2021 Vol. 85(1) 16-27

Sally Ann Drucker
Parapsychology Press


Smith, P. H. (2021). What’s in a Name? A Lot, Actually. Journal of Parapsychology, 85,16-27. http://doi.org/10.30891/jopar.2021.01.05


What’s in a Name? A Lot, Actually

Paul H. Smith, PhD

Advisory Board, the International Remote Viewing Association

A research discipline is partly defined by its terms. Parapsychology is no exception. I consider recent calls to change some long-standing terms in the field, primarily “parapsychology” and “extrasensory perception.” I specify desiderata for the terms we want to use to identify the nature of our field and the phenomena we explore, then discuss some reasons the changes in question were proposed, including an exploration of goals and motivations for those proposed changes. Counter-arguments against these reasons are then presented, along with justification for preserving the current terminology. I then argue that, though well intended, the strategies and alternatives presented cannot achieve the goals they intend. The two terms most under pressure are defended, and explanations offered as to why these terms remain the best candidates. One undisclosed motivation for such changes may be what I call “Parapsychology’s Stockholm Syndrome,” reflecting the phenomenon also known as “identity with the aggressor” — suggesting that some of the motivation for offering such name changes may arise from the desire to “fit in” with mainstream science, which has long marginalized scientific parapsychology. Rather than rebranding or renaming, we should instead fight for our terminology against attacks from mainstream “aggressors” and their skeptic allies.


parapsychology, extrasensory perception, ESP, psychophysical, anomalous cognition