The Psychology of the Psychic

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The Psychology of the Psychic
Psychology of a Psychic - cover.jpg
Cover of the 1980 Library Bound Edition
Author David Marks
Richard Kammann
Language English
Subjects parapsychology, science, psychology
Publisher Prometheus Books
Publication date
1980
(2nd edition 2000)
Media type Hardcover/Paperback
Pages 232 pages
ISBN 0-87975-121-5
OCLC 43296735
133.8/01/9 21
LC Class BF1042 .M33 2000

The Psychology of the Psychic is a skeptical analysis of some of the most publicized cases of parapsychological research by psychologists David Marks and Richard Kammann. The first edition, published in 1980, highlights some of the best-known cases from the 1970s. The second edition, published in 2000, adds information from the intervening 20 years as well as substantially more documentation and references to the original material.

Overview[edit]

Marks and Kammann give detailed descriptions of experiments conducted by parapsychology researchers as well as performances by psychic entertainers outside of the laboratory during the 1970s.[1] Many of these included some of the most widely known psychic performers of the time, including Uri Geller,[2] Kreskin,[3] and Ingo Swann.[4] In their attempts to replicate the studies of other researchers, the authors discover methodological flaws in the original trials that lead them to the conclusion that no evidence for psychic phenomena has yet been produced.[5] They then discuss psychological research that attempts to explain why people believe in such phenomena in spite of this lack of evidence.[6]

About the Authors[edit]

University of Otago Clock Tower

David Marks is a psychologist, who has written extensively on the subjects of health psychology, consciousness, parapsychology and intelligence. In addition to the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand, he also worked at City University London, Middlesex University, and University College London. He is currently the editor of the Journal of Health Psychology.[7]

Richard Kammann was an experimental psychologist who, in addition to his work with Marks, published many articles on the subject of human happiness and how to achieve it. His published work includes the psychological testing tool "Sourcebook for measuring well-being with Affectometer 2" published in 1983.[8] The second edition (2000) of The Psychology of the Psychic is dedicated to Kammann, who died in 1984.[9]

Both Marks and Kammann were lecturers in psychology at the University of Otago in New Zealand in the 1970s when they began the research that led to the publication of this book.[9]

Reasons for Publication[edit]

In the 1970s, many of the students in their University of Otago psychology lectures had suggested to both Marks and Kammann that psychics, particularly Kreskin, were genuine and represented the cutting edge of psychological research. As they put it, "(W)e began our studies on ESP after numerous students had suggested we 'wake up' to psychic reality."[10] At the time, surveys were showing what seemed to the authors to be a startlingly large percentage of people who believed psychic phenomena were or might be real. Far from setting out to disprove psychic phenomena, "(W)e considered it entirely possible that the psychology of perception was about to go through a psychic revolution, and if so, we wanted to be included. But over the next three years of research, when we examined each dazzling claim of ESP, or psychokinesis (PK), we discovered that a simple, natural explanation was far more credible than a supernatural or paranormal one."[10] Regardless of the preferences of the authors, they followed the evidence they found where it led them. As they state in chapter eight, "It is never the scientist’s own conclusion that is important but the quality of his evidence."[11]

There were several changes to the book for the second edition. Marks eliminated the chapters on Kreskin, because "he is no longer considered relevant to serious study of the paranormal. He doesn't have any special powers, he admits it, and everybody knows it."[12] Additional chapters cover the Star Gate project (1985 to 1995)[13] the work of Rupert Sheldrake,[14] and the ganzfeld experiments.[15] The final chapter covers the evolution of Marks' own beliefs and attitudes toward the field of parapsychology as a whole.[16]

Reception[edit]

Echoing the concerns of the authors regarding the general popularity of parapsychology, psychologist Stuart Sutherland referred to The Psychology of the Psychic as “an excellent book", and noted that it "was turned down by over thirty American publishers, all of whom were competing to publish books endorsing psychic phenomena. The paranormal is therefore available.”[17]

Peter Evans of New Scientist reviewed the book shortly after its first publication in 1980, stating that: "The really interesting question from the scientific standpoint, and one that the authors write about absorbingly in their last few chapters is 'Why do people, including eminent scientists, insist on being so gullible?' . . . Why? Because they want Uri to succeed."[18]

