UNIVERSITY OF GÖTEBORG DEPARTMENT OF PSYCHOLOGY
S-413 14 Göteborg, Sweden
Report on Work in Progress on the Ganzfeld Project
Adrian Parker Ph.D
The Ganzfeld project at the University of Göteborg (Gothenburg) is aimed at bringing so-called subjective psi–experiences into a laboratory setting which will the exact nature of the experiences and the conditions influencing their occurrence to be studied. It incorporates the essential features relating to the occurrences of the spontaneous phenomena:
These features are that the receiver is in passive, relaxed, or even an altered, dream-like state while the sender is emotionally aroused or involved in the experience. The ”Ganzfeld” is a form of mild sensory deprivation which produces a pleasant relaxed state between wakefulness and sleep dominated by internal imagery which often has a vivid content. This provides a simple means of studying a so-called psi-effect in which the imagery of the subject – the receiver – during Ganzfeld can be potentially influenced by those of a sender who is focuses on the emotional content of a randomly chosen video-clip. In proof orientated research, a technique known as autoganzfeld has been used. This sophisticated equipment decides over and automatically records all events in the experimental procedure.
Major contemporary reviews of this area of research are reported in Brain and Behavioural Science 1987 (10), Psychological Bulletin 1994 (115), Statistical Science 1991 (6). A recently reported review initiated by the US government also came to positive conclusions. Of the two appointed reviewers, one reviewer agreed that an anomaly had been established but emphasised the need for further replications, while the other reviewer concluded that the phenomena had been adequately demonstrated to the point that further proof orientated research can be considered futile and given resources, knowledge could easily be gained about how this ability works (see Utts and Hyman at: http://www-stat.ucdavis.edu/users/utts/).
The Aim of the Project
The aim of this project was initially two-fold:
- to replicate the earlier findings accumulated by two decades of research summarised in the Bem and Honorton article published in the 1994 Psychological Bulletin.
- to improve our knowledge of the conditions and factors enhancing the use of the Ganzfeld technique as a means of inducing a psi-effect.
In the course of developing the project, the comments of the appointed assessors, Prof. Henry Montgomery and Prof. Gudmund Smith, were taken into account so that additional focus was given to two further aspects:
- to develop a more efficient and a more effective means, in terms of man-hours and of effect size, of using the Ganzfeld.
- to make some modest effort towards relating these findings to those of mainstream psychology in the areas of personality types, imagery and defences.
Staff and collaborators
The project is directed by Adrian Parker who is Senior Lecturer /Associate Professor in Psychology, and a half time research assistant. Other assistants have been brought in when needed on an hourly basis. Adrian Parker has been employed a half time on the project from January 1996 until present (November 1996). Helena Johansson worked half time from November 1995 until March 1996 when she was succeeded by Andrea Frederiksen has worked half time since April 1996. Currently we are supporting students wish to carry out a dissertation in this area with the proviso that the dissertation has also an emphasis on an established area of psychology such as clinical psychology. For instance, one student is about to present his M.Sc. thesis which has compared the Myers-Briggs profiles of hitter versus misses and is aimed at replicating the meta-analysis conclusion that intuition, feeling, and perceiving are differential characteristics of psi-hitters.
Collaboration has been made in the form of visits by Professor Robert Morris and Dr Kathy Dalton of the University of Edinburgh, and by Professor Jan Dalkvist of the University of Stockholm. We are currently planning to incorporate a more active participation of Prof. Dalkvist in our synchronisation study described below. We also plan a co-operative venture with a long time colleague and a well known critic of parapsychology, Prof. James Alcock of Glendon College, Toronto University.
Our first and prime aim was to establish that we could obtain a psi-effect using the Ganzfeld at Gothenburg. This appears to have been achieved, at least in terms of what reasonable precautions can exclude (see enclosed paper: Parker, Frederiksen, & Johansson 1997).
The Ganzfeld is a mild sensory deprivation technique which produces a pleasant state of relaxation in which internal imagery is generated. This is achieved by producing homogenous field of vision and sound (halves ping-pong of balls placed over the eyes and white noise or sea-shore noise sent through earphones). The snder concentraes on a ranomily chosen vidoe-film and attempts to influence of the subject´s imagery.
Three Studies on the Replication and Specification of Conditions Relating to the Psi-Effect:
Previous studies have indicated that the subject’s own prior ”psychic” experiences are a predictor of success in Ganzfeld. They have also indicated there to be marked experimenter effects. Some experimenters obtain success with the technique in terms of a psi-effect while others do not. In order for rapid progress to be made, it is cearly important to contribute towards a resolution of this replication problem. Three studies, each with 30 subjects were carried out. The first study was exploratory to give with most of the sessions being carried out by an assistant experimenter and run without the usual (one-way) auditory monitoring by the agent of the receivers mentation. This study failed to produce the usual psi-hitting on a direct analysis although a secondary analysis strongly suggested that an insensitive ranking/rating procedure used by the experimenter may have caused this.
The two other studies each with 30 subjects produced a significant psi hitting effect (37%) level which gives a medium effect size (.63). An experimenter effect was indicated in the results and further analyses of this data indicated this to be closely related to the allocation of the subjects in the study. Subjects coming from those recruited through newspapers or New Age groups were mainly tested by the experimenter with higher results while psychology students who obtained an extremely low scoring rate, were tested by the experimenter with the lowest rate.
The conclusion that the subject source may be a decisive factor in experimenter effects, relates well to those of previous studies where large experimenter effects have been found in the context of possible or evident differences in the sources of subject recruitment or in their allocation to the respective experimenters.
