An empirical test of the theory of morphic resonance using recognition for Chinese symbols

Kimberly Robbins, Chris A Roe

Research output: Contribution to Book/Report typesChapter

Abstract

Rupert Sheldrake’s theory of morphic resonance suggests a means by which the thoughts or behaviours of physically isolated individuals may nevertheless converge in a manner that is reminiscent of ESP, and tests of the predictions of his theory have the appearance of ESP tests involving millions of potential senders. Empirical tests to date have been broadly consistent with the theory’s predictions, but evaluation of these findings may be stymied by the tendency for results to be reported in popular accounts rather than peer reviewed journal papers, so that essential methodological detail may not be available. In this study we sought to replicate earlier findings with word-based stimuli in a laboratory-based study that was intended to form part of the scientific record whatever the outcome. We also planned to extend the paradigm to consider individual differences in susceptibility to morphic resonance, and as a preliminary step looked at the effects of transliminality on performance. Sixty unselected participants were exposed to 10 stimuli consisting of 5 genuine Chinese characters and 5 false characters that were derived from genuine characters with the assistance of a native Chinese speaker in such a way as to appear authentic. Subsequently participants were asked to identify which characters they could recognize among a sheet of 20 that included all 10 that were originally presented intermixed with 10 decoys (also 5 real and 5 false). As predicted by the theory of morphic resonance, participants accurately recognized more of the genuine than false characters, t(59)= 2.40, p = .020, but also were more likely to report false memories (i.e. claim that they recognized items that were never presented) that were genuine characters than false ones, t(59)= 3.805, p < .001. These effects were not a function of presentation order. Participants’ transliminality scores were significantly related to their performance with presented characters (r = .38, p = .003) but not with decoy characters (r = .14, p = .28). These findings are interpreted in terms of Sheldrake’s theory, and designs for further empirical tests are suggested.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of Presented Papers: The Parapshychological Association 51st Annual Convention & The Incorporated Society for Psychical Research 32nd Annual Conference
EditorsSimon Sherwood
Place of PublicationWinchester
PublisherParapsychological Association
Pages176-186
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2012
EventThe Parapsychological Association 51st Annual Convention and Incorporated Society of Psychical Research 32nd Annual Convention - University of Winchester, Winchester, United Kingdom
Duration: 13 Aug 200817 Aug 2008

Conference

ConferenceThe Parapsychological Association 51st Annual Convention and Incorporated Society of Psychical Research 32nd Annual Convention
CountryUnited Kingdom
CityWinchester
Period13/08/0817/08/08

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Keywords

  • Morphic resonance
  • Recognition task
  • Chinese symbols
  • Psychology

Cite this

Robbins, K., & Roe, C. A. (2012). An empirical test of the theory of morphic resonance using recognition for Chinese symbols. In S. Sherwood (Ed.), Proceedings of Presented Papers: The Parapshychological Association 51st Annual Convention & The Incorporated Society for Psychical Research 32nd Annual Conference (pp. 176-186). Winchester: Parapsychological Association.
Robbins, Kimberly ; Roe, Chris A. / An empirical test of the theory of morphic resonance using recognition for Chinese symbols. Proceedings of Presented Papers: The Parapshychological Association 51st Annual Convention & The Incorporated Society for Psychical Research 32nd Annual Conference. editor / Simon Sherwood. Winchester : Parapsychological Association, 2012. pp. 176-186
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Robbins, K & Roe, CA 2012, An empirical test of the theory of morphic resonance using recognition for Chinese symbols. in S Sherwood (ed.), Proceedings of Presented Papers: The Parapshychological Association 51st Annual Convention & The Incorporated Society for Psychical Research 32nd Annual Conference. Parapsychological Association, Winchester, pp. 176-186, The Parapsychological Association 51st Annual Convention and Incorporated Society of Psychical Research 32nd Annual Convention, Winchester, United Kingdom, 13/08/08.

An empirical test of the theory of morphic resonance using recognition for Chinese symbols. / Robbins, Kimberly; Roe, Chris A.

Proceedings of Presented Papers: The Parapshychological Association 51st Annual Convention & The Incorporated Society for Psychical Research 32nd Annual Conference. ed. / Simon Sherwood. Winchester : Parapsychological Association, 2012. p. 176-186.

