James Turrell: Ganzfeld: Tight End 2005, Yorkshire Sculpture Park - recreating a ‘ganzfeld experience’ where atmosphere diversity and the powerful mass of light gradually become physically felt. (c) http://www.flickr.com/photos/andrewpaulcarr/

Anomalous Experience Research Unit

The Anomalous Experience Research Unit (AERU) was established in the summer of 2006 to research into the contexts, characteristics and consequences of experiences which suggest anomalous psychological processes and agencies, and exceptional states of consciousness. Although based in the Department of Sociology at York, the Unit seeks to develop interdisciplinary social science research on anomalous experiences.


Research Projects

Research in the Unit addresses four (overlapping) issues:

  • Language, social interaction and anomalous experiences
  • The exploration and application of new social scientific methods for the study of consciousness
  • The role of the researcher in the study of anomalous experiences; ethics and reflexivity
  • Anomalous experiences in everyday life

Current research projects include:

  • Cross cultural comparison of the discourse of anomalous experiences
  • Communication and conscious experience; the evidential status of introspection and anecdote
  • The internet and psychic/spiritual services
  • Ethical and emotional labour of consultation with psychic practitioners
  • New technologies and the study of naturally-occurring anomalous experiences
  • Group interaction and ambiguous stimuli
  • The sociology of science and parapsychology



    • Rachael Hayward (Doctoral researcher); social interaction in paranormal research groups
    • Isaac Hughes (Doctoral researcher); Sociology of science and consciousness studies
    • Dr Clare Jackson (Lecturer); interaction in psychic demonstations
    • Sarah Roberts (Doctoral researcher); the emotional labour of mediumship
    • Matthew Spokes (Doctoral researcher); music and altered states of consciousness
    • Germaine Guenther (Doctoral researcher); coincidences in everyday life
    • Dr Darren Reed (Lecturer); technology and performance in psychic demonstrations
    • Prof Robin Wooffitt (Director); the language of anomalous experiences

Associate Members

  • Dr Madeleine Castro (Department of Psychology, Leeds Metropolitan University, UK) ; communication and transcendental experiences
  • Dr Hannah Gilbert (Convenor, Exploring the Extraordinary); mediumship and identity
  • Dr Nicola Holt (Dept of Psychology, University of West of England, Bristol); consciousness, creativity and anomalous experiences
  • Professor Yasushi Ohashi (School of Psychological Practises, College of Integrated Human and Social Welfare Studies Shukutoku University, Japan): Japanese narratives of anomalous experiences


For further information contact:

Prof Robin Wooffitt
Tel: 01904 433063
Email: robin.wooffitt@york.ac.uk


Recent Publications and Presentations

Ohashi, Y, Wooffitt, R, Jackson, CT & Nixon, Y (2013), 'Discourse, culture and extraordinary experiences: observations from a comparative, qualitative analysis of Japanese and UK English accounts of paranormal phenomena’ ' Western Journal of Communication, vol 77, no. 4, pp. 466-488

Wooffitt, R, Jackson, C, Reed, D, Ohashi, Y & Hughes, I (2013), 'Self-identity, authenticity and the Other: The spirits and audience management in stage mediumship' Language and Communication, vol 33, no. 2, pp. 93-105
Wooffitt, R. and Holt, N. (2011) Looking In and Speaking Out: Introspection, forthcoming, Communication, Consciousness. Exeter, UK: Imprint Academic.  

Wooffitt, R. and Holt, N. 2011 'Introspective discourse and the poetics of subjective experience’  Research on Language and Social Interaction, 44: 135-156.

Gilbert, H. and Metcalfe, S. 'New Approaches to the Study of Extraordinary Experiences' presented at the The Sussex Centre for Cultural Studies Conference: Paranormal Cultures University of Sussex, June 2010.

Metcalfe, S. 'Therapeutic Emotional Labour, Relational Dynamics and Ethics in the Work of Mediums and other Psychic Practitioners'. Intellectual Party 2010 Lancaster Sociology Summer Conference June 2010.

Wooffitt, R., Holt, N. and Allistone, S. (2010) 'Introspection as institutional practice: reflections on the attempt to capture conscious experience in a parapsychology experiment' in C. Murray and R. Wooffitt (Eds.) Anomalous Experiences and Qualitative Research. Special Issue, Qualitative Research in Psychology, 5-20.

Murray, C. and Wooffitt, R. (eds.) (2010) Analysing Anomalous Experiences. Special Edition, Qualitative Research in Psychology.

Wooffitt, R. and Holt, N. (2010) 'Silence and its organisation in the pragmatics of introspection' Discourse Studies.

Ryan. T. 'Cyberpsychics: Subjective experiences of psychic readings on the internet' presented at the ARRC Conference, University of York, July, 2009.

Wooffitt, R. and Gilbert, H. (2008) 'Discourse, rhetoric and the accomplishment of mediumship in stage demonstrations' Mortality 13(3): 222-240.

Wooffitt, R., and Allistone, S. (2008) 'Participation, procedure and accountability: reported speech markers in a parapsychology experiment' Discourse Studies 10: 407-427.

Wooffitt, R. (2007) 'Epistemic authority and neutrality in the discourse of psychic practitioners: towards a naturalistic parapsychology' Journal of Parapsychology 71: 69-101.

Wooffitt, R. (2007) 'Communication and laboratory experience in parapsychology experiments: demand characteristics and the social organization of interaction.' British Journal of Social Psychology. 46(3) 477-498.


Research funding and current projects

Members of the Unit have received research funding from the Bial Foundation (Portugal), the Perrott-Warrick Fund (Trinity College, Cambridge), the Parapsychological Association (New York), the University of York Innovation & Research Priming Fund, and the Society for Psychical Research.

Funded projects since 2002:

  • Cross cultural analysis of Japanese and English accounts of anomalous experiences (2009-2010)
  • 'Psi related experiences and spatialization: the use of geographic information systems to investigate spontaneous psi phenomena and experient profiling' (2009 - 2009)
  • 'Creativity, schizotypy, paranormal experiences and mental health: developing a new cognitive-parapsychological paradigm for the assessment of psi performance in the laboratory' (2006-2007)
  • 'Describing the contents of consciousness: a study of the production of reports of mental imagery using parapsychological data, and a methodological review' (2006 - 2008)
  • 'A sociological investigation of reports of conscious experience' (2004)
  • 'A qualitative analysis of rapport and alignment in experimenter-subject interaction in ganzfeld experiments' (2004 -2004)
  • 'Social science, discourse and anomalous human experiences' (2002)