Psychologists at The University of Manchester areinvestigating the idea that out-of-body experiences, commonly thoughtof as paranormal phenomena, may in fact have their roots in how peopleperceive and experience their own bodies.
Around 10% of thepopulation have an out-of-body experience (OBE) at some time, typicallyinvolving a sensation of floating and seeing the physical body from theoutside. It isn't uncommon for people to have more than one OBE, andthey may also occur as part of the wider near-death experience somereport experiencing in life-threatening circumstances.
Despite the high incidence of OBEs however, there is still a great deal scientists don't know about the phenomenon.
TheUniversity of Manchester study, funded by the Portuguese BialFoundation which supports the scientific study of the physical andspiritual nature of Man, will use an online questionnaire on bodyperceptions and experience to examine differences between those whohave and have not experienced OBEs. The survey will also gather detailson the different kinds of OBEs people have, to categorise theseexperiences more precisely.
David Wilde, the researcher runningthe project, said, "There are several theories as to why people haveOBEs. A common link between them is the idea that in certaincircumstances the brain somehow loses touch with sensory informationcoming in from the body. This triggers a series of psychologicalmechanisms which can lead to someone having an OBE.
"In thisstudy we aim to take the theory a stage further, by looking at the waypeople see and experience their bodies, and how - through perfectlyordinary psychological processes - these images and experiences maycreate the impression of seeing their bodies from the outside."
Theresearch team hopes to capture data from at least 500 members of thepublic from anywhere in the world. Both people who have had an OBE andthose who have not are encouraged to take part.
The survey can beseen at www.freeresponse.org/muobe2005/index.aspx and will be linked tofrom parapsychology websites across the world. It will be available forthe next six weeks, and a summary of the results, which shouldcontribute substantially to psychologists' understanding of thephenomenon, will be posted to the site in the autumn.
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