In 1995 we were awarded a grant for a project entitled “Reality and Imagination: Psi at the Interface”. The grant finished in September 2000 and the research has now all been completed. For interest the following describes the work we did. I have now stopped working on the paranormal.
Sue Blackmore, one day a week, supervising the project
Nicholas Rose, research assistant, three days a week
Linda Holley, secretary, one day a week.
The Perrott-Warrick Fund is administered by Trinity College, Cambridge. Apart from the Koestler Chair at Edinburgh University, it is the largest source of financial support for psychical research and parapsychology in Britain.
In 1937, as a memorial to F.W.H.Myers, who had been a Fellow of Trinity College, Frank Duerdin Perrott made a bequest to the masters and Fellows of the college “absolutely for the purpose of psychical research”. He defined psychical research as:
“The investigation of mental or physical phenomena which seem prima facie to suggest (a) the existence of supernormal powers of cognition or action in human beings in their present life, or (b) the persistence of the human mind after bodily death”. In 1956 the fund was increased by a further bequest from Frederic Walmsley Warrick.
In its early years the fund supported a studentship, and among the beneficiaries were Whateley Carrington, S.G. Soal, and Trevor Hall. When the fund was increased, a series of lectures by C.D.Broad was organised, and subsequently the fund supported many students doing research for PhDs. These included Carl Sargent, Richard Broughton, Chris Roe and Adrian Parker, most of whom are still working in psychical research today. In recent years, fund management has considerably increased the amount of money available. In 1992 the selection was given to Darwin College and Nicholas Humphrey was appointed as a Senior Research Fellow. During his tenure he wrote the book “Soul Searching” but did no research into the paranormal. After that the Electors resumed the task of selection and supported several small projects and two major laboratories – ours and that of Richard Wiseman at the University of Hertfordshire.
The grant was awarded to support the following research. (This is a summary of the research proposal)
“When I was a little girl, I used to lie in bed at night and try to make my mind go black – I mean really completely black. It isn’t very easy. But when I could do it, just before I went to sleep, pictures just came by themselves. I used to wonder whether they were real. I mean was there that cottage and those people really somewhere else?”
Borderline states, like that between sleep and waking, have often set people wondering about the possibility of the paranormal – of seeing at a distance, or picking up thoughts, images or ideas from other people. Is this just fantasy? Or is there something special about the interface?
Much circumstantial evidence suggests that borderline states of consciousness are psi-conducive (that is, they encourage telepathy, clairvoyance and precognition). In addition some of the most promising experimental techniques seem to exploit this borderline. However, no one has previously approached psi quite this way, nor tackled the interesting question of what borderline is being crossed. Is the state of consciousness what matters, or is it the confusion between reality and imagination?
The research proposed here will tackle psi within the broad area of borderline states. The experiences of interest include:
A variety of methods, both naturalistic and experimental, will be used to provide a framework within which to do the following:
An important consideration for any research in parapsychology is what will be learned if no psi is found. This research programme includes many new opportunities for detecting psi. However, if it is not found, much will still be learned about the borderline states between reality and imagination, the people who experience them, and the way the experiences come to be interpreted as psychic.
We carried out several surveys, several experiments, and collected a large number of accounts of psychic experiences. We concentrated especially on the experience of sleep paralysis, and collected over 300 accounts of these experiences. You can find further details in the following publications. Abstracts are available – look out for the links.
Blackmore,S.J. Why psi tells us nothing about consciousness. Toward a Science of Consciousness 1996 (Tucson II.) Tucson, Az. April 8-13, 1996
Blackmore,S.J. Experiences on the borderline between reality and imagination. 20th International Conference of the Society for Psychical Research, Cirencester, 31 August 1996.
Blackmore,S.J. and Rose,N.J. Two pilot surveys of unusual personal experiences 20th International Conference of the Society for Psychical Research, Cirencester, 31 August 1996.
Blackmore,S.J. Back to Basics Contribution to a Symposium, 20th International Conference of the Society for Psychical Research, Cirencester, 1 Sept 1996.
