Annual Conference - Parapsychology
Every year OUPS holds an applied psychology conference, inviting top psychologists to talk on a specific area of psychology to give delegates the opportunity to hear experts in the field present up to date research on a specific area of psychology and to provide a forum for informed discussion.
Our Annual Conference in 2019, for OU students and anyone with an interest in the subject, will be on ‘Parapsychology: exploring the science of the paranormal’. The conference will put research described as 'paranormal' under the microscope of critical scrutiny. Phenomena to be discussed include near-death experiences, poltergeists, and the veracity of readings by mediums. This will be presented to be of interest to both academics and lay persons.
- David Luke (The University of Greenwich; author of 'Other Worlds: Psychedelics and Exceptional Human Experience')
'Psychedelics, psi and other exceptional human experiences'
An exploration of research into the range of exceptional human experiences that occur with the use of psychedelics, and especially psi. A brief review of the literature is followed by an assessment of the empirical data to support the notion that psychedelics induce psi, and what that implies for our understanding of the possible neurobiology of psi. The author’s own past research conducting precognition experiments with mescaline, LSD and, currently, DMT will be presented alongside current theory on psi mechanisms, altered states of consciousness and brain action.
- Peter Naish (University of Sussex and The Open University)
'Tales of the supernatuural: revisiting old haunts'
I’ve always enjoyed a good ghost story and have even written one of my own, but the ones I really like are not works of fiction; they are the ones that are supposed to be true. That word ‘supposed’ is central to my talk, because many people flatly deny the possibility that so-called supernatural events ever take place. The lumping together of all such events may be the problem here. Although spectral figures passing through walls, poltergeists throwing the furniture about in the night and people foreseeing impending doom all sound suitably spooky, they may represent different processes. Some of those may be real, while others perhaps have a more prosaic explanation. So, I will share with you some good, ‘true’ stories, and we can see how they stand up to scientific scrutiny. Will we have to accept that they are all fiction, or might we, like Hamlet, conclude that there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in our philosophy?
- Tricia Robertson (University of Glasgow; author of 'Things you can do when you are Dead')
'Psychical research ... The Cinderella Science'
Psychical Research and Parapsychology have been hidden in a cupboard somewhere for too long a time, over one hundred years in fact; a sort of scientific ‘Cinderella’, not to be spoken about in ‘respectable’ company. It is time for Cinderella to come out of the kitchen and attend the scientific ‘ball.’ Critics of psychical research complain about levels of proof...as they should...but they forget that there are two types of proof accepted in the world, one type being a repeatable experiment that may be carried out or concerning mathematical calculations, where two and two added together will always make four. But we also accept proof as in a court of law....beyond reasonable doubt.
Tricia will give examples of both types. She will examine the more pragmatic aspects of phenomena, leaning heavily on evidence within the best cases of her own, ongoing research and unbelievable examples from the past. Part of her talk presents ostensible evidence for the survival of human consciousness after physical death, but other aspects describe the incredible latent talents that we may hold as living human beings. This talk will not be boring....bring along an ‘open mind’ and judge for yourself
- Pim van Lommel (Cardiologist, Arnhem, The Netherlands; author of 'Consciousness beyond life')
'Nonlocal consciousness: A concept based on scientific studies on the Near-Death Experience'
‘To study the abnormal is the best way of understanding the normal’ . William James
According to our current medical concepts, it is not possible to experience consciousness during a cardiac arrest, when circulation and breathing have ceased. But during the period of unconsciousness due to a life-threatening crisis like cardiac arrest patients may report the paradoxical occurrence of enhanced consciousness experienced in a dimension without our conventional concept of time and space, with cognitive functions, with emotions, with self-identity, with memories from early childhood and sometimes with (non-sensory) perception out and above their lifeless body. In my lecture I will discuss the prospective design and the results of our prospective and longitudinal Dutch study on near-death experience (NDE) in 344 survivors of cardiac arrest, as was published in The Lancet in 2001. I will discuss into detail several universal elements that can be experienced during NDE, and their implication for our concept, how consciousness and memories could be experienced outside the body during a temporarily non-functioning brain. In four prospective studies with a total of 562 survivors of cardiac arrest between 11% and 18% of the patients reported a near-death experience (NDE), and in these studies it could not be shown that physiological, psychological, pharmacological or demographic factors could explain the cause and content of these experiences. Through many studies with induced cardiac arrest in both human and animal models cerebral function has been shown to be severely compromised during cardiac arrest, with complete cessation of cerebral flow, and electrical activity in both cerebral cortex and the deeper structures of the brain has been shown to be absent after a very short period of time (10-20 seconds). So we have to conclude that in cardiac arrest NDE is experienced during a transient loss of all functions of the cortex and of the brainstem. How could a clear consciousness outside one’s body be experienced at the moment that the brain no longer functions during a period of clinical death, with a flat EEG? How is consciousness related to the integrity of brain function? And is there a start or an end to consciousness? Scientific study of NDE pushes us to the limits of our medical and neurophysiologic ideas about the range of human consciousness and mind-brain relation, because we have to admit that it is not possible to reduce consciousness to neural processes as conceived by contemporary neuroscience.
