. Rushton (1901-1980), Physiologe, Professor in Cambridge|
|1971-1974||Clement William Kennedy Mundle (* 1920), Philosopher|
|1974-1976||John Beloff (1920-2006), Psychologist at the University of Edinburgh|
|1976-1979||Arthur J. Ellison (1920-2000), Engineer|
|1980||Joseph Banks Rhine (1895-1980), Biologist und Parapsychologist|
|1980||Louisa Ella Rhine (1891-1983), Parapsychologist, wife of Joseph Rhine|
|1981-1983||Arthur J. Ellison (→ 1976)|
|1984-1988||Donald James West (→ 1963)|
|1988-1989||Ian Stevenson (1918-2007), Psychiatrist|
|1992-1993||Alan Gauld, Psychologist|
|1993-1995||Archie Roy, Professor of Astronomy in Glasgow, founded the Scottish SPR in 1987|
|1995-1998||David Fontana, Professor of Psychologist in Cardiff|
|1998-1999||Donald James West (→ 1963, → 1984)|
|2000-2004||Bernard Carr, Professor of Mathematics and Astronomy in London|
|2004-2007||John Poynton, Biologist|
|2007-2011||Deborah Delanoy, Parapsychologist|
|2011-||Richard S. Broughton, senior lecturer in psychology at The University of Northampton, UK|
Notable members 
Past and current notable members of the SPR include Henry Sidgwick, Eleanor Mildred Sidgwick, Frederick Myers, Frank Podmore, Eric Dingwall, Richard Hodgson, Edmund Gurney, Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, Alfred Russel Wallace, Sigmund Freud, W. B. Yeats, C. G. Jung, William James, Arthur Balfour, Archie Roy, Trevor Hall, Rupert Sheldrake, Richard Wiseman, Susan Blackmore, Dean Radin, Alastair Sim, Peter Underwood and Charles Tart.
Investigators of spontaneous phenomena (hauntings, etc.) have included Guy Lyon Playfair and Maurice Grosse, who investigated reports of the Enfield Poltergeist. and Tony Cornell who conducted extensive investigations over many decades.
Other societies 
A number of other psychical research organisations use the term 'Society for Psychical Research' in their name.
- Australia - In 1979 the Australian Society for Psychical Research was founded.
- Austria - Founded in 1927 as the Austrian Society for Psychical Research, today the Austrian Society for Parapsychology.
- Canada - From 1908 to 1916 the Canadian Society for Psychical Research existed in Toronto.
- Denmark - Selskabet for Psykisk Forskning (The Danish Society for Psychical Research) was founded in 1905.
- France - In 1885, a society called the Société de Psychologie Physiologique (Society for Physiological Psychology) was formed by Charles Richet, Théodule-Armand Ribot and Léon Marillier. It existed until 1890 when it was abandoned due to lack of interest.
- Netherlands - The Studievereniging voor Psychical Research (Dutch for Society for Psychical Research) was founded in 1917.
- Poland - The Polish Society for Psychical Research was very active before the second world war.
- Scotland - The Scottish Society for Psychical Research is active today.
- Sweden - Sällskapet för Parapsykologisk Forskning (the Swedish Society for Parapsychological Research) was founded in 1948.
- USA - An American branch of the Society was formed as the American Society for Psychical Research (ASPR) in 1885, which became independent in 1906. A splinter group, the Boston Society for Psychical Research existed from May 1925 to 1941.
See also 
- American Society for Psychical Research
- International Association for Near-Death Studies
- Parapsychological Association
- List of parapsychology topics
- SPR website
- Haynes, Renée. (1982). The Society for Psychical Research 1882-1982: A History. London: MacDonald & Co.
- "Join the SPR!". Society for Psychical Research. "Membership does not imply acceptance of any particular opinion concerning the nature or reality of the phenomena examined, and the Society holds no corporate views."
- Grattan-Guinness (1982)
- Grattan-Guinness (1982) p. 19
- Gauld,A. (1968) The Founders of Psychical Research
- "Report of the Census of Hallucinations." Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research 10 (1894): 25.
- Fielding,e., Baggaly, W and Carrington, H (1909) Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research:23, p.306-569
- Report cited in Grattan-Guinness (1982) p. 23
- Harrison, Vernon (1997) H. P. Blavatsky and the SPR. ISBN 1-55700-119-7
- "Blavatsky text". Blavatsky.net. 1986-05-08. Retrieved 2009-11-26.
- cited in Grattan-Guinness (1982) p. 23
- "Online Etymology Dictionary". Etymonline.com. Retrieved 10 September 2011.
- Cambridge University Library
- Edinburgh University Website
- "LEXSCIEN Library of Exploratory Science". Lexscien.org. Retrieved 10 September 2011.
- Lawrence, E., & Peters, E. (2004). Reasoning in believers in the paranormal. Journal of Nervous & Mental Disease, 192, 727–733.
- Haynes, Renee (1982) The Society for Psychical Research 1882-1982: A History. London: MacDonald
- Duncan, Alistair (2010) The Norwood Author - Arthur Conan Doyle & The Norwood Years (1891-1894)
- Playfair, G. L. & Grosse, M. (1988). "Enfield Revisited: the evaporation of positive evidence". Journal of the Society for Psychical Research 55 pp. 208-219.
- Playfair, G. L. (1980). This House is Haunted: The True Story of a Poltergeist. Stein & Day.
- "Ghostbuster who had the spirit to persevere". Cambridge City News. 16 April 2010. Retrieved 27 May 2010.
- Peter Mulacz. "Austrian Society for Parapsychology". Parapsychologie.ac.at. Retrieved 10 September 2011.
- [McMullin, Stan (2004) Anatomy of a Séance: A History of Spirit Communication in Central Canada (Montreal & Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press), p. 87.]
- "La lumière sur " L'ombre des autres "". Metapsychique.org. Retrieved 10 September 2011.
- Richet, Charles. Traité de Métapsychique. Bruxelles: Artha Production, 1994, p.63. ISBN 2-930111-00-3
- "Parapsychologie in Nederland (Dutch website)". Parapsy.nl. Retrieved 10 September 2011.
- [Barrington, Stevenson and Weaver, (2005) A World in a Grain of Sand: The Clairvoyance of Stefan Ossowiecki, Jefferson, NC, and London, McFarland, ISBN 0-7864-2112-6]
- Berger, Arthur S., and Joyce Berger. The Encyclopedia of Parapsychology and Psychical Research. New York: Paragon House, 1991.
- Grattan-Guinness, Ivor (1982). Psychical Research: A Guide to Its History, Principles & Practices - in celebration of 100 years of the Society for Psychical Research. Aquarian Press. ISBN 0-85030-316-8.
Further reading 
- Hamilton, Trevor (2009). Immortal Longings: F.W.H. Myers and the Victorian search for life after death. Imprint Academic. ISBN 978-1-84540-248-8.