How do I know if someone is a 'real' parapsychologist (and what makes them so)?
Okay, this happens to be a pet peeve of mine. I can't tell you HOW many times I have someone come up and proudly tell me they're a "parapsychologist" (or seen it on TV) when, in fact, they are NOTHING of the kind. The best you can call them is a paranormal enthusiast. Now, I'm not trying to diss paranormal enthusiasts. They're great. They may have written ghost stories and done investigations. In some cases they're simply psychic. But they know nothing of theresearch or theory of the field.
So, how do I define a parapsychologist? As someone with a solid grounding in the scientific research (there have been over 125 years worth) who writes, does research, and publishes
on the field. The vast majority of parapsychologists (there are about 400 of us in the world; more or less 50 in the USA) belong to the international organization known as the Parapsychological Association
. If you're uncertain whether someone really is a parapsychologist, it lists all of it's members on its website. You can check. However, this is such a small field that most of us know each other by name, if not in person.
For better or worse, the majority of parapsychologists are self-taught. I don't discriminate based on education or what someone got their original degrees in--whether physics, biochemistry, psychology, engineering, or something else. Very few of us have a formal post graduate education in parapsychology, because there are only a couple places in the world where you can study it. I added it up once, and there are probably around 25 or so of us in the world
who have a Doctorate degree in parapsychology from an accredited brick-and-mortar school, and several more who have a Masters degree in it. The only difference I've seen between those of us who were formally trained and the self-taught is that we tend to have a broader knowledge of the field. Those who teach themselves tend to stick to the topics that interest them most, leaving some blank spots.
So, what's the upshot of my rant? If someone tells you they're a parapsychologist, find out their credentials. Are they the real deal or just a wanna be? And that goes double for who you see on TV. The media is notorious about misusing titles to make their "experts" sound more impressive. Look them up. Are they on the Paraspychology Association member list
? What journals have they published in? How much do they really know? It's good to find all that out before you put any weight on what they tell you. There's a tremendous amount of misinformation floating around out there.
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