Study of the Features of Out-of-Body Experiences

Carlos S. Alvarado, PhD, Research Fellow, Parapsychology Foundation

Dr. Nancy L. Zingrone

Dr. Nancy L. Zingrone

In a recent publication I reported, with Nancy L. Zingrone, a study of out-of-body experiences: “Features of out-of-body experiences: Relationships to frequency, wilfulness and previous knowledge about the experience” (Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 2015, 79, 98-111). Here is the abstract:

“This study examined the relationship to other variables of a count of features of out-of-body experiences (OBEs), compiled as an OBE Feature Index. Following Blackmore’s (1984b) psychological model of OBEs it was predicted that there would be positive correlations between the Index and measures of OBE frequency and of deliberate OBEs. We also predicted a positive relationship between the Index and previous knowledge about the experience. Eighty-eight OBE cases were obtained through appeals in newspapers, magazines, and on-line bulletin boards in Great Britain. OBE features were comparable to previous study findings. Some of the most common features of the OBE were floating sensations (71%), staying in usual surroundings (69%), seeing the physical body (65%), and seeing the surroundings from above (63%). Among the less common were the feeling that consciousness oscillated in and out of the body (1%), seeing a ray of light or cord connecting the physical body with the OB location (2%), manipulating the environment via thought (3%), and hearing music (4%). The hypotheses related to the Index were confirmed only with deliberate OBEs (rs=.35). The Index was not significantly related to demographic variables.”

Dr. Susan J. Blackmore

Dr. Susan J. Blackmore

We wrote in the discussion:

“The significant positive relationship of the frequency of deliberate OBEs and the Feature Index is consistent with Blackmore’s (1984b, 1986) OBE model, in which control in inducing the experience is thought to be related to the content of the experience in the sense that the higher the level of control, the higher the number of features in the OBE. Because control may be assumed to be related to cognitive abilities, it makes sense that these same cognitive abilities are put into use in the content of the experience, providing a more complex and varied experience. In a previous study, we found a similar result but with a different OBE Feature Index . . .”

But we also discussed alternative interpretations for this finding, as well as the hypothetical nature of Blackmore’s model. As we stated:

“However, one must be careful with ideas such as Blackmore’s that are vague about the actual process involved in the production of OBEs. At this point it is not clear what these hypothetical cognitive maps consist of, nor how they can create the variety of OBE features documented in the present study and in the studies of other researchers . . . OBE features are not easily explained by these ideas, nor by other single processes currently discussed in the literature such as vestibular pathology and visual body-part illusions . . . absorption and somatic dissociation . . ., or body image . . . Although these variables have been related to OBE occurrence, the effect sizes of these studies suggest that other factors are also involved.”

Study of the Features of Out-of-Body Experiences
Study of the Features of Out-of-Body Experiences
Parapsychology News, History, Research
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