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A term used by parapsychologists to describe lack of synchronization between the sender and subject in ESP card tests. It is claimed that the receiver is one or two cards behind or ahead in his clairvoyance.

Displacement seems to have been introduced into the history of psi research when Whately Carrington advised S. G. Soal to do some data mining on Soal's recorded 128,000 card guesses by 160 subjects over a four-year period. Soal had found nothing of statistical interest and thus, in his view, no evidence of ESP. Carrington advised him to recheck his data for displacement (Alcock 1981: 154). Soal found some statistically interesting numbers with two of his 160 subjects when he correlated not guesses with actual cards but the guesses with cards preceding or following the actual cards.* Soal took the new statistical data as scientific evidence for the reality of telepathy.

Soal's work was discredited because he altered the data on one of his most famous ESP experiments to show a greater than chance occurrence of guessing (Alcock 1981: 140-141). Perhaps Soal knew that displacement would be ridiculed by the legitimate scientific community. Thus, when he cheated he did not alter his data toward displacement, but towards increasing the receiver's direct guessing success.

Dean Radin, who considers his book The Conscious Universe to provide proof beyond a reasonable doubt for "the scientific truth of psychic phenomena" does not even mention Soal in passing.

See also decline effect, experimenter effect, and  psi-missing.

further reading

books and articles

Alcock, James E. Parapsychology: Science or Magic (Pergamon Press 1981)

Alcock, James,  Jean Burns and Anthony Freeman. eds. Psi Wars - Getting To Grips With the Paranormal. (Imprint Academic 2003).

Alcock, James E. Science and Supernature : a Critical Appraisal of Parapsychology (Buffalo, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 1990).

Hansel, Charles Edward Mark. ESP; a Scientific Evaluation (New York: Scribner, 1966). 

Hansel, C.E.M. ESP and Parapsychology: A Critical Re- Evaluation (Buffalo, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 1980). 

Hansel, C.E.M. The Search for Psychic Power : ESP and Parapsychology Revisited (Buffalo, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 1989).

Hyman, Ray. The Elusive Quarry : a Scientific Appraisal of Psychical Research (Buffalo, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 1989).

Reinforcement Effect and Displacement Trend: No Wine in Old Bottles? by James E. Crandall

Last updated 27-Oct-2015

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