Open All  |  Close All
Parapsychology Terms and Definitions

Please click on the terms to view their definitions. I have listed them in alphabetical order. There are more definitions listed in my glossaries for Mind-Matter Interaction: Historical Reports, Theory & Research and Handbook to the Afterlife.

The no longer physical, experiential realm that we move to between lives (after the physical body dies and before reincarnation). Often said to consist of many levels of differing "vibrations," degrees of "light," or nearness to some Source of All that Is.

Altered state of consciousness
States of consciousness other than ordinary waking consciousness. Examples of altered states of consciousness include daydreaming, sleep dreaming, being half awake (hypnopompic state), half-asleep (hypnagogic), hypnotic trance, meditation, mystic states, and states induced by sensory deprivation or drugs.

Animal psychic abilities.

The visual appearance of a person or animal (either living or dead) not in sensory range. Apparitions are generally sighted only once or rarely. A possible exception to this may be in poltergeist phenomena, when an apparent apparition is created through mind-matter interaction.

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 anyone else incarnate on the physical level of reality. Classically, channeling involved an identified, or self-identified, source said to be responsible for the information coming to or through the channel.

A form of ESP in which the extrasensory data is perceived as sound.

A form of ESP in which the extrasensory data is perceived as body sensations (kinesthetic input) or a kind of "knowing."

Extrasensory awareness of objects or objective events, technically involving the sense of sight (a "vision"), however, it is more often used loosely as a term for ESP. It is distinguished from telepathy, which involves extrasensory awareness of thoughts.

This refers to a relationship between two apparently contradictory concepts, which 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," it proposes that REG results—and possibly all MMI findings—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.

Decline effect
The tendency for positive scoring in psi tests to decrease, within a run, a session, or a longer period of testing. 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).

Deliberately caused bodily damage phenomena (DCBD)
This is where individuals cause (or allow others to do) 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.

Direct mental interactions with living systems (DMILS)
This is where a distant individual (isolated from all normal sensory cues) tries to use psi to influence another living target system, whether isolated cells or an intact organism.

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 ITC direct voice the communication is heard real-time through a radio, telephone, or other device.

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.

Electronic voice phenomena (EVP)
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.

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).

Experimenter effect
A term used to refer 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 their expectations. This may involve experimenter psi, which makes interpreting research results tricky.

Extrasensory perception (ESP)
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).

First Look Theory
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 to acquire psychic information, but rather to block out all that which is irrelevant. As such, psi helps us construct our perceptions and experiences.

Focusing effect
The general tendency for ESP or MMI success to be concentrated upon particular targets more than upon others; also a form of target preference.

A technique for inducing a state of partial sensory deprivation, in which psi-receivers lay down in a darkened room. Halved ping pong balls are placed over their eyes with a red light shining on them (creating a pink glow) and they listen to white noise played through a set of headphones.

The form through which a no longer physically living person's spirit may manifest to those of us who are physically alive. For some, the ghost is seen as only a shell, afterimage, or memory of a once-alive person, while others see it as a true perception of the actual presence of a discarnate human 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).

The experience, on the part of living persons, of the presence of those no longer living. To properly understand hauntings, it is critical to also have a full understanding of ESP and MMI research, since much of the subjective experience and objective findings are likely to involve psi phenomena.

The paranormal patterning of bloodstains on cloth.

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.

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.

Instrumental transcommunication (ITC)
The purported communication by human spirits, said to have survived the death of their physical bodies and exist in an afterlife or astral realm, through means of an assortment of electronic and related equipment, including tape 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 may involve the mediumistic abilities of the living person operating the equipment.

The period between lives, after the death of one life and before reincarnation into a new body.

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 or too subtle to be recognized by anything other than the unconscious mind.

In some Tantric forms of Yoga, this is the cosmic energy that is believed to lie within everyone, 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. If personal growth work has not been done, great emotional disturbance can result. Furthermore, there can be alarming physical and energetic symptoms, especially in the heart and nervous system.

The raising of objects or bodies in the air by supposedly paranormal means.

Linger effect
Also referred to as a "post-active effect." 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. Some have speculated that it could be a result of relaxation, while others have postulated that it may be an experimenter effect.

Local sidereal time (LST)
A measure of to the position of the Earth relative to the stars as it rotates around its axis. 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. LST is one of the few physical factors that correlate with successful ESP performance and possibly MMI.

A living, embodied person capable of communicating with, or receiving communication from, a human spirit being who has survived the death of his or her physical body.

Mind-matter interaction (MMI)
The influence of mind on external objects or processes without the mediation of known physical energies or forces. Also known by the older terms psychokinesis (PK) or telekinesis. 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.

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.

Out-of-body experience (OBE)
The experience of having one's sensate, experiencing seat of consciousness and self leave one's physical body and be able to move, usually at will, in a disembodied state with regard to physical reality, which may include looking back at one's own now-separate body, or with regard to a nonphysical reality, which may include transiently experiencing the afterlife.

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.

A synonym for psychic or parapsychological; beyond what should occur if only the known laws of cause and effect are operating.

A 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. It is thus limited to investigating ESP, MMI, and survival of death (which may include 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.

Poltergeist phenomena involve the unexplained movement or breakage of objects, etc., and often seem to center around the presence of a single individual, often an adolescent; they differ from hauntings in that apparitions are rarely seen.

Knowledge of a future event which could not have been predicted or inferred by normal means.

Unconscious precognition. This is usually inferred through the body's physiological reactions that anticipate the presentation of a random stimulus.

A letter of the Greek alphabet that is used 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 MMI.

The use of psi so that the target at which the subject is aiming is hit significantly more often than would be expected by chance.

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. This tends to be noted in individuals who do not believe psi exists (see also sheep-goat effect) and therefore appear to unconsciously use their psi to miss the target.

The doctrine, stemming from Hindu and Buddhist thought, that we each move through many individual lifetimes, only one of which is our current one now here on earth.

Release-of-effort effect
The apparent sudden production of MMI as soon as the performer has ceased his or her efforts. Possibly related to striving, and the result of unblocking MMI by not trying so hard to produce it.

Sheep-goat effect
Term 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.

Spirit guide
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 or coming back to aid the living or for some other specific purpose. Thus, they are not "stuck" and cannot be moved on.

The hypothesis that we do not survive physical death and 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.

Survival of bodily death
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.

A form of MMI phenomena in which objects or people allegedly move over a distance and/or through other objects.

Third variable
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 truly is 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.

A term used by some for 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).

Articles | Book Excerpts | PDF - Misc.. | F.A.Q. 1 | F.A.Q. 3 | F.A.Q. 4