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Parapsychology is the scientific and scholarly study of three kinds of unusual events (ESP, mind-matter interaction, and survival), which are associated with human experience. The existence of these phenomena suggest that the strict subjective/objective dichotomy proposed by the old paradigm (see below) may not be quite so clear-cut as once thought. Instead, these phenomena may be part of a spectrum of what is possible, with some events and experiences occasionally falling between purely subjective and purely objective. We call such phenomena “anomalous” because they are difficult to explain within current scientific models.
Parapsychology only studies those anomalies that fall into one of three general categories: ESP, mind-matter interaction (previously known as psychokinesis), and phenomena suggestive of survival after bodily death, including near-death experiences, apparitions, and reincarnation. Most parapsychologists today expect that further research will eventually explain these anomalies in scientific terms, although it is not clear whether they can be fully understood without significant (some might say revolutionary) expansions of the current state of scientific knowledge. Other researchers take the stance that existing scientific models of perception and memory are adequate to explain some or all parapsychological phenomena.
What is not parapsychology?
In spite of what the media often imply, parapsychology is not the study of “anything paranormal” or bizarre. Nor is parapsychology concerned with astrology, UFOs, searching for Bigfoot, the Loch Ness monster, Paganism, Satanism, Vampires, Alchemy, or Witchcraft.
Many scientists have viewed parapsychology with great suspicion because the term has come to be associated with a huge variety of mysterious phenomena, fringe topics, and pseudoscience. Parapsychology is also often linked, again inappropriately, with a broad range of “psychic” entertainers, magicians, and so-called “paranormal investigators” or “paranormalists.” In addition, some self-proclaimed “psychic practitioners” call themselves parapsychologists, but that is not what we do.