Young People and the Paranormal.
T. J. Gaynard.
[Journal]Journal of the Society for Psychical Research [Vol. 58, No. 826, January 1992]
A questionnaire survey of belief in, and experience of, the paranormal was carried out amongst a group of young people in the age range 16 to 19 years. 54.4% of the sample claimed personal experience of at least one paranormal event whilst 41.8% reported experience of two or more different types. Analysis of the various categories of experience showed their relative frequencies to decrease in the order : dÈj‡ vu, precognition, ghosts, telepathy, OBE, UFO, poltergeists, apparitions of the living. Gender, intellect and training in science (as opposed to arts) had little effect on susceptibility to paranormal experience, but it was tentatively concluded that certain types of phenomena may occur earlier, rather than later, in life. Belief in the paranormal was independent of both intellect and science/arts training, but there was some indication that belief in OBE, reincarnation and dÈj‡ vu is greater amongst females than males. Strong evidence was obtained to suggest that the tendency to experience paranormal phenomena is enhanced if their existence is already accepted.
Since the pioneering 'Census of Hallucinations' (Sidgwick et al., 1894) many investigators have conducted surveys designed to assess the degree of belief in, and experience of, paranormal phenomena. Although such studies employ only two basic techniques (direct interviewing or use of written questionnaires) they vary widely as regards the type of population sampled and the range of phenomena investigated. Thus, there have been national and even international surveys to obtain data on a wide spectrum of paranormal events (Gallup International, 1984; Gallup and Newport, 1991; Haraldsson et al., 1977; Haraldsson, 1985;McCready & Greeley, 1976). At the opposite end of the scale other studies have been more specific, targeting smaller, 'special' populations and concentrating on fewer phenomena (Blackmore, 1981,1982, 1986, 1989; Gallup, 1982; Hearne, 1989; Irwin, 1980; Kohr, 1980; Osis, 1979) Various other surveys may be thought of as lying between these extremes (Blackmore, 1984; Haraldsson, 1989; Palmer, 1979; West, 1948, 1990). However, although there have been some attempts to relate the results of such investigations to (amongst other factors) the age of the subjects (e.g. Green, 1966) there would appear to have been no general surveys targeted specifically at young people in the age group sixteen to nineteen years. This paper describes the results of such a survey.
The research was undertaken amongst students attending Wyke College in Kingston upon Hull. Wyke is a sixth-form college catering mainly for young people living in the west of the city, although a significant proportion of the students do come from other areas of Hull or from outside the city boundary. It is an 'open access' college; in other words, no formal academic qualifications are needed for entry. Consequently, the eight hundred or so students on roll include young people with a wide range of intellectual ability and backgrounds following an equally wide spectrum of courses, including GCSE, A levels, vocational subjects and 'college' (general) studies in various combinations. As a contribution to the college studies programme the author offers a course entitled "Aspects of the Paranormal", in which a variety of paranormal phenomena are discussed. The course, which is voluntary, is popular and it became apparent that amongst the students attending there exists a wide range of levels of belief and of personal experience. This led the author to speculate as to the attitude to the paranormal of young people in general, and the present study was conceived.
In addition to their academic studies, students take part in tutorial sessions, members of the college belonging to tutorial groups, each consisting of a 'personal tutor' and about sixteen students; it was during such a session that the survey was conducted.
1. The Questionnaire
Data were collected by means of a written questionnaire. This was largely of the 'tick-box' type and comprised the following four sections :ó
Section 1. Personal Details
Students were asked to give information under the following headings:ó (a) Age, (b) Sex, (c) Course subjects and levels (e.g. Advanced, GCSE), (d) Results of examinations already taken.
