Monday, August 13, 2007

A Salary in Parapsychology: Patrice Keane (ASPR)

The 2005 federal tax return of the American Society for Psychical Research (ASPR) was signed by its president, Nancy Sondow, on November 2, 2006. Page 5 of the return lists the compensation for officers, directors, trustees, and key employees. That for Patrice Keane, ASPR Executive Director, is given below.


Years ago, the ASPR was one of the venerable institutions of psychical research. It was founded in 1885 through the efforts of William James, among others. In 1889 it became part of the Society for Psychical Research (British), but in 1906 it was reconstituted (Berger 1985). It regularly published the Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research from 1907 until about 1997, when its appearance became intermittent. In July 2007, the ASPR mailed out copies of its most recent issue—dated January-April 2004.

The Society’s website ( currently includes three sample articles from the Journal. The most recent is from 1976—31 years ago. I could find no mention of any ASPR-sponsored lectures or conferences on the website. It is unclear what services the ASPR actually provides.

Its tax returns for the last several years list income from “membership dues and assessments.” The website indicates that regular membership is $70. Membership for seniors (over 65) is $45. Assuming that half of the members are seniors, the average dues are $57.50. The table below gives the estimated number of members based on these figures.

In 1989 total paid circulation of the Journal was 1747 (McCormick, 1989).

I briefly mentioned Ms. Keane in my book chapter “Anti-Structure and the History of Psychical Research” (Hansen, 2001, p. 197). She has provided a striking demonstration of the anti-structural effect of the paranormal on institutions.

In anthropological terms, anti-structure is a synonym of liminality. It is characteristic of the paranormal, and anti-structure helps explain why institutions in paranormal fields are exceptionally vulnerable to instability and fractionation. It also illuminates the paranormal’s marginality, which has been observed over thousands of years.

Parapsychologists resist the idea that their field is inherently marginal and unstable. But the entire history of parapsychology demonstrates the fact. The current condition of the ASPR is an example—and entirely consistent with trickster theory.


Berger, Arthur S. (1985). The Early History of the ASPR: Origins to 1907. Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research. Vol. 79, No. 1, pp. 39-60.

Hansen, George P. (2001). The Trickster and the Paranormal. Philadelphia, PA: Xlibris Corporation.

McCormick, Donna L. (1989). U.S. Postal Service Statement of Ownership, Management and Circulation. Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research. Vol. 83, No. 3, p. 287.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Dean Radin’s Statistics: The “Significant” Correlation Matrix (PA 1993)

In 1993 Dean Radin served as president of the Parapsychological Association (PA), the professional association of parapsychologists. By that time he had been working in the field for over a decade. He had held positions doing psi research at Bell Laboratories, Princeton University, SRI International, and the University of Edinburgh. This impressive set of credentials may have led some to feel confident in his experimental methods and statistical analyses.

At the 1993 PA convention held in Toronto, Radin presented a paper titled: “Environmental Modulation and Statistical Equilibrium in Mind-Matter Interaction.” It reported a study of a human’s mental influence on a Geiger counter.


Four Geiger counters were connected to a computer that recorded the radiation counts. The human subject attempted to influence one of the Geiger counters. The 65 test sessions each had two conditions (real-time and pre-recorded). For each condition, the computer randomly designated 25 influence periods and 75 control periods. Results from influence and control periods were compared for each Geiger counter, for each condition. Two measures were computed (effect size and F-score). Four Geiger counters, two conditions with two measures each, resulted in 4 × 2 × 2 = 16 outcome measures for each session.

In addition, 33 environmental variables were recorded for each test session (e.g., humidity, barometric pressure, time of day, local magnetic field, precipitation, sunspot number, background xray).


Correlation coefficients were calculated for each of the 16 outcome measures with each of the 33 environmental variables, which resulted in a total of 16 × 33 = 528 correlations.

Radin reported that the 16 × 33 matrix produced 44 correlations that were associated with p < .05. He then used the binomial probability distribution to compute the probability of obtaining that many, or (presumably) more, correlations associated with p < .05.

He reported a value of p = .0004.

I have been unable to reproduce this number; three online binomial calculators have all given me p = .000779. I did check the general accuracy of these online calculators by comparing their results with the Tables of the Cumulative Binomial Probability Distribution (1955) for similar values with N = 550 and p = .05. In any event, Radin’s reported result is statistically significant.

However, the binomial distribution assumes independence for each of the measurements. But the correlations were clearly not independent. For instance, the environmental variables included background X-ray flux and log of background X-ray flux, humidity and precipitation, sunspot number and sunspot number for the day before.


The program chair for the 1993 conference was Marilyn Schlitz, who is now Vice President for Research and Education at the Institute of Noetic Sciences, where Radin is Senior Scientist. Schlitz was responsible for seeing that the papers were adequately reviewed. She has been involved in parapsychology since 1979.

Radin has been doing statistically based parapsychology research since 1981.

Readers who have some familiarity with statistics may wish to ponder the implications.


Radin, Dean I. (1993). Environmental modulation and statistical equilibrium in mind-matter interaction. In Marilyn J. Schlitz (program chair), The Parapsychological Association 36th Annual Convention: Proceedings of Presented Papers (pages 157-176). The Parapsychological Association.

Staff of the Computation Laboratory. (1955). Tables of the Cumulative Binomial Distribution. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.