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Title: Dissociation and anomalous information reception


Helané Wahbeh, ND, MCR1

Kelly McDermott, PhD2

Amira Sagher, MSc1


1. Institute of Noetic Science, Petaluma, CA

2. Dominican University of California, San Rafael, CA


The belief and prevalence of self-report anomalous information reception is widespread worldwide. Some

argue that these experiences are a dissociative type of pathology. However, researchers have found that

conflicting results in mediums with some showing no difference in dissociation symptoms between mediums

and non-mediums and others showing increased dissociation but not with high level pathological dissociation.

The purpose of this study was to analyze the relationship of dissociation symptoms to self-report anomalous

information reception in a large secondary dataset of 2,215 participants. Participants were mostly middle aged,

Caucasian, well-educated, unmarried, middle- to upper-class adults from the United State who were raised

Christian but now identify as “Spiritual but not religious”. The occupations were quite varied. Many participants

had family members who had similar experiences. The AIR experiences usually began in childhood.

Clairempathy (87.9%) or the ability to feel emotions of another person or non-physical entity and

claircognizance (88.1%) or the ability to understand or know something without any direct evidence or

reasoning process and were the most commonly endorsed and highest on the weighted scores that included

endorsement, strength, frequency, and “accuracy.” Pyrokinesis, levitation, and psychic surgery were quite rare

as expected. The mean dissociation score for all participants was 15.4 ± 17.3. Variability in weighted percent

anomalous information reception score (R-squared – 0.34) was accounted for by dissociation experience scale

score (DES-T) total score, quadratic DES-T, age, quadratic age, race, education, income, marital status, family

history of similar experiences, childhood spirituality and importance, and current spirituality and importance

(F(26, 1659) = 32.1, p <.00005). Dissociation scores did not reach pathological levels until AIR scores reach

80% (0-100% range). More research is needed to examine the impact of AIR on people’s lives and

functionality when having AIR experiences.


Modern entertainment is saturated with anomalous information reception such as “supernatural” and

“paranormal” content and belief in such experiences is widespread worldwide {Sheils, 1977 #14270; Wiseman,

2006 #14271;Roe, 1998 #14272;Otis, 1982 #14274;Orenstein, 2002 #14276;Irwin, 1993 #14277;Gallup, 1991

#14278;Haraldsson, 1985 #14279;MacDonald, 1995 #14281;Haraldsson, 2006 #14285;Haraldsson, 1996

#14286;Haraldsson, 2005 #14288;Sjödin, 1995 #14289;Moore, 2005 #14450}. Over the last 40 years in

various populations, with different methods, and varying results, the prevalence of people having these

experiences range from 10% in Scottish citizens to 81% in Icelandic women {Cohn, 1994 #14230}{Palmer,

1979 #14267}{Ross, 1992 #14269}{McClenon, 1993 #14283}{Greeley, 1987 #14297}{Haraldsson, 1991

#14280}{Castro, 2014 #14287}{Haraldsson, 1985 #14279}{Haraldsson, 2011 #14291}{Pew Research Center,

2009 #14444}. A number of studies have also explored the relationship between AIR and spiritual beliefs or

practices {Cardena, 2009; Irwin, 1993; Goretzki, 2007; Moreira-Almeida, 2008; Negro, 2002; Ross, 1990;

Seligman, 2005}. Meta-analyses have now even demonstrated the small but significant effects of commonly

reported anomalous information reception (AIR) experiences {Utts, 1991 #14346; Mossbridge, 2012 #14345}.

There is increasing prevalence of dissociative experiences in the general population that may or may not be

considered pathological {Moreira-Almeida, 2007 #14371}. Due to the complex nature of mental illness and

overlap with anomalous information reception, (e.g. extrasensory perception), it is imperative to understand the

differences and similarities between pathological conditions and anomalous information reception experiences.

The present study looks specifically at dissociative symptoms in this context, exploring their role in relation to

various purported AIR experiences.

