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Key Words Frequently Used in Parapsychology


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In a test of general extrasensory perception, the individual (human or animal) who looks at the information constituting the target and who is said to “send” or “transmit” that information to a percipient; in a test of telepathy, and in cases of spontaneous extrasensory perception, the individual about whose mental states information is acquired by a percipient; the term is very occasionally used to refer to the subject in a test of psychokinesis or the focus in a poltergeist case. [From the Latin agens (agentis), derived from agere, “to drive, do”]  Back to top of page

In the context of brain science: a distinctive brain-rhythm or brain-wave which occurs mainly in the occipital region of the cortex, and which is correlated, on the psychological level, with feelings of drowsiness, relaxation and disengaged attention on the part of the subject; it is of relatively high amplitude, and has a frequency range of between 8 and 13 Hz (Hertz, or cycles per second); of parapsychological interest as a possible physiological indicator of a psi-conducive condition in the subject. [From the Greek alpha, first letter of the Greek alphabet]  Back to top of page

Expression popularized by Charles T. Tart which can refer to virtually any mental state differing from that of the normal waking condition; of parapsychological interest as possibly psi-conducive states; they include dreaming, hypnosis, trance, meditation of the yoga or Zen tradition, the hypnagogic-like state induced by the ganzfeld, and drug-induced states.  Back to top of page

Term first used by Leonard Zusne and Warren Jones (1982) to indicate that part of psychology that investigates “anomalistic” psychological phenomena, that is, phenomena which have tended to be explained in terms of the paranormal, the supernatural, magic, or the occult; the term is also meant to include belief in UFOs, in astrology, and in such creatures as the Loch Ness Monster.  Back to top of page

Having the quality of an anomaly.  Back to top of page

Neutral term applied to a phenomenon which implies that the phenomenon is unexpected according to conventional scientific knowledge, but which does not commit the user to any particular type of explanation; sometimes sometimes preferred to “paranormal.”  Back to top of page

Term coined by J. B. Rhine to refer to psi ability in non-human animals. [Contraction of “animal psi”]  Back to top of page

An experience usually visual but sometimes in other sense-modalities in which there appears to be present a person or animal (deceased or living) and even inanimate objects such as carriages and other things, who/which is in fact out of the sensory range of the experient; often associated with spontaneous extrasensory perception, for example, in connection with an agent who is dying or undergoing some other crisis (in which case, it is likely to be termed a "crisis apparition," or in connection with haunting (in which case, it is likely to be referred to in non-technical contexts as a "ghost"Back to top of page

An entity said to be an exact, quasi-physical replica or “double” of the individual physical body, which can separate itself from the physical body, either temporarily, as in dreaming or in the out-of-the-body experience, or permanently, at the moment of death. Also known as the “etheric” body. [From the Latin astralis, derived from astrum, “star,” derived from the Greek astronBack to top of page

See Astral Projection under Out-of-[the]-Body Experience.  Back to top of page

A field of subtle, multicolored, luminous radiations said to surround living bodies as a halo or cocoon; the term is occasionally used to refer to the normal electromagnetic field forces surrounding the body. [Latin, from the Greek, “breath of air”]  Back to top of page

A technique which enables a person to monitor on-going changes in one of their own physiological processes; as a result of such information, the individual may be able to acquire some degree of control in regulating internal processes normally outside the range of voluntary influence; of parapsychological interest mainly in connection with altered states of consciousness and with the possibility of controlling the incidence of the alpha brain-rhythm.  Back to top of page

Term used by William G. Braud (1978) to denote the situation in which one subject, A, is attempting to influence, psychokinetically, the physiological processes of another person, B, aided by biofeedback to A concerning those processes in B. [From the Greek allos, “other,” + bios, “life,” + feedback]  Back to top of page

Term used to refer to psychokinetic effects brought about on living systems; examples of such effects would be the paranormal speeding up or slowing down of the sprouting of seeds or of the growth of bacteria, the resuscitation of anæsthetized mice, and so on; may also include psychosomatic effects; symbolized “PK-LT” (“psychokinesis on living targets”) by J. B. Rhine; modern researchers refer to it as DMILS, or direct mental influence on living systems.  Back to top of page

