Do scientists and engineers have fewer exceptional human experiences (EHEs) than other people? According to the IONS study, reported in the August 2018 issue of the journal Explore, the answer, surprisingly, is no. The paper on this study is one of the most-cited Explore article in 2021 – in part because its findings are so intriguing and counter-intuitive.
Dr. Helané Wahbeh, the Director of Research at IONS, was the lead scientist for a research experiment that resulted in the paper titled “Exceptional Experiences Reported By Scientists and Engineers.” The study involved nearly 900 self-selected subjects including psi “enthusiasts,” members of the general public, and people in STEM fields (scientists and engineers). Co-authored by IONS Scientists Dean Radin, Julia Mossbridge, Cassandra Vieten, and Arnaud Delorme, the paper’s abstract explains the context of the study: “Because such experiences are associated with superstition, and some violate currently accepted materialist conventions, one might assume that scientists and engineers would be much less likely to report instances of these experiences than the general population.”
The research group invited hundreds of thousands of random individuals from the three studied groups to respond to a survey. In the long run, about 900 completed the survey, which asked about the individuals’ “belief” in EHEs and then asked about those individuals’ actual psi experiences.
Not surprisingly, psi enthusiasts were most likely to believe in and have EHEs. But the statistical differences among the groups were very small. Asked whether they’d had one or more of 25 different EHEs, here’s how the groups responded:
94.0% of the general population (n = 283)
93.2% of scientists and engineers (n = 175)
99.3% of enthusiasts (n = 441)
Interestingly, the study even found that “The scientists had higher values than the general population on 21 of the 25 items, three of which were significantly higher (“Received information about an object by touching it,” “Received important information through your dreams,” and “Seen something in your mind’s eye about an object, person, location, or physical event”).
The final conclusions are clear: psi experiences are not limited to those with a particular worldview, nor are they correlated with a certain set of beliefs. In fact, “EHEs occur frequently in both the general population and in scientists and engineers.”