Dissociative Disorders

Almost half of American adults experience at least one dissociative episode in their lives (2-5% meeting

the full criteria for chronic episodes) including phenomena such as hallucinations and out of body experiences

{Ross, Joshi & Currie, 1990}. Dissociation is conceptualized as the disruption to usually integrated functions of

consciousness, memory, identity or perception of the environment and is characterized by an involuntary

escape from reality, resulting from a disconnection from a person’s mainstream conscious awareness,

behavioral repertoire and/or self-concept {Krippner, 2001 #14268}. Pierre Janet’s early conceptualization of
dissociation endorsed multiple streams of consciousness {Hilgard, 1977 #14366}, where in dissociative cases

of amnesia, memories may not be equally available to each stream, at a given time. In this way dissociation

may be an expression of detachment (surrealness, depersonalization); and compartmentalization (amnesia

between memory streams) {Cardena, 2009}{Holmes, 2005}{Seligman, 2008}.

Three types of dissociative disorders expressing these phenomena have been defined by the

Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders {American Psychiatric Association, 2013 #12255}:

Dissociative Amnesia, Depersonalization Disorder and Dissociative Identity Disorder. Dissociative Identity

Disorder (DID) is defined by the DSM-V as personality disorder, when two or more distinct identities or

personalities are present, each with its own pattern of perceiving, relating to and thinking about the

environment and self {APA, 2012}. Pathological dissociation is often associated with historic physical,

emotional and sexual abuse {Coons, 1994}{Ogawa, 1997}{Stolovy, 2015 #14377}. Dissociative states are also

prevalent in a number of other psychiatric disorders, such as Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) {Coons,

1994}{Ross, 1990} and Attention Deficit Disorder {Coons, 1994}, Schizophrenia, and Anxiety disorders

{Seligman, 2005}, and are more prevalent in nonclinical populations at younger ages {Ross, Joshi & Currie.,

1990}. However, dissociative states exist on a continuum in the general population {Kihlstrom, 2005}{Seligman,

2008}{Spitzer, 2006}, from nonpathological expressions such as highway hypnosis and day-dreaming, to

pathological states of derealization (surrealness), and depersonalization (absence of identity) {Stolovy, 2015


Anomalous Information Reception

AIR refers to a variety of extrasensory perceptions that extend beyond the traditional five senses, such

as the ability to sense (clairsentience) or see (clairvoyance) past, present or future emotional states of other

people. Channeling is another variable experience where a ranging from full-trance channeling or spirit

possession to mental mediumship. In full-trance, the “channel” experiences a disincarnate being using their

body usually with consent to communicate a message directly with their vocal cords or automatic writing

{Stolovy, 2015 #14377}. In mental mediumship, the channel experiences receiving information from deceased

persons in the form of auditory, visual, or somatic perceptions {Roxburgh, 2011 #13790}.
Although trance states are currently considered a symptom of dissociation {Castillo, 2003}{Seligman,

2005}{Seligman, 2008}, trance mediums do not show higher rates of pathological dissociation than the general

population. Roxburgh and Roe surveyed 233 mediums and spiritualists in the UK and found no significant

difference between mediums and non-medium spiritualists on the Dissociative Experience Scale. In fact,

mediums scored significantly higher on psychological well-being and lower on psychological distress, in

comparison to non-mediums {Roxburgh, 2011 #13790}. Negro, Palladino-Negro and Louza surveyed 110

participants of a Kardecist center in Brazil however report that mediumship is associated with dissociation, but

not with high level pathological dissociation {Negro Jr, 2002 #13791}.

To further explore the relationship between dissociation and AIR, we conducted a cross-sectional

analysis asking the following research questions: 1) Is there a higher prevalence of dissociation among people

reporting AIR in comparison to the general population?; and 2) Is dissociation correlated with AIR in general,

and when controlling for potential confounders? We predicted that; 1) the prevalence of dissociative symptoms

in people with AIR experiences would be the same as the general population; and 2) some AIR experiences

would be more related to dissociative experiences (e.g. trance channeling) than others (e.g. clairsentience).

Materials and methods

The data analyzed in this study was collected as part of a larger research study approved by the

Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS) Institutional Review Board. As phase one of this study, an online survey

was administered to a convenience sample with HIPAA compliant methods via SurveyMonkey.com. This study

is the analysis of this online survey.


Respondents were recruited using social media, IONS member lists, and community networks.

Participants were included if they were over 18 years old, completed the AIR experience section and endorsed

at least one item, completed the Dissociation Experiences Scale, and were not currently on psychotropic or

psychiatric medications.

Outcome variable: Respondents were asked to endorse whether or not they had each of 27 AIR

experiences (Table 2). The listed AIR experiences were developed through a review of the scientific literature,

gray literature, and expert consensus. Some of the definitions overlap to incorporate a broader net of unique

experiences and because there is no systematic nomenclature within the field.

