As one of the most controversial and criticized branches within the diverse field of psychology, parapsychology involves the study of interactions that seem to transcend the physical laws of nature. According to the Parapsychological Association, parapsychology is defined as the “scientific and scholarly study of the unusual events associated with human experience that suggest the strict subjective/objective dichotomy may not be quite so clear-cut as once thought.”
Despite the fact that the field is often ridiculed, many individuals are intrigued by parapsychology to describe things above and beyond what is considered normal in mainstream scientific thought. If you are interested in learning more about the scientific study of phenomena outside the realm of traditional, the following is a full overview of the fascinating field of parapsychology.
Brief History of the Parapsychology Field
First emerging as a scientific field of interest in the latter half of the 19th century due to the ongoing paranormal and spiritualism movements, parapsychology was originally called psychical research. Due to welcoming support from the famous psychologist William James, the first American Society for Psychical Research (ASPR) was opened in 1885 in Boston. By 1911, the first academic studies on extrasensory perception and psychokinesis were conducted in the laboratories of Stanford University. Eventually, J.B Rhine coined the term “parapsychology” in the mid-20th century and popularized the word around the globe. While the turn of the century has realized significant decrease in parapsychological research, it is still represented in around 30 different countries and has been augmented by the rising popularity of the related transpersonal psychology.
Major Areas of Study in Parapsychology
Contrary to popular belief, the field of parapsychology is not concerned with solving the bizarre questions of mysterious phenomena and fringe topics like astrology, witchcraft, alchemy, vampires, aliens, paganism, or the search for Bigfoot. While some parapsychologists may associate their studies with the idea of haunting and poltergeists, the vast majority of scientists in the field focus their research on the broader study of consciousness and the mind to evaluate human abilities that are outside the normal range. Parapsychologists are usually concerned with testing the vast range of supposed human capabilities that have never been scientifically supported to find empirical-based research findings to prove their existence.
The field of parapsychology can be broken down into the five major broad areas of importance, which are telepathy, clairvoyance, precognition, psychokinesis, and survival studies. Telepathy is defined as the mind-to-mind communication between two human beings through a means other than the normal sense of speech. Clairvoyance is the knowledge of objects, events, characteristics, or people that are hidden from view via space or time. Also commonly called premonition, precognition is the knowledge of an event from the future that has not yet occurred in the present. Psychokinesis is the interaction of mind with matter at a distance, including the ability to move objects with the mind. Finally, survival studies deal with the consciousness surviving the physical form for reincarnation, near-death experiences, and apparitions.
For those who are interested in pursuing a career conducting research on these phenomena, there are unfortunately no accredited institutions in the United States that offer a degree option in parapsychology. However, aspiring parapsychologists are encouraged to pursue a Ph.D. in psychology and supplement the learning with specialized courses offered by the recognized Rhine Professional Education Center. As a result, you will have a solid understanding on the research methodologies needed to study the subjective anomalous experiences of parapsychology.