A Research Project To Explore The Psychology Of Mental Mediumship

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Chris A. Roe, Fil Kinnersley, Ewen Maclean, Callum E. Cooper & Glenn Hitchman 
Centre for Psychology & Social Sciences – The University of Northampton, University Drive, Northampton 

Introduction:  In this presentation, we describe an ongoing funded research project that explores the psychology of mental mediumship from the complementary perspectives of the sitter and the medium. These are intended to address two perceived shortcomings of the extant literature: 

(i) In the extensive research on mediumship, clients have been relatively neglected; very few studies focus on the mediumistic interaction from the client’s perspective (exceptions include Beischel, Mosher, & Boccuzzi, 2015; Evenden, Cooper, & Mitchell, 2013; Wallis, 2001, Walter, 2008), and many formal tests make gross assumptions about their needs and expectations (for example, that they will be more impressed by unlikely but true information than by apparently trite statements that might have personal resonance). There is a need to gather empirical data that would allow us to accurately map clients’ expectations and see how/whether they are met in the mediumistic interaction. 

(ii) Mediums report a range of experiences that in other circumstances would be regarded as indicative of some underlying pathology (for example, in seeing or hearing things others cannot perceive, having internalized experiences that are attributed to external agencies – see Roe, 2020, Wilde et al., 2019). Surprisingly, however, practicing mediums present as psychologically healthy; indeed, healthier than the average person (Roxburgh & Roe, 2011). Initial work suggests that this is facilitated by adopting a spiritual model through which to interpret the experiences so that psychological resources can be developed that give the medium a sense of control (Roxburgh & Roe, 2013, 2014). Little is known about how that model is adopted and its effects on wellbeing so that a longitudinal study that follows the development of mediums, focusing on engagement with formal development programs, could be particularly informative. 

These two themes are addressed in the form of discrete PhD programs, each comprised of a number of empirical phases. In this presentation we will report outcomes from phase 1 

Methods:  For (i), phase 1 constitutes an extended replication of survey work by Roe (1998) that asked the general public about their experience of consulting mediums and psychics. A market research company, YouGov, was commissioned to conduct a representative sample survey of the UK population. A sample of 2,072 adults completed the online survey between 3rd – 4th November 2020. The figures have been weighted and are representative (+/- 2%) of all UK adults.  

For (ii), phase 1 consists of an ethnographic study involving participant in an unfoldment circle and short development courses (after Hunter, 2011, Roxburgh, 2006) to explore the practices involved in developing as a medium and what techniques are learnt to control mediumship. This is an important precursor to interview work in helping to elucidate the practices involved in a development circle, the experiences they are intended to elicit, and the process by which they enable the practitioner to develop their mediumship. 

Results and discussion:  Data collection for phase 1 is complete for both strands of the project. In this presentation we will give an overview of key findings. 

Beischel, J., Mosher, C., & Boccuzzi, M. (2015). The possible effects on bereavement of assisted after-death communication during readings with psychic mediums: A continuing bonds perspective. Omega70(2), 169-194. 

Evenden, R. E., Cooper, C. E., & Mitchell, G. (2013). A counselling approach to mediumship: Adaptive outcomes of grief following an exceptional experience. Journal of Exceptional Experiences and Psychology1(2), 12-19.  

Hunter, J. (2011). Talking with the spirits: Anthropology and interpreting spirit communication. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research75, 129-141. 

Roe, C.A. (1998). Belief in the paranormal and attendance at psychic readings. Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research90, 25-51.  

Roe, C.A. (2020). Clinical parapsychology: The interface between anomalous experiences and psychological wellbeing. In J. Leonardi & B. Schmidt (Eds.) Spirituality and wellbeing: Interdisciplinary approaches to the study of religious experience and health (pp. 44-63). Equinox. 

Roxburgh, E. (2006). „Mediumship, spirit awareness, and developing your potential“: A personal view of a course at the Arthur Findlay College. Paranormal Review40, 18-23. 

Roxburgh, E., & Roe, C.A. (2011). A survey of dissociation, boundary thinness and psychological well-being in Spiritualist Mental Mediumship. Journal of Parapsychology, 75(2), 279-300. 

Roxburgh, E.C. & Roe, C.A. (2013). “Say From Whence You Owe This Strange Intelligence”: Investigating Explanatory Systems of Spiritualist Mental Mediumship Using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis. International Journal of Transpersonal Studies32(1), 27-42. 

Roxburgh, E.C., & Roe, C.A. (2014). Reframing voices and visions using a spiritual model: An interpretative phenomenological analysis of anomalous experiences in mediumship. Mental Health, Religion, & Culture17(6), 641-653. 

Walliss, J. (2001). Continuing bonds: Relationships between the living and the dead within contemporary Spiritualism. Mortality6(2), 127-145. 

Walter, T. (2008). Mourners and mediums. Bereavement Care27(3), 47-50. 

Wilde, D. J., Murray, J., Doherty, P., & Murray, C. D. (2019). Mental health and mediumship: an interpretative phenomenological analysis. Mental Health, Religion and Culture22(3), 261-278. 


A Research Project To Explore The Psychology Of Mental Mediumship


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