Writers more inclined toward belief in psychic phenomena, such as Robert L. Morris of The Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, found the book lacking in some areas but useful in others. “The authors are to be commended for the effort they made to carry out their evaluation beyond a simple assessment of the literature they reviewed. As we shall see, however, their specific strategies and tactics leave much to be desired.”[19] Morris recounts examples of miscommunication between the authors and researchers at Stanford Research Institute, and draws the conclusion that, "it is evident that those who wish to evaluate research results need to evolve better procedures for getting at the facts. Researchers need to describe their procedures in more detail, both in print and in unpublished documentation available for inspection, especially if strong claims are made about the presence of psi in the data. Critics need better access to relevant details; they also need to express their questions and doubts more effectively and specifically, if the interactions are to proceed in good faith. When a given information exchange ends, all parties concerned should have a clear understanding of why the information was sought and how it will be used."[19] David Marks acknowledged this criticism, as well as Morris' larger point that the authors had ignored a great deal of the research generally regarded as reliable in parapsychological circles, and therefore included more material on these studies in the second edition.[20]

Humanist commentator Austin Cline wrote in the book review section of his Agnosticism and Atheism column, "the title is after all about the psychology of the psychic, leading the reader to believe that the psychological processes behind belief will get center stage. This is not quite true, but there is a decent amount of such material, and it constitutes some of the most interesting portions of the book."[21]

Chapter Highlights[edit]

Theatrical poster for a mind-reading performance ca. 1900
A scene reminiscent of performances by Kreskin and Uri Geller described in this book
Ray Hyman demonstrates Uri Geller's spoon bending feats at CFI lecture. June 17, 2012 Costa Mesa, CA

First Edition (1980)[edit]

Chapter Notes
Foreword (by Martin Gardner) Using the discredited idea of phrenology, Gardner illustrates how many people, including scientists, can be caught up in an erroneous idea for a time until rigorous application of the scientific method exposes the fallacies and missteps that led to those errors.
Preface A description of the circumstances that led the authors into parapsychological research and the publication of their findings, as well as a brief overview of their methodology and grammatical conventions observed in the book.
1. The Growing World of the Occult Background information on the media coverage of popular psychic entertainers of the 1970s and the role it played in inspiring this research.
2. Remote Viewing (DM) Descriptions of the remote viewing experiments conducted at Stanford Research Institute during the 1970s and the replication studies conducted by the authors.
3. The Targ-Puthoff Effect Explained Analysis of the experiments from Chapter 2 with detailed explanations of how the methodological flaws contained in the work conducted by Russell Targ and Harold Puthoff contributed to their results.
4. Kreskin's Riddle An account of a performance by Kreskin that Marks and Kammann attended in Dunedin, New Zealand on March 12, 1974.
5. Solving Kreskin's Riddle Analysis of the observed performance by Kreskin and explanations of the probable means by which the performer received his information.
6. Uri Geller: Super Psychic of the Seventies A description of Marks' experiences with Uri Geller during Geller's visit to New Zealand in 1975. These include a chance encounter in a hotel dining room, a public press conference, and a private performance in a hotel room (with just Marks and another psychologist).
7. The Geller Effect Observed A narrative of a live New Zealand radio broadcast in which Marks and Geller both participated, along with some commentary regarding inconsistencies in the anecdotes told by Geller with previous versions and with independent accounts.
8. Geller Exposed Explanations of possible methods by which Geller may have accomplished his most common and best-known psychic demonstrations and the experiments by which the authors tested these methods.
9. Geller Performs at the Stanford Research Institute The authors recount their observations of the SRI facility where Puthoff and Targ conducted their experiments with Geller and review the documentation of those experiments. They then use this information to explain how the results of these studies could have been reached without the aid of psychic powers.
10. "Gelleritis": A Case Study in Pathological Science An exploration of the people and media outlets who supported Geller, illustrating how the performer's reputation and the social pressure to believe the stories of his successes produced confidence among his proponents even when real evidence was lacking.
11. The Roots of Coincidence (RK) An explanation of how the flawed ability of the human mind to estimate the true likelihood of an event can produce perceived links between coincidental events. Discussion centers on Koestler's Fallacy, the oddmatch illusion, and unseen causes.
12. Self-Perpetuating Beliefs An explanation of how the natural, innate pattern-seeking behavior of the human brain can lead to erroneous conclusions, with special emphasis on the problems inherent in seeking evidence to support a pre-conceived idea.
13. The Art of Doubt The authors advocate that a general system of skeptical thinking can help people to make better decisions. Skepticism here is defined as questioning the underlying assumptions of any question, constructing robust ways of testing hypotheses, and taking any conclusion as provisional until further information is gained. The authors illustrate ways that this method can be useful in personal growth, scientific (including medical) research, and the development of public policy.

