There's a lot of misinformation and confusion spread on the internet, and it can be hard to communicate when people use different meanings for the same word or throw around jargon. So, I've put together a short list of basic terms that you'll hear parapsychologists use and what we mean when we use them. Please click on the links below to view the definitions (and sometimes a bit of commentary on them, too).
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This refers to the no-longer-physical, experiential realm that we move to between lives (after the physical body dies and before reincarnation). It is often said to consist of many levels of differing "vibrations," degrees of "light," or nearness to some Source of All that Is.

Altered States of Consciousness
States of consciousness other than ordinary waking consciousness. Many of these seem to enhance not only hypnotic suggestibility (the unconscious mind accepting hypnotic suggestions) but also psychic functioning.
  1. Daydreaming.
  2. Sleep dreaming.
  3. Lucid dreaming (aware and in control of your dream).
  4. Hypnopompic state: This is being half awake as you rouse from sleep.
  5. Hypnogogic state: This is being half asleep or on the cusp of sleep.
  6. Hypnotic Trance.
  7. Meditation. Please note there are dozens, if not hundreds of ways to access a meditative state, including prayer, focus, and strenuous activity.
  8. Road Hypnosis: being unaware of your journey or route as you drive.
  9. Mystic States.
  10. Sensory Deprivation states of consciousness.
  11. Drug-induced states of consciousness (for which only Ayahuaska has been shown to enhance ESP). I don't recommend relying on drugs to alter your state of consciousness--it's a lot better to learn to control it on your own using meditation.

When you look at this list, you'll recognize at least some forms of Altered States are completely ordinary and that every human being experiences on a nearly daily basis. Thus, it may be better to think of your state of consciousness as something constantly in flux and, to a large degree, under your control, rather than as something weird, unusual, or impossible to achieve without drugs.

Anpsi refers to the psychic abilities of animals. Although there was a lot of research interest in this in the past, the realization that there is no way to separate a human experimenter's psychic abilities causing them to get the results they want (or to turn on the light bulb to warm up the cold baby chicks) from that of the animals' themselves has caused most researchers to give up on this line of work. There's just no way to know who is responsible for what. However, the possibility (and perhaps likelihood) remains that, like humans, animals may have psychic abilities to varying degrees.

An apparition is the visual appearance of a person or animal (either living or dead) that is not in sensory range. In other words, you can have three people present, one or two of whom can see the apparition while the other can't. It's clearly not physically present (like bilocation or manifestation). A Crisis Apparition is a particular form of apparition where someone in crisis (who is usually recently dead or dying) appears to the living, usually as a way to let a loved one know what has happened to them.

Apparitions can be seen by entire groups of people, but are generally sighted only once or rarely. A possible exception to this may be when an apparent apparition is created through mind-matter interaction by a poltergeist agent.

This is the process of receiving information from some level of reality other than the ordinary physical one and from beyond the self as we currently understand it. This includes messages from any mental source that falls outside of one's own ordinary conscious or unconscious, and is not from someone incarnate on the physical level of reality (which would make it telepathy). Classically, channeling involved an identified, or self-identified, source said to be responsible for the information coming to or through the channel. Most source claim to be the dead, though some say they are from other dimensions or never lived. There's no way to know the truth of these sources, so their information and identity should always be taken with some skepticism.

This is a form of ESP in which the extrasensory data is perceived as sound. Note that as with the other forms of ESP noted below, how any person receives that data is probably up to their unconscious mind (which acts as a gateway and interpreter for that psychic information) and what it thinks the conscious mind will understand or pay attention to.

This is a form of ESP in which the extrasensory data is perceived as body sensations (kinesthetic input) or a kind of "knowing." This may be one of the sources of "gut feelings."

Although this is often used loosely as a general term for ESP, it technically refers to the extrasensory awareness of objects or objective events involving the sense of sight (i.e. a "vision"). It does not include the extrasensory awareness of thought (which is telepathy).

This is a word that we've adopted from Physics. It refers to a relationship between two apparently contradictory concepts that at the same time both exclude and complement each other (like yin and yang). Both are needed to create a complete sense of the phenomenon. Examples of complementary pairs include particles-waves, energy-time and mind-matter.

