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Approved For Release 2000/08/15 : CIA-RDP96-00792R000701020001-7 DEFENSIVENESS AND PSI: PROBLEMS AND PROSPECTS' Caroline Watt Psychology Department University of Edinburgh ABSTRACT The link between defensiveness and psi scoring has long interested parapsychologists. Probably the most systematic research into this relationship has examined individuals' scores on the Defense Mechanism Test (DMT) in relatiion to their scores on an ESP task. These DMT-ESP studies have found that individuals rated as high defensive on the DMT tend to score below chance on an ESP measure, while those who are low defensive on the DMT tend to have above chance ESP scores. This promising line of research has not been replicated or followed-up by other parapsychologists, methodological and theoretical difficulties associated with the DMT.f This outlines these difficulties and suggests future lines of research into the relationship r between defensiveness and psi scoring. 5 0 I would like to thank Deborah Delanoy, Julie Milton and Robert Morris for their helpful comments on an earlier draft of this paper. 361 Approved For Release 2000/08/15 : CIA-RDP96-00792R000701020001-7 1. INTRODUCTION Humans seem to vary in how they operate under stress. Some excel in difficult circumstances, yet others perform badly under the same conditions, and stress is one factor which may contribute to human error :(Dixon, 1987). Unpleasant or threatening information is one possible source of stress and a wide body of research has focused on how individuals respond to such information; this is generally known as defensiveness research. Some of this research has been conducted in the area of subliminal perception, where individuals are presented, under difficult perceptual circumstances, with emotional and neutral information. "Perceptually defensive" individuals take longer to report awareness of emotional than neutral stimuli, while others who are "perceptually vigilant" report awareness of the emotional stimuli more quickly than for neutral stimuli. Another area of research into defensiveness originates from the Freudian theory of defense mechanisms (the ego's various tactics to combat anxiety provoked by both internal and external events). The Defense Mechanism Test (DMT) is perhaps the most extensively researched instrument which purports to identify the operation of defense mechanisms in both clinical and applied settings (Kline, 1981). It is of interest to parapsychologists because of several studies which have compared individuals' DMT scores with their scores on an ESP task. These studies, to be described in more detail below, have repeatedly found a relationship between defensiveness and psi scoring, whereby low defensive individuals tend to score above chance at an ESP task, and high defensive individuals tend to score below chance at an ESP task. These findings suggest that the DMT, or some other measure of defensiveness, may provide parapsychologists with a valuable tool for examining the interaction between various situational, target-related, cognitive and personality factors, and how this affects the direction and degree of individuals' ESP scoring. Evidently a greater understanding of these factors might allow their manipulation so as to enable parapsychologists to stabilize or improve psi scoring. This paper outlines studies which have indicated a defensiveness-psi relationship, focusing especially on the DMT-ESP studies. It points out the problems associated with the use of the DMT and suggests future lines of research which might overcome these problems and increase our understanding of the defensiveness-psi relationship. 2. DEFENSIVENESS AND PSI Parapsychologists have used a variety of different measures relating defensiveness to ESP scoring, as well as using a variety of definitions of defensiveness. For instance, Braud (1976, 1977), Williams & Duke (1980), and Bellis & Morris (1980) used an "openness questionnaire" which defined non-defensiveness as an ability to deal with unpleasant or threatening material, and a self-disclosing attitude. All of these studies have generally found the same trend towards more psi-hitting from more "open" subjects. A subsequent study using a shorter version of this questionnaire found no significant difference between psi-hitters and psi-missers on questionnaire scores, however the entire sample consisted of low-defensive subjects (Sondow, Braud & Barker, 1982). Reports of bizarre and chaotic dreams, considered to reflect tolerance for "uncensored primary Approved For Release 2000/08/15 : CIA-RDP96-00792R000701020001-7 Approved For Release 2000/08/15 : CIA-RDP96-00792R000701020001-7 process material and low defensiveness", were found to correlate significantly with psi success (Sondow, 1987, p.43). Similarly, Roney-Dougal (1982) found that success at both subliminal and extrasensory perception tasks was related to openness to experience of altered states of consciousness. An unusual performance measure of defensiveness was suggested by Stanford & Schroeter (1978): the degree to which subjects chose to recline a chair for a word association ESP task. It was felt that low defensive individuals might choose the fully reclined position, while high defensive individuals might feel more vulnerable, threatened and less able to relax in such a position and should therefore choose a more upright seating posture. This study found that subjects who fully reclined the chair had significantly greater than chance ESP scores, while remaining subjects scored non-significantly below MCE, although the difference between the two groups was not significant. Despite the variety of methods, measures and definitions of defensiveness seen in the above studies, their results generally agree that less defensive subjects tend to psi-hit and more defensive subjects tend to psi-miss. The reliability of this observation is further strengthened by a group of studies which have relatively systematically examined the defensiveness-psi relationship: the DMT-ESP studies. 