Research output: Contribution to Book/Report typesChapter

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T1 - An empirical test of the theory of morphic resonance using recognition for Chinese symbols

AU - Robbins, Kimberly

AU - Roe, Chris A

PY - 2012/11/1

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N2 - Rupert Sheldrake’s theory of morphic resonance suggests a means by which the thoughts or behaviours of physically isolated individuals may nevertheless converge in a manner that is reminiscent of ESP, and tests of the predictions of his theory have the appearance of ESP tests involving millions of potential senders. Empirical tests to date have been broadly consistent with the theory’s predictions, but evaluation of these findings may be stymied by the tendency for results to be reported in popular accounts rather than peer reviewed journal papers, so that essential methodological detail may not be available. In this study we sought to replicate earlier findings with word-based stimuli in a laboratory-based study that was intended to form part of the scientific record whatever the outcome. We also planned to extend the paradigm to consider individual differences in susceptibility to morphic resonance, and as a preliminary step looked at the effects of transliminality on performance. Sixty unselected participants were exposed to 10 stimuli consisting of 5 genuine Chinese characters and 5 false characters that were derived from genuine characters with the assistance of a native Chinese speaker in such a way as to appear authentic. Subsequently participants were asked to identify which characters they could recognize among a sheet of 20 that included all 10 that were originally presented intermixed with 10 decoys (also 5 real and 5 false). As predicted by the theory of morphic resonance, participants accurately recognized more of the genuine than false characters, t(59)= 2.40, p = .020, but also were more likely to report false memories (i.e. claim that they recognized items that were never presented) that were genuine characters than false ones, t(59)= 3.805, p < .001. These effects were not a function of presentation order. Participants’ transliminality scores were significantly related to their performance with presented characters (r = .38, p = .003) but not with decoy characters (r = .14, p = .28). These findings are interpreted in terms of Sheldrake’s theory, and designs for further empirical tests are suggested.

AB - Rupert Sheldrake’s theory of morphic resonance suggests a means by which the thoughts or behaviours of physically isolated individuals may nevertheless converge in a manner that is reminiscent of ESP, and tests of the predictions of his theory have the appearance of ESP tests involving millions of potential senders. Empirical tests to date have been broadly consistent with the theory’s predictions, but evaluation of these findings may be stymied by the tendency for results to be reported in popular accounts rather than peer reviewed journal papers, so that essential methodological detail may not be available. In this study we sought to replicate earlier findings with word-based stimuli in a laboratory-based study that was intended to form part of the scientific record whatever the outcome. We also planned to extend the paradigm to consider individual differences in susceptibility to morphic resonance, and as a preliminary step looked at the effects of transliminality on performance. Sixty unselected participants were exposed to 10 stimuli consisting of 5 genuine Chinese characters and 5 false characters that were derived from genuine characters with the assistance of a native Chinese speaker in such a way as to appear authentic. Subsequently participants were asked to identify which characters they could recognize among a sheet of 20 that included all 10 that were originally presented intermixed with 10 decoys (also 5 real and 5 false). As predicted by the theory of morphic resonance, participants accurately recognized more of the genuine than false characters, t(59)= 2.40, p = .020, but also were more likely to report false memories (i.e. claim that they recognized items that were never presented) that were genuine characters than false ones, t(59)= 3.805, p < .001. These effects were not a function of presentation order. Participants’ transliminality scores were significantly related to their performance with presented characters (r = .38, p = .003) but not with decoy characters (r = .14, p = .28). These findings are interpreted in terms of Sheldrake’s theory, and designs for further empirical tests are suggested.

KW - Morphic resonance

KW - Recognition task

KW - Chinese symbols

KW - Psychology

M3 - Chapter

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BT - Proceedings of Presented Papers: The Parapshychological Association 51st Annual Convention & The Incorporated Society for Psychical Research 32nd Annual Conference

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Robbins K, Roe CA. An empirical test of the theory of morphic resonance using recognition for Chinese symbols. In Sherwood S, editor, Proceedings of Presented Papers: The Parapshychological Association 51st Annual Convention & The Incorporated Society for Psychical Research 32nd Annual Conference. Winchester: Parapsychological Association. 2012. p. 176-186