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Investigating conscious, psychophysiological, and behavioural measures of covert surveillance detection via nonconventional means

Investigating conscious, psychophysiological, and behavioural measures of covert surveillance detection via nonconventional means

Friday, Ross (2019) Investigating conscious, psychophysiological, and behavioural measures of covert surveillance detection via nonconventional means. PhD thesis, University of Greenwich.

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Many people have turned to see someone behind them due to a 'sense' they were being watched. Others have 'inexplicably' felt as though they were the focus of others' attention, despite there
being no conventional means via which this could be detected (Sheldrake, 2003). The most popular and enduring of the theoretical explanations for these events is that extrasensory awareness was evolutionarily advantageous, and therefore may have developed during an era in which danger was ever-present with survival depending on such capabilities (Sheldrake, 2005).

The term 'extrasensory perception' is often abbreviated to ESP and was adopted by Rhine (1934), a Duke University psychologist who employed it to refer to the claimed reception of information gained via the mind, rather than the recognized physical senses. Such abilities include telepathy, intuition, psychometry, clairvoyance, clairaudience, and their associated trans- temporal operations as retrocognition or precognition. Such phenomena are also often referred to as a 'sixth sense' or 'second sight'.

Evidence supporting the existence of extrasensory surveillance detection would have implications beyond purely scientific interest, yet the phenomena remains under-researched and may benefit from a fresh approach. The research conducted as part of the current thesis aimed to examine not only the possible existence of covert surveillance detection - but also which psychosocial and neurological factors may predict this ability.

Research concerning an individual‟s ability to detect attention which they could not be aware of via conventional senses has previously been restricted to the psychic staring effect, also known as scopaesthesia - a phenomenon in which people respond via non-conventional means to being the subject of another person‟s gaze (Sheldrake 2003). However, this new investigation furthered the research by incorporating the previously uninvestigated sense of being listened to as well as seen. The existence of these abilities was gauged during a series of experiments and was measured via a) the accuracy of participants‟ self-reports of being watched or listened to, b) psychophysiological reactions determined by electrodermal activity (EDA) which measures the electrical conductance of the participant‟s skin to indicate a response, and c) differences in their behaviour during surveillance.

Self-reports (Colwell et al., 2000; Peterson, 1978; Sheldrake, 2000), behavioural differences (Chen, 1937; Cottrell et al., 1968; Dashiell, 1935; Platt et al., 1967; Travis, 1925; Triplett, 1898), and EDA (Colwell et al,. 2000; Peterson, 1978; Sheldrake, 2000; Williams, 1983) have all provided significant evidence of extrasensory detection in previous research, however they had
never been combined in a single study; doing so provided the opportunity to cross reference the results, and to directly compare these methodologies.

This original and unique fusion of neuroscientific, parapsychological, forensic, anomalistic, and psychosocial factors represented an essential and progressive step in understanding possible covert surveillance detection, and its psychosocial and neurological predictors such as schizotypy and temporal lobe lability - and it produced findings both expected and surprising. Through a series of studies which were adapted and improved upon based on the results of the experiments which preceded them, the researcher was able to uncover not only which methods of covert surveillance detection were the most effective, but also the circumstances under which
they were most sensitive.

Analysis of the resulting data revealed individuals to be able to self-report surveillance they could not be aware of via conventional senses as the literature would suggest (Sheldrake, 2003), however the importance of addressing participant expectation and the reporting bias associated with this was made clear. A major finding of the research however was the discovery that peoples‟ behaviour could be significantly altered by covert surveillance, as results demonstrated that participants‟ decision-making ability was affected by whether they were being watched and/or listened to during a cognitive task.

Perhaps the most surprising element of the collection of experiments though was that through the evolving methodology, it was revealed that the stress involved in being tested may be a necessary element for effective research to be conducted in this area. Indeed, by creating and adding stress to experiments in which it was previously absent, the researcher was able to capture positive results via participants‟ EDA even though this physiological measurement had been shown to be an ineffective measurement of surveillance detection when the participants were relaxed. When similar results were found following a field experiment based on the laboratory research, the researcher developed a theory that stress or threat is an essential element which should be included in future research related to this topic, as well as considered in real-world environments.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Surveillance detection, covert surveillance,
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Faculty / School / Research Centre / Research Group: Faculty of Education, Health & Human Sciences
Faculty of Education, Health & Human Sciences > School of Human Sciences (HUM)
Last Modified: 11 Sep 2023 07:45

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