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Victoria Liss
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« on: November 11, 2010, 01:25:11 pm »

Early background
The study of psychic phenomena by major scientists started in the mid-nineteenth century; early researchers included Michael Faraday, Alfred Russel Wallace, Rufus Osgood Mason and William Crookes. Their work predominantly involved carrying out focused experimental tests on specific individuals who were thought to be psychically gifted. Reports of apparently successful tests were met with much skepticism from the scientific community.

Later, in the 1930s, J. B. Rhine expanded the study of paranormal performance into larger populations, by using standard experimental protocols with unselected human subjects. But, as with the earlier studies, Rhine was reluctant to publicize this work too early, because of the fear of criticism from mainstream scientists.[13]

This continuing skepticism, with its consequences for peer review and research funding, ensured that paranormal studies remained a fringe area of scientific exploration. However, by the 1960s, the countercultural attitudes of the time muted some of the prior hostility. The emergence of New Age thinking and the popularity of the human potential movement provoked a "mini-renaissance" that renewed public interest in consciousness studies and psychic phenomena, and helped to make financial support more available for research into such topics.[14]

In the early 1970s, Harold E. Puthoff and Russell Targ joined the Electronics and Bioengineering Laboratory at Stanford Research Institute (SRI). In addition to their mainstream scientific research work on quantum mechanics and laser physics, they initiated several studies of the paranormal. These were supported with funding from the Parapsychology Foundation [2] and the newly-formed Institute of Noetic Sciences.

Their research approach tended mainly towards studying alleged psychics, as had been the case with the studies in the nineteenth century. The initial goal of these studies was to try and determine, by technical means, how ESP processes and communication channels worked. This approach differed from other ESP-related research at the time, which was following the tradition of J. B. Rhine by primarily emphasizing proof-of-existence data-gathering from larger populations of general human subject participants.[14]

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