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Chapter 9

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Western University
Psychology 2011A/B
Imants Baruss

Alter States of Consciousness: Death • Gallup poll, 67% of respondents of the general population claimed that they believed in life after death, only 32% for doctors and 16% for scientists, 26% for academics and 27% for consciousness researchers Out of Body Experiences Characteristics of Out-Of-Body experiences (OBE) • (an experience in which a person has a somaesthetic sense of being located outside of their physical body while still feel in normal state on consciousness • Prevalence, 10% in general population, 25% of college students, 42% of schizophrenics, 44% of pot heads, 48% of parapsychology group individuals, and 88% for fantasy prone individuals - 23% and 31% in Baruss and Moore survey • Tendency to report more than one OBE • Story of girl who consciousness went to boyfriends house and knew details about his room (e.g. dog on bed, red shirt crumpled next to pillow, half drunk glass of water) • Survival hypothesis – a disembodied consciousness or some such discarnate element of human personality might survive bodily death at least for a time Perceptions during Out-of-Body Experiences • Only some OBE pertain to the physical world • Monroe – OBE are a way of exploring nonphysical aspects of the universe, he has encountered intelligent beings most whom were not human • 19% of experiencers have claimed to have made observations during their OBEs that were verified • Tart – conducted studies to see if veridical perceptions can occur during OBE - Study were a women who claimed to have OBE would put a card with number 1-10 on bed table without looking at it and had to see it during her OBE and report the number when she woke, did this seven times and was right each time  Did this again where Tart would randomly pick a five digit number on a piece of paper and put on the shelf in the room where only someone over 6 ½ ft could see.  She couldn’t control where her consciousness floated but one night she saw the paper and was right about the number, also reported it was lying flat (which was correct) - study where participants with upper 10% of hypnotic susceptibility were hypnotized and given the suggestion that they would have an OBE during which they were to go to another room and view a placed target  all reported OBE but couldn’t identify the target A Cognitive Theory of Out-of-Body Experiences • Blackmore – cognitive theory to explain OBE – idea is that we are always creating a cognitive model of the world with ourselves in it based on sensory information from the environment surrounding us and from our own bodies. Without sensory input we are forced to rely on our memory and imagination to supply body image and the world. We may tend to adopt a bird’s-eye view - People who dream in birds-eye view are more likely to have OBE • Best predictor of someone having OBEs are absorption in imaginal activity, fantasy- proneness, high hypnotisability, and dissociative tendencies Near Death Experiences • (NDE) is an experience that a person reports having has around the time that they were close to death • 9% to 18% who have been noticeably close to death having NDE Characteristics of Near-Death Experiences • Moody – author of life and death came up with these characteristics of NDE - After period of intense pain, person may feel at peace and painlessness - OBE where they see their own body - Propelled into darkness through a passageway, tunnel, door, etc. towards an intense light - See dead relatives or friends or a life review in third person perspective • Love and knowledge are two qualities of a person who survive death • Reduced fear of death, also 48% reported being convinced of life after death Example of a Near-Death Experience • Sabom – studied Pam, a women who went underwent surgical hypothermic cardiac arrest - Used auditory clicks by the ears to see if there was any brain response to the stimuli - Blood drained, no brain activity, by all means she was temporarily dead - After surgery, she remembered being brough into the operating room, losing sense of time, and a sound at top of head that felt like was pulling her out of her body  She could see what was happening in the operating room (even knew conversations)  At one point felt like she was being pulled into a tunnel vortex and ascending rapidly, while in this vortex she could hear her grandmother calling to her, and at end of the tunnel could see a pinpoint light  During encounters with dead relatives she knew she couldn’t go further into the light or else she couldn’t go back to her body, uncle brought her back to her body and said it was like jumping into a swimming pool to calm her fears  Found herself back in body with rock music playing in the background Reductionist Explanations of Near-Death Experiences • Blackmore – proposed neurophysiological factors that could create NDE - Depletion of oxygen could trigger NDE, however use of barbiturates (which slow breathing) causes mental confusion and not clear images as reported by NDE - Buildup of carbon dioxide (from lack of oxygen) leads to bright lights, OBEs and memories of the past - Endorphins are realised at times of stress which could explain painlessness • In terms of Pam, she was given massive amount of barbiturates and no seizure activity suggested by EEG so accordingly to Blackmore theory, there would be no NDE • Problems with his theory such as If NDE occur as oxygen being lost, how do experiencers remember? And carbon dioxide would lead to convulsive muscle movements • Problems with Pams story is that it was not documented until three years later where she may have learned details about the event Near-Death Experiences of the Blind • Ring – retrospective study of NDE and OBE in 31 blind people, 14 had been blind since birth. - The NDE of 21 participants were indisguishable from those of a sighted person - 15 of the 21 participants claimed to have some kind of sight (all but one blind since birth) which could be clear and detailed, Different from dreams where they were still blind • Transcendental awareness – the mind itself sees but in the sense of understanding • NDE are instead instances cosmic consciousness where a person becomes aware of their expanded eternal nature Distressing Near-Death Experiences • Greyson – analyzed 50 accounts of distressed NDE and classified them into three types
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