Witness Panel

Migrated from the Collective
(Draft)

This practice has been moved from the ATransC Collective. The Collective was intended as a community effort to develop Best Practices. After years of failing to attract help from the paranormalist community, it seems reasonable to give up and unilaterally compose these practices.

These practices are recommendations provided under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License

Abstract

One of the biggest problems in ITC is the difficulty practitioners have in assessing the quality of examples. Even examples that are considered Class A, which should be correctly seen or heard without prompting, are shown to be correctly understood only an average of 25% for EVP and of the time by online listeners.[1] and 61% for video-loop ITC [2]

An important aid for practitioners is the use of witness panels; people with at least average hearing, vision and comprehension who will examine examples, and without prompting, tell the practitioner what is seen or heard. The rest of the task is for the practitioner to accept the results.

This practice details a methodology for establishing and using a witness panel to assess quality of examples.

Justification/Introduction

People asked to examine examples of reportedly paranormal phenomena often complain the they are not convincing. For EVP, the first response from witnesses tends to be that the examples are just noise. If voices are heard, it is difficult for witness to mentally orient themselves so as to place the voices in a context that will give them meaning if all that is offered is just the phenomenal voice.

Examples of visual ITC can be even more confusing. For instance, reflected light phenomena is too easily discounted as mundane if the part of the scene that is being reflected is not known. In another example, it is difficult to convince the witness that a face-like feature in any media is paranormal if the witness can associate the offered example with the faces in clouds effect.

A little time spent on the Internet examining examples posted on various websites will show that this complaint is often deserved. Each time a website visitor responds to an example with “That is just noise” or “All I see is odd patterns that look more like a Rorschach test than something paranormal,” the credibility of anyone in the paranormalist community become easier to discount. The result is increased credibility of the sceptics and progressively less funding for research.

Examples of ITC are frequently composed in novel ways the average witness will have difficulty comprehending. EVP are often very difficult to understand. Even Class A examples are likely formed with a novel arrangement of formants, distorting audio cues and making it difficult for the witness to understand. It is correctly noted that hearing EVP is often like learning a new language. To complicate this, is the fact that each practitioner tends to record in what amounts to a different dialect of this novel language.

Visual examples of ITC range from something normal that is out of place to faces formed in noise. The paranormality of something normal but out of place is difficult to argue as paranormal because it is so normal. The paranormal features formed in noise is difficult to comprehend because the witness must learn to look at patterns rather than hard-edge features. It is common for a witness to say that “Oh, I was looking for a photograph.”

There is no realistic way to police the quality of paranormal phenomena examples being presented to the public. Instead, individual practitioners must learn to self-edit, and take special care to help witnesses understand what they are being shown … preferably while letting the witness independently discover the feature.

Unreliable Sensing

A single person’s senses are unreliable. Anomalistic psychology[3] is based on the assumption that people too easily fool themselves into believing the mundane is paranormal. A second way of looking at this is that people’s natural mental processes can produce erroneous comprehension from confusing environmental information.

One study clearly demonstrated that people tend to hear what they are told to expect,[4] even if it is not present in the example. In visual ITC, people are more likely to see what the practitioner expects them to see after being told what to look for.

Experience has shown that one reliable way to assure an example represents what the practitioner thinks is to ask a number of people to examine the example and tell the practitioner what they see or hear. The most common approach to this review is use of a witness panel.

Practice

The objective of a witness panel is not to find people who will agree with the practitioner, but to establish how the average member of the public will experience an example. If at least a majority of the panel does not report experiencing an example as the practitioner expects, then the example should be set aside and not be shared with the public.

The one consideration that the practitioner should always be aware of is that witnesses will become expert for the practitioner’s unique EVP dialect or ITC visual characteristic. This is unavoidable, but periodic test of asking a new person to grade the example will help maintain the usefulness of the panel.

It is up to the practitioner to make this work.

