Paranormal investigators continue their research despite considerable skepticism.
Paranormal is a term used to describe a wide range of anomalous phenomena. The Journal of Parapsychology describes paranormal as any phenomenon that in one or more respects exceeds the limits of what is deemed physically possible according to current scientific assumptions. Studies under parapsychology include the study of psychic phenomena like extra-sensory perception, telepathy, and psychokinesis, as well as the study of post-mortem survival that include reincarnation, ghosts, and hauntings. Further, study of UFOs, creatures that come under cryptozoology, and other subjects that are non-psychic in nature but deemed mysterious are also included in the study of parapsychology.
In general, the following subjects are generally included in paranormal list.
- Alternative medicine
- applied kinesiology
- aura reading
- chiropractic healing
- crop circles
- electronic voice phenomenon (EVP)
- extra-sensory perception (ESP)
- faith healing
- psychic surgery
- pyramid power
- reality shifts
- remote viewing
- spontaneous human combustion
- therapeutic touch
- time slips
- perpetual motion devices that violate Newton’s laws of motion
Paranormal investigation is a difficult task from a research point of view because the phenomena could not be explained using existing theory or rules even though they are seen as real. If we assume that they exist, then they definitely exist outside the conventional norms. Skeptics hold that there are no paranormal phenomena. Here, it would be better to remember that paranormal events are normally of a very short duration. Hence, verifying them or proving them becomes difficult. However, paranormal investigations are periodically conducted by paranormal investigators from various disciplines to prove the existence of paranormal phenomena.
Paranormal investigators use several methods of research to verify paranormal activities. The most common methods used are anecdotal approach, experimental approach, participant-observer approach, and survey approach. The anecdotal approach collects all available anecdotal evidences. However, the veracity of this approach could not be scientifically determined, because there is no way to verify the credibility of the person presenting the evidence. This approach is also subject to logical fallacies like cognitive bias, lack of falsifiability, etc. It is said that Charles Fort collected about 40,000 anecdotes on paranormal activity in the beginning of the twentieth century.
Another approach to paranormal activities is experimental investigation. Such investigations are periodically conducted in the field of parapsychology. It is normally believed that J.B. Rhine popularized the experimental approach. He introduced the use of dice-rolling and card-guessing experiments in a laboratory environment and tried to validate extra-sensory perceptions with such experiments that were presented in a statistical manner. The Parapsychology Association was formed in 1957. They affiliated with the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1969. Research with experimental approach is continuously going on and there are several non-profit organizations both in the United States and in the United Kingdom that are conducting paranormal investigation on a regular basis.
The third type of approach is known as participant-observer approach in the study of paranormal activities. In this type of approach, a researcher conducts an actual sance in a presumed haunted location for verifying the authenticity of the haunted. However, the objectivity of the researcher is very important in this approach because the researcher relies on subjective measurement or gathering data in an unsystematic manner. Even then, this approach had gained a fair amount of popularity with reality-based TV shows like Ghost Hunters, etc. regularly featuring such activities.
Mass surveys are also conducted to find out facts about paranormal activities. These surveys are conducted in person or online on the Internet. A survey by the reputed Gallup Organization conducted in 2005 brought to light that about 73% of the respondents believed in at least one of the ten paranormal activities presented to them. The ten paranormal activities presented to them were ESP, ghosts, haunted houses, telepathy, clairvoyance, witches, medium, reincarnation and astrology. However, it had to be noted that such surveys are not conclusive proof of paranormal activities, because the response of those polled are purely subjective and they could not be verified beyond any doubt.
Research on paranormal activity is continuing but the debate on such activities being real or having scientific base looks like never ending. However, paranormal investigators like American Association of Paranormal Investigators (AAPI), The United Kingdom’s Society for Paranormal Investigations (UKSPI), etc. are actively trying to prove the existence of paranormal phenomena.