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Key Words Frequently Used in Parapsychology


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Term introduced into parapsychology by Charles Richet to describe the “exteriorized substance” produced out of the bodies of some physical mediums and from which materializations are sometimes formed. [From the Greek ektos, “outside,” + plasma, “something formed or molded”]  Back to top of page

The mechanical device employed in the technique which known as electroencephalography.  Back to top of page

A technique for amplifying and recording the fluctuations in electrical voltage in a living brain using electrodes attached to key positions on the person's head; this technique has proved to be particularly important for sleep-research (and thus also for research on dream-telepathy), where characteristic brain waves have been identified and related to the successive stages of sleep. [From the Greek enkephalos, "the brain," derived from en, "within," + kephale, "the head," + graphein, "to write"]  Back to top of page

Phenomena first reported by Raymond Bayless and popularized by Konstantin Raudive, consisting of sounds said to be the faint voices of deceased individuals, recorded on previously unused magnetic tapes.  Back to top of page

See Extrasensory Perception.  Back to top of page

A special deck of cards, developed by perceptual psychologist Karl Zener for use by J. B. Rhine in tests of extrasensory perception: a standard pack contains 25 cards, each portraying one of five symbols — circle, cross, square, star or wavy lines. Also called Zener cards.  Back to top of page

Expression coined by Rhea White (see, for example, 1994, p. 5) as “an umbrella term for many types of experience generally considered to be psychic, mystical, encounter-type experiences, death-related experiences, and experiences at the upper end of the normal range, such as creative inspiration, exceptional human performance, as in sports, literary and aesthetic experiences, and the experience of falling in love.”  Back to top of page

An experimental outcome which results not from manipulation of the variable of interest per se, but rather from some aspect of the particular experimenter’s behavior, such as unconscious communication to the subjects, or possibly even a psi-mediated effect working in accord with the experimenter’s desire to confirm some hypothesis.  Back to top of page

The acquisition of information about, or response to, an external event, object or influence (mental or physical; past, present or future) otherwise than through any of the known sensory channels; used by J. B. Rhine to embrace such phenomena as telepathy, clairvoyance and precognition; there is some difference of opinion as whether the term ought to be attributed to Rhine, or to Gustav Pagenstecher or Rudolph Tischner, who were using the German equivalent aussersinnliche Wahrehmung as early as the 1920s. [From the Latin extra, “outside of,” + sensory]  Back to top of page

See Healing, Psychic.  Back to top of page

A personality construct first described by Sheryl Wilson and Theodore Barber (1983, p. 340) to refer to a small percentage of the population “who fantasize a large part of the time, [and] who typically ‘see,’ ‘hear,’ ‘smell,’ ‘touch’ and fully experience what they fantasize”; such persons tend to be able to hallucinate voluntarily, to be excellent hypnotic subjects, to have vivid memories of their life experiences, and to report experiencing parapsychological phenomena.  Back to top of page

Term referring to a special type of environment (or the technique for producing it) consisting of homogenous, unpatterned sensory stimulation: audiovisual ganzfeld may be accomplished by placing translucent hemispheres (for example, halved ping-pong balls) over each eye of the subject, with diffused light (frequently red in hue) projected onto them from an external source, together with the playing of unstructured sounds (such as “white” or “pink” noise) into the ears, and generally with the person in a state of bodily comfort; the consequent deprivation of patterned sensory input is said to be conducive to introspection of inwardly-generated impressions, some of which may be extra-sensory in origin. [From the German for “entire field”]  Back to top of page

The use of the word "manual" refers to the fact that the target selection is carried out by manual access to computer or random number tables as well as the fact that all the important events in the experiment are recorded by hand. Consequently, the technique has limited safeguards against fraud or data selection compared with the autoganzfeld.  Back to top of page

An implementation of the ganzfeld technique in which many of the key procedural details, such as selection and presentation of the target and the recording of the evaluation of the target-response similarity given by the percipient are fully automated and computerized, the goal being to reduce as far as possible errors and sensory communication on the part of the human participants.  Back to top of page