2.1. The Defense Mechanism Test (DMT) The DMT was developed in Sweden by Ulf Kragh (1955). Subjects are repeatedly shown a picture meant to provoke defensiveness in a series of gradually lengthening exposures. The picture usually portrays a central "hero" figure (of the same sex as the subject) with an older, ugly "threat" figure emerging from the shadows behind the hero. This picture series is preceded and followed by an exposure of a neutral "distractor" picture (responses to which are not evaluated), and then a second picture is shown in another series of successively lengthening exposures. Using psychoanalytic assumptions, Kragh argued that through projection the subject would identify with the hero figure; then defense mechanisms would be provoked by the apparent threat to the hero from the secondary figure. Initial exposures are very brief and the subject is expected to gain only fragmentary information about the picture content; however for each exposure he or she is required to draw or describe what he or she thought was in the picture, until finally a correct description is given. The various transformations and distortions which occur in the subject's responses can be interpreted by a trained judge as signs of the operation of Freudian defense mechanisms. The technique of presenting the stimulus picture serially and in increasingly lengthy steps is based on the principle known as percept-genetics (Kragh & Smith, 1970; Smith & Westerlundh, 1980). This theory suggests that perception is a constructive or an adaptive process, and that it is possible to examine this process by disrupting or "fractioning" perception through presenting the stimulus very briefly and serially. It is thought that some of the perceptual distortions which occur during the fractioning process may indicate the operation of defense mechanisms. At very brief ("stimulus distal") exposures, the stimulus is highly ambiguous and the subject's perception of it is thought to be dominated by internal, personality factors. At Approved For Release 2000/08/15 : CIA-RDP96-00792R000701020001-7 longer ("stimulus proximal") exposures the stimulus becomes increasingly clear and early perceptions are modified until an accurate description of the stimulus is given. The DMT therefore has three basic theoretical assumptions: that through projection the subject identifies with the hero figure; that the presence of the secondary figure activates Freudian or neo-Freudian defenses; and that by fractioning perception these defenses can be studied and scored. In applied settings the DMT can reliably predict how people will react in stressful or dangerous situations (for a review of these studies, see Cooper, 1988a). For instance, Kragh (1970) describes two studies which successfully used the DMT to predict which aviation cadets would be unsuccessful in their training, and to predict the training success of Danish attack divers. For the former study, the inter-rater reliabilities (from .59 to .90) were judged to be low to satisfactory compared with ordinary aptitude tests, and as good as or better than those found with other projective tests. The most experienced DMT rater achieved the highest validity. For the latter study, inter-rater reliabilities were higher (from .69 to .92) and again there was a significant correlation between DMT scoring and the criteria set for success or failure in training. The DMT has also been successfully used to predict accident prone parachutists and deep sea divers (Vaernes, 1982; Vaernes & Darragh, 1982). Nowadays, the DMT is used as part of the standard screening procedure for Scandinavian military personnel. The above research indicates the ability of the DMT to predict susceptibility to stress. It is less clear, however, whether the DMT is actually measuring the operation of Freudian defense mechanisms (Cooper 1982, Cooper & Kline 1986, Kline 1987, Cooper 1988a., 1988b.); I will enlarge on this point in section 2.3. below. For the moment, therefore, one can only say that the DMT appears to be measuring responses to emotional or threatening stimuli, and it has been successfully used in applied settings. 2.2. DMT-ESP Studies Traditionally, there are 13 studies (listed in the Appendix) which have been regarded as the principal DMT-ESP studies. These 13 have systematically compared people's DMT scores with their performance on forced-choice ESP tasks. There are also a number of other studies which have compared scores on the DMT (or approximations to it) with ESP scores. These studies, it appears, have not been included in a recent meta-analysis of DMT-ESP research (Haraldsson, Houtkooper & Hoeltje, 1987) because they are not directly comparable with the principal studies. Some are merely pilot studies; some use free-response rather than forced-choice methodologies; and some use "unofficial" or exploratory versions of the DMT. For the sake of completeness, however, I will briefly outline the findings of these additional studies before moving on to describe the 13 principal DMT-ESP studies. Johnson & Hartwell (1979) conducted an exploratory study, testing no specific hypotheses, relating defensiveness as measured by the DMT to success at trying to guess Approved For Release 2000/08/15 : CIA-RDP96-00792R000701020001-7 Approved For Release 2000/08/15 : CIA-RDP96-00792R000701020001-7 whether an agent was looking at a pleasant picture or a group of unpleasant pictures. Post hoc analyses found that, contrary to expectation, the more defensive subjects were non-significantly more accurate at guessing than the less defensive subjects. With hindsight, however, the authors were critical of their experimental procedure (the environment was noisy and the interactions with subjects were rushed) and in future they would plan to work with extreme DMT scorers. Another pilot study (Johnson & Nordbeck, unpublished) related subjects' DMT scores with their performance at an ESP test of precognition with Zener card symbols as targets. Using an exploratory scoring system for the DMT, it was found that significantly more psi-hitters showed relatively undistorted perceptions of the DMT stimuli than did psi-missers. This study also found another sign, non-significant but in the expected direction, that more defensive subjects tended to psi-miss. Selecting high and low scorers on their own "unofficial" version of the DMT to participate in a subsequent free-response clairvoyance task incorporating a relaxation tape: with an "impression period", Miller & York (1976) found no significant "DMT"-ESP correlation, though results were in the expected direction. A follow-up study by York (1977), presented at the 1976 PA Convention, gave subjects the DMT and subsequently subjects participated in a free-response "ganzfeld" clairvoyance procedure. (It is questionable whether this could be considered a standard ganzfeld, since subjects were not exposed to red light, and did not hear continuous white or pink noise. Instead, they listened to a muscular and mental relaxation tape concluding with five minutes of white noise as an impression period, followed by a reminder to relax, then a second five minute white noise impression period.) This study yielded significant psi scoring overall (Z=2.92, p