Respondents who endorsed AIR experiences were then asked to rate its strength, frequency, and

accuracy (1 low, 5 high). The total weighted experience measure was derived from the sum of these variables

(endorsement, strength, frequency and accuracy) divided by the total possible (i.e. 27+27(5 X 3) = 432). This

number was then divided by 100 to create a percentage (PCT_AIR) for ease of interpretation. PCT_AIR for

each respondent represents the percent of total for this scale (0-100%).

Predictor of interest: The Dissociation Experiences Scale Taxon (DES-T) {Waller, 1997 #14361} is an

eight-item scale where respondents choose a percentage number (e.g., 0%, 10%, ….100%) indicating the

frequency they experience each dissociative symptom in their daily life. The DES-T score is the mean of the

eight items.

Covariates: We adjusted for age, race, education, income, childhood spirituality and current spirituality

(Christian, Spiritual But Not Religious, Atheist, Other), influence of childhood spirituality in the participant’s life

growing up (1 - Not at all to 5 - Deeply), importance of current spirituality (Not important, somewhat important,

moderately important, very important, and spirituality/religion is an indispensable part of my life), family history,

and age of AIR experience onset. Gender was not included in the original survey.

Statistical analysis: We conducted standard descriptive statistics to look at relationships between the

variables. We looked at percentages for categorical variables and display means and standard deviations for

continuous variables. We also looked at Pearson correlation coefficients between each study variable and the

outcome and predictor of interest and generated scatter plots with fitted lowess curves to understand the

shape of the underlying relationship.

To examine the relationship between the outcome and the predictor of interest, controlling for potential

confounders and other covariates, we used ordinary least squares (OLS) regression. In the final model,

dissociation and age both included a main effect and a quadratic effect to allow for a nonlinear relationship with

the outcome. Education and income were included in the model as linear categorical variables, and family
history and married were included as binary. Dummy variables were used for each category of race, childhood

and current spirituality and importance. The model fit the data reasonably well (R-squared = 0.34) and met

OLS assumptions based on an assortment of graphical and statistical testing procedures. Two participants had

unusually high scores on the DES-T, but their scores did not have undue influence on model fit therefore we

did not exclude them from the analysis.


Participants: 3358 participants completed the survey from May 4, 2016 to June 7, 2017. Of those, 2215

met the inclusion criteria and were included in the analysis. Participant demographics are listed in Table 2.

Participant Characteristics (n=2215)

Factor Level N (%)

Age, mean (SD) 51.7 (15.7)

Race White / Caucasian 1827 (84.3%)

Asian / Pacific Islander 144 (6.6%)

Hispanic 100 (4.6%)

Black or African American 63 (2.9%)

American Indian or Alaskan Native 33 (1.5%)

Education Grade School Education 72 (3.3%)

Finished High School 193 (8.9%)

Some College 480 (22.1%)

Graduated College 701 (32.3%)

Completed Graduate School 724 (33.4%)

Country of Birth United States 40 (1.9%)

None of the above 22 (1.0%)

United Kingdom 146 (6.8%)

Canada 2 (0.1%)

Australia 16 (0.7%)

New Zealand 36 (1.7%)

India 46 (2.1%)

Germany 10 (0.5%)

Brazil 5 (0.2%)

France 15 (0.7%)

Mexico 27 (1.2%)

Italy 289 (13.4%)

Russia 11 (0.5%)

Spain 9 (0.4%)

Japan 180 (8.3%)

China 1307 (60.5%)

Occupation Art & Media 254 (11.8%)

Business & Admin 283 (13.2%)

Farming & Building 65 (3.0%)

Service Industry 432 (20.1%)

Health & Sciences 462 (21.5%)

Other 653 (30.4%)

Income $0-$24,999 461 (23.3%)

$25,000-$49,999 432 (21.8%)

$50,000-$74,999 337 (17.0%)

$75,000-$99,999 251 (12.7%)

>$100,000 500 (25.2%)

Married 885 (41.4%)

Childhood Spirituality Atheist 41 (1.9%)

Christian 1513 (69.4%)

Spiritual but not religious 234 (10.7%)

Other 391 (17.9%)

Current Spirituality Atheist 34 (1.6%)

Christian 240 (11.0%)

Spiritual but not religious 1382 (63.3%)

