PERPS: The Micro and Macro View

The Micro and Macro View


By Theresa Byess

To understand PERPS, a little background is in order.  This is the first note in a series that will attempt to explain PERPS and IRG processes in the hopes we will develop a better understanding of the phenomena we are attempting to study.

IRG has spent many years researching various disciplines and theories, some pertaining to the paranormal and others did not.  We had concerns, much like we did when Gateway was born, that fundamentally inaccurate assumptions were based on simple observations, like the ancient belief that the earth was flat, the sun, moon, planets, and stars rotated around us.  There were many theories floating around out there with no real empirical data to back it up either way.  These theories are connected to everything from weather, climate conditions, geology, geography, and many more.  IRG wanted to explore which of these theories, on both the proponents’ and opponents’ side of the debate, were at least plausible, if at all, and based solely on empirical scientific research data.

Case in point.  There is a theory that population density will have an effect on the number of reports of paranormal claims.  I, like many, assumed the higher the population of an area, the higher the number of reports of paranormal occurrences there will be.  It seemed like a reasonable assumption on the surface but we wanted to find out if it was accurate.  Exactly how might the population density of an area truly affect the number of claims of paranormal activity?

With PERPS, one of the hypotheses we are attempting to explore is whether or not cities with higher populations will generate a higher number of claims of spiritually-related paranormal activity.  On the skeptic’s side of the debate, the belief is it is some form of mass delusion or hysteria related to an overactive imagination or some other psychological, mental, emotional, and/or physical illness, disease, and/or disability, hallucinations, misidentification, pareidolia, blatant falsification or exaggeration, an ignorance of natural processes, or some other “naturalistic explanation”.  There are opinions that such experiences are related primarily to factors such as culture bias, spiritual beliefs, education level, disease/illness, population density, poverty level, and a myriad of other factors.

On the proponent’s side, higher numbers of reports are merely a justification of the truth and validity of such claims.  If more people are witness to the same events, chances are, there is a higher likelihood that it is based on truth.  There is obviously something to the reports.  If 20 people, for example, pick the same man out of line-up, chances are the jury is going to believe those 20 people.  On the other hand, the defense may present statics of the seeming unreliability of eyewitness testimony.

Both of these assumptions are reasonably viable arguments.  However, as a whole, they are both lacking when it comes to being open to the possibility that one or both could be wrong entirely or to varying degrees.  In general, many are utterly unwilling to waiver in their beliefs or personal opinions despite potential evidence to the contrary.  I refer to these types of people as delusional deniers and irrational believers.  Marcello Truzzi coined the term “pseudoskeptic s” to describe this group of delusional deniers, who denied emphatically in the face of evidence to the contrary.  There are pseudo-skeptics but there are also pseudo-believers.  Unfortunately, this field has been inundated with both types and, in my own personal opinion, this severely hinders progress in this field.

With that being said, IRG’s research is based on the happy medium that exists between these two groups of the far right and the far left – an area we refer to as the Neutral Zone (NZ).   Our purpose is to remain as unbiased and objective as possible.  Our hope is to explore the questions many have in this field to see if there are truly any plausible explanations regardless of which side of the fence they fall on.  Obviously, there is “something” going on that demands serious scientific inquiry and study, an assumption based on the observation of strange happenings existing over hundreds of thousands of years.  Like so many things, we hypothesize, these occurrences are going to be based on a wide range of factors and there is not going to be a “one size fits all” explanation but a series of better and better approximations.  There are only going to be general factors from which to base observations.  There are going to be key indicators that certain types of spiritually-related phenomena, for example, are related more to population density while there are going to be other key-indicators which “defy rational explanation” to a degree in which we can currently explain.  There will be profiles that can be created and applied to different situations.

This level of thinking coincides with IRG’s belief that these types of phenomena are best studied in terms of micro and macro.  We have previously published information on this topic in another note, which can be found here:

To put it simply, “macro” means to study something on a larger scale which cannot typically be observed while “micro” is on a much smaller scale and can be observed and identified.  In other words, micro studies individual topics while macro studies whole or general topics.  Like so many disciplines studied in this manner, micro- and macroeconomics, micro- and macroevolution, and micro- and macrophotography, they must be studied separately.

Why is this essential to studying this type of phenomena?  Simply knowing (or at least assuming we know) that interests and other factors are central to any decision-making process is not sufficient for predicting how people will react to perceived spiritually-related phenomena.  A framework must be developed that will allow us to analyze the phenomena and solutions to each paranormal question.  This framework will give us the power to reach informed conclusions and decisions about what is happening with these types of experiences.

To better understand this concept, we must first define that which we are attempting to study.  We call this Spiritualology, a new term coined by IRG, – the study of perceived anomalous phenomena related to the idea of spirits, ghosts, and malevolent/benign beings by the application of various scientific disciplines, such as various social sciences.    The goal is not yet to study the phenomena itself.  It’s a fact-finding mission designed to study people first and the phenomena later based on the results of those studies.

Spiritualnomics, according to IRG, is one sub-category of Spiritualology and seeks explanations of events and occurrences and, as such, is a part of social science.  All currently accepted social sciences are meant to analyze human behavior and decision-making, as opposed to the physical sciences, which generally analyze topics such as atoms, subatomic particles, and other nonhuman phenomena.

