British Psychological Society History of the Psychological Disciplines Seminar Series

British Psychological Society History of the Psychological Disciplines Seminar Series

Friday 17th May

Dr. Fabio De Sio (Heinrich Heine Universität Düsseldorf) and Dr. Chantal Marazia (Europa-Universität Viadrina)

“The Psychic Hans Effect. Experimental Animal psi from Karl Krall to the present.”

This paper explores the issue of animal psi experimentation in the twentieth century (ca. 1920s-1970s). The passage from what has been called the “anecdotal phase” of animal psychology to the experimental phase had a rather precise parallel in psi research. From sources of marvel and anecdotal evidence of paranormal phenomena, in the course of the twentieth century animals progressively became elements of a specific experimental setting. More specifically, rigorous animal experimentation was seen as a way of overcoming a number of problems and strictures deriving from the very nature of psi experiences.

Animals were seen as a source of “genuine” instances of psychic phenomena, unaltered by human culture and communication, as well as standardizable research material, allowing to overcome the scarcity and ephemerality of human cases. Nevertheless, the need to develop animal-specific paradigms raised as many problems as it was supposed to resolve. Making the animal (either in the wild or in the lab) the centre of experimental psychic research entailed the definition of a number of issues that were common to psychic research, animal psychology, physiology and zoology: the issue of animal subjectivity and individuality; that of the evolutionary stand of psychic powers (at what level of the evolutionary ladder were they supposed to belong, their correlation with the evolution of the nervous system, etc.); finally, that of the human-animal relation in the experimental setting (whether the process of bonding between animals and humans was to be considered part of the procedure or a source of confusion). By considering different examples of psi research on animals (both observational and experimental), we explore the ambiguous roles and meanings given to animals in experimental research.

Sponsored by the British Psychological Society. Open to the public.

Organiser: Professor Sonu Shamdasani (UCL)

Time: 6pm to 7.30 pm.


UCL Institute of the Americas, Room 105
51 Gordon Square
London WC1H

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