Other 526 (24.1%)

Have family members with similar experiences? 1397 (63.3%)

How old when experiences 13 (0.6%)

first started? I do not have any ability

I've always had them 593 (27.0%)

0-10 715 (32.6%)

11-15 282 (12.9%)

16-24 294 (13.4%)

25-45 228 (10.4%)

46-60 63 (2.9%)

over 60 6 (0.3%)

Table 2. Participant demographics. sd- standard deviation

Participants were mostly middle aged, Caucasian, well-educated, unmarried, middle- to upper-class

adults from the United State who were raised Christian but now identify as “Spiritual but not religious”. The

occupations were quite varied. Many participants had family members who had similar experiences. The AIR

experiences usually began in childhood.

Clairempathy or the ability to feel emotions of another person or non-physical entity and

claircognizance or the ability to understand or know something without any direct evidence or reasoning

process and were the most commonly endorsed and highest on the weighted scores (Table 2). Pyrokinesis,

levitation, and psychic surgery were quite rare as expected. The average PCT_AIR was 34.7 ± 18.7 (range .23

– 95.4).

Anomalous Information Reception 2215 % Mean SD

Clairempathy- Clear emotion to feel emotions of another person or non-physical entity (also known as empath). 1944 87.9 11.7 5.1

Claircognizance or Knowing - the empathic ability to feel what needs to be done in any given circumstance, often

accompanied by a feeling of peace and calm, even in the midst of a crisis. Having the ability to understand or

know something without any direct evidence or reasoning process. 1951 88.1 11.1 5.0

Precognition, premonition and precognitive dreams - A form of clairvoyance when the objects of perception is

distant in time; Perception of events before they happen; the empathic ability to feel when something important is

about to happen (often this can be a feeling of inexplicable dread or doom). 1724 77.8 8.8 5.5

Clairvoyance or Extrasensory perception (ESP) - Clear vision, to visually perceive using the “mind's eye.” 1641 74.0 8.6 5.8

Emotional Healing - The empathic ability to feel another person's emotions (and often the ability to heal, transform

or transmute them). 1611 72.8 9.0 6.1

Clairsentience- Clear sensation or feeling within the whole body without any outer stimuli related to the feeling or

information. 1601 72.5 8.7 6.0

Lucid dreamer – Ability to have awareness while dreaming. Knowing that you are dreaming while asleep.
1612 72.5 8.0 5.8

Telepathy- Communication of thoughts or ideas by means other than the known senses, mind-to-mind

communication; the ability to read people's thoughts. 1384 62.5 6.8 5.9

Animal Communication - The empathic ability (beyond the five physical senses) to hear, feel and communicate 1386 62.2 7.0 6.0
with animals.

Aura Reading- Perception of energy fields surrounding people, places and things. 1359 61.1 7.0 6.1

Nature empath- The empathic ability to read, feel and communicate with nature and with plants. 1188 53.5 6.1 6.2

Astral Projection (or astral travel)- An out-of-body experience in which the "astral body" separates from the

physical body and is capable of travelling outside it. 1165 52.5 5.4 5.6

Clairaudience- Clear audio/hearing, to hear from sources broadcast from spiritual or ethereal realm using the

“inner ear.” 1124 50.6 5.8 6.2

Clairscent- Clear smelling, to smell a fragrance/odor of substance or food which is not in one's surroundings. 1067 48.1 4.9 5.6

Mediumship- To mediate communication between spirits of the dead and living; the empathic ability to feel the

presence and energies of spirits. 1050 47.2 5.3 6.1

Channel- Communication of information to or through a human from a non-physical source. 1030 46.6 5.6 6.3

Physical Healing - The empathic ability to feel other people's physical symptoms in your own body (and often the

ability to heal, transform or transmute them). 985 44.4 5.1 6.1

Geomancy - The empathic ability to read the energy of places and of the land such as Ley lines. 974 44.0 4.8 5.9

Retrocognition or post-cognition - Knowledge of a past event which could not have been learned or inferred by

normal means. 915 41.2 4.3 5.6

Psychometry or psychoscopy or clairtangency- Clear touching; Obtaining information by touching or concentrating

on an object; the empathic ability to receive energy, information and impressions from objects, photographs or

places. 850 38.2 3.9 5.5

Remote Viewing- The practice of seeking impressions about a distant or unseen target. 777 35.1 3.5 5.2

Automatic Writing or Psychography- Writing produced without conscious thought, produced by or under the 632 28.4 3.2 5.4
influence of a spirit.