Since the publication of these prospective studies on NDE in survivors of cardiac arrest, with strikingly similar results and conclusions, the phenomenon of the NDE can no longer be scientifically ignored. It is an authentic experience which cannot be simply reduced to imagination, fear of death, hallucination, psychosis, the use of drugs, or oxygen deficiency, and people appear to be permanently changed by an NDE during a cardiac arrest of only some minutes duration. According to these studies, the current materialistic view of the relationship between the brain and consciousness held by most physicians, philosophers and psychologists is too restricted for a proper understanding of this phenomenon. There are good reasons to assume that our consciousness does not always coincide with the functioning of our brain: enhanced consciousness can sometimes be experienced separately from the body. I have come to the inevitable conclusion that most likely the brain must have a facilitating and not a producing function to experience consciousness. By making a scientific case for consciousness as a nonlocal and thus ubiquitous phenomenon we must question a purely materialist paradigm in science. Moreover, recent research on NDE seems to be a source of new insights into the possibility of a continuity of our consciousness after physical death.
- Callum Cooper (University of Northampton; author of 'Telephone Calls from the Dead')
'After-Death Communications: Bridging Thanatology and Parapsychology'
This presentation will provide an outline of what some term ‘After-Death Communications’ (ADCs). These are experiences suggesting interaction with the dead for the experient via ‘sense of presence’, smells associated with the deceased, sounds, touch, apparitions, dreams, poltergeist type phenomena and more. Since the formation of the Society for Psychical Research in 1882, ADCs were of great interest in their early research efforts owing to the rise of spiritualism, with studies such as ‘The Census of Hallucinations’ demonstrating the high commonality of of such phenomena. Medical research by the 1970s also demonstrated their natural occurrence within over 50% of the bereaved, thus gaining further respect and attention for such phenomena, especially in the way experients were treated when they shared their accounts with health care professionals. This presentation will discuss examples of the various forms and features of such experiences, and where modern research is today with regards to ADCs and their contributions to clinical parapsychology, counselling services and positive psychology.
- Chris Roe (University of Northampton; Director of the Centre for the Study of Anomalous Processes)
'Psi as unconscious: Recent developments in experimental parapsychology'
In this presentation I will describe recent advances in parapsychological research that focus on the notion that psi phenomena such as extrasensory perception depend on an ability to access unconscious processes. This research has its historical origins in dream ESP and Ganzfeld studies, which I shall briefly describe as the main means by which unconscious material is made available to conscious awareness. But I will concentrate on more recent experimental designs that explore the suggestion that psi might operate at a more subtle, unconscious level that moderates decision making and behavioural responses without any conscious awareness at all. This will include recent high profile experiments by Daryl Bem and colleagues, and also a suite of experiments that I have conducted to look at the effects of reward/punishment upon performance at a “hidden”psi task.
