This blog examines research into mediumship. Although there are many mediums offering readings online, this blog doesn’t endorse individual mediums, it discusses research findings and case studies from academic journals/books. My advice if seeking a medium, always try and find some collaborative evidence that they are legitimate before booking an appointment.
First of all, to start a discussion on mediumship, we need to discuss fraud. There are two types of mediums; (1) legitimate in that they believe in mediumship ability and try to find evidence of speaking to deceased relatives (we discuss later) and (2) those that are out to trick customers with various techniques.
To research mediumship, the experimenter needs to understand the mechanisms of fraud. Here are some common examples.
Fishing: When a fake medium asks general questions in hope, there is a favorable reaction. It is used generally in a group setting, for example in a theatre of 100, how many will have a relative that has passed during the previous year that they were close too and old.
Cold Calling: Fake mediums use information from the person that they don’t know they have given away. For example, a person’s age, fashion, gender to apply generic statements in which the fake medium look for further clues. The procedure then snowballs, in that the sitter starts to give more information about the deceased than they realize.
We need to disguise between brain illusionist and fake mediums. An Illusionist doesn’t ever claim that they are contacting deceased relatives. They will usually say they are using the tricks of the trade (but don’t ruin their act by telling how they do it!). On the other hand, the fake mediums, get their clients to believe they are contacting the deceased when they are not. It is a deception.
The next question is how researchers test the claims of mediums. Researchers have derived a protocol to remove all possible fraudulent techniques. Here are some generic protocols that should be used in mediumship research.
1, Medium is blind to the sitter, can’t see or pick up on any clues
2, Sitters are given several readings to pick out (usually 4) with three dummy readings and one actual reading from the medium.
3, Researchers themselves don’t interact with both the medium and the sitter, they will only communicate with one (either medium or sitter), so they can’t influence the results.
4, Before the research starts, there is a screening of the medium (some evidence to demonstrate an ability) and the sitter (whether there is a deceased person they want to connect with).
All these protocols into mediumship research are designed to reduce contact between the sitter and medium to ensure the only possible effect is actual communication is from a supernatural source.
Research into mediumship is not as widespread as I initially thought before I started investigating the literature. However, numerous studies are published in journals with statistically significant effects, i.e., the sitter is more likely to pick out their actual reading compared to dummy reading. The lack of studies could represent one of three things; (1) lack of funding for mediumship research, (2) finding mediums who can perform under the strictest conditions in testing, and (3) there is research, but it isn’t published because the findings are non-significant (publication bias, i.e., scientific journals favor positive research findings).
One interesting feature of scientific research into mediumship, no studies found a medium who was 100% accurate, i.e., that is the sitter never picks out the correct reading all the time. Potentially, this could be due to natural variability in human performance, for example, a footballer never gets a 100% shooting accuracy through the season, so should we expect the same for mediums?
A few pieces of research have examined the physiological changes within the brain when the medium is giving a reading. A few studies notice changes in alpha wavelengths during the reading. However, there are so few studies on mediums brain activity during readings that we can’t draw any meaningful conclusions. However, early research is interesting, in that it shows some neurological change.
It is also worth mentioning the number of studies within 19th and 20th Century (some are documented in my book: The Quantum Mind: Can Science explain Paranormal Phenomena). Perhaps the most studied medium was Mrs. Piper. Mrs. Piper was investigated by various scientists across 15 years, including hiring private detectives to follow her so hopefully, they would find evidence of fraud. They never found any evidence of fraud during 15 years of studying Mrs. Piper. What is also interesting, her apparent mediumship ability only appeared after she suffered a brain injury.
Various theories have been put forward to explain mediumship; (1) evidence for survival of consciousness, (2) some type of telepathic communication and (3) PSI. The problem is that we know so little about consciousness, that we can’t rule anything out. However, there is nothing in mediumship to suggest against the survival of the consciousness neither do we have enough data to understand the nature of genuine mediumship ability fully.
If you’re interested further, you can buy my book at Amazon
Thanks for reading, Ian