The ability to bend metal by paranormal means; named after the Israeli stage performer Uri Geller, who was the first person to claim publicly the metal-bending ability; the term has been largely superseded by “PK-MB,” or, more simply, “metal-bending.” See also Mini-Geller; Psychokinesis.  Back to top of page

A non-committal technical term used to refer to instances of extrasensory perception in which the information paranormally acquired may have been derived either from another person’s mind (that is, as telepathy), or from a physical event or state of affairs (that is, as clairvoyance), or even from both sources; experimental parapsychologists rarely use the term “telepathy” because of the difficulty, in tests of so-called telepathy, of excluding the possible operation of clairvoyance.  Back to top of page

As popularly used, this term denotes only the apparition of a deceased person, and is not sufficiently precise for use in psychical research. [Ashby, 1972]  Back to top of page

Term originally used by Gertrude Schmeidler (1943) to describe a subject who rejects the possibility that extrasensory perception could occur under the conditions of the given experimental situation; this somewhat narrow meaning has been extended to refer also, or alternatively, to persons who do not believe in the existence of ESP in general (that is, under any conditions!), or even to persons who obtain low scores on various so-called “projective,” “scalar” or “checklist” measures of belief in (and/or experience of) different sorts of putative psi phenomena. Compare Sheep. See Sheep-Goat Effect.  Back to top of page

An experience having the same phenomenological characteristics as a sense-perception, and which may lead the experient to suppose the presence of an external physical object as the cause of that experience, but in which, in fact, there is no such object present.  Back to top of page

The more or less regular occurrence of paranormal phenomena associated with a particular locality (especially a building) and usually attributed to the activities of a discarnate entity; the phenomena may include apparitions, poltergeist disturbances, cold drafts, sounds of steps and voices, and various odors.  Back to top of page

Healing apparently brought about by such non-medical means as prayer, the “laying on of hands,” Psychic healing; immersion at a religious shrine, and so on, and inexplicable according to contemporary medical science; not to be confused with merely unconventional medicine.  Back to top of page

Term referring to the transitional state of consciousness experienced while falling asleep, sometimes characterized by vivid hallucinations or imagery of varying degrees of bizarreness; sometimes used to refer also to the similar state of awareness experienced during the process of waking up. Compare Hypnopompic State. [From the Greek hypnos, “sleep,” + agogos, “leading”]  Back to top of page

Term coined by Frederic Myers to refer to the transitional state of consciousness experienced while waking from sleep; the term “hypnagogic” is sometimes used to refer to this state also. [From the Greek hypnos, “sleep,” + pompos, “escort, guide”]  Back to top of page

A condition or state, commonly resembling sleep, which is accompanied by narrowing of the range of attention, is characterized by marked susceptibility to suggestion, and can be artificially induced.  Back to top of page

Somewhat ill-defined term referring to the faculty of coming to an idea directly, by means other than those of reasoning and intellect, and indeed often outside of all conscious processes; the source of these messages is often said to be in the normal, mundane, unconscious, but it is often also said to be the result of mystical or paranormal processes. The word sometimes refers to the process, sometimes to the product of intuition. [From the Latin intueri, “to look at, contemplate”]  Back to top of page

The process whereby a rating or a rank-score (that is, “1st,” “2nd,” “3rd,” and so on) is awarded to one or more responses produced (or targets used) in a free-response test of extrasensory perception, in accordance with the degree of correspondence obtaining between them or one or more targets (or responses); also, the attempt to match, under blind conditions, a set of targets with a set of responses.  Back to top of page

A type of high-voltage, high-frequency photography, developed in the Soviet Union by Semyon Davidovich Kirlian, which records on photographic film the so-called “corona discharge” of an object caused by ionization of the field surrounding that object; it is claimed by some that this process indicates the existence of hitherto unknown radiations or energy fields such as “bioplasma” or the “psychic aura.

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