The constellation of undefined causal factors which are considered to be irrelevant to the causal relationship under investigation; often spoken of as if it were a single, independent agency; the expression “pure chance” is sometimes used to describe a state characterized by complete unpredictability, that is, an absence of any cause-effect relationships. The term “chance” is frequently a short-hand expression for “mean chance expectation” as in “deviation from chance.”  Back to top of page

A phenomenon in which, according to Arthur Hastings (1990, p. 99), “a person purports to transmit information or messages directly from a personality or consciousness other than his or her own, usually through automatic writing or trance speaking; this other personality usually claims to be a nonphysical spirit or being.”  Back to top of page

Paranormal acquisition of information concerning an object or contemporary physical event; in contrast to telepathy, the information is assumed to derive directly from an external physical source (such as a concealed photograph), and not from the mind of another person; one particular form of extrasensory perception, it is not to be confused with the vulgar interpretation of “clairvoyance” as meaning “knowledge of the future” (for which see Precognition).  Back to top of page

As a noun, a person endowed with a special talent for clairvoyance; not to be confused with its colloquial usage meaning “a fortune-teller”; As an adjective, involving or pertaining to clairvoyance.  Back to top of page

Two events are said to constitute a coincidence if they occur in such a way as to strike an observer as being highly related as regards their structure or their “meaning”; to dismiss such an occurrence as a “mere coincidence” is to imply the belief that each event arose as a result of quite independent causal chains (that is, they are “acausal”) and that no further “meaning” or significance is to be found in this fortuitous concurrence; sometimes, however, a sense of impressiveness is engendered by the belief that the concurrence is so very unlikely as to have been the result of “pure chance” that there must be some cause or reason for the concurrence, thus investing the coincidence with a sense of meaningfulness. See also Synchronicity.  Back to top of page

A set of statements purportedly gained by paranormal means but which in fact is wholly based on broadly accurate generalizations and/or on information obtained directly from the person seeking the reading, such as can be gleaned from facial gestures, clues in conversation, and so on.  Back to top of page

(i) A personality purporting to be that of some deceased individual, believed to take control of the medium’s actions and speech during trance, and/or who habitually relays messages from the communicator to the sitter. (ii) In the context of scientific investigation, a control is something (a procedure, condition, object, set of subjects, and so on) which is introduced with the purpose of providing a check on (that is, of “controlling for”) the influence of unwanted factors.  Back to top of page

See under Apparition.  Back to top of page

A highly complex series of independent communications delivered paranormally (and ostensibly from one or more discarnate entities) to two or more geographically separate mediums such that the complete message is not clear until the separate fragments are pieced together into a meaningful whole.  Back to top of page

French for “already seen,” the feeling or illusion of having previously experienced an event or place actually being encountered for the first time; also called “false memory,” or “memory without recognition,” although the phenomenon could conceivably involve precognitive or clairvoyant information, in which case Frederic Myers gave it the name promnesia. [From the Greek pro, “prior to,” + mnesis, “memory”]  Back to top of page

Term used by G. Razran to refer to the ability to discriminate color and brightness by means of touch. Also known as “skin vision,” “finger vision,” “dermal vision,” “digital sight” [From the Latin digitus, “finger, toe”], or “cutaneous perception” [From the Latin cutis, “skin”]. [From the Greek derma, “skin,” + optikos, “of sight,” derived from opsomai, “I shall see”]  Back to top of page

The determination of the nature and circumstances of a diseased condition by means of extrasensory perception. See also Healing, PsychicBack to top of page

A process in which a body of awareness (perceptual, memory, physical) becomes separated or blocked from the main center of consciousness; examples are trance-speaking, automatic writing, amnesia, multiple personality, and so on; thought by some to be a psi-conducive state.  Back to top of page

Word sometimes used to refer to the acquiring of paranormal information, frequently (but not invariably) by the use of such various practices as tea-leaf reading, palmistry, scrying, the I Ching, Tarot cards and so on.  Back to top of page

