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Towards a discursive parapsychology: language and the laboratory study of anomalous communication

Wooffitt, R. and Allistone, S. (2005) Towards a discursive parapsychology: language and the laboratory study of anomalous communication. Theory and Psychology, 15 ( 3). pp. 325-355. ISSN 0959-3543

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In recent years there has been a change in attitudes among psychologists and social scientists towards ostensibly paranormal experiences in general, and parapsychological research in particular. Instead of seeking to endorse or debunk claims of paranormal experience, attention has shifted to the analysis of the broader psychological, social and cultural implications of reports of anomalous phenomena. This paper contributes to this trend by arguing for a discursive psychological study of interaction between experimenter and subject in parapsychology laboratory experiments. Parapsychological experiments rely on mundane interactional practices which invoke the relevance of, or make explicit reference to, psychological and parapsychological states. These laboratory interactions can be investigated by conversation-analytic-informed discursive psychology. Some preliminary observations on data from ganzfeld ESP experiments are offered to illustrate the range of empirical issues which may be explored. These concern the socially organized properties of reports of conscious imagery; the use of a psychological thesaurus as part of the experimenter’s work; and the management of affiliation in experimenter-subject interaction. These observations suggest that discursive psychological research can be undertaken despite the controversial status of evidence for extra-sensorimotor communication. The paper argues that the discursive psychological studies of interaction in parapsychological experiments can yield findings relevant to the concerns of both parapsychology and discursive psychology, and can contribute to methodological issues in the broader study of consciousness.

Item Type: Article
Institution: The University of York
Academic Units: The University of York > Sociology (York)
Depositing User: York RAE Import
Date Deposited: 12 Feb 2009 10:02
Last Modified: 12 Feb 2009 10:02
Published Version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0959354305053218
Status: Published
Publisher: Sage Publications
Identification Number: 10.1177/0959354305053218
URI: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/7754

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