Section 2. Experiences
A paranormal event was defined as "an occurrence inexplicable by current scientific knowledge ". On this basis students were asked to indicate if they had personally experienced a paranormal event. Those answering in the affirmative were then requested to choose from a check-list the type of event (s) they had experienced and to indicate the approximate number of occurrences. To assist the students in classifying their experiences a few words of explanation accompanied those items in the list which it was felt might require clarification. The phenomena included in the check-list, together with their explanations, were:ó ghost (GH); poltergeist (PO) ó a phenomenon characterised by unexplained and annoying noises and/or levitation of objects; precognition (PR) óforeseeing a future event; Out-of-Body Experience (OB)óthe sensation that you had 'left your body' and were free of it, possibly being able to 'see your own body'; telepathy (TE) ó thought transference, being able to communicate with someone by means of thought; psychokinesis (PS)óthe ability to move objects apparently without any physical means; Unidentified Flying Objects (UF); apparition of a living person (AP) óapparently seeing a person when the person was known to be in another place and unable to be seen by any 'normal' means; dÈj‡ vu 1 (DVI) óthe sensation that an event had been experienced previously, more properly termed 'dÈj‡ fait'; dÈj‡ vu 2 (DV2) ó the sensation that a place had been visited previously; any other phenomenon (OT). Of course, opinions differ as to whether certain phenomena should be classified as 'paranormal'. In particular, dÈj‡ vu may have a perfectly acceptable physiological explanation (see, for example, Taylor, 1979) and is rarely included in surveys of this type. It appears here for two reasons: firstly in an attempt to encourage respondents to distinguish between it and precognition (West, 1990) and, secondly, it was considered of interest to estimate the frequency of this event amongst the age-group concerned.
Section 3. Beliefs
Students were presented with the list of phenomena given in Section 2, plus three additional items: survival of death (SU) ó some part of the human 'personality' continues to exist after the physical body has died; reincarnation (RE) ó following survival of death, the personality can enter a new body at birth; and spontaneous human combustion (SH) óthe body of a living person can suddenly catch fire for no apparent reason. Also, in this section dÈj‡ vu was given as a single category (DV), no attempt being made to segregate the two types outlined in Section 2. Students were asked to indicate the extent to which they believed these phenomena to be possible by classifying each one as "certain, likely, possible, unlikely or impossible".
Section 4. Additional Details
There was an optional section in which students were invited to provide (a) any additional information which they considered to be of interest, and (b) their names, should they be willing to discuss further their responses to the questionnaire.
Ten copies of the questionnaire were given without prior notice to each of the forty tutors during a one-hour tutorial session on the morning of 14th March 1991. Tutors were requested to offer no explanation other than to inform their pupils that the survey was to "assist Dr Gaynard with his College Study course" and to distribute the questionnaires to any ten pupils willing to complete them. The completed forms were returned at the end of the session. Because of the popularity of the course, some students may well have realised that the questionnaire was concerned with the paranormal; thus the possibility cannot be discounted that some of these individuals volunteered because they had experiences to report, so biassing the rusults. However, considering the fact that 45.6% of the sample had nothing to report, and the similarity of this figure to that obtained in earlier surveys (see later), it is likely that any bias, if introduced at all, was very small.
Results and Discussion (return rates)
Of the 400 questionnaires distributed 342 were completed and returned. Two of these were spoiled (a pleasingly low number! ), giving a return of 85%. This is considerably higher than the return rate for postal surveys, which would seem to lie in the range of about 50% to 55% (Blackmore, 1984), although Haraldsson (1985) has obtained an exceptionally high return of 80%. Whereas random postal sampling may well involve subjects who are unwilling to cooperate, in the present study questionnaires were distributed only to those students who volunteered to complete them, and this undoubtedly contributed to the high return. Hearne (1989) and Irwin (1990), employing sampling regimes similar to that of the present study, also obtained high return rates, of 86% and 85% respectively. Although neither of these authors offers an explanation as to why returns from volunteers should be less than 100%, in this case the main reason was that five of the tutorial groups concerned were involved in other activities at the time of the survey and, therefore, were unable to take part.
Of the 340 subjects (100%) submitting valid questionnaires, 54.4% believed that they had personally experienced at least one paranormal event. The proportion experiencing dÈj‡ vu alone was 18.5%, hence 35.9% of the sample had experienced other phenomena. For comparison, West (1990) reported that 32.7% of his sample had [paranormal] experiences, whilst Haraldsson (1985) gives a value of 64% for both Icelandic and British national surveys and estimates 60% for the U.S.A. However, such comparisons must be treated with caution since there is little consistency in the number or types of phenomena included in the questionnaires.
1. Experiences by Category
Very few respondents were able to recall the number of times that they had experienced particular phenomena, most either indicating by a tick that they had experienced the event or replying with vague terms such as "several" or "many". Consequently, it was not possible to analyse further the frequency of specific experiences.
Not surprisingly, deja vu is the most commonly experienced event (41.5% and 37.5%). Gallup and Newport (1991) seem to be the only authors in recent years to have included dÈj‡ vu in this type of survey (presumably for the reasons discussed earlier) ; here, also, it was the most frequent experience (56%). Regardless of whether dÈj‡ vu should or should not be classified as 'paranormal', these data serve to confirm that this is a very common phenomenon.