Decision Augmentation Theory (DAT)
Originally referred to as "Intuitive Data Sorting" (IDS), Decision Augmentation Theory proposes that REG results — and possibly all MMI findings (other than macro PK) — could be a result of ESP, with individuals using ESP to know when to start runs so as to take advantage of locally deviant sections from a longer random sequence. Thus, REG study results might not be tests of MMI at all, but of precognition where ESP allows participants or experimenters to pick the right moment to start the data collection to get whatever results they want. This theory has been gaining popularity in parapsychology circles and could explain a number of findings. You can read one of the original papers on it here

Decline Effect
This is tendency for positive scoring in psi tests to decrease, within a run, a session, or a longer period of testing. Long a bane of experimenters, it has been argued whether this is due to boredom, loss of novelty/excitement, a normal return to a baseline of null result, or some other cause(s). One should note that boredom can set in not only with research participants, but also their experimenters who may be creating their own results through the experimenter effect (which could go beyond psi to normal factors such as attitude, wording, body language, etc.)

Deliberately Caused Bodily Damage Phenomena (DCBD)
DCBDThis is where individuals cause (or allow others to do to them) deliberate harm to their bodies, typically as a demonstration of religious faith. This can involve piercing the skin with sharp instruments, including spikes, daggers, or skewers, and swallowing sharp objects. What makes this different from self-mutilation or torture, is that there is usually no pain, little if any bleeding, and the wounds heal with extraordinary rapidity. This seems to be a more common phenomena in the Middle East and has been most studied by Jordanian parapsychologist Jamal Nassar Hussein, who is also able to perform this phenomenon. What makes it really interesting is that the paranormal aspect may be in the person placing the skewers rather than the one being skewered.

Direct Mental Interactions with Living Systems (DMILS)
This is where a distant individual (who is isolated from the target's normal sensory cues) tries to influence a living target through psi. The target itself can be anything from isolated cells to an intact organism. Some healing studies fall into this category, but it may also involve simply changing the target's physiological parameters, such as galvanic skin response or blood pressure. Both telepathy and mind-matter interaction (for the sender, the recipient or both) may be involved as well as the usual issue of experimenter effect.

Direct Voice Phenomena (DVP)
This is a bit different from the "direct voice" heard in the séance parlor, where the sound was attributed to an ectoplasmic creation of vocal cords (and was usually, if not always, due to fraud). Instead, with instrumental transcommunication (ITC) direct voice the communication is heard real-time through a radio, telephone, or other device. This was especially popular in Europe, where TV images were sometimes obtained in addition to sound.

This was a substance alleged to issue from the bodies of some physical mediums and out of which materializations were said to be formed. It was primarily noted during the Spiritualist era, making it possible that this was created by mind-matter interaction as a way of satisfying a belief or need of participants that is no longer present in the modern day.

Electronic Voice Phenomena (EVP)
This is a form of instrumental transcommunication where voices not heard at the time of recording later appear on the playback of audiotapes. These voices often have a flat tonal quality and may be preceded by a metallic knock. EVPs are rated as falling into one of the following categories:
  • Class A: As clear as a normal human voice or clearer. Does not require headphones and people generally agree on its content.
  • Class B: Requires a headphone to hear the voice, and not everyone may agree about what it says.
  • Class C: Requires a headphone to hear the voice, often needs amplification and filtering, and will seldom even be heard by others.

It has been a popular (and inexpensive) form of research around the world. However, it remains unclear how much the results are due to the experimenter(s) versus help from the spirit realm. Most researchers admit that they play a role, if only in providing energy that can be used by the other side. The best research on this has been performed inside Faraday cages that block out stray radio waves.

This is a physics term used to refer to the fact that separated quantum objects that once interacted physically (possibly during the big bang) may have a shared state until measured. Once one object is measured the other will take on the complementary state. These separate but co-mingled particles do not pass signals between each other, yet remain correlated - sometimes referred to as "spooky" action at a distance. Note that this involves correlation, which is not the same as causality. System entanglement correlations have been offered as an explanation for synchronicity and all forms of psi (including poltergeist phenomena). I personally find it hard to see how this could explain macro PK events, such as sponges floating across the room or a 400 pound armoire moving on its own.