Clairgustance- Clear tasting, to taste without putting anything in one's mouth. 413 18.7 2.0 4.4

Psychokinesis or telekinesis - The ability to manipulate objects by the power of thought. 271 12.2 1.1 3.1

Levitation- to float in the air, defying gravity. 97 4.4 0.4 1.9

Pyrokinesis- The ability to create and/or manipulate fire through the concentration of mind. 93 4.2 0.4 2.0

Psychic Surgery- Removal of diseased body tissue via an incision that heals immediately afterwards. 80 3.6 0.4 2.2

Table 2. Anomalous information reception and their definitions sorted by prevalence. N - number of participants that endorsed the AIR. % -

Percent of participants that endorsed the AIR. Weighted experience is calculated by summing the binary endorsement item, and strength,

frequency, and accuracy ratings (1-5; range is 0-16).

The mean dissociation score for all participants was 15.4 ± 17.3 (range 0-100; n - 2215) (Table 3).

DES-T Item

1. Some people have the experience of finding themselves in a place and having no idea

how they got there. 10.5 ± 20.5

2. Some people have the experience of finding new things among their belongings that

they do not remember buying. 9.1 ± 20.1

3. Some people sometimes have the experience of feeling as though they are standing

next to themselves or watching themselves do something and they actually see

themselves as though they were looking at another person. 18.1 ± 27.1

4. Some people are told that they sometimes do not recognize friends or family members. 5.3 ± 16.0

5. Some people sometimes have the experience of feeling that other people, objects, and

the world around them are not real. 22.3 ± 30.0

6. Some people sometimes have the experience of feeling that their body does not seem to

belong to them. 17.3 ± 27.6

7. Some people find that in one situation they may act so differently compared to another

situation that they feel almost as if they were two different people. 20.3 ± 30.1

8. Some people sometimes find that they hear voices inside their head which tell them to

do things or comment on things that they are doing. 20.3 ± 30.7

Total 15.5 ± 17.3

Table 3. Dissociation Experience Scale scores by item and total. Participants are asked how often they

experience each symptom in their daily lives and rate each item on a scale of 0-100%.

DES-T total was significantly correlated with all AIR individually but not meaningfully so since all r’s

were greater than 0.11 but less than .20 (all p’s <.00005). The strongest correlations were with DES-T and

Clairscent (r- .21) and Retrocognition (r- .21). Only one individual DES-T items had a correlation above .20:

item 3 with Astral projection (r- .25, p<.00005). There was a weak correlation between DES-T total score and
PCT_AIR (r .33 p < .00005). Thirty percent of participants scored greater than 20 and 18.1% of participants

scored greater than 30 on the DES_T. Variability in PCT_AIR (R-squared – 0.34) was accounted for by DES_T

total score, quadratic DES_T, age, quadratic age, race, education, income, marital status, family history of

similar experiences, childhood spirituality and importance, and current spirituality and importance (F(26, 1659)

= 32.1, p <.00005). DEST_Total, age, age quadratic, race (Asian or Black/African American), family history,

childhood spirituality (spiritual but not religious), and current spirituality importance (very

important/indispensable) were significant predictors.

Coef. Std. Err. t P>t [95% Conf. Interval]

DEST 0.4091 0.0557 7.3400 0.0000 0.2998 0.5183

DEST2 -0.0012 0.0008 -1.3900 0.1660 -0.0028 0.0005

Age 1.1126 0.1520 7.3200 0.0000 0.8144 1.4107

Age2 -0.0103 0.0015 -7.0800 0.0000 -0.0132 -0.0075


Asian/Pacific Islander -5.5847 1.6361 -3.4100 0.0010 -8.7938 -2.3755

Hispanic 0.6591 1.7967 0.3700 0.7140 -2.8650 4.1832

Black/African American -4.2605 2.1751 -1.9600 0.0500 -8.5268 0.0058

American Indian/Alaskan Native 2.7313 3.2221 0.8500 0.3970 -3.5884 9.0510

Education -0.5520 0.3804 -1.4500 0.1470 -1.2982 0.1942

Income -0.4440 0.2867 -1.5500 0.1220 -1.0063 0.1184

Married -1.3433 0.8547 -1.5700 0.1160 -3.0197 0.3331

Family 8.1657 0.7987 10.2200 0.0000 6.5991 9.7322

Childhood Spirituality

Christian 2.8721 3.0965 0.9300 0.3540 -3.2014 8.9456

Spiritual but not religious 7.3295 3.2602 2.2500 0.0250 0.9350 13.7239

Other 3.9685 3.1758 1.2500 0.2120 -2.2606 10.1976

Affect of childhood spirituality (1 – Not at all to 5 – Deeply)

