"The Use of Personal Computers in Psychical Research"
by, Charles Honorton
Honorton initiated his talk by stating the parapsychology deals with
fundamental issue of reality. The field forges empirical questions
about important aspects of our nature. One of the more important
questions, according to Honorton, is whether our mental states and
intentionality can have a causative effect on our environment. He then
briefly turned to the benefits of computers in psi research. He
believes that the use of computers can allow us to bypass criticisms
that have paralyzed experimental research for some time. Computers can
document all information from an experiment and can essentially free
the experimenter(s) from mechanical concerns so that interpersonal
activities can receive more attention.
Honorton then laid some foundation for his work in altered states of
consciousness, the ganzfeld technique and computers. He provided some
background material in regards to his early work with altered states of
consciousness at Maimonides Hospital in New York. He briefly described
the dream telepathy work of Ullman, Krippner, and himself. Nine out of
13 dream studies were statistically significant. As an outgrowth of
these studies, Honorton searched for a method that would incorporate
important aspects of the dream work, without the need for monitoring a
subject throughout the night. He decided that the use of the ganzfeld
technique to elicit psi utilized some of these important features, such
as: hypnosis and meditation, and most importantly, noise reduction (a
relative absence of perceptual processing).
Honorton showed a video tape that described his ganzfeld work and the
use of the Apple computer to automate the experiments. In one
particular series, in one room a randomly selected section of the video
tape was displaying a cartoon with Bugs Bunny going up in a space ship
and ascending out the top of the craft. We heard the audio portion of
the subject who was in another room. The subject was uncanny in his
description of the cartoon, his imagery closely matched the activity on
the film in the next room.
In looking at the future of research with ganzfeld and computers,
Honorton offered several important points to consider. He doesn't want
to be concerned with methodology. He would like to see himself and his
fellow experimenters have such "tight" experiments that they should
only be concerned with interpersonal activities with the subjects.
Also, until now work has focused only on receiver optimization. He
would like to see work on rapport between sender and receiver. He would
like to develop more meaningful targets for the subjects. In fact, if
it is possible, he would like to tailor the targets to the individuals.
Biofeedback should also be utilized in this experimental setting.
Finally, more psychological and demographic information should be