Second Edition (2000)[edit]

Rupert Sheldrake's studies of dogs that seem to know when their owners are coming home, as well as Richard Wiseman's work skeptical of this claim, are discussed in chapter 9.
Subject in a Ganzfeld Experiment as discussed in chapter 7.
Between 1972 and 1995, the CIA contributed approximately $2.2 million to the remote viewing research conducted at SRI International. The total amount spent by the U. S. government investigating remote viewing during this era totaled around $22 million.[22]
Chapter Notes
Foreword to the First Edition (by Martin Gardner) Using the discredited idea of phrenology, Gardner illustrates how many people, including scientists, can be caught up in an erroneous idea for a time until rigorous application of the scientific method exposes the fallacies and missteps that led to those errors.
Foreword to the Second Edition (by Martin Gardner) Gardner points out the primary differences between the first and second editions and highlights the events that occurred between the two publishings.
Preface to the First Edition (by David Marks and Richard Kammann) A description of the circumstances that led the authors into parapsychological research and the publication of their findings, as well as a brief overview of their methodology and grammatical conventions observed in the book.
Preface to the Second Edition (by David Marks) A brief outline of the revised structure of the book, an explanation of how his methods evolved between 1980 and 2000, and acknowledgement of some of the fair points made by critics of the first edition
1. The World of the Paranormal Background information on the media coverage of popular psychic entertainers of the 1970s and the role it played in inspiring this research, as well as an articulation of the questions the authors set out to answer.
2. Remote Viewing Descriptions of the remote viewing experiments conducted at Stanford Research Institute during the 1970s and the replication studies conducted by the authors.
3. The Targ-Puthoff Effect Explained Analysis of the experiments from Chapter 2 with detailed explanations of how the methodological flaws contained in the work conducted by Russell Targ and Harold Puthoff contributed to their results.
4. The Sloppiness Continues Updates on and analysis of the information shared (and not shared) by the SRI researchers in the years between the first and second editions, as well as an account of how Targ and Puthoff parted ways.
5. The Star Gate Era, 1985-1995 History and description of the Star Gate project, summaries of official reviews of its methods and results, and a narrative of Marks' attempts to obtain data and documentation from the principal investigator on the project, Edwin May.
6. Why Star Gate Failed A detailed review of the experimental and statistical methods of four Star Gate remote viewing experiments, with explanations of their shortcomings.
7. The Ganzfeld A description of how ganzfeld experiments are conducted, analysis of methodological shortcomings of the tests conducted prior to 1999, and criticism of the journal editors who published these studies despite the problems with their experimental controls.
8. Psychic Staring A demonstration of how properly randomized trials, in the form of replication studies conducted by John Colwell, failed to confirm the claims of Rupert Sheldrake regarding the ability of a person to know when he or she is being stared at by another person.
9. Psychic Pets Rupert Sheldrake's studies of dogs that seem to know when their owners are coming home, as well as Richard Wiseman's work skeptical of this claim.
10. The World's Greatest "Psychic," Uri Geller A description of Marks' experiences with Uri Geller during Geller's visit to New Zealand in 1975. These include a chance encounter in a hotel dining room, a public press conference, and a private performance in a hotel room (with just Marks and another psychologist).
11. Geller Observed A narrative of a live New Zealand radio broadcast in which Marks and Geller both participated, along with some commentary regarding inconsistencies in the anecdotes told by Geller with previous versions and with independent accounts.
12. Geller Exposed Explanations of possible methods by which Geller may have accomplished his most common and best-known psychic demonstrations and the experiments by which the author(s) tested these methods.
13. Geller Performs at the Stanford Research Institute The authors recount their observations of the SRI facility where Puthoff and Targ conducted their experiments with Geller and review the documentation of those experiments. They then use this information to explain how the results of these studies could have been reached without the aid of psychic powers.
14. "Gelleritis": A Case Study in Pathological Science An exploration of the people and media outlets who supported Geller, illustrating how the performer's reputation and the social pressure to believe the stories of his successes produced confidence among his proponents even when real evidence was lacking.