Other analyses findings gave support to the claims that previous success with the Ganzfeld, is in itself a predictor of future success and that the interpersonal climate may be critical for teh success of the procedure..
Our results has given us some indication of the minimum conditions for success.
- The use of subjects belonging to the normal population who have had previously spontaneous psi type experiences. These can be expected to score at about a 40% hit frequency rather than 25%.
- The use of subjects who have had previous experience of success with the Ganzfeld, in terms of obtaining direct hits, who return for later sessions appear to succeed also in these sessions.
- The presence of a conducive interpersonal atmosphere together with a positive expectancy of success based on the technique itself, is vital.
It is also our personal experience that the experimenter should possess skills enabling the systematic and detached reviewing of mentation reports, to be made. Possibly some elementary skills in in the interpretation of imagery symbols may be revelant.
Analyses currently in progress
Since there are many factors which potentially may influence scoring during the Ganzfeld, we have used a wide range of exploratory measures.
Personality, perception and psi.
These include three measures:
- Forty subjects have to date completed the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and the profiles of hitters and misses will be compared.
- Twenty subjects have up to now been tested using the DMT (Defense Mechanism Test) and the profiles of hitter and misses will compared.
- Sixty subjects completed the Magical Ideation Scale and forty five subject completed the Sense of Cohesion Questionnaire. These questionnaires allow us also to test certain clinical and cognitive hypotheses relating to paranormal belief and experiences.
It seems possible that type of imagery may be a critical determinant of success and may explain the large differences between the success of the Paranormal Experiences group and New Age group, as opposed to that of psychology students. We have conducted a series of blind analyses of the receiver’s imagery in terms of quantity (word count) and number of themes, and number of repeated themes. These will be studied in relation to psi-hitting scores.
Here we are interested in the types of target video sequences that succeed best.. We are particularly interested in the success of targets that show a unexpected change in content or emotion (or so-called entropy). Current interest in the research community is being cocnerns how psi may function like other sensory systems, in the respect that these systems react mostly to sudden changes in the pattern of stimulation or in the strength of signal itself. It is reasoned that this aspect may have a biological survival value
Publications from this work
- Johansson, H. & Parker, A (1995) Replication of the Ganzfeld Findings. Poster presented at the 38th Annual Convention of the Parapsychological Association, Durham, N.C. Printed as Proceedings of the Parapsychological Association.
- Parker, A. Replication the Ganzfeld findings using a manual Ganzfeld. Paper presented at the 20th International Conferences of the Society for Psychical Research, Cirencester, England.
- Parker, A., Johansson, H., & Frederiksen, A. (1997) Towards specifying the recipe for success with the Ganzfeld. European Journal of Parapsychology. accepted for publication. To be even abstracted in the Electronic Journal of Anomalous Phenomena (internet)
- Parker, A., & Grims, D. (19979 Some variables relating to psi in the Ganzfeld. Paper to be presented at the 41st Annual Convention of the Parapsychological Association, Brighton, England.
Current and Planned Research Projects 1997-1998:
Our first major study has established that positive results with the Ganzfeld technique can be achieved here at Gothenburg.
Four further projects are being carried out or planned for 1997-98. Brief summaries of these are as follows:
1. Ganzfeld Experimenter Training Series.
This study will involve students as co-experimenters, who wish to under supervision carry out projects as part of their MSc thesis. The visit of the Edinburgh researcher, Kathy Dalton, resulted in the production of a Ganzfeld training video, which is an additional facility.
2. Four Target Serial Ganzfeld.
This is an innovation to improve the efficiency of the Ganzfeld technique and it if successful it could produce a major change in Ganzfeld methodology. In the current methodology, only one of the possible four video clips is chosen and is ”sent ” during a 30 minute Ganzfeld period. In the proposed set up, all four targets are used in a forty minute Ganzfeld with short rest periods interspersed between the sending of each target video clip. The sender views all the four video extracts in the series in a randomised order. The task is then for the receiver to later identify the correct order ; that is the order in which the video clips were viewed in by the sender.
3. Qualitative Analysis of Correspondences (Synchronisation Study).
Both here and at Edinburgh, tape recordings have been assembled of some impressive correspondences between subject’s mentation reports and film sequences. Such records have however never been analysed systematically and no attempt has been made to record and study the degree of synchronicity between the receivers mental images and the video-images. In collaboration with Professor Jan Dalkvist of the University of Stockholm, we are planning to make a statistical evaluation of these.
4. Proposed Collaborative Study
In making some assertions about the conditions determining the success of the Ganzfeld, it is considered important to submit these to what may be regarded as the ultimate test. In the Popperian sense, parapsychologists ought to be able to say that under the following such and such conditions, you, the critic, will be able to obtain a psi-effect, otherwise the hypothesis is false. To this end, it proposed to run a pilot study under the supervision of James Alcock, a well-known critic of parapsychology and author of a major debate article on the subject in Brain and Behavioral Sciences. Prof. Alcock, with whom I have a long term association, is interested in this initiative depending on funding and availability of other resources.
The encouraging aspects about the psi-Ganzfeld work are 1) in contrast to forced choice (card guessing) tests, the effect size is in the region of what can be noticed with the naked eye, and 2) given the conditions previously specified, the degree of replication appears impressive. One gets the impression, that now psi is in the process of being captured in the laboratory, there is the opportunity to learn something knew about this phenomenon.
Figure 1: Lay out for the Synchronisation Study
35 metres distance with intervening rooms between sender and receiver
Microphone and Amplifier
Loudspeaker – Filer – pre-amplifier
via channel 1: receiver’s mentation report
via channel 2: film being played for the sender
Television – Video: playing target film