Experimenter Effect
This is an incredibly important concept for everyone to understand. It refers to the finding that experimenters working under the same conditions and with subjects drawn from the same population may get different or conflicting results, which conform to the experimenters' own expectations. This may involve experimenter psi in addition to the wording, body language, subtle cues and other perfectly normal and well-established factors. The problem is not only that the experimenter effect makes interpreting research results tricky, but it also effects every form of research and not just that of parapsychologists. It could explain why a great many studies, especially in Medicine, cannot be replicated. Experimenters determine their own results unless what they're studying is incredibly robust that it can overcome the subtle influence of those running the studies.

The wider implications of this are staggering. It means that ALL science (including much-vaunted double and triple blind studies) is suspect, because if psi exists (and we have good evidence that it does), then there is truly no such thing as a "blind" experiment. The experimenter will always know which group is what, and be able to influence the outcomes of their studies through both normal and paranormal means. It's no wonder the scientific community wants to deny psi exists. It brings all of their research findings into question. Parapsychologists in recent years have sometimes tried to control for this factor by pairing experimenters who are skeptics with ones who are believers, but you still have the issue of whether one has stronger psi than the other (or is better at effective normal means of getting the results they want) and what could be going on at an unconscious level (which can be completely different than the conscious level) or with the psi of their participants. It's messy and we haven't yet figured out a good way to control for it. On the plus side, it creates a certain amount of humility in our field that other scientists might be wise to copy.

Extrasensory Perception (ESP)
This is knowledge of, or response to, an external event or influence not learned of through known sensory channels. It may involve clairvoyance (information that is seen), clairsentience (information that comes as "knowing" or feeling), or clairaudience (information that is heard). ESP appears to be a universal, if weak, ability in most humans, though how it manifests depends on the unconscious needs of the individual and what's important to them on an unconscious level.

I use the double emphasis on UNCONSCIOUS because psychologists well-know how different the beliefs and needs can be between a person's conscious and unconscious minds, and it is the latter that acts as the gateway and mediator for psi. If the unconscious mind doesn't want you to know something, it's perfectly able to block that information from its conscious counterpart even if it's physically there right in front of you (the old negative hallucination of not seeing your keys on the table when they are right there in front of you). It's even easier for the unconscious mind to block subtle intuitive information. For most, the best way to figure out what's important to your unconscious mind is by seeing its reflection in what you can or cannot do. This is also true for skeptics (see the sheep-goat effect).

First Look Theory
This is Jim Carpenter's theory that we constantly use ESP to get a "first look" at everything, and that the purpose of the unconscious mind is not so much to acquire psychic information, as it is to block out all that is irrelevant. As such, psi helps us construct our perceptions and experiences. I would add that it also gives us an edge in survival and accomplishing our unconscious needs (whether healthy or not).

The First Look theory makes a lot of sense to me. The request I'm asked most often from people who first blow open their psychic abilities is how to turn it off. There's an overwhelm. Too much information, too fast. To be healthy, you have to shut the information flow down to what's immediately relevant and helpful and block all of the other noise out.

Focusing Effect
This is the general tendency for ESP or mind-matter-interaction success to be concentrated upon particular targets more than upon others; also a form of target preference. It was classically seen in poltergeist phenomena, but can occur in the lab or spoon bending parties as well. As Jack Houck once put it, he's never seen someone bend a rusty nail. You have to want to connect to the target on some level, and if you don't like them/it, your unconscious mind may balk. It's wise to remember that basic psychology applies in parapsychology.

The Ganzfeld technique for psi research grew out of the observation that partial sensory deprivation could create a psi-conducive state of consciousness. Some felt it was a question of cutting down the "noise" a weak signal had to get through so it could register. They therefore induce a state of partial sensory deprivation in which the would-be psi-receiver lays down in a darkened room, listening to white noise through headphones and a red light shining on halved ping pong balls placed over their eyes (creating a pink glow). The target is often a video or image that the recipient later describes or tries to identify from a group of others.

The Ganzfeld technique has had enough success in a variety of labs around the world that it appears to be more than an experimenter effect. However, the quality of the target type greatly influences whether the recipient will be able to identify it later. There are also gender and individual differences as to what participants will have the best success with, leading to its own large area of research.