2 1.8017 1.3270 1.3600 0.1750 -0.8011 4.4046

3 0.5872 1.1669 0.5000 0.6150 -1.7015 2.8758

4 -0.6009 1.2548 -0.4800 0.6320 -3.0621 1.8602

5 2.3581 1.2575 1.8800 0.0610 -0.1085 4.8246

Current spirituality

Christian -0.3453 3.5305 -0.1000 0.9220 -7.2699 6.5793

Spiritual but not religious 5.3466 3.3649 1.5900 0.1120 -1.2533 11.9465

Other 4.0813 3.3719 1.2100 0.2260 -2.5324 10.6949

Importance of current religion/spirituality

Somewhat Important -1.3317 1.9565 -0.6800 0.4960 -5.1692 2.5058

Moderately Important 1.6093 1.8268 0.8800 0.3780 -1.9738 5.1924

Very Important 6.2740 1.7372 3.6100 0.0000 2.8667 9.6813

Indispensable part of my life 12.1696 1.6658 7.3100 0.0000 8.9022 15.4369

_cons -15.0315 5.2078 -2.8900 0.0040 -25.2461 -4.8169

Table 4. Ordinary least squares regression model explains 34% of weighted experiences variability.

DEST – Dissociation Experience Scale Total. Reference categories: Race – Caucasian; Childhood and current

sprituality – Athiest; Affect of childhood spirituality – Not at all; Importance of current religion/spirituality – Not at


Relationship of Dissociation Symptoms and AIR

Dissociation Experience Scale Total Score
20 40 060 80

0 20 40 60 80 100
Weighted AIR Experience (PCT_AIR)
bandwidth = .8
Figure 1. Scatter plot with lowess line demonstrates relationship between dissociation symptoms and



Significant correlations were found in the current study between dissociative capacity and AIR which

supports previous research {see Richards, 1991}). The only significant predictors of AIR in our study were

dissociation score, age, spiritual affiliation during childhood, and level of importance attributed to religious or

spiritual beliefs. Participants in our study were most likely to report AIR if they had a family member with EHC,

were of younger age, affiliated with spirituality (but not religion) during their childhood, and who valued

spirituality or religion as important or indispensable to their lives now. In contrast, participants in our study were

least likely to report AIR if they were older, or from Black or Asian/Pacific Islander heritage.

Our participants represented a similar racial distribution to the general population in the United States

Census Bureau {United States Census Bureau, 2011 #14515}, UK Office for National Statistics {Office for

National Statistics, 2017 #14516}, and Canada Statcan (2017) retrieved from www.statcan.gc.ca (Statcan,

2017). There was a higher percentage of Caucasians and lower percentage of African Americans in

comparison to the general population, but in similar ratios to the UK and Canadian population. There was a

wide age range within our sample, and the mean age (51 years old) was higher than the general population

average (37 years old) {Office for National Statistics, 2017 #14516}. Eighty-eight percent of our respondents

had received some college education and 55% were earning an annual income greater than $50,000. While

the majority of respondents came from the US, UK, and Canada, 12 other countries were represented.

Despite the low percentages of Native American (1.5% vs. 84% Caucasian), and Hispanic respondents

(4.6%), those of Native American origin were the most likely to report AIR, followed by those of Hispanic origin,

then Caucasian. In contrast, AIR was least prevalent in Asian/Pacific Islander respondents.

Respondents in our study had less affiliation with Christianity during adulthood than earlier years.

Overall, affiliation with Christianity dropped from 69.5% in childhood to 11% during adulthood. This is in line

with national trends in the general population which show decreases in affiliation with organized religion {Pew

Research Center, 2015 #14514}. Overall, AIR experiences increased by 9.3 points in respondents who were

affiliated with spirituality but not Christianity, compared to those who were atheist. Although respondents’
current spiritual or religious affiliation improved the model’s diagnostics, being affiliated with a religion or

spirituality was not a significant predictor of AIR. Respondents who were atheist and those who were spiritual

but not religious, were equally likely to report AIR. Conversely, the importance of one’s current religion or

spirituality was highly significant for people who rated theirs as Very Important or Indispensable part of my life

accounting for an 18.5-point increase in PCT_AIR score.

