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Meta-analysis of distant healing studies using non-whole human samples

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 (Unpublished)

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Abstract: 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
Subjects: R Medicine > RZ Other systems of medicine > RZ400 Mental healing > RZ401 Distant healing
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BL Religion > BL51 Philosophy of religion. Psychology of religion. Religion in relation to other subjects > BL65 Spiritual healing. Religion and medicine
R Medicine > RC Internal medicine > RC435 Psychiatry > RC475 Therapeutics. Psychotherapy
Creators: Sonnex, Charmaine, Roe, Chris A and Roxburgh, Elizabeth C
Funders or Sponsors: Confederation of Healing Associations
Faculties, Divisions and Institutes: University Faculties, Divisions and Research Centres - OLD > School of Social Sciences (to 2016)
University Faculties, Divisions and Research Centres - OLD > Faculty of Health & Society > Psychology
Faculties > Faculty of Health & Society > Psychology
Date: 3 September 2011
Date Type: Presentation
Event Title: Society for Psychical Research (SPR) 35th International Annual Conference
Event Dates: 02-04 September 2011
Event Location: University of Edinburgh
Event Type: Conference
Language: English
Status: Unpublished
Refereed: Yes
Related URLs:
References: Astin, J.A., Harkness, E., & Ernst E. (2000). The efficacy of ‘distant healing’: A systematic review of randomized trials. Annals of Internal Medicine, 132, 903-910. Bengston, W.F., & Moga, M. (2007). Resonance, placebo effects and type II errors: Some implications from healing research for experimental methods. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 13(3), 317-327. Benor, D. (1990). Survey of spiritual healing research. Complementary Medical Research, 4, 9-33. Braud, W.G. (2003). Mentally protecting human red blood cells at a distance In W.G. Braud (Ed), Distant Mental Influence, Charlottesville: Hampton roads Publishing company Inc. Byrd, R.C. (1988). Positive therapeutic effects of intercessory prayer in a coronary care unit population. Southern Medical Journal, 81, 826-829. Creath, K., & Schwartz G.E. (2004). Measuring effects of music noise and healing energy using a seed germination bioassay. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 10(1), 113-122. Dossey, L. (1993). Healing Words: The Power of Prayer and the Practice of Medicine. HarperSanFrancisco. Sicher, F., Targ, E., Moore, D., & Smith, H. (1998). A randomized double blind study of the effect of distant healing in a population with advanced AIDS: Report of a small scale study. Western Journal of Medicine, 169, 356-363. Schouten, S. (1993). Applied parapsychology studies of psychics and healers. Journal of Scientific Exploration, 7, 375-401. Solfvin, J. (1984). Mental healing. In S. Krippner (Ed.), Advances in parapsychological research, Vol. 4 (pp. 31-63). Jefferson, NC: McFarland.

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