Ghosts are thought to be the forms through which a no-longer-physically-living person's spirit may manifest to those of us who are physically alive. For some, a ghost is only seen as only a shell, afterimage, or memory of a once-alive person or animal, while others see ghosts as a true perception of the actual presence of a discarnate (i.e. doesn't have a body) spirit. The term ghost tends to suggest a spirit that is near the Earth plane (hence more readily sensed by the living) and possibly "stuck" (i.e. unable to complete its transition to the higher planes of the afterlife). However, ghosts aren't always in need of help. They can also show up to reassure the living that they're okay (common in the first week after their deaths), at their own funerals, or during their life-reviews accompanied by Spirit Guides.

The word "haunting" tends to be used in one of two ways. If a person feels haunted, it's their experience of the presence of those no longer living, which could be psychological illness (in particular, amphetamine use can trigger paranoid schizophrenia and seeing beings who aren't there), misinterpreting normal phenomena, place memory, or a conscious spirit (whether a stuck ghost or a spirit guide). The other way in which it is used is to refer to the experience of a place as haunted. As with haunted individuals, there are a host of normal things that could be getting misinterpreted (including family members playing tricks on each other), poltergeist phenomena (by the person "haunted" or others), place memory, time slips, etc. in addition to the possibility of a conscious spirit.

This is the paranormal patterning of bloodstains on cloth. Although not common, it is seen most often in devout Muslims and Catholics. The blood itself and the images or words formed appear to be human (not divine) mind-matter interaction, as any writing is always in the language of the person it happens around and the images reflect local religious icons.

Induction Effect
This is where someone can perform MMI after watching another person seem to succeed at the same task. What's interesting is that it does not matter whether the person being observed is truly using MMI or faking it. What's more important is that the observer believes MMI is possible. It is also sometimes referred to as the Geller effect due to people at home watching Uri Geller appear to bend spoons on TV may find all their silverware suddenly twisted up and bending.

This is the paranormal ability to live without eating food (and in some cases liquids), which is sometimes seen in association with stigmata. Despite their apparent lack of intake, these individuals remain active and healthy, but there are signs (such as lack of menstruation in young women and no fecal output) suggestive that food isn't being eaten on the sly.

Instrumental Transcommunication (ITC)
This was touched on in the definition on EVP. ITC is the purported communication by human or other spirits, said to have survived the death of their physical bodies and exist in an afterlife or astral realm. ITC can involve an assortment of electronic and related equipment, including tape/digital recorders, telephones, radios, televisions, and computers. Often these sounds and images are not heard or seen at the time of original recording, but only appear later. It was previously sometimes referred to as electronic voice phenomena or Raudive phenomena. The process often seems to involve the mediumistic abilities of the living person operating the equipment with or without the help of the sprit realm.

This is the period between lives, after the end of one life through death and before reincarnation into a new body. Some hypnotic regressions intending to reveal past lives instead bring up what appear to be memories of this period in the spirit realm, whether review and dealing with the last life, doing spiritual work, or planning out the blueprint for the upcoming incarnation.

A combination of psychic and normal input that may be used in the decision-making process. The normal input may have been forgotten by the conscious mind (called cryptomnesia) or too subtle to be recognized by anything other than the unconscious mind. What psychic portion of the input you get tells you what's important to your unconscious mind and not what you're capable of. For example, when I was working as an Anesthesiologist, I could tell you with 100% accuracy what kind of emergency (if any) would hit at what hour of the night when I was on call. That was important to me. It let me plan my night when there was no ordinary way I could know what emergencies would show up at 2 or 3 am. But when my needs changed, so did my abilities. This is typical for intuition. Lonely shut-ins may know at what hour someone will call them and who it will be. Shoppers might know, without checking, where they can get the best deal and what price they'll have to pay. Soldiers may know when to duck. You get the point. It's important because what you can or cannot do depends on what your unconscious needs are. It tells you nothing of what you're capable of should those needs change.

