Exploring the correlates and nature of Anomalous interactions with objects (psychometry)

Course Information


Christine A. Simmonds-Moore  
Psychology Program
, University of West Georgia 

Introduction: Psychometry is “a type of anomalous cognition (or ESP) which permits a psychic or ‘sensitive’ to receive impressions using a physical object as an inductor or instrument for information” (Parra & Argibay, 2009, p. 57). Early studies explored claims of self claimed sensitives or mediums, including Eileen Garrett (LeShan, 1967). Recent research has explored performance at psychometry tasks among members of the general population (Baker, Montague & Booth, 2017; Parra & Argibay, 2007; Parra & Argibay, 2008; Parra & Argibay, 2009). For example, Baker et al (2017) found better performance in a group with no claims of psychic abilities compared to a group who claimed to be psychic. To date, little research has explored correlational factors associated with psychometry performance in the general population. The current project explores the relationship between Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR) and its rarer cousin synesthesia in relation to psychometry. ASMR is “the experience of tingling sensations in the crown of the head, in response to a range of audio-visual triggers such as whispering, tapping, and hand movements” (Poerio et al., 2018). Synesthesia occurs when there is an additional response to an inducing stimulus and has previously been linked to enhanced reporting of a range of anomalous and paranormal experiences (Simmonds-Moore et al., 2019). ASMR has yet to be explored in relation to paranormal experiences, but seems to be promising as an anomaly-prone variable, given its association with traits that are associated with increased connectivity and tendencies to report exceptional experiences including openness to experience (Fredborg et al., 2017; McErlean & Banissy, 2017), increased scoring on transliminality, body consciousness, and unusual experiences (Roberts et al., 2020) and higher scores on empathic concern (McErlean & Banissy, 2017). ASMR tendencies are also associated with enhanced prevalence rates of synesthesia (Barratt & Davis, 2015) and may reflect a form of synesthesia itself (McErlean & Banissy, 2017). This study explored how ASMR and synesthesia relate to psychometry experiences, how ASMR and synesthesia relate to a range of other exceptional experiences, how they relate to one another and what psychometry experiences are like (in a qualitative component). 

Methods: A mixed methods online survey was conducted in November and December of 2021. The survey included a demographic section, a question about synesthesia, a measure for ASMR, a measure for exceptional experiences, a question about whether people had experienced psychometry, and an open ended question about psychometry. The study url was distributed among faculty and staff in the College of Culture, Art and Scientific Inquiry at the University of West Georgia, psychology students at UWG, and was also sent out to members of the Rhine Research Center mailing list and shared widely on social media. Data collection continued for approximately 2 months. Following data cleaning, 164 participants completed the survey, of which 40 were male and 112 were female. The most frequent age group was the 18-24 category, followed by 25-34, then 35-44. 45-54, 55-64, and finally the over 65 group. One hundred and thirty-eight participants were right handed, 16 were left handed and 10 were ambidextrous. The sample included 128 white, 16 black, 5 asian, and 15 other ethnic groups.  

Results: The quantitative analysis found that there was a significant difference between those who reported psychometry and those who did not on ASMR scores. There was also a significant and positive correlation between synesthesia and psychometry. Synesthetes also scored higher than non-synesthetes on ASMR. ASMR tendencies correlated positively and significantly with proneness to having exceptional experiences (regardless of attribution) and to a slightly lesser extent to exceptional experiences given a paranormal attribution. Experience proneness and paranormal experiences correlated positively and significantly with one another. An inductive thematic analysis was undertaken on the responses to an open ended question on the survey. CSM and TS both engaged with the data and independently identified initial codes and emergent patterns which were later distilled into 5 themes based on the overlaps in meaning units and ensuring that themes were grounded in the data. Illustrative quotes were chosen for each theme. The final list of themes included context, flash of imagery, lived feelings and intense emotions, noesis, and perspective taking/empathy.  

Discussion: Results indicate that ASMR experiences play a role in psychometry and other exceptional experiences. Qualitative results indicate that psychometry experiences range in terms of their context and how the experiences manifest. The themes indicate that psychometry experiences occur in a variety of contexts that include intentional and unintentional psychometric practices. These experiences reflect a sense that there is a direct perceptual knowing or flash of information that is felt to come from an external source. Sometimes there is intense emotion that may be felt in the body or in the physical environment. Empathy/perspective taking appears to play a role, such that the person experiences the world from the perspective of an unseen other, and knows that the information is not them; there is a distinct self/other boundary.  

Acknowledgements: Thank you to Rachel Joseph and Tabatha Smith for their valuable contributions to this project.  

Baker, I., Montague, J., & Booth, A. (2017). A controlled study of psychometry using psychic and non-psychic claimants with actual and false readings using a mixed-methods approach. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 81, 108-122.  

Barratt, E., & Davis, N. (2015), Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR): A flow-like mental state. PeerJ, 3, e851.

Fredborg, B., Clark, J., & Smith, S. D. (2017). An examination of personality traits associated with Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR). Frontiers in Psychology, 8, 247. 

LeShan, L. (1967). A spontaneous psychometry experiment with Mrs. Eileen Garrett. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 44(731), 14-19. 

Parra, A., & Argibay, J. C. (2007). Comparing a free-response psychometry test with a free-response visual imagery test for a non-psychic sample. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 71(2), 91-103. 

Parra, A., & Argibay, J. C. (2008). Reading faces: An experimental exploration of psychometry using photographs and names. Australian Journal of Parapsychology, 8(1), 47.  

Parra, A., & Argibay, J. C. (2009). An experimental study with ordinary people for testing ‘sacred’ objects through psi detection. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 73(1), 41-49.  

Poerio, G. L., Blakey, E., Hostler, T. J., & Veltri, T. (2018). More than a feeling: Autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) is characterized by reliable changes in affect and physiology. PLoS ONE, 13(6), e0196645. https://doi.org/10.1371/ journal.pone.0196645 

Roberts, N., Beath, A., & Boag, S. (2020). Autonomous sensory meridian response: Individual differences and consciousness correlates. Psychology of Consciousness: Theory, Research, and Practice, 8(1), 27-51.

Simmonds-Moore, C. A., Alvarado, C. S., & Zingrone, N. L. (2019). A survey exploring synesthetic experiences: Exceptional experiences, schizotypy, and psychological well-being. Psychology of Consciousness: Theory, Research, and Practice, 6(1), 99–121. https://doi.org/10.1037/cns0000165 

Course Instructor

Christine Simmonds-Moore
Christine Simmonds-Moore Author

Christine Simmonds-Moore is a UK native with a PhD from the University of Northampton. She is a Professor of Psychology at the University of West Georgia where she teaches courses on parapsychology and other topics pertinent to consciousness studies. She has research interests in psychological boundaries, synesthesia, paranormal beliefs and disbeliefs, mental health correlates of exceptional experiences, altered states of consciousness, healing and placebo effects and exploring psi hypotheses.

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