Sonnex, C., Roe, C. A. and Roxburgh, E. C. (2011) Meta-analysis of distant healing studies using non-whole human samples. Paper presented to: Society for Psychical Research (SPR) 35th International Annual Conference, University of Edinburgh, 02-04 September 2011. (Unpublished)
As part of a larger project investigating spiritual healing, we are conducting a meta-analysis of existing literature on healing and complementary therapies. The supposed linkage between spirituality and health has long been of interest to parapsychologists since it provides one source of evidence for a connection between ‘mind’ (intentionality) and ‘matter’ (tangible effects in the world, particularly with respect to the claims of psychic healers), with two of the earliest substantive reviews of empirical work on the efficacy of healing having been conducted by prominent parapsychologists (Schouten, 1993; Solfvin, 1984). As with other reviews of healing research (e.g.,Astin, Harkness & Ernst, 2000;Benor, 1990; Dossey, 1993), these authors found that interceding on behalf of patients through prayer or by adopting various practices that incorporate an intention to heal can have some positive effect upon their wellbeing. However, these reviewers also raised concerns about certain aspects of the methodologies of the studies reviewed, such as the difficulty in finding pure control groups (participants in sick samples are likely to be prayed for by relatives and friends), a need for more detailed measures of psychological factors, the need for much larger sample sizes and effects of scepticism.In particular, these findings aredifficult to interpret becausein some cases the beneficial effects could be attributable to placebo effects or to the consequences of general lifestyle changes that are involved in holistic approaches to medicine. It is therefore our aim to conduct a mathematical review of previous studies to try and identify methodological features which affect findings and to try and assess the status of the evidence that suggests a distant healing effect.
This initial meta analysis will take into account studies using non-whole human target subjects, including work with human red blood cells (Braud, 2003), mice (Bengston & Moga, 2007), seeds (Creath & Schwartz, 2004) and other target samples, as these studies would be unlikely to be affected by placebo effects due to the nature of the target subjects.
The inclusion criteria for studies are as follows:
Distinguishing features: All studies must look at the effects of spiritual healing (using psychological intent to manipulate the health or well being of the samples). Studies looking at direct mental influence without healing intention will not be included unless the effects ofthe intention on the system have an obvious link to health and well being. For instance, studies investigatingthe effects of human intention upon DNA would be included but studies looking at the effects of mental influence on GSR would not.
Search Strategy: Possible studies will be identified by searching the Swetswise, ASSIA, PsychNET, Web of Science, Cochrane Library, British nursing Index, Cinahl Full Text and Informaworld databases as well as Google Scholar. Search terms to be used are “Spiritual healing”, “Distance Healing” “Noetic Healing” “Intercessory Prayer” “Laying on of hands” “Therapeutic Touch” and “Reiki” plus “Animals” “Plants” “Yeast” “Bacteria” and “Cells”. The papers resulting from these searches will then be read and any relevant references located.
Linguistic range: Only studies published in English will be used.
Research methods: The healing conducted must not involve direct touching.
Data collection is ongoing and it is anticipated that the meta analysis will be completed by July 2011. In this presentation we will describe that data collection process and report on the results of our analysis