New: May 17 BPS Hist. of Psych. Disciplines Talk!

The next presentation as part of British Psychological Society’s History of Psychology Centre, in conjunction with UCL’s Centre for the History of the Psychological DisciplinesHistory of the Psychological Disciplines Seminar Series will take place in London next week. On Friday, May 17th Fabio De Sio and Chantal Marazia will present on, “The Psychic Hans effect: Experimental animal psi from Karl Krall to the present.” Full details, including the presentation abstract, follow below.

Location: UCL Institute of the Americas, Room 105, 51 Gordon Square, London WC1H 0PN

Time: 6pm-7.30pm, Friday 17 May

Dr Fabio De Sio (Heinrich Heine Universität Düsseldorf) and Dr Chantal Marazia (Europa-Universität Viadrina), ‘The Psychic Hans effect: Experimental animal psi from Karl Krall to the present’

This paper explores the issue of animal psi experimentation in the 20th century (ca.
1920s–1970s). The passage from what has been called the ‘anecdotal phase’ of animal
psychology to the experimental phase had a rather precise parallel in psi research. From
sources of marvel and anecdotal evidence of paranormal phenomena, in the course of the 20th century animals progressively became elements of a specific experimental setting. More specifically, rigorous animal experimentation was seen as a way of overcoming a number of problems and strictures deriving from the very nature of psi experiences.

Animals were seen as a source of ‘genuine’ instances of psychic phenomena, unaltered
by human culture and communication, as well as standardisable research material, allowing to overcome the scarcity and ephemerality of human cases. Nevertheless, the need to develop animal-specific paradigms raised as many problems as it was supposed to resolve. Making the animal (either in the wild or in the lab) the centre of experimental psychic research entailed the definition of a number of issues that were common to psychic research, animal psychology, physiology and zoology: the issue of animal subjectivity and individuality; that of the evolutionary stand of psychic powers (at what level of the evolutionary ladder were they supposed to belong, their correlation with the evolution of the nervous system, etc.); finally, that of the human–animal relation in the experimental setting (whether the process of bonding between animals and humans was to be considered part of the procedure or a source of confusion). By considering different examples of psi research on animals (both observational and experimental), we explore the ambiguous roles and meanings given to animals in experimental research.

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About Jacy Young

Jacy Young is a doctoral student in the History and Theory of Psychology program at York University. Her dissertation explores the early history of questionnaires in American psychology.

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