Testing For The Paranormal
Testing For The Paranormal
Chris French (Anomalistic Psychologist) gives expert video advice on: What methods can you use to test for the paranormal?; How do you test someone who claims to be telepathic?; What is James Randi's 1m Paranormal Challenge, and has anyone ever passed it? and more...
What methods can you use to test for the paranormal?
In testing paranormal claims and they come in all kind of different varieties. So the important thing is as far as I am concerned, is to adopt a scientific approach and secondly to try and carry out a fair test. So if someone approaches me and they claim that they have abilities which lay outside the realms of explanation for conventional science. Then the first thing is to find out from them what their claim is, under what conditions they operate, and what would prevent it from working. And trying to set up a well controlled test that they agree in advance is a fair test. It is very important that you test them in a way that they are happy with and then go ahead and you can carry out your test.
What is James Randi's 1m Paranormal Challenge, and has anyone ever passed it?
James Randi is an American conjurer and debunker of the paranormal. And for many, many years now, he has an offer over $1 million to anyone who can prove, under controlled conditions that they have some kind of psychic ability. Now, lots of people have put themselves forward to try and claim this money and so far everyone's failed. So, it's pretty good evidence in itself that although people may sincerely believe that they do have psychic powers; when you actually put it to test properly, those powers always seem to fail.
What sort fo evidence would convince you that the paranormal exists?
It's not at all unusual for me to be told lots and lots of amazing stories from people about paranormal experiences that they themselves have personally had or that someone they know and trust has had, and that they find convincing. The problem for me, as a psychologist, is that that kind of evidence on its own is never going to convince me. And the reason for that is that psychologists are all too aware of how our own perception can fool us, of how our own memories can fool us. And even things like hallucinations, people tend to think that hallucinations are something that only ever happen to people who have serious mental problems. That's just not the case. They're much more common than people realize. So once you get into this area, you realize there are all these other kinds of possible explanations for the weird experiences that people have. So even if I were the one who had the experience, even if I thought I had seen a ghost or had a near death experience, that in itself should not be convincing. There are other possible explanations for that. So the only kind of evidence that will ever convince me will be that that comes from well-controlled scientific studies.