Coming to Terms With the Psi-Trickster

How to Cite

Kennedy, J. E. (2024). Coming to Terms With the Psi-Trickster. Journal of Scientific Exploration, 38(1), 110-121.


The trickster concept has been proposed as a useful description of paranormal phenomena in response to nine decades of inconsistent experimental results and the inability to develop sustained practical applications of psi. However, the trickster of mythology is too diverse and ambiguous for scientific research. The term ‘psi-trickster’ is used here to refer to an active factor that makes psi effects inconsistent and unsustainable but can be investigated scientifically. My transition from optimism about psi experiments to reluctantly accepting the psi-trickster is described. The primary purpose of this essay is to describe strategies and options for research given the apparent psi-trickster. Strategies for dealing with the psi-trickster include: (a) hope that continued experimental research will overcome it; (b) accept the far-reaching implications of the usual assumptions for psi experiments and develop models of unconscious conflicting psi influences by many different people; (c) investigate the possibility that reliable psi effects occur in rare conditions, such as after many years of intense meditation practice; (d) propose physics-based models; and (e) consider that factors other than the motivations of living persons may be involved. Experimental psi research has the ultimate goal of converting psi to technology. Like other technologies, the most advanced development will be for military uses and for corporate profits. Spontaneous psi experiences tend to inspire a sense of meaning in life and a belief that the person’s life is watched over, similar to mystical and near-death experiences. The psi-trickster characteristics prevent psi from being converted to technology and preserve its mysterious, mystical aspects. An in-depth investigation is needed to understand how paranormal beliefs and experiences affect a person’s life and society as a whole. This is the first step in investigating the psi-trickster characteristics and should include the distribution of beliefs in the population for the full spectrum from skeptics to proponents.
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