20.4% of the students claimed to have had experience of precognition. West (1990) reported that 22.8% of his respondents claimed to have experienced premonitions, but decided after further analysis that 16% was a more realistic estimate. Haraldsson (1985), in his summary of several national surveys, gives figures for precognitive (psychic) dreams ranging from 19% to 36%. For 'waking' precognition he quotes a figure of 18-26% (Sweden). Thus, the value obtained in the present study seems to be in general agreement with those cited.
The third most common category of experience was ghosts, with 11.5% of the sample reporting at least one such event. Unlike other items in the list of phenomena, the word 'ghost' was not defined on the questionnaire. Although it is likely that most respondents took the term to mean an 'apparition of a dead person', this is by no means certain and it could have been interpreted in a wider sense. Thus, it is of interest to compare the value obtained here with previous investigations into the occurrence of 'hallucinations'. The classic survey of this category of phenomena was that of Sidgwick et al. (1894), which showed that 10% of respondents had 'hallucinatory experience'. West (1990) reports a figure of 11.3%. Both these values are similar to that obtained here, as is the figure of 9% reported by Gallup and Newport (1991) for experience of ghosts amongst American adults. Blackmore (1984), however, found that a considerably greater proportion (45%) of her respondents had waking hallucinations, whilst values quoted by Haraldsson (1985) seem to vary between 14% and 31%, depending upon definition and country.
7.1% of the sample believed that they had experienced telepathy. This proportion is considerably smaller than those obtained in all other surveys cited above, which range from 14% to 58%. Similarly, experiences of OBE (3.9%) and apparitions of living persons (1.2%) were less frequent than have previously been reported. Speculative discussion of these observations is entered into later.
The data in Table 1, although including only two surveys of poltergeists and psychokinesis, indicate that these tend to be less frequently experienced phenomena than those discussed above; the results of the present survey (3.2% and 2.9% respectively) confirm this. However, these figures must be treated with particular caution since, when dealing with such low values, the proportionate error introduced due to mistakes in interpreting experiences will be relatively great. Similarly, the figure of 3.5% of the sample claiming to have seen a UFO is included here principally for interest.
5.9% of the sample (20 respondents) claimed to have experienced phenomena which they considered did not fit into the pre-defined categories. These included: communication using ouija boards (4 occurrences), communication via mediums (3), dreaming or thinking of a person and then seeing that person shortly afterwards (3), hearing strange noises (2), appearance of objects not present earlier (2), knowledge of a building layout from a recurring dream (1), sensing the exact moment of death of a comatose brother (1), unpleasant sensations in certain buildings or in the presence of certain people (2), glasses smashing spontaneously (1), and seeing fairy-like beings (1). Clearly, further investigation is required to establish the validity of these claims.
2. Paranormal Experience and Gender
The sample comprised 177 (52%) males and 163 (48%) females; hence the sexes are approximately equally represented. However, the slight preponderance of males means that there will be a greater chance of any particular phenomenon being experienced by a male than by a female (regardless of any predisposition afforded by the subject's sex). Consequently, where the total sample is used as the basis for analysis, a small correction has been applied by reducing the proportion of males having a particular experience by a factor of 170/177 and increasing that of females by a factor of 170/163. This gives the estimated proportions assuming that the sample consisted of 50% males and 50% females.
The proportions of males and females reporting personal experience of at least one paranormal phenomenon were 25.1% and 29.3% respectively; thus there is a slight, but insignificant, preponderance of females (X2= 0.2; p = 0.66). Figure 1 shows the proportions of each sex reporting experience of the various phenomena. In no category was there a significant difference between the proportions of males and females (X2). There is conflicting evidence in the literature as to whether the sexes show different tendencies towards paranormal experiences (e.g. Blackmore, 1982, 1984, 1986; Haraldsson, 1985; Hearne, 1984; West, 1990). Clearly, in the present study, no evidence was obtained to suggest that such a differential tendency exists.