Spiritualnomics is further divided into two types of analysis: microspiritualnomics (MISN) and macrospiritualnomics (MASN).

MISN is the part of the Spiritualnomics analysis that studies the individual aspects of Spiritualology.  It is comparable to looking through a microscope to focus on the smaller parts of the new scientific discipline.  It is concerned, for example, with the effects of the population density of an area on the number of cases reported relative to other factors, such as cultural background or spiritual beliefs.

MASN, dealing with aggregates, or  the total amounts or quantities, is the part of Spiritualnomics analysis that studies the phenomena as a whole, dealing with the nationwide phenomena.  Issues such as how the weather and/or climate in a particular region, the rate of nationwide unemployment, and the general culture affects the number of cases reported would be studied under this discipline.

Microspiritualnomics is the basis for macrospiritualnomics because even though macrospiritualnomic analysis aggregates are being studied and examined, those aggregates are the result of information produced by individuals on the micro scale.

Following the logics of micro- and macroeconomics, we can apply certain principles in this case as well.  One such assumption is called the Rationality Assumption, which is an assumption of economics that states “we assume that individuals do not intentionally make decisions that would leave them worse off”.  The distinction here is that economics is not meant to explore the “why” factor of people’s decision making.  It is meant to explore the “what” factor – what do people actually do?  The “why” factor is a matter for psychology.  Similarly, MISN and MASN do not attempt to answer the “why” factor.  Instead, it is an attempt to analyze the “what” and “how” factors.  What affect does the population density of an area or the nation (nationally or internationally) have, if any, on the number of cases reported?  How does the weather/climate of an area or region appear to affect the number of cases reported?  How does the demographics, including but not limited to age, race, education level, crime rates, and unemployment of an area or region affect the number of cases reported?

Spiritualnomics is a social science, albeit unofficially, that employs the same types of methods used in other sciences, such as physics, chemistry, and biology.  It uses models or theories.  Models are simplified representations of the world used to help us understand, explain, and predict phenomena.  Like so many social sciences, Spiritualnomics makes little use of laboratory experiments in which changes in variables are studied under controlled conditions.  Instead, models and theories are tested by examining what has already happened.  It is important to note also that no model of any science is complete in the sense that it completely details every existing interrelationship.  Models are by their definition abstractions from reality making it conceptually impossible to generate a perfectly complete realistic model.

Every model or theory must be based on a set of assumptions, defined as the set of circumstances in which the model in most likely applicable.  If the goal is to explain observed behavior, the simplicity or complexity of the model being used would be irrelevant.  However, if a simple model can explain observed behavior in repeated patterns or settings as well as a complex one, a simple model would more than likely have more value and be easier to use.

Like many other sciences, Spiritualnomics employs the ceteris peribus assumption, which means other things being equal or constant.  Consider an example from the world of economics.  We know one of the most important factors involved with how much of a product a particular family will purchase is based on the price of that product relative to other products.  We understand other factors influence this decision-making process, such as income and taste.  Regardless of those other factors, they are held constant when the relationship between changes in prices and changes in the quantity of the purchased product are examined.  While this concept of “other things being equal” is still being explored and refined as it pertains to MISN and MASN, it will ultimately prove to be key in studying Spiritualnomics.  Like economics, it would be impossible to isolate the effects of changes in one variable on another if we always have to worry about the vast number of variables that may also enter into the analysis.

Another economic precept that applies to Spritualnomics is that of Opportunity Cost (OC).  The concept is based on the idea that when you do something, you lose something else.  You lose the opportunity to engage in the next highest-valued alternative.  The cost of the choice is what is lost.  Consider this example.  In March of 2013, IRG published a note titled Power and Energy.  In this note, we hypothesized that investigators and researchers may inadvertently be harming their chances of obtaining more substantial evidence with the introduction of multiple pieces of equipment and other experimental apparatuses or energy sources.  The reason is, in physics, each addition of energy creates a change in the state of matter (or more precisely in electromagnetic radiation).  As a result, multiple sources of energy in a location may cause erratic changes in the Spiritual Energy Form (SEF) a term coined by IRG to describe the various types of observed spiritually-related phenomena, such as apparitions and shadows.  The result is what we call Diminished Potential Evidence (DPE).  This diminished potential evidence is the opportunity cost of using multiple scientific instruments or other energy sources, ceteris peribus.  This, of course, is merely at hypothesis at this point and is one we are attempting to test in the near future when we hope to understand how one perceived spiritual form changes to another.

We are currently exploring how other economics principles apply, if at all, as well and predict many of the general laws of economics will prove useful with a slightly different applications, such as the Production Possibility Curve and the laws of supply and demand.  The implications of this are staggering.  Why?  With this information, we will finally be able to apply mathematical equations and graphs to the research.  Graphs are simply visual representations of relationships between two variables, in this case the relationship between people and perceived spiritually-related phenomena.  It could potentially provide the empirical data needed in support of or against certain hypotheses surrounding it.   This will allow us to move one step further to understanding these phenomena.