  1. It is recommended that an uneven number of people participate in a witness panel to avoid ties and simplify grading of examples. Five people are recommended as a manageable number and should provide a sufficiently large review.
  2. While there are no studies of this, observations indicate that individual ability to hear fallows a natural distribution determined by comprehension, hearing ability (both frequency and volume), vision and span of attention. Even after finding enough volunteers, it may be necessary to screen witnesses with known examples of known quality to find people who can be depended on to represent the average listener.
  3. Examples should be saved in a file only marked as “Example (number).”The practitioner will need to track the true title. Please refer to the subsection below on Sound File Considerations.
  4. Members of the panel should be asked to examine or listen to the example and write down what is seen or heard. It is reasonable to include alternative interpretations, but this should be limited to avoid guessing bias.
  5. The practitioner should compile the responses and compare them to what is thought to be in the example.
  6. At his point, the practitioner must decide whether or not the example is suitable for public demonstration. It is possible that the example should be discarded. Certainly, if it is being considered for a client, then the results of the panel may lead the practitioner not to display the example to the client.

Sound File Considerations

The Sharing EVP practice should be reviewed before any example is sent to the listening panel.

It is always a good idea to include a little natural voice in sound files, such as the practitioner’s voice asking a question. This provides context to help witnesses orient themselves in the recording.

Very long examples are often difficult to understand, so it may be necessary to segment the utterance in several files.

One or two syllable utterances are very often artifacts. Especially in opportunistic EVP, very brief utterances may appear to be phenomenal, but be in fact, naturally occurring. It is strongly recommended that the practitioner consider context of the utterance and be prepared to discard any example that might possibly be a naturally occurring sound. Certainly, one word EVP are not acceptable for public demonstration unless clearly relevant. For instance, a “Bob” utterance is suspect when asking for why a person might be in the house while “Stuck” might be a meaningful response.

Be leery of examples which are supposedly an answer to a question for which any response can be construed as the correct answer.

Visual Example Considerations

Transform EVP examples ultimately come down to whether or not the utterance is present and states what is reported; however, some forms of visual ITC are plagued with difficulties distinguishing real phenomena from artifacts. Before sharing examples of visual phenomena, it is a good idea for the practitioner to become familiar with the kinds of mundane phenomena that might seem paranormal.

It is important to explain to the witness how the example was collected and the environment in which it occurred. This requires good record keeping by the practitioner. In field studies, environmental snapshots are useful for later reconstruction of the scene.

Captive Syndrome

Captive syndrome, more correctly known as Stockholm Syndrome, is roughly described as a psychological condition in which hostages develop a sympathetic point of view about their captors. As it applies to witness panels, people, especially family members, tend to want to please practitioners. It translates as a willingness to fudge a little in how they describe examples if perceive it will make the practitioner happy.

Consideration of this tendency to error in favor of the practitioner is the reason it is very important that the practitioner does not reveal wat is thought to be in the example until after the witness independently arrives at a conclusion.

Physical Mediumship

The phenomena of physical mediumship should lend itself to a form of analysis supported by a witness panel. In this, séance sitters might be studied rather than the medium. The idea would be to record the phenomena and study how the sitters experienced them, how they felt and possible spiritual impressions they experienced.

This remains an open question, but would be a refreshing alternative to the relentless parapsychological studies attempting to prove the phenomena exist.

References

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  1. Butler, Tom, Online Listening Trials, http://atransc.org/journal/online_listening_trials.htm, Reviewed 1/27/2013
  2. Butler, Tom, Perception of Visual ITC Images, http://atransc.org/journal/visual_perception_study.htm, Reviewed 12/10/2015
  3. Goldsmiths, University of London, What is Anomalistic Psychology?, http://www.gold.ac.uk/apru/what/, Reviewed 12/10/2015
  4. Leary, Mark, A Research Study into the Interpretation of EVP – Three parts, http://atransc.org/journal/radio-sweep_study2.htm, Reviewed 12/10/2015

 

 

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