- Frederick Toates (Open University)
'What is "para" about parapsychology ? Brains, Minds and Consciousness'
In terms of how brains work, the talk will examine critically the criteria for describing something as being ‘paranormal’. It will suggest how some phenomena so described can possibly be explained in terms of a conventional understanding of how brains work. However, it will note a range of phenomena which are at present inexplicable in terms of such a conventional understanding. It will argue for an integration in understanding between conventional psychology and parapsychology, noting that, in their historical roots, there was no divide between the two. A range of phenomena will be discussed, including starling flight, ghosts, poltergeists, psi, near-death experiences and hallucinogenic drugs.
- Dr Madeleine Castro (Leeds Beckett University)
'Exploring the implications of a survey of reported paranormal experiences'.
In 2009, we conducted the most recent nationally representative survey of reported paranormal experiences in Great Britain (Castro, Burrows & Wooffitt, 2014). We found that almost 37 per cent of the population reported at least one paranormal experience, and that women, and those living in the South West of England were most likely to report such experiences. Interestingly, precognitive experience was the most often reported, with 24 per cent of the population citing this as an experience they’d had.
This paper reviews these results, considering some of the ways they might be interpreted whilst also exploring what they might tell us about ourselves, socially and psychologically. It also considers the importance of researching these experiences and argues that how we research exceptional human experiences (EHEs - White, 1999) really matters.
- Professor Bernard Carr (Queen Mary University of London, former President of the Society of Psychical Research, Emeritus Professor of Mathematics and Astronomy)
'Dreaming up a theory of psi'
Psychical research will not be accepted as part of mainstream science until it has some theoretical basis. In particular, since psi may involve an interaction with the physical world, it should involve some form of expansion of physics. Three approaches have been advocated: (1) transmission models, in which the information or anomalous influence is conveyed by some conventional mechanism within classical physics; (2) quantum models, in which weird effects such as entanglement and non-locality are invokedi; (3) hyperspatial models, in which extra dimensions of space and time (of the kind already invoked in some theories of physics) are hypothesised. (1) seems implausible and (2) is unlikely to provide a complete explanation but (3) may be supported by the fact that many psychic experiences - and even normal mental ones, such as dreams - seem to involve some form of space which is different from ordinary physical space but subtly interacts with it.
What to expect
The lectures are conducted in management conference seminar rooms within the University campus, and you will have been provided with a timetable of talks and lecture notes before you arrive.
You can choose how you spend your time. If you book the residential package then you will have a very comfortable ensuite room in management conference facilities complete with bedding, towels, a hairdryer, coffee-making facilities and desk. Wifi is also included. The training centre has a small exercise room within the building and you also have complimentary access to the gym and pool on campus, so if you do want to relax then there is the option to do so.
The cost is inclusive of all meals, including Friday night and Saturday night dinner. There are no extra costs involved (except for drinks at the bar!). As well as your room and all meals this includes refreshments at break times, extensive handouts which are only available to attendees, revision of key course material, advice on revision techniques and assessments, welcome drink on Friday night. Non-residential places are available for a reduction, and the same breakfast, lunch, dinner and all tea/coffee/snack breaks during the day are still included.
The welcome drinks and psychology book stall are both excellent places to meet other students. All students and staff wear name badges, so it is easy to find somebody to help if you have any questions. You can enjoy your meals with a group of students in the comfortable dining room. The food is fresh, healthy buffet style catering, and there is something to entice everyone.
Finally, whilst most students leave exhausted from the learning and socialising, they comment that it is such a worthwhile weekend, and we see many of them each year as they progress their studies!
The weekend takes place at Radcliffe Conference and Training Centre, University of Warwick. Both accommodation and lectures are located in the same building unless you have been informed otherwise.
Warwick is an award winning conference venue with excellent facilities. Access to the sports facilities, including the swimming pool, are included in the price. The university's central location with excellent transport links makes it easily accessible from all over the UK and Europe. There is ample free car parking.
Click here for information on accessibility, parking and other related facilities.
Travel and directions
For campus maps go to Warwick Campus Maps.