Having a family member with similar experience resulted in an 8.2-point increase of the PCT_AIR

score. Anecdotally, many believe these unique experiences, like many mental and physical traits, run in

families. There is also some field case study evidence supporting these beliefs {Cohn, 1994 #14230; Cohn,

1999 #13669}. Importantly, the mean dissociation score in the present study did not reach pathological levels.

A great debate exists about whether to use cutoff scores or not and the value the cutoff score should be

{Waller, 1997 #14361}{Spitzer, 2006 #14528}. Only 18.1% of our AIR positive respondents’ dissociation

symptom scores reached a pathological level of greater than 30 {Waller, 1996 #14360}. General population

results 3.3% {Waller, 1997 #14361}. 3.4% using 20 as cutoff score {Maaranen, 2005 #14527}. Dissociation in

clinical populations are much higher (up to 84%) {Sar, 2011 #14529}.

In our study the dissociation experience scale score was a significant predictor for PCT_AIR. The

relationship between dissociation symptoms and AIR experiences were not linear. The dissociations symptoms

appear to stay at a non-pathological level until certain point (@80) where there is quadratic rise. At that level,

the person is having many AIR experiences that are strong, frequent and “accurate.” Some AIR types such as

channeling or mediumship, might be expected to correlate with dissociation, given the explicit awareness of a

secondary consciousness during these states. In the present study however, channeling and mediumship were

very weakly correlated with the total dissociation score than other AIR types. Instead, dissociation correlated

most strongly with clairscent and retrocognition. Notably, all but one dissociative items had negligible (<.20)

correlations with individual AIR types; namely astral projection was correlated with dissociation item number 3,

“Some people sometimes have the experience of feeling as though they are standing next to themselves or

watching themselves do something and they actually see themselves as though they were looking at another

person.” This correlation makes logical sense considering the definition of astral projection is the perceived

travel of one’s consciousness outside of their body, as opposed to the experience of embodying/channeling.
Controversy over the conceptualization of dissociative states are prevalent in the literature {Holtgraves, 1997

#14369}{Lewis-Fernandez, 1998 #14385}{Mulder et al., 1998}. It is arguable the extent to which experiences

classified as dissociative (e.g. day-dreaming and absorption), are truly dissociative, given that they do not

reflect disruptions to integrated functions of consciousness.

The AIR types most correlated with dissociation in this study (e.g. retrocognition and astral projection

and clairscent), could be explained by an external locus of perceptual observation, similar to an out-of-body

experience. Both retrocognition and precognition could be defined as consciousness traversing time. Astral

projection, clairscent, and retrocognition also rely upon a perceptibly dissociated aspect of consciousness,

while channeling and mediumship are defined more so by the capacity to receive energy that occupies the

body. In this way, the capacity for trance channeling may crossover between associative as well as

dissociative states, exemplifying a potential difference between pathological (dissociated) and nonpathological

(associated) states of consciousness. The capacity for astral projection and retrocognition may represent a

sensory perception of the person’s own dissociative state, now embodying a more externalised environment.

Given that the same physiological response (piloerection) can be observed by inducing primal (fear) or

transcendent (pleasure) states of consciousness (Panksepp & Bernatzky ref & chills ref), pathological and

nonpathological dissociation may be operating under similar mechanisms.

AIR as an integrative process: Some research suggests that AIR experiences serve an integrative

function, filling the gaps in the stream of consciousness by allowing the experience to become part of a

person’s own narrative {Seligman, 2005 #14379}. Compartmentalization theories of dissociation could explain

phenomena such as spirit posession in terms of a completely disembodied dissociated state of consciousness

{Brugger, 1996 #14522}. In contrast detachment theories could explain all dissociative states as a form of

astral projection, a locale of consciousness that is somatically embodied to varying degrees. Embodiment and

dissociation in turn representing a dipole of associative states. The function of embodiment in this context, is

the process of integration, from complete amnesia (pure dissociation), to trance channeling (dissociated-

embodied), to absorption (unitary consciousness).

