Roe, C. A. and Roxburgh, E. C. (2014) Non-parapsychological explanations of ostensible mediumship. In: Rock, A. J. (ed.) The Survival Hypothesis: Essays on Mediumship. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company. pp. 65-78.
A substantial proportion of the population reports belief in parapsychological phenomena, including belief in an afterlife, with personal experience being a common reason cited for belief. Where surveys have focused more specifically on belief in mediumship evidence suggests that direct experience from sittings is typically regarded as impressive. In this chapter we will review the nonparapsychological explanations for those favourable impressions. From the perspective of the structure of mediumistic readings we will consider the form that a mediumistic exchange takes and evaluate in detail explanations in terms of fraud, cold reading and the Barnum Effect. From the client’s perspective we will consider the effects of coincidence, suggestion , perception / misattribution and selective or distorted recall, as well as possible social and therapeutic functions of sitting with a medium. From the medium’s perspective we will consider the putative role of dissociation and mental health upon the mediumistic experience, and supposed biological bases of mediumship. We end by considering whether explanations solely in terms of nonparapsychological elements are sufficient to account for observed levels of belief in post-mortem communications.
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