An apparitional double or counterpart of a living person. See also Astral Body; Bilocation [German for “doublewalker”]  Back to top of page

A behavioral automatism in which, generally, a “dowsing rod” (also called a divining rod: often a forked twig but sometimes a pendulum) is employed to locate subterranean water, oil, and so on, or other concealed items by following the direction in which the rod turns in the user’s hands. Some practitioners use their bare hands with no gadget.  Back to top of page

An apparently paranormal dream, inasmuch as some of the dream details give information about events normally unknowable to the experient.  Back to top of page

Aksakof, A. N. (1895). Animisme et spiritisme. Paris: P. G. Leymarie. (Original work published in 1890 in German in Leipzig.)

Ashby, R. H (1972). Glossary of terms. In The guidebook for the study of psychical research and parapsychology (pp. 144-157). London: Rider.

Batcheldor, K. J. (1984). Contributions to the theory of PK induction from sitter-group work. Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 78, 105-122.

Beloff, J., & Bate, D. (1970). Research Report for the year 1968-69, University of Edinburgh Parapsychology Unit. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 45, 297-301.

Braud, W. G. (1978). Allobiofeedback: Immediate feedback for a psychokinetic influence upon another person's physiology. In W. G. Roll (Ed.), Research in parapsychology, 1977 (pp. 123-134). Metuchen, New Jersey: Scarecrow Press.

Buchanan, J. R. (1893). Manual of psychometry. Boston: F. H. Hodges.

Dale, L., & White, R. A. (1977). Glossary of terms found in the literature of psychical research and parapsychology. In B. B. Wolman et al. (Eds.) Handbook of parapsychology (pp. 921-936). New York: van Nostrand Reinhold.

Dessoir, M. (1889). Die Parapsychologie, Sphinx, 7, 341-344.

Fukurai,T. (1931). Clairvoyance and thoughtography. London: Rider.

Hastings, A. (1990). Psi and the phenomena of channeling. In L. A. Henkel & J. Palmer, (Eds.), Research in parapsychology 1989 (pp. 99-123). Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press.

Jung, C. G., & Pauli, W. (1955). The interpretation of nature and the psyche. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Myers, F. W. H. (1903). Human personality and its survival of bodily death. New York: Longmans, Green.

Nash, C. B. (1978). Appendix II. In Science of psi (pp. 237-249). Springfield, IL: Charles C Thomas.

Palmer, J. (1986) Terminological poverty in parapsychology: Two examples. In D. H. Weiner &. D. I. Radin (Eds.), Research in parapsychology 1985 (pp.138-141) Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press. [Abstract]

Richet, C. (1905). Xénoglossie: L'ecriture automatique en langues étrangères. Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, 19, 162-194.

Schmeidler, G. R. (1943). Predicting good and bad scores in a clairvoyance experiment: A preliminary report. Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 37, 103-110.

Targ, R. (1983). Proposed application of associational remote viewing to oil and natural resource recovery In W. G. Roll, J. Beloff, & R. A. White (Eds). Research in parapsychology 1982 (pp. 264-266). Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press. [Abstract]

Targ, R., & Puthoff, H. ( 1974). Information transmission under conditions of sensory shielding. Nature, 251, 602-607.

Thalbourne, M. A. (1991a). The psychology of mystical experience. Exceptional Human Experience, 9, 168-186.

Thalbourne, M. A. (1991b). The psychology of mystical experience. Exceptional Human Experience, 9, 269.

Thalbourne, M. A. (in press). A Glossary of Terms Used In Parapsychology.
New York: Puente Publications.

Vilenskaya, L. (1983). Two views of one book. Psi Research, June, 106-108.

White, R. A. (1994). Exceptional human experiences: The generic connection. ASPR Newsletter, 18(3), 1-6.

Wilson, S. C., & Barger, T. X. (1983). The fantasy-prone personality: Implications for understanding imagery, hypnosis, and parapsychological phenomena. In A. A. Sheikh (Ed.), Imagery: Current theory, research, and application (pp. 340-398). New York: Wiley.

Zusne, L., & Jones, W. H. (1982). Anomalistic psychology: A study of extraordinary phenomena. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

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