3. Paranormal Experience and Age
The literature suggests that the influence of age on the incidence of paranormal experience may vary with the type of phenomenon in question and perhaps with the subjects' background. Thus, West (1990) has shown that most hallucinations seem to occur earlier, rather than later, in life, possibly within the age range 20 to 29 years. Blackmore (1982) found that OBE in Dutch students was more prevalent amongst older subjects, but in a random postal survey no such age differences were observed (Blackmore, 1984). Haraldsson's (1985) synopsis of national surveys similarly indicates variable influence of age on experience. Of course, a variety of 'explanations' maybe invoked. For example, Blackmore (1984) suggests that it may be more 'socially acceptable' for young people to admit to having certain (paranormal) experiences, whilst the waning of the spiritualist movement may result in experience of its associated phenomena being more common amongst older subjects (see Haraldsson, 1985). In the present study the narrow age range of 16 to 19 years, with 91% of the subjects being aged 17 to 18, prevents similar analysis of 'age effects'. Although it is highly speculative, and much more research is required in this area before concrete conclusions can be drawn, it is tempting to distinguish between the two groups of phenomena: (a) dÈj‡ vu, precognition and ghosts/hallucinations, and (b) OBE, telepathy and apparitions of the living. The former were experienced amongst the present sample in proportions roughly equivalent to those found in earlier surveys amongst older subjects; hence it may be that these phenomena tend to occur in younger people. On the other hand, the phenomena in the second group occurred considerably less frequently in the present study; are these to be associated with older age groups?
4. The Influence of Education and Intellect
As with other factors, there are conflicting reports regarding the influence of education on susceptibility to paranormal experience. For example, a British national survey indicates that slightly more of the 'educated' subjects had experiences than did their 'less educated' counterparts; in Iceland, however, this trend seems to be reversed (Haraldsson, 1985).
There seems to be a tendency to assume that depth of education is directly proportional to duration of education. This is by no means a valid assumption, and it is the opinion of the present author that the terms 'well educated' and 'less well educated', as they are frequently used in the literature, probably do not have a great deal of meaning. However, it may be possible to analyse paranormal experience in terms of intellect if a suitable basis can be found on which to do so. In the present study past examination performance was employed. Although the GCSE examination should not be considered in terms of pass or fail, it is widely regarded as desirable to achieve at least Grade C. An attempt to relate intellect estimated in this way to paranormal experience reveals no significant relationship (Figure 2). Hence, although the basis for the analysis is somewhat arbitrary, the indication is that experience of paranormal phenomena is independent of intellectual ability.
5. The Influence of Discipline
Although several authors have discussed the effects of general science education on belief in the paranormal (see later), there seems to be little in the literature concerning the relationship between paranormal experience and training either in the sciences or the arts. In an effort to obtain information of this type, two sub-groups were derived from the main sample by identifying those students studying three or more science subjects at advanced level ('scientists') and those taking three or more arts ('artists'). The proportions of the two groups having paranormal experience were almost identical (Table 2). It is tentatively concluded that, at least at this stage in their academic training, education in science as opposed to the arts has little influence upon the subjects' susceptibility to paranormal experiences.
6. Associations Between Experiences
Several authors have obtained evidence to suggest that certain types of psychic experiences may tend to occur to the same subjects. For example, Blackmore (1984) has published a very interesting and detailed analysis of the associations between experiences claimed by respondents in her postal survey and has shown that the same people report OBE, lucid and flying dreams, hallucinations and mystical experiences.
It is difficult to measure 'belief and there have been almost as many techniques employed to assess belief in the paranormal as there are authors reporting them. Methods vary from the simple 'Do you believe in .. .' type of questionnaire, expecting yes/no answers (see Haraldsson, 1985) to more sophisticated 'scales of belief (see Irwin, 1990). Consequently, comparisons of the various surveys must be treated with caution and wherever this is done below it is included principally as a matter of interest. In the present study extent of belief was monitored on a five-step scale from 'certain' to 'impossible' (see Method). For several of the subsequent analyses a 'points system' was employed, 'certain' being allocated a score of 4 points, down to zero if the phenomenon was considered 'impossible'.
1. Belief by Category
Figure 4 shows the general pattern of belief in the various types of phenomena. Not surprisingly, for all but two of the phenomena (precognition and dÈj‡ vu) the most common response was 'possible', implying open-mindedness on the part of many respondents. There was a reluctance to classify phenomena as 'impossible', this being the lowest response for 8 out of the 12 classifications. These trends may be further demonstrated by expressing the total number of respondents in each belief category, as follows: Certain, 735; Likely, 829; Possible, 1270; Unlikely, 789; Impossible, 446.