In some Tantric forms of Yoga, Kundalini is the cosmic energy that is believed to lie within everyone, generally pictured as a coiled serpent lying at the base of the spine. Kundalini experiences are said to occur as part of spiritual awakening, when the energy rises up through the subtle energy channels of the body through chakras towards the crown. There can be a variety of physical, emotional, and psychic experiences associated with this, depending in part on whether the individual has been prepared for this by the resolution of emotional blocks and traumas and by the strengthening of the subtle energy channels and physical body. Yogis warn that great emotional disturbance can result at this time if the experiencer hasn't done their personal growth work. Furthermore, there can be alarming physical and energetic symptoms, especially in the heart and nervous system. My own feeling is that ANY kind of psychic development can cause someone to go off the rails if they haven't worked through their issues. If you plan to develop your spiritual or psychic abilities, it's wise to work with a professional therapist to deal with the unconscious issues that will undoubtedly come up.

This is the raising of objects or bodies in the air by supposedly paranormal means. One of the more interesting theories on this involves an alteration in mass (i.e. weight) by changing time itself through mind-matter interaction.

Linger Effect
This is also referred to as a "post-active effect." It is the apparent continuation of MMI at a location where it has recently been used after the MMI performer has appeared to cease his or her efforts. It has been noticed primarily in healing and large-scale MMI experiments. For example, metal sealed inside glass containers may continue to bend for several days after a spoon-bending party and healing studies focused on a location may continue to offer healing results for hours after the healer has quit trying to influence the target systems. Some have speculated that it could be a result of relaxation (i.e. causing greater effectiveness after the MMI performer stops trying), while others have postulated that it may be an experimenter effect. I would note, as someone who has done anomalous healing work, that time may not exist in the state of consciousness in which the healer is working and it's easy to shift when you want your work to hit both forward and backward in time (i.e. that they get healing the day before you do the work). If operating where discrete time doesn't exist, why would you expect a sharply time-limited result?

Local Sidereal Time (LST)
LSTThis is an astronomy term for the position of the Earth relative to the stars as it rotates around its axis. LST is constantly changing relative to clock time but there are tons of free apps available that will do it for you (astronomers being as poor as parapsychologists). This is because a solar day (which we use for clock time) is approximately four minutes longer than a sidereal day. This means that the LST only matches standard clock time one day of the year — on the vernal equinox, around September 22nd. Why does it matter? Because LST is one of the few physical factors that correlate with successful ESP performance and possibly MMI. Over thirty years of data from every laboratory around the world shows a 300-400% increase in ESP hit rate around 13:00-13:30 LST and a 0% hit rate (i.e. no success) at about 18:00-19:00 LST. Some have speculated that this is because there's less "noise" confusing the ESP signal. At the time of highest ESP success, we are looking straight up into deep space. But at the worst time, we're oriented so the entire flat plate of the galaxy is between us and outer space.

This is a living, embodied person capable of communicating with, or receiving communication from, human animal spirits that have survived the death of their physical bodies (or in some cases, claim to have been not of Earth, from other dimensions, or never to have lived).

Mind-Matter Interaction (MMI)
This is the influence of one or more minds on external objects or processes without the mediation of known physical energies or forces. MMI is also known by the older terms psychokinesis (PK) or telekinesis. The new term was adopted because it better expresses what consciousness can do, which goes way beyond the movement of objects. It includes a wide range of phenomena, including levitation, stigmata, inedia, teleportation, bilocation, fire-immunity, luminosity, materialization, the transformation of matter, hemography, deliberately caused bodily damage phenomena, weather effects, psychic healing, poltergeist phenomena, metal-bending, object movement, instrumental transcommunication, etc.

Model of Pragmatic Information (MPI)
This model was proposed by Walter von Lucadou and grew out of Quantum Theory. He proposed that all complex systems are entangled complementary pairs of structure-function. This entanglement means that nonlocal correlations can occur. Please note that this is not the same as causality. In addition, the intrinsic variability of a probabilistic system determines the size and variety of the possible outcomes. Given that the entire physical world seems to be composed of probabilistic systems (such as particle-waves), this means any individual or group (including human society itself) consciousness could affect its/their nonlocal entangled counterparts elsewhere at a distance. This model has struggled to catch on, perhaps in large part because it's hard to explain to non-physicists and the name doesn't make instant sense.