AIR skills such as clairvoyance and pathological phenomenon such as hallucinations, may well be

rooted in the capacity to visually perceive dissociated states of consciousness. It could be inferred that without

this visual counterpart, the experience may be conceptualised as another type of AIR (e.g. clairscent). If
dissociative states serve an integrative function, and associative states exemplify embodied function, then the

AIR experiences reported in this study may be examples of a dissociation-embodiment continuum. Notably, the

occipital lobe, the pineal gland and gamma, have in combination been associated with visual imagery during

transcendent states of consciousness {Wahbeh, 2017 #14521}{Brown, 1980 #14171}{Cardin, 2009 #14214}.

Patients who reported dissociation during near death experiences, showed consistent patterns of changes in

beliefs, attitudes and values after the experience that were more reflective of integrative and transpersonal

states of consciousness {Greyson, 2000 #14365} rather than disintegrated states. Similar observations were

also recorded in a large cross-sectional study of Dutch patients, from ten different hospitals, who were

successfully resuscitated after cardiac arrest {van Lommel, 2001 #14429}.

Dissociation and the pleasure/pain principle: The Air types most correlated with dissociation symptoms

in this study may be more deeply understood in relation to a pain/pleasure hypothesis. Pathological states of

consciousness are considered to be dissociative if they are related to trauma {Van Der Hart, 2004 #14519} or

cause functional impairment {American Psychiatric Association, 2013 #12255} whereas absorption has been

associated with functional benefit {Stolovy, 2015 #14526}, related more so with associative states.

Embodiment-dissociation could be understood in terms of pleasure-pain, whereby nonpathological levels of

dissociation in the presence of AIR, may be explained by a greater capacity to embody distress for integration.

Such a capacity to embody pain may be advanced by the importance of spirituality or religion in a person’s life

and the experience of Love. These factors may explain more specifically, the variance of AIR between different

cultures in this study and its greatest prevalence amongst participants who placed importance on their religious

or spiritual faith. The relationship between pleasure, pain and dissociation could be further explored by

measuring participants perception of pain, pleasure and transcendence directly following dissociative amnesia

and AIR experiences.

There are a number of limitations to this study that should be considered when interpreting the results.

The study was a secondary analysis of data collected for a different study. The data did not include gender and

thus, gender effects on the relationship between dissociation and AIR can not be assumed. The study used a

self-report questionnaire to evaluate both AIR and dissociation. There was no verification of these self-report

experiences. Numerous participants from our initial survey did not complete all of the questionnaires and were

thus excluded from the study. There is no way to evaluate whether these “drop-outs” different levels of AIR or
dissociation and thus influenced the results. We had no measure of daily function (although income may be

considered as a surrogate). Respondents in our study were well-educated with high annual incomes implying

but not confirming high functionality. There was also no evaluation of the positive, neutral, or negative impact

of AIR on their lives. Thus, we can conjecture that the experiences were neutral to positive but it would be just

that. The concept that AIR dissociative experiences can be integrative or associative or connected to pleasure

must be tested before any conclusions about these concepts can be made.

In conclusion, the degree of prevalence of AIR is surprisingly and consistently high across different

cultures {Haraldsson, 1991 #14280}{Krippner, 1994 #14523}{Castro, 2014 #14287}{Pew Research Center,

2009 #14444} as it was in our sample. It is encouraging that the Diagnostics and Statistical Manual includes

reference to normalization of dissociative experiences (which may include features of AIR), if those

experiences fit with the respective society’s cultural context. Perhaps the Western cultural container for

dissociative conditions is evolving. If the stigma surrounding mental health conditions improved we may find

increased reporting and research of anomalous states of consciousness that may yield further insight into AIR,

their characteristics, validity and prospective use as functional tools in our modern world.

Objective methods may be used to evaluate dissociative versus integrative/associative,

absorptive/embodied phenomenon. Electroencephalography and electrocardiography could be evaluated

during dissociative and/or AIR episodes, such as visual and auditory “hallucinations” that involve sensory

modalities located in the cranium. Some dissociative experiences relate more to states of absorption as the

ability to embody or associate with the experience in a pleasurable way. The capacity for AIR skills that

resemble dissociated, rather than associated states, may be examples of embodying a more externally-

localised, and therefore visually perceptible environment, in the absence of love.


Fundacao BIAL Grant Number: 257/14, Melissa Nelson


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