Table 4 shows the proportions of respondents believing (Certain plus Likely) and not believing (Unlikely plus Impossible) in each type of phenomenon. By far the most commonly believed category was dÈj‡ vu, the 75.4% value being considerably greater than the 55% found by Gallup and Newport (1991) amongst American adults. Also widely believed are precognition and telepathy, with about 33% more respondents accepting their existence than not. Again, the value of 26% given by Gallup and Newport (op. cit.) for precognition is less than that found here, but the 50.4% belief in telepathy in the present study lies in the range of values published by various authors (Blackmore, 1984; Haraldsson, 1985; West, 1990). There was also considerable belief in the existence of ghosts and poltergeists, the values of 45.1% and 34.8% respectively being roughly similar to those summarised by Haraldsson (op. cit. ). 36.6% of the sample believed that OBE is possible, although in this case the difference between the number of believers and disbelievers was less marked than for the previous phenomena.
For the remaining categories (survival, UFOs, apparitions of the living, spontaneous combustion, reincarnation and psychokinesis) disbelief outweighed belief by about 10% or greater. Gallup and Newport (1991) included reincarnation and psychokinesis in their survey and similarly found that belief in them was relatively low. On the other hand, Blackmore (1984) found that belief in survival amongst her sample was somewhat more common (42%) than is implied by the present results. It is apparent from Figures 1 and 4 and Table 4 that there appears to be some correlation between belief in the various phenomena and the experience of them; this is discussed later.
2. The Influence of Gender
Figure 5 shows the degree of belief for males and females expressed as the points allocation to each type of phenomenon. Belief in OBE, dÈj‡ vu and reincarnation may be greater amongst females than males (X2 = 5.8, 5.0,10.5; p = 0.016, 0.025, 0.001 respectively). On the other hand, males seem to show greater acceptance of the existence of UFOs (X2 = 4.2;p = 0.04). There seems to be little difference between the sexes as regards their belief in the remaining phenomena. Other authors have drawn attention to the correlation between sex and belief in psychic events (e.g. Haraldsson, 1981; Schmeidler, 1984), but the significance of these findings awaits further elucidation.
Figure 5 Effect of gender on belief. See text for explanation of points allocation.
3. The Influence of Education and Intellect
The apparent effect of 'education' on belief in the paranormal seems to be as variable as its influence on experience of the paranormal (e. g. Haraldsson, 1985). Again, this may be due in part to the difficulty in measuring 'education' and in inconsistency amongst the various surveys in the types of phenomena in question. As discussed earlier, the present study attempted to estimate 'intellect' rather than education and Figure 6 expresses the relationship between belief and intellect. Although there is a slight tendency for those subjects with greater examination success to declare greater belief in the paranormal, the correlation is not significant.
Figure 6 Relationship between intellect and belief in paranormal phenomena. y = 0.0185x + 2.03 r = 0.348 p > 0.1
4. The Influence of Discipline
There is evidence that belief in psychic phenomena is inversely proportional to training in the sciences (Haraldsson, 1985; Gallup, 1982), although Irwin (1990) cites research which indicates that this conclusion is by no means proved. Table 5 summarises data obtained in the present survey which shows the degree of belief held by artists and scientists. There is no significant difference between the two disciplines either in terms of 'total belief or as regards belief in the individual categories of phenomena, although again it should be pointed out that the respondents were at an early stage of their scientific careers and further training may result in modified belief patterns.
The Relationship Between Belief and Experiences
There is strong evidence to suggest that people who believe in paranormal phenomena are more likely to report their experience of them than are their more sceptical counterparts. West (1990) has discussed this in some detail and cites his own important research and that of other investigators to reinforce the point. Stevenson (1990) considers that the effect may be two-fold; firstly, scepticism per se may actually reduce psychic experience and, secondly, disbelief may cause a genuine paranormal event to be dismissed by assigning a 'normal' interpretation to it.
Figure 7 Relationship between belief in and experience of paranormal phenomena.
Respondents 'believing' are those in the Certain and Likely categories.
y = 1.194x + 29.75 r = 0.940 p < 0.001
Figure 7 is a graphic representation of the relationship between experience and belief found in the present study. There is a significant correlation bet ween the proportion of the sample professing belief and the proportion claiming to have experienced the phenomena. West (1990) has pointed out that it is not always clear whether belief results in increased frequency of experience or whether experience promotes belief. From Figure 7, however, it can be seen that for each type of phenomenon the proportion of respondents believing is higher than the proportion claiming experience, and in general terms belief exceeds experience by roughly 30% or more. Thus the data suggest that belief in the paranormal antedates the experience of it and that it is not necessary to have personal experience of psychic events in order to profess strong belief in their existence. Also, although those respondents claiming experiences are not necessarily amongst those holding strong beliefs, the data do tend to confirm that susceptibility to paranormal phenomena (or at least the tendency to interpret events as paranormal) is enhanced if their existence is already accepted.