Near-Death Experience (NDE)
An experience reported by some people who have been clinically dead, then returned to life. Descriptions vary slightly in detail from one person and culture to the next, but usually share some basic elements, such as feeling as if one were outside one's body, moving down a long tunnel, and seeing a bright light at the end of that tunnel. The near-death experience can be powerful and dramatically change a person. NDEs aren't positive experiences for everyone. Some are utterly terrified by them and develop and even greater fear of death.

Out-of-Body Experience (OBE)
The experience of having the sensate, experiencing seat of consciousness and self leave its physical body and be able to move, usually at will, in a disembodied state with regard to physical reality. This may include looking back at (or down at) their now-separate body, visiting a nonphysical reality and other dimensions of existence, or briefly experiencing the afterlife.

This is a critical concept to understand. A paradigm is a set of implicit beliefs (i.e. we aren't usually aware of them) which underlie science and determine how we see the world around us. Paradigms act as models to help us make sense of things. More importantly, they not only determines what is true, but how truth can be determined. As such, they are both a help and a hindrance, since they limit our perception of the world and what knowledge we can arrive at. Thomas Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions is one of my favorite books because it does such a good job of explaining how paradigms not only limit our scientific understanding and how questions are answered but also define what questions scientists think to ask.

This is a synonym for psychic or parapsychological. It refers to what is beyond what should occur if only the known laws of cause and effect are operating. Eventually, much of what was once considered "paranormal" may eventually be considered normal, just as much of parapsychology boils down to psychology. I suspect we will eventually find that we have falsely defaulted to the word "para" due to a currently limited understanding of what's going on, whether through an incomplete paradigm (see definition above) or poor understanding of the phenomena themselves.

This is the field of scientific study that looks at how consciousness may be able to interact with other consciousnesses and the world around it, and whether consciousness can survive the death of the body. Thus it's limited to investigating ESP, MMI, and survival of death (which includes channeling, hauntings, near-death experiences, and reincarnation research).

Place Memory
Sometimes referred to in the popular literature as "residual haunting," this is where the energy of the living is recorded by, or imprinted upon, the inanimate physical world (including objects, buildings, and the environment) as information, which can be perceived by those sensitive to it as impressions of past events and feelings. It is important to understand that place memory is merely an old recording that was made in the past by someone alive (not dead) and who could still be alive when you read the place memory. If you want to know more about this topic, you can read two journal articles I published on it in the PDF gallery.

The word "poltergeist" comes from German, and basically translates to "noisy ghost" -- which probably relates to the fact that poltergeist phenomena often involve raps or other loud sounds in addition to the production of lights, object movement and breakage and creation of the rare apparition. However, most parapsychologists believe that most, if not all, poltergeists are living humans performing mind-matter interactions. The people involved (since it can be a group or family unit and not just the classic angst-filled teenager) often appear to be using mind-matter interaction as a stress reliever. Furthermore, the events are meaningful in the same way as a dream. Poltergeist activity is a metaphor for unconscious thoughts and feelings.

It's important to recognize a couple of things here that sometimes get ignored. Fraud accompanies a significant proportion of real phenomena. In some cases it's family members playing tricks on each other or a person trying to get media attention. However, much of the time fraud is a shell game played by the poltergeist agent's unconscious mind where the agent may not even be aware that they're faking some or all of the events.

The other thing to remember is that the best way to understand what's going on in poltergeist phenomena is by figuring out the who, what, when, where, and why. Because of this, it's useful to ask those involved to keep a journal of the activity. Once you've figured out the pattern of what happens to whom with the when and where, the underlying story (and why the events started) usually becomes obvious. Psychological counseling is often helpful for these folks, if only for the stress of what's happening.

Finally, discarnate spirits (i.e. ghosts) can occasionally (by which I mean it's really rare!) cause similar mind-matter phenomena, but most of the time these events are limited ones. What do I mean by this? They might stop a clock to let someone know when they died or (as ghosts I've had) unscrew one light bulb at a time in your kitchen ceiling fixture, open and close doors, etc. But the behavior doesn't escalate in the same way as poltergeist phenomena, which tend to increase in magnitude and violence to a crescendo before abruptly ending. (NOTE: This pattern of escalation can be disrupted by anything that changes family dynamics -- such as an investigator coming into the home -- or the poltergeist agent(s) accepting responsibility for their events). Another difference is that human poltergeist activity can be re-triggered by hypnosis, showing the power and control of the unconscious mind over the phenomena.

