Panel Sees No Military Use of ESP, Parapsychology (From the Air Force Times, March 28, 198

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Panel Sees No Military Use of ESP, Parapsychology (From the Air Force Times, March 28, 1988) By Jim Tice, Times staff writer WASHINGTON--There will not be any "warrior monks" using psychic force against Soviet armor at the Fulda Gap. Levitation will not join the list of common infantry fighting skills such as map reading. And psychic projection will not become the newest combat military occupational specialty. Though soldier performance could be improved through sleep learning and the mental imaging of physical skills, a two-year study suggests, the same is not true with parapsychology. A National Research Council panel of 14 psychologists, educators and training specialists said there is no evidence for the existence of parapsychology phenomena such as extrasensory perception and mind-over-matter abilities. While recommending that the Army monitor research in this field, including the work of Soviet specialists, the panel concluded that "there is no reason for direct involvement by the Army at this time." That finding will be disappointing to parapsychology proponents in the military who have envisioned the use of psychic phenomena to gather intelligence, incapacitate weapons and vehicles, and disrupt the enemy's tactics by anticipating his actions. In its report, the National Research Council made note of one suggested application of parapsychology techniques involving creation of a "First Earth Battalion." This unit would be manned by a force of "warrior monks" who have mastered an arsenal of psychic phenomena "including the use of extrasensory perception, leaving their bodies at will, levitating, psychic healing and walking through walls." Proponents of military parapsychology have argued that the Soviet Union and its allies are well ahead in parapsychology, that there is a sort of "psychic gap." The National Research Council project dates to 1984, when the Army Research Institute in Alexandria, Va., asked the council to conduct a $425,000 study on the potential military value of certain unconventional learning, training and perception techniques. The National Research Council is the principal operating agency of the National Academies of Sciences and Engineering. These non-profit organizations are chartered by Congress to advise the government on scientific and technical matters. The Army Research Institute, a field agency of the office of the deputy chief of staff for personnel, specializes in behavioral and social science research. The research council's study group was organized in June 1985 under the direction of Daniel Druckerman, a social psychologist who has served as a consultant to the Foreign Service Institute and the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency. Other members, broadly representative of he various disciplines of psychology, were drawn from the universities and private research firms. As requested by the Army, the committee focused on a variety of performance-enhancement techniques developed outside the mainstream of the human sciences. The panel was organized into subcommittees that addressed the following areas: accelerated learning, sleep learning, guided imagery, split-brain effects, stress management, biofeedback, influence strategies, group cohesion and parapsychology. In its final report, "Enhancing Human Performance," the panel recommended that the Army examine sleep learning as a possible supplement to conventional training. Research in this field shows that when material is presented to people who are in the lighter stages fo sleep, they appear to show an increase in their ability to learn or recall the same material when they are awake. There is no scientific evidence that learning occurs during deep sleep. The scientists also found that material can be recalled more easily by people under the same physical and mental conditions as when it was first presented. Because of the Army's increased emphasis on night fighting and around-the-clock operations, the researchers report, "this finding could have great implications for training battle-fatigued soldiers." Another promising area for investigation is the mental practice of motor skills, such as watching a champion athlete perform, and then mentally repeating that performance, or mentally rehearsing a physical skill. The technique is most effective when combined with physical practice. Army research in mental practice whould take two directions, according to the study group. One should involve studies on specific operational military tasks, while the other should determine which combinations of mental and physical practice have the best payoff in learning and maintaining skills. The committee said biofeedback, a technique for changing one's physical state through mental concentration, can help reduce muscle tension but is not effective in reducing the type of mental stress spawned in a military environment. This type of stress is most effectively reduced by giving an individual "as much knowledge and understanding as possible regarding future events," the committee reported. While such { finding may not be compatible with the Army's security concerns during combat, the:committee urged the Army to conduct a systematic research-and-development program in this area. Pending the outcome of that research, the Army should provide stress-management instruction at all levels of officer training, according to the study group. Parapsychology phenomena were rejected by the committee as a fertile area for Army research. In arriving at that conclusion, the panel reviewed research literature dating back 130 years on such phenomena as information gathering by remote viewing and mind-over-matter (psychokinesis) effects in controlling machine behavior. "The evaluation of a large body of evidence does not support the contention that these phenomena exist," reported the committee. The research council scientists said that while psychic phenomena are "real and important in the minds of proponents," their existence is not based on scientific evidence gathered in a laboratory.


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