The data presented in this paper suggest that the proportion of young people in the age range 16 to 19 years claiming experience of the paranormal is similar to that found amongst older populations. The frequency by which the different types of phenomena were experienced is also similar to that found by other investigators, although there may be a tendency for certain paranormal events to occur earlier, rather than later, in life. There was no significant influence on susceptibility to paranormal experience of gender, intellect or training in science (as opposed to the arts). Most respondents with psychic experience claimed to have experienced more than one type of phenomenon and there was some evidence that several types of phenomena may occur to the same individuals.
As regards belief in the paranormal, there was a strong tendency towards 'open-mindedness', the most common response being to classify phenomena as 'possible', with reluctance to describe them as 'impossible'. Strength of belief seemed to be independent of both intellect and science/arts training but there was a tendency for belief in OBE, reincarnation and dÈj‡ vu to be stronger in females, whilst males more readily accepted the existence of UFOs. There was a significant correlation between belief and experience, with the former apparently antedating the latter, suggesting that susceptibility to paranormal phenomena may be increased in individuals who already accept their existence.
There is much variation in the results of the many surveys of paranormal experience and belief, as the preceding discussion has indicated. Whilst differences in methodology must contribute to this, so also must the fact that the various surveys have sampled quite different populations. Whilst it is of considerable interest to know the responses of such a variety of respondents it does mean that meaningful comparisons are difficult, because the factors which may influence experience and belief are many and vary from population to population. One feature of a good scientific experiment is that it is repeat-able. This is not the case with a survey, since the only way to replicate it exactly is to carry out the same procedure with the same population sample-clearly a pointless exercise. However, it should be possible to standardise at least some of the variables by sampling from populations which are as similar as possible. It is the author's intention to repeat the research described in other, similar colleges in an attempt to confirm the findings described above.
A major criticism of any questionnaire-survey of paranormal experiences may be that subjectivity on the part of the respondents could influence the results. Even if it is assumed that all categories of phenomena can occur, the possibility of misinterpretation or (probably in very few cases) lying cannot be discounted. This fact, together with the problem of variability discussed above, may well beg the question, 'What value are surveys of paranormal experience and belief?' Such investigations are of considerable valueófor the data that they provide, the questions that they pose and the lines of research that they suggest. They show conclusively that an enormous number of people claim to have experienced paranormal phenomena, yet we know so little about the nature of these occurrences. Of course, the spontaneity of many psychic events makes experimental studies difficult, but if those subjects claiming experience of a particular phenomenon could be identified might they exhibit common factors which could be of use in explaining the phenomenon? Little research has been directed to this end (e.g. Blackmore, 1984,1986).
The surveys also show that different types of phenomena are experienced with different frequencies. Why should this be? Accepting the possibility of misinterpretation, it is probably of equal interest to ask, for example, why more people believe that they have experienced precognition than OBE as it is to question why more people have experienced precognition than OBE.
That belief in the paranormal is widely held is clear also from surveys, although degree of belief varies with type of phenomenon. Since the data in this paper suggest that experience of the paranormal is not necessary for belief, why do people believe in the existence of what are, by definition, inexplicable events? Also, why should one inexplicable phenomenon attract more belief than another? As the present study has shown, in general there is considerable acceptance amongst young people that paranormal events are possible; when does this belief begin, and what initiates it? There is scope for further research here.
In this study respondents were invited to give their names should they be willing to enlarge upon their responses to the questionnaire. It is interesting to study the results of this request. Of those respondents claiming paranormal experiences, 32.4% gave their names; the corresponding figure for those without experience was 14.2%. Presumably the former value is greater because more individuals in the 'with experience' category felt that they had something worthwhile to discuss. However, in both groups the majority of respondents were reluctant to offer identity. Why this should be so is not clear, although a possible reason may be embarrassment at admitting belief in or experience of paranormal phenomena. If this is the case, and there is a similar attitude amongst the general population, then the implications for psychical research are not good, with the possibility of potentially valuable cases never coming to light. On the other hand, surveys such as this do provide a bonus in that, amongst those respondents who were willing to give their names, there were several claiming experiences which promise to furnish interesting material for further investigation.
I wish to thank those students and staff of Wyke College who took part in the survey, and Mrs S. Firth, Mr D. Longstaff and Mr J. Bond for helpful discussion.
Wyke College, Grammar School Road, Hull. HU5 4NX
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