This is knowledge of a future event which could not have been predicted or inferred by normal means. Presentiment is simply precognition on an unconscious level. Studies on unconscious precognition sugest that presentiment common, if an often weak talent, which may only give us SECONDS of advance warning. Even so, it would make sense from a Darwinian perspective to develop precognition, since it could give you a genuine edge in survival. Our best evidence comes from studies showing that physiological parameters change BEFORE study participants are shown a randomized computer image (i.e. no human knows what's about to happen without precognition), suggesting that at least on an unconscious level, they're preparing for what's about to come. Of course, there's still the possibility of experimenter effect, but the findings have been replicated in enough laboratories to suggest that precognition exists. It would also fit with my knowing (back when I took call) what kind of emergencies I'd be called in for and at what hour of the night. Precognition also shows up in dreams, which (at least in my own experiences) have different feel to them than ordinary dreams or lucid dreams and remote viewing traveling forward in time.

Years ago, paraspychologists realized the needed a neutral term, something with less psychological and cultural baggage than psychic phenomena. Because of this, they choose a letter of the Greek alphabet -- Ψ (psi) -- for as a neutral general term to identify a person's extrasensorimotor communication with or ability to act on the environment. Psi includes both ESP and mind-matter interaction. Given that ESP and mind-matter interaction may be the same thing anyway, many parapsychologists avoid the risk of implying a false dichotomy and just use the word "psi" when talking about these phenomena.

Psi Hitting/Psi Missing
These meanings are pretty obvious, though why they both matter may seem less so. Psi hitting is the use of psi for success at hitting the correct target. In other words, the target at which the subject is aiming is hit significantly more often than would be expected by random chance. Psi missing is the opposite. It is the use of psi so that the target at which the subject is aiming is missed significantly more often than would be expected by chance. You might wonder why anyone would do this? To put it simply, psi abilities are used to fulfill unconscious needs, which may or may not align with a person's conscious needs. Skeptics desperate to prove psi doesn't exist can have a 0% hit rate guessing ESP Cards. They think it proves psi doesn't exist when, in fact, if psi didn't exist they would have guessed 20% of the cards correctly just by pure random chance (see also sheep-goat effect). Thus, parapsychologists look for both extremes from what would normally be expected. In some ways, it's a shame to educate people on this, because once skeptics become learn the truth, they start hitting at exact random chance.

This is an old term that's still used today to describe getting psychic impressions from objects. Psychics vary in what kind of objects they find easiest to "read" (which may be a form of target preference rather than due to any intrinsic properties of the object to hold information). Thus, it's unclear whether psychometry involves directly reading place memory from an object, or using the target object as a way to tune in the specific information that's being sought. The true answer may be "it depends", "sometimes", and "both".

This is the doctrine that we each move through many individual lifetimes, only one of which is our current one here on earth. As other types of survival research have proven problematic, reincarnation research has risen in popularity, led in large part by the University of Virginia department of psychiatry with it's database of past-life memory investigations, many of which are done with children under the age of five in third-world countries where limited travel and lack of mass media makes it easier to rule out normal ways for them to have obtained the information (or in some cases languages other than their local ones) they report. Ian Stevenson's Twenty Cases of Reincarnation is a nice primer on the topic and a book which certainly changed how I view the topic.

Release-of-Effort Effect
This is the apparent sudden production of mind-matter interaction results (such as bending a spoon) as soon as the performer has ceased his or her efforts. Many feel that is is related to striving blocking results, where not trying so hard to produce an outcome allows the performer to succeed.

Remote Viewing
I'm sorry to have to admit that this is one of the sloppiest terms used in parapsychology, with different folks having different meanings that all boil down to anyone (whether they claim to be psyhic or not) seeing a nonlocal (and sometimes nonphysical) target type through non-normal means. So, for some who talk about remote viewing it's nearly any kind of clairvoyance, while for others it refers to a rigorous protocal that was created by the US Government, specifically called Controlled Remote Viewing (CRV). I try to limit talk of remote viewing to CRV, but you'll also hear of other subsets of remote viewing, such as Extended Remote Viewing (ERV), which uses a deeper state of consciousness, and Associative Remote Viewing (ARV) where the target viewed is actually the feedback point, and hard to view information, like a number, is associated with something easy to view, such as a photograph or flavor. You can read more about remote viewing in the FAQ.

