Robert H. Thouless

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Robert Henry Thouless
Robert Thouless psychical researcher.png
Born 15 July 1894
Died 25 September 1984
Occupation Psychologist, parapsychologist

Robert Henry Thouless (15 July 1894 – 25 September 1984) was a British psychologist and parapsychologist.[1] He is best known as the author of Straight and Crooked Thinking (1930, 1953), which describes flaws in reasoning and argument.[2]


He studied at Cambridge University where he earned B.A. hons in 1914, an M.A. in 1919 and a Ph.D. in 1922.[1] He was a lecturer in psychology at the universities of Manchester, Glasgow and a Fellow of Corpus Christi College in the University of Cambridge. He wrote on parapsychology and conducted experiments in card-calling and psychokinesis.[3] His own experiments did not confirm the results of J. B. Rhine and he criticised the experimental protocols of previous experimenters.[4][5] He is credited with introducing the word psi as a term for parapsychological phenomena in a 1942 article in the British Journal of Psychology.[6] He served as President of the Society for Psychical Research from 1942 to 1944.[1] Thouless identified as a "Christian psychologist". He questioned the alleged visions of Jesus Christ that the mystic Julian of Norwich reported to have experienced and concluded they were the result of hallucinations.[7]


His An Introduction to the Psychology of Religion (1923, reprinted 1961) received a mixed reception from academics. One criticism of the book was the over-reliance of Freud's psychoanalyst approach to the subject.[8] Professor James E. Dittes wrote that despite the obsolete Freudian views it is a useful elementary guide to the psychology of religion.[9]

Psychologist John Beloff commenting on Thouless and his parapsychological studies wrote:

"Although his own ESP experiments were not notably successful, he made an original contribution to the study of PK (psychokinesis) with dice, using himself as subject. Unlike Rhine, however, he never lost interest in the age old topic of an afterlife... He even devised a coded message, which he took with him to the grave, in the hope that he might demonstrate survival by revealing the code posthumously through a medium. No such message, however, has yet been received."[1]

Psychologist L. Börje Löfgren has criticised Thouless for endorsing the mentalist Frederick Marion as a genuine psychic. He suggested that "Thouless is an honest man, but his powers of self-deception must be rather considerable."[10]


  • An Introduction to the Psychology of Religion (1923, 1961)
  • The Lady Julian: A Psychological Study (1924)
  • Social Psychology: A Text Book for Students of Economics (1925)
  • Control of the Mind (1929)
  • Experimental Psychical Research (1963)
  • Mind and Consciousness in Experimental Psychology (1963)
  • Rationality and Prejudice (1964)
  • Straight and Crooked Thinking (1968)
  • From Anecdote to Experiment in Psychical Research (1972)


  1. ^ a b c d Sheehy, Noel; Chapman, Anthony J; Conroy, Wendy A. (2002). Biographical Dictionary of Psychology. Routledge. pp. 570-571. ISBN 0-415-28561-5
  2. ^ Thouless, Robert H. (1953), Straight and Crooked Thinking (PDF), London: Pan Books, retrieved 30 November 2010 
  3. ^ Gale Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology: Robert Henry Thouless
  4. ^ James Randi. (1997). Robert Henry Thouless. In An Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural. St. Martin's Press. ISBN 0-312-15119-5
  5. ^ Asprem, Egil. (2014). The Problem of Disenchantment: Scientific Naturalism a Esoteric Discourse, 1900-1939. Brill Academic Publishers. pp. 403-404. ISBN 978-9004251922
  6. ^ Thouless, Robert H. (1942:July), "Experiments on paranormal guessing", British Journal of Psychology, British Psychological Society, 33 (1): 15–27, doi:10.1111/j.2044-8295.1942.tb01036.x  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  7. ^ Metzger, David. (1998). Medievalism and the Academy II: Cultural Studies. Boydell & Brewer Ltd. p. 166. ISBN 0-85991-567-0
  8. ^ Schaub, Edward L. (1923). Review: A Psychoanalyst's Version of Religion: An Introduction to the Psychology of Religion by Robert H. Thouless. The Journal of Religion 3 (4): 431-433.
  9. ^ Dittes, James E. (1964). Review: The Psychology of Religion by Robert H. Thouless. Review of Religious Research 5 (2): 115-116
  10. ^ Löfgren, L. B. (1968). Recent Publications on Parapsychology. Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association 16: 146-178.

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