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Is controversial research into telepathy and other seeming ‘super-powers’ of the mind starting to be more accepted by orthodox science? In its latest issue, American Psychologist – the official peer-reviewed academic journal of the American Psychological Association – has published a paper that reviews the research so far into parapsychological (‘psi’) abilities, and concludes that the “evidence provides cumulative support for the reality of psi, which cannot be readily explained away by the quality of the studies, fraud, selective reporting, experimental or analytical incompetence, or other frequent criticisms.”

The new paper – “The experimental evidence for parapsychological phenomena: a review“, by Etzel Cardeña of Lund University – also discusses recent theories from physics and psychology “that present psi phenomena as at least plausible”, and concludes with recommendations for further progress in the field.

The paper begins by noting the reason for presenting an overview and discussion of the topic: “Most psychologists could reasonably be described as uninformed skeptics — a minority could reasonably be described as prejudiced bigots — where the paranormal is concerned”. Indeed, it quotes one cognitive scientist as stating that the acceptance of psi phenomena would “send all of science as we know it crashing to the ground”.

To address this, the paper quickly outlines some current theories in physics and psychology that might help to explain psi effects without smashing the pillars supporting the scientific establishment: quantum physics, ideas on the nature of consciousness, theories of time, and psychological and evolutionary theories of psi.

Cardeña also notes that, despite its current, controversial reputation, the field of psi research has a long history of introducing methods later integrated into psychology (e.g. the first use of randomization, along with systematic use of masking procedures; the first comprehensive use of meta-analysis; study preregistration; pioneering contributions to the psychology of hallucinations, eyewitness reports, and dissociative and hypnotic phenomena). And some of psychology’s most respected names, historically, have also shared an interest in parapsychology, including William James, Hans Berger (inventor of the EEG), Sigmund Freud, and former American Psychological Association (APA) president Gardner Murphy.

The meat of the Cardeña’s paper, though, is in the listing of positive results in various areas of research that support the psi hypothesis.

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