Ian Stevenson and ESP Experiences
by Carlos S. Alvarado, Ph.D.
I have always found Stevenson’s work with ESP experiences fascinating. Unfortunately this work is less known inside and outside parapsychology than the study of reincarnation-type cases.
In papers published in the 1960s, Stevenson reported cases associated with the sinking of the Titanic (Stevenson, 1960, 1965). He also explored how previous experiences could affect precognitive phenomena. That is, interests in and knowledge of particular topics were proposed to facilitate precognitive experiences of a similar topic (Heywood & Stevenson, 1966; Stevenson, 1963).
Regarding precognitive experiences, Stevenson (1970a) reported one of the most important analyses on the topic in his paper “Precognition of Disasters.” One of his findings was that precognitive dreams were perceived by some persons to be more vivid than non-precognitive dreams.
Stevenson also documented a series of interesting dreams in his paper “A Series of Possibly Paranormal Recurrent Dreams.”
In an earlier, and frequently cited paper in the older literature, Prasad and Stevenson (1968) conducted a questionnaire survey of the ESP experiences of Indian school children. They reported that out of 2,494 questionnaires, 36% of the children claimed they had some experience. As in other studies, experiences were more often reported in dreams than in waking sensory images or intuitive experiences.
Perhaps the main work Stevenson published on ESP experiences was his Telepathic Impressions (1970b). Here he presented analyses of that he collected, preceded by an analysis of cases found in the literature. Stevenson not only presented detailed descriptions of the cases and the collection of testimony supporting the accounts, but he analysed the cases by such variables as sex and state of consciousness.
Heywood, R., & Stevenson, I. (1966). The Connections between Previous Experiences and an Apparently Precognitive Dream. Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 60, 3245.
Prasad, I., & Stevenson, I. (1968). A Survey of Spontaneous Psychical Experiences in School Children of Uttar Pradesh, India. International Journal of Parapsychology, 10, 241261.
Stevenson, I. (1960). A Review and Analysis of Paranormal Experiences Connected with the Sinking of the Titanic. Journal of American Society for Psychical Research, 54, 153171.
Stevenson, I. (1963). A Postcognitive Dream Illustrating Some Aspects of the Pictographic Process. Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 57, 182202.
Stevenson, I. (1965). Seven More Paranormal Experiences Associated with the Sinking of the Titanic. Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 59, 211225.
Stevenson, I. (1970a). Precognition of Disasters. Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 64, 187210.
Stevenson, I. (1970b). Telepathic Impressions: A Review and Report of 35 New Cases. Charlottesville, VA: University Press of Virginia (also published in Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, 29, 1970).
Stevenson, I. (1992). A Series of Possibly Paranormal Recurrent Dreams. Journal of Scientific Exploration, 6, 281289.