Sheep-Goat Effect
This term was coined by Gertrude Schmeidler to indicate the relationship between acceptance of the possibility of ESP under the given experimental conditions and ESP scoring level, those accepting the possibility (sheep) tending to score above chance and those rejecting it (goats) at or below chance. These have become quite popular terms, which have spawned others, such as super-sheep (super believer) and super-goat (super skeptic), as sometimes the extremes can (like the release of effort effect) cause the opposite result of what the individual wants.

Sitter Group
This is an experimental version of table tipping that was popularized by Kenneth Batcheldor. He used ordinary individuals in good light with no spirits. Batcheldor thought that there were three big reasons why mind-matter interaction (MMI) might succeed or fail. These were:
  • BELIEF: Even the slightest doubt can make it hard to results when you're in a skeptical environment.
  • OWNERSHIP RESISTANCE: A term Batcheldor used to describe people's reluctance be responsible for mind-matter interaction.
  • WITNESS INHIBITION: The fact people are sometimes very uncomfortable watching mind-matter interaction, no matter who is responsible for it.
Batcheldor felt the best way to get around all three of these problems is to use a group party atmosphere. Often he would have one person "prime the pump" by faking an event to get around the need for belief to get things rolling. Ownership resistance was less of a problem because no one knew who in the group was actually responsible for the PK. Perhaps most importantly, he used laughter, singing, and a light party-like atmosphere to cut down on witness inhibition. This method was used by the Toronto group in their table tipping experiment that became a paperback book, Conjuring up Phillip. This research suggests that the unconscious knows how to do psi -- it just needs to have a set goal and a way to keep the conscious mind from interfering with the production of mind-matter interaction.<

Spirit Guides
Unlike ghosts, spirit guides have already completed their transitions to the light and gone through the life review and self-judgment phase of the afterlife. Their spiritual work may involve greeting the dead, coming back to aid the living, or for some other purpose. Thus, they are not "stuck" and don't need to be moved on. One misconception I've seen is folks thinking they only have one spirit guide for their entire life. Although most people seem to have a primary protector guide, it's also possible to see entire teams of specialist guides who who come and go as the needs change for whomever they're trying to help.

Super ESP Hypothesis
This is the hypothesis that we can know anything, anywhere, at any time through ESP. Because of this, there's no way to know whether we survive physical death. Super ESP suggests that mediums are not really in contact with surviving human spirits. Instead, it proposes that mediums unconsciously use telepathy to access information from other living people or using a kind of ESP or remote viewing to access information from somewhere on earth. Thus, super-ESP proposes that any information presented as evidence of an afterlife could just as easily have been provided by an earthly source instead of a spirit. One of the problems with super-ESP as a hypothesis is that there's no way to disprove it.

Survival of Bodily Death
This is one of the three areas of parapsychology research, which studies whether we can survive the deaths of our physical bodies and continue our existence in some kind of non- or trans-physical spiritual afterlife. The strongest evidence of it involves reincarnation research, although Super-ESP could also explain the findings.

This is a form of mind-matter phenomena in which objects or people allegedly move over a distance and/or through other objects. There appears to be an odd link between this and metal-bending, as folks who can do one can often do the other.

Third Variable
This is a term in statistics that refers to the possibility that a factor may not be directly related to the variable being studied, but instead is correlated to yet another variable, which is the one truly linked to what is being studied. Hence, if A has a direct effect on B, and C changes when A does, C may appear to influence B when it is, in fact, only a third variable. C and A both change at the same time but only one of them (A) is actually influencing B.

This term refers to any hypnotic-type altered state of consciousness. It is characterized by conscious attention being turned away from the normal senses and the ordinary day-to-day physically-oriented public reality shared by most people (consensus reality). Many forms of trance appear to enhance psychic abilities.

Zener Cards
Zener Cards This is the original name for what is now commonly called ESP cards. Karl Zener created them in the 1930s to serve as ESP targets in experiments he did with J. B. Rhine. The entire deck has twenty five cards, five of each symbol: a circle, a plus sign, three wavy lines, a square and a five-pointed star.