15. The Great Psychic Lie Additional information on the interactions between Uri Geller and David Marks that occurred between 1980 and 2000, including threats of legal action made my Geller and his supporters toward vocal skeptics.
16. The Roots of Coincidence An explanation of how the flawed ability of the human mind to estimate the true likelihood of an event can produce perceived links between coincidental events. Discussion centers on Koestler's Fallacy, the oddmatch illusion, and unseen causes.
17. Personal Oddmatches How people come to assign meaning and personal significance to random events or sequences of events as a part of the normal pattern-seeking nature of the human mind.
18. Self-Perpetuating Beliefs Explaining belief in the supernatural in terms of rationalization, subjective validation, magical thinking, and illusory correlation.
19. Superstitious Thinking A more detailed explanation of superstitious thinking as a pattern-seeking behavior.
20. The Art of Doubt The author advocates that a general system of skeptical thinking can help people to make better decisions. Skepticism here is defined as questioning the underlying assumptions of any question, constructing robust ways of testing hypotheses, and taking any conclusion as provisional until further information is gained. The authors illustrate ways that this method can be useful in personal growth, scientific (including medical) research, and the development of public policy.
21. The Final Verdict A summation of Marks' own beliefs and attitudes toward psychic phenomena and how they have changed since first beginning research on the field in the 1970s.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Marks, David; Kammann, Richard (1980). The Psychology of the Psychic (1 ed.). Buffalo, New York: Prometheus Books. ISBN 0-87975-121-5. 
  2. ^ Marks, David; Kammann, Richard (1980). The Psychology of the Psychic (1 ed.). Buffalo, New York: Prometheus Books. pp. 73–154. ISBN 0-87975-121-5. 
  3. ^ Marks, David; Kammann, Richard (1980). The Psychology of the Psychic (1 ed.). Buffalo, New York: Prometheus Books. pp. 42–72. ISBN 0-87975-121-5. 
  4. ^ Marks, David; Kammann, Richard (1980). The Psychology of the Psychic (1 ed.). Buffalo, New York: Prometheus Books. pp. 12–41. ISBN 0-87975-121-5. 
  5. ^ Marks, David; Kammann, Richard (1980). The Psychology of the Psychic (1 ed.). Buffalo, New York: Prometheus Books. pp. 26–139. ISBN 0-87975-121-5. 
  6. ^ Marks, David; Kammann, Richard (1980). The Psychology of the Psychic (1 ed.). Buffalo, New York: Prometheus Books. pp. 140–199. ISBN 0-87975-121-5. 
  7. ^ "Journal Staff Listings". Journal of Health Psychology. Retrieved 13 November 2015. 
  8. ^ "Results for "Richard Kammann"". OCLC Worldcat. Retrieved 13 November 2015. 
  9. ^ a b Marks, David; Kammann, Richard (1980). The Psychology of the Psychic (1 ed.). Buffalo, New York: Prometheus Books. p. 7. ISBN 0-87975-121-5. 
  10. ^ a b Marks, David; Kammann, Richard (1980). The Psychology of the Psychic (1 ed.). Buffalo, New York: Prometheus Books. p. 44. ISBN 0-87975-121-5. 
  11. ^ Marks, David; Kammann, Richard (1980). The Psychology of the Psychic (1 ed.). Buffalo, New York: Prometheus Books. p. 104. ISBN 0-87975-121-5. 
  12. ^ Marks, David (2000). The Psychology of the Psychic (2 ed.). Amherst, New York: Prometheus Books. pp. 19–20. ISBN 1-57392-798-8. 
  13. ^ Marks, David (2000). The Psychology of the Psychic (2 ed.). Amherst, New York: Prometheus Books. pp. 71–96. ISBN 1-57392-798-8. 
  14. ^ Marks, David (2000). The Psychology of the Psychic (2 ed.). Amherst, New York: Prometheus Books. pp. 107–122. ISBN 1-57392-798-8. 
  15. ^ Marks, David (2000). The Psychology of the Psychic (2 ed.). Amherst, New York: Prometheus Books. pp. 97–106. ISBN 1-57392-798-8. 
  16. ^ Marks, David (2000). The Psychology of the Psychic (2 ed.). Amherst, New York: Prometheus Books. pp. 303–310. ISBN 1-57392-798-8. 
  17. ^ Sutherland, Stuart (1994). Irrationality: The Enemy Within. Penguin Books. p. 311. ISBN 0-14-016726-9. 
  18. ^ Evans, Peter (14 August 1980). "Review: The Psychology of the Psychic". New Scientist. p. 61. Retrieved 16 November 2015. 
  19. ^ a b Morris, Robert L. (1980). "Some Comments on the Assessment of Parapsychological Studies: A Review of The Psychology of the Psychic". The Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research. 74: 425–443. 
  20. ^ Marks, David (2000). The Psychology of the Psychic (2 ed.). Amherst, New York: Prometheus Books. p. 22. ISBN 1-57392-798-8. 
  21. ^ Cline, Austin. "Book Review: The Psychology of the Psychic, by David Marks". About.com. Archived from the original on 5 September 2015. Retrieved 12 November 2015. 
  22. ^ Marks, David (2000). The Psychology of the Psychic (2 ed.). Amherst, New York: Prometheus Books. p. 73. ISBN 1-57392-798-8. The total expenditure by the U.S. government on its RV program between 1972 and 1995 was in the region of $22 million. About 10 percent of this funding came from the CIA. 

External links[edit]