Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Psychology: Transliminality


(First published on Eidolon Paranormal in 2012 – updated in 2017 with new information and bibliography)

First predicted by psychologist, William James, transliminality is a hypothesis for the tendency of psychological material to cross thresholds into or out of consciousness. The flow of information from our conscious to our unconscious has been a subject of great debate, interest and thought for many centuries.
It was William James who suggested that our thoughts were ongoing, switching between internal and external stimuli, which relied on processing needed to integrate the past with the present.
William James, philosopher and psychologist and physician.
The first educator to offer a psychology course in the United States

In recent years, the study of interaction between unconscious and conscious processing has delved into examination of how the process works in mental health, problem solving, creativity and the nature of altered consciousness that accompanies paranormal beliefs and experiences, the last being conducted right here in Adelaide, South Australia by parapsychologist, Michael Thalbourne.

Transliminality is described in its conceptual form by Thalbourne as: “an openness or receptiveness to impulses and experiences whose sources are in preconscious (or unconscious) processes”
(Thalbourne, 1991, pp. 181-182)

How does Transliminality fit in with paranormal research and investigation? Basically, the questionnaire give the psychologist a scale of where a subject sits on the scale in regards to open-mindedness. In other words, a transliminal personality is much more open to experience, whereas the non-transliminal personality is more subject to self-control, stubbornness in belief, and close minded to “experiences”

It was Thalbourne who defined the Transliminality Scale, a perceptual-personality “test” that is measured using the Rasch Revised Transliminality Scale. The aim of the study was to examine the correlations between conscious and unconscious thought.

The study, including the one mentioned above also considered three other measures, Hartmanns's Boundary Questionnaire, The Unusual Experiences Scale of the Oxford-Liverpool Inventory of Feelings and Experiences, and temporal lobe lability measures via Persingers Personal Philosophy Inventory. These four measures, it was predicted, would work together well and present a single underlying factor throughout each.

The four scales were administered to 1368 participants, once analysed, and correlated, the tests indeed showed a single underlying factor, which accounted for 74% of the variance, which in turn suggested that the underlying factor for all four variables was indeed Transliminality

So, now you're probable asking, “what are you talking about, transliminality, how does this apply to the paranormal?”
parapsychologist at the University of Adelaide
(the late), Dr Michael Thalbourne.
 We all know someone highly creative, or someone highly spiritual, or a mix of both, most have had a supernatural or mystical experience in their lives (there is of course people who are neither who have still had mystical or supernatural experiences). These are the oddballs, the moody creative types who delve into eastern philosophies most of us have never heard off, these are the people who would be deemed to have a transliminal personality.
To put it in simple terms, Professor Michael Thalbourne, a parapsychologist at the University of Adelaide, conducted a study to measure personality traits. He wanted to know if there was a specific type of person who believed in the paranormal, defined in his study as ESP, psychokinesis or life after death. He wanted to know what separated the believer from the non-believers.
In the end, Thalbourne's study concluded that people who believed in the paranormal, on the most part shared very similar personality traits, in fact, so similar, Thalbourne defined the name Transliminality for the personality type.
 The original study test, the Transliminality Scale had 29 distinct item, through removing gender and age bias questions, the new version of the test now has 17 items. The new version assesses

Magical Ideation: is a term used in anthropology and psychology, denoting the fallacious attribution of causal relationships between actions and events, with subtle differences in meaning between the two fields.

Mystical Experience: There are four universal characteristics of mystical experiences first categorised by William James in his book The Varieties of Religious Experience: A Study in Human Nature

·         Ineffability: Mystical States that usually so immense to the person experiencing them, they are incapable of expressing the feelings or images words.

·         Noetic quality: Mystical experiences that bring knowledge or experiences to a person experience that are usually beyond that person’s intellectual grasp. Experiences can bring knowledge, insight, awareness and revelation that the person would not, in their daily understanding, achieve.

·         Transiency: Mystical experiences such as the feeling of Nirvana (felt by some mystics and Saint) that are fleeting in linear time, though to the person experiencing them, seem to be eternal.

·         Passivity: Mystical experiences where the individual feels swept up and held by a superior power. This is sometimes experienced as OBE (out of body experience). Some mystics claim to be able to leave their bodies to gain healing powers, or talk to spirits. (see Edgar Cayce)

Absorption: is a disposition or personality trait in which a person becomes absorbed in their mental imagery, particularly fantasy.

