Luck, Psi and Belief in the Paranormal

4th-6th September, 2009 - 33rd International Annual Conference of the Society for Psychical Research,                                           Univeristy of Nottingham   


Forthcoming Talks:

August 2009:

Liberté, légalité, éternité 

September 2009:  

Luck, Psi and Belief in the Paranormal

Altered States, Imagery and Healing



Psi-verts and Psychic Piracy

Brazilian Psi and Altered States Conference: A Review


Paranormal Phenomena and Psychoactive Drugs

Species Connectedness and Psychedelics 

Parapsychology and Psychedelics

Inner Paths to Outer Space

Entheogenic Entity Encounters 

Inducing Near-Death Experiences with Chemicals

Psychonautic Misadventures in Time

Obituary: Duncan Blewett

Tribute: Albert Hofmann 

An Interview

A Preliminary Survey

Paranormal Experiences and Psychoactive Drugs

Paranormal Phenomena and Psychoactive Drugs

Parapsychology: Magic and Science:

A Magical Perspective on Parapsychology

A Parapsychological Perspective on Magic


Recent Talks:

Liberté, légalité, éternité

Death, and the God of a Thousand Eyes

Psychology and Superstition

Pagan Entheogens

Hofmann, LSD & Parapsychopharmacology

The Neurochemistry of Psi

Entoptics: More Than Meets the Eye?

Parapsychology: Science of the Future or the Past? 

Death, and the God of a Thousand Eyes 

Luck as a Euphemism for Psi?

Does Psilocybin Cause Psi? 

Death and the God of a Thousand Eyes 

Death, and the God of a Thousand Eyes

The Neurochemisty of Psi 

Psi may look like luck 

Testing for Precognition

Entheogens: The Religious /Paranormal Bridge

Sacramental Plants and Psi

The Shaman, The Vision and the Brain

Visionary Encounters and Neurochemical Mythology

Psychedelics, Parapsychology and Exceptional Human Experiences

DMT Entities: Deities or Delusion?

Research in Parapsychology: Academic Studies of Magical Phenomena

Superstition, Magic and States of Mind

You Never Know Your Luck: The Psychology of Superstition

Luck beliefs, PMIR, psi and the sheep-goat effect: A replication.  Dr. David Luke & Shelley Morin

Saturday 5th September, 2009                                                      Annual Conference of the Society for Psychical Research,       University of Nottingham  


Given the growing evidence, such as that from psychophysiological psi research (e.g., Radin, 1997), that psi primarily functions unconsciously, then ordinary everyday psi that serves the needs of the person may merely “look like luck” (Broughton, 1991, p.193). A number of studies have found mixed but generally positive findings for the relationship between perceived personal luckiness and psi (for a review see Luke, 2007). The notion that perceived luckiness is related to psi, however, may be flawed by the lack of specific definitions of luck, given that it has multiple interpretations, so recent research has investigated different luck beliefs in relation to psi.


Luke, Delanoy and Shewood (2003) developed a Questionnaire of Beliefs about Luck (QBL) that measures differing beliefs along four non-orthogonal dimensions: Luck (luck is primarily controllable, but also internal, stable and non-random), Chance (luck is random, unpredictable, unstable and inert), Providence (luck is reliably managed by external higher beings or forces), and Fortune (luck is meant as a metaphor for life success rather than as a literal event). Using a non-intentional precognition test paradigm these luck beliefs were explored as predictors of psi in a series of three experiments (Luke, Delanoy & Sherwood, 2008; Luke, Roe & Davison, 2008). In addition, the experiments were designed to explore aspects of Stanford’s (e.g., 1990) ‘psi-mediated instrumental response’ (PMIR) model, within which the notion fits quite neatly that luckiness may ordinarily be used euphemistically to account for everyday unconscious psi. The PMIR model posits that psi primarily works unconsciously but that it does so in the service of the organism, such as in the avoidance of an impending accident, whereby such an event could easily be attributed to luck.


The basic set-up of the Luke et al. experiments is a computer programme where participants are asked to select one of four fractal images (mathematical patterns) based on quick aesthetic judgements, one of the images is then selected covertly by the computer, pseudo-randomly, as the unconscious precognition target. Participants perform 10 trials of this non-intentional psi task, and then perform a second task contingent upon their performance in the first task: Those participants scoring above chance on the psi task are directed towards a pleasant task and those scoring below chance are directed toward an unpleasant task, both of which are designed to escalate in pleasantness in direct proportion to the psi score. The pleasant task involved rating cartoon images, although in one version of the experiment erotic images were used instead. In one version of the experiment participants were randomly allocated to conditions either with or without the contingent task, finishing the experiment directly after the non-intentional psi task in the non-contingent condition. Each of the experiments, with a combined total of 157 participants, reported significant psi hitting, and furthermore a significant correlation between psi score and the Luck subscale of the QBL (r = .26) was found in Experiment 1, and with the Chance (r = 48) and Providence (r = .39) subscales in Experiment 2 (Luke, Delanoy & Sherwood, 2008; Luke, Roe & Davison, 2008). Experiment failed to find any relationship between psi score and the QBL subscales, however, but did find one with Openness to Experience (r = .46). Experiment 1 also explored belief in psi and found a weak but significant correlation with psi score (r = .22) in line with the sheep-goat effect (e.g., Palmer, 1971).


Exploring the PMIR model, one of the previous experiments had investigated the needs-serving function of psi by testing the hypothesis that having a reward/punishment task contingent upon psi score would be better than having no contingent, but found a non-significant effect in the opposite direction (Luke, Roe & Davison, 2008). It was noted, however, that finishing the psi task directly may have been more rewarding than performing the contingent task, thereby skewing the results, so the present experiment explored this by replicating the contingent/no contingent study but asked participants to rate the pleasantness of the experiment to determine whether performing the contingent task or finishing directly after the psi task was related to psi task performance. Furthermore, measures of luck beliefs (QBL), belief in psi, and Openness to Experience were explored as correlates of psi performance. As with the original contingent/no contingent experiment, participants were drawn from members of the public attending an exhibition, which in this case the keynote speaker discussed the psychology of luck. The research was advertised as a luck experiment and complete data was collected from 41 participants throughout the course of the day.


Results of the current study will be discussed. However, combining all the data from each of the four experiments using the non-intentional fractal image paradigm provides an above chance mean psi score of 2.92 (SD = 1.46, MCE = 2.50) which is highly significant (t[197] = 4.036, p =  0.000078 two-tailed, z = 3.88)



Broughton, R. (1991). Parapsychology: The controversial science. New York: Ballantine.


Luke, D.P., Delanoy, D., & Sherwood. (2003). Questionnaire of beliefs about luck. Unpublished instrument, The University of Northampton, UK.


Luke, D. P., Delanoy, D., & Sherwood. S. J. (2008). Psi may look like luck: Perceived luckiness and beliefs about luck in relation to precognition. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research,72 (4), 193-207.


Luke, D. P., Roe, C., & Davison, J. (2008). Testing for forced-choice precognition using a hidden task: Two replications. Journal of Parapsychology, 72, 133-154.


Palmer, J. (1971). Scoring in ESP tests as a function of ESP. Part I: The sheep-goat effect. Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 65, 373-408.


Radin, D. I. (1997). Unconscious perception of future emotions: An experiment in presentiment. Journal of Scientific Exploration, 11, 163–180.


Stanford, R.G. (1974). An experimentally testable model for spontaneous psi events: I. Extrasensory events. Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 68, 34-57.