Epistemic Authority and Neutrality in the Discourse of Psychic Practitioners: Toward a Naturalistic Pa rapsychology

Wooffitt, Robin
March 2007
Journal of Parapsychology;Spring-Fall2007, Vol. 71 Issue 1/2, p69
Academic Journal
It is argued that although there have been experimental tests of psychic practitioners (mediums, clairvoyants, Tarot readers, and so on), demonstrations of paranormally acquired information in real-life consultations with practitioners have been relatively ignored. Analysis of these routine consultations can provide insight into what are, for members of the public themselves, parapsychological phenomena in their natural settings. It is also argued that contemporary demonstrations of parapsychologically acquired information are mainly linguistically mediated events. Using a qualitative method for the analysis of naturally occurring verbal interaction, this article examines transcripts of recordings of real-life consultations between psychic practitioners and their clients or audience members. The article describes recurrent features of interaction through which the participants address the practitioners' epistemic authority: the source or basis of their ostensible paranormally acquired knowledge. The article concludes by comparing the approach adopted here to explicitly sceptical accounts of psychics' discourse. It is also argued that naturalistic, ecologically valid research of the kind illustrated here complements established experimental traditions in parapsychology.


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