Hyperaesthesia: Abnormal increase of sensitivity to touch, pain, or other sensory stimuli. Excessive intake of caffeine (looking at you Energy drink users) can temporarily induce this condition in humans. (We have sometimes referred to this Hypersensivity in past blogs)

Manic Experience: can include elevated mood, inflated self-esteem, decreased need for sleep, racing thoughts, difficulty maintaining attention, increase in goal-directed activity, and excessive involvement in pleasurable activities. These manic symptoms significantly impact a person's daily living.

Dream Interpretation: Transliminal personalities can often associate dream experiences to mystical sources. The Transliminality Test identified the following seven types of dreaming experiences to transliminal personalities: 

  • ·         lucid dreams – a dream where the dreamer is aware they are dreaming
  • ·         archetypal dreams - dreams "carrying a sense of awe and fascination and/or encounters with strange and unusual beings"
  • ·         fantastic nightmare - upsetting and very vivid memorable dreams, involving a range of negative emotions
  • ·         pre-lucid dreams - where one questions whether one is dreaming but cannot decide
  • ·         control dreams - control not possible in waking life is exercised in the dream
  • ·         posttraumatic nightmares - a traumatic real event is relived
  • ·         night terrors - awakening in terror with no recall of dream content

Fantasy Proneness: personality (FPP) is a disposition or personality trait in which a person experiences a lifelong extensive and deep involvement in fantasy. This disposition is an attempt, at least in part, to better describe "overactive imagination" or "living in a dream world".

For more definitions, test results or information please follow the reference links below.
 Also, below you will find the original test questions designed by parapsychologist, Dr Michael Thalbourne.

Original research conducted in 2013, new research added in 2017
By Allen Tiller ©2013 ©2017

Are You a Transliminal Personality?
If you're interested in finding out how you rate, take the transliminality survey below and find out.
Thalbourne Transliminality Index (1998)
Answer true or false on the 30 questions below. More true answers indicate a higher transliminality rating.

1 Horoscopes are right too often for it to be a coincidence
2 At times I perform certain little rituals to ward off negative influences
3 I have experienced an altered state of consciousness in which I felt that I became cosmically enlightened
4 At the present time, I am very good at make-believe and imagining
5 I have felt that I had received special wisdom, to be communicated to the rest of humanity
6 I have sometimes behaved in a much more impulsive or uninhibited way than is usual for me
7 I am fascinated by new ideas, whether or not they have practical value
8 I have sometimes sensed an evil presence around me, although I could not see it
9 My thoughts have sometimes come so quickly that I couldn’t write them all down fast enough
10 If I could not pretend or make-believe anymore, I wouldn’t be me – I wouldn’t be the same person
11 Sometimes I experience things as if they were doubly real
12 It is sometimes possible for me to be completely immersed in nature or in art and to feel as if my whole state of consciousness has somehow been temporarily altered
13 Often I have a day when indoor lights seem so bright that they bother my eyes
14 I am convinced that I have had at least one experience of telepathy between myself and another person
15 I am convinced that I am psychic
16 I have experienced an altered state of awareness which I believe utterly transformed (in a positive manner) the way I looked at myself
17 I am convinced that I have had a premonition about the future that came true and which (I believe) was not just a coincidence
18 I think I really know what some people mean when they talk about mystical experiences
19 I have gone through times when smells seemed stronger and more overwhelming than usual
20 I can clearly feel again in my imagination such things as: the feeling of a gentle breeze, warm sand under bare feet, the softness of fur, cool grass, the warmth of the sun and the smell of freshly cut grass
21 A person should try to understand their dreams and be guided by or take warnings from them
22 While listening to my favorite music, in addition to feeling calm, relaxed, happy etc, I often have a feeling of oneness with the music, or of being in another place or time, or vividly remembering the past
23 At times, I somehow feel the presence of someone who is not physically there
24 I am convinced that it is possible to gain information about the thoughts, feelings or circumstances of another person, in a way that does not depend on rational prediction or normal sensory channels
25 For several days at a time I have had such a heightened awareness of sights and sounds that I cannot shut them out
26 I sometimes have a feeling of gaining or losing energy when certain people look at me or touch me
27 Now that I am grown up, I still in some ways believe in such things as elves, witches, leprechauns, fairies, etc.
28 Sometimes people think I’m a bit weird because my ideas are so novel
29 When listening to organ music or other powerful music, I sometimes feel as if I’m being lifted up into the air