Blackmore,S.J. On the edge of reality British Association for the Advancement of Science, Annual Festival of Science, Birmingham, 11 September 1996
Blackmore,S.J. and Rose,N.J. Reality and Imagination: A psi conducive confusion? 40th Annual Convention of the Parapsychological Association. Brighton, August 1997
Rose,N.J., Hogan,J. and Blackmore,S.J. Experiences of Sleep Paralysis 40th Annual Convention of the Parapsychological Association. Brighton, August 1997
Blackmore,S.J. Children’s experiences on the borders of sleep 22nd International Conference of the Society for Psychical Research, York, September 1998
Parker,J. and Blackmore,S.J. A comparison of sleep paralysis and dream reports. 22nd International Conference of the Society for Psychical Research, York, September 1998
Rose,N.J. and Blackmore,S.J. Are reality-imagination confusions psi-conducive? 22nd International Conference of the Society for Psychical Research, York, September 1998
Blackmore,S.J., Rose,N.J. and Gray,K. Can false memories be influenced by psi? 22nd International Conference of the Society for Psychical Research, York, September 1998
Blackmore,S.J. OBEs and sleep paralysis, 23rd International Conference of the Society for Psychical Research, Durham, 3-5.9.99
Blackmore,S.J. and Rose,N A test of the Bio-Electric Shield, 23rd International Conference of the Society for Psychical Research, Durham, 3-5.9.99
Rose,N and Blackmore,S.J. Are false memories psi conducive? 23rd International Conference of the Society for Psychical Research, Durham, 3-5.9.99
Blackmore,S.J. On the edge of the real, Perrott-Warrick Conference, Cambridge, April 3-5 2000
Blackmore,S.J. Out-of-body experiences: Mystical experience or quirk of the brain?Society for Psychical Research Study Day 39, London, April 29 2000
Rose,N.R. and Blackmore,S.J. Are false memories psi conducive? Parapsychological Association Conference, Germany August 2000
Rose,N.R. Experiences and interpretations of sleep paralysis. 24th International Conference of the Society for Psychical Research, Northampton, 8-10 September 2000
Blackmore,S.J. and Rose,N. Horses for Courses: Testing a Psychic Claimant 24thInternational Conference of the Society for Psychical Research, Northampton, September 2000
Blackmore,S.J. 1997 Back to Basics. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 61, 333-335
Blackmore,S.J. and Rose,N.J. 1997 Reality and Imagination: A psi-conducive confusion? Journal of Parapsychology, 61, 321-335
Blackmore,S.J. 1998 Abduction by aliens or sleep paralysis? Skeptical Inquirer, 22, 23-28
Blackmore,S.J. 1998 Experiences of anoxia: Do reflex anoxic seizures resemble near-death experiences? Journal of Near Death Studies, 17, 111-120 abstract
Blackmore,S.J. 1997 Scientific analysis of an “Alien Implant“, UFO Magazine, Nov/Dec 9-11
Blackmore,S.J. 1998 Analysing an ‘Alien’ implant. The Skeptic, 11:3, 6-7.
Blackmore,S.J. 2001 What can the paranormal teach us about consciousness. Skeptical Inquirer, 25:2, 22-27 (cover story)
We also worked in association with PhD student Jennie Parker who is researching dreams, and with psychology undergraduates who choose to do their third year project on various paranormal topics. Projects on paranormal topics included the following:
Lucid dream induction using the “Nova Dreamer”
Lucid dreams and psi experiences
Drug induced and naturally occurring mystical experiences
Detection of remote staring (conscious and physiological detection)
OBEs, dreaming and the temporal lobes
Sleep paralysis and temporal lobe lability in alien abductees
Sleep paralysis and its relation to sleep quality
The power of astrology to alter women’s behaviour
Astrology, personality and the self-attribution theory
Aromatherapy and memory
Paranormal beliefs including belief in UFOs, precognition, reincarnation, dualism, luck, astrology and the afterlife – relations to locus of control, illusion of control and happiness