Expectation affects perception
One thing people often will tell others going into a paranormal investigation is to have no expectations. This is great advice and should apply to everyone. Before heading out to an investigation we are usually pretty excited. Even packing the kit can be exciting. You may chat with your friends and team about how excited you are to investigate a location that go to all the time and last time you had a crazy night. 'What is in store for us tonight?' Maybe it is a location on your bucket list that everyone talks about and finally you get your chance to go there. As much as you try not to expect anything to happen, maybe you unknowingly do, or you at least hope that things will happen. It is this expectation or even hope, that can work against us not only because of disappointed, but for other possibilities as well.
By expecting a spirit to appear, are we making it so?
I have spoken a lot in the past about the concept of the Philip experiment and the possibilities it can offer. Parapsychology dedicates a lot of it's time researching the possibility that our mind is able to manifest paranormal phenomena. So by walking into a wrong and expecting to have activity, are we unknowingly causing it? I often use Black Rock House as an example to get my point across. We take our guests into a room and explain that this is Annie's room and she was around 56 years old and passed away in her sleep. She was a servant and liked to cook bread etc etc. I have a room now focused on her story. We start asking question like Annie did you bake some bread today? Is activity we receiving because Annie is in the room or is it because we are so focused on her story we are unknowingly making it happen?
We also have to look at the power of suggestion too. By expecting something to happen, does this mean every noise suddenly becomes paranormal? You hear stories of a certain area in a room that people seem to be affected. You stand in that area and suddenly you feel the same thing that everyone talks about. Are you actually feeling it, or have you talked yourself into feeling it through the power of suggestion?
Does our presence change things?
If a tree falls in the forest, and there’s nobody around to hear, does it make a sound?
Philosophers have long argued that sound, colour, taste, smell and touch are all secondary qualities which exist only in our minds. This essentially means that hearing a sound for example is considered to be a human experience rather than some kind of physical phenomena. So if we were to ask the question 'if a tree falls in the forest, and there's nobody around to hear does it make a sound?' As there are no 'ears' to hear the sound the answer to this question is often no. The idea was proposed by Irish philosopher George Berkeley in his 1710 book called A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge. Unperceived existence is a philosophical term that plays between existence and perception, something which I found profoundly relevant when it comes to paranormal phenomena.
Can we know that objects continue to exist even when they are not being perceived by anyone?
Well, perhaps we cannot be absolutely certain of their continued existence during the times when they are not being perceived, but common sense tells us that in all probability they do continue to exist even when not being perceived.
can we know that objects exist even when they are being perceived?
Surely no one would be so skeptical as to hold that we cannot know objects exist when they are being directly perceived. Common sense tells us that of course we can know that objects exist during the intervals that we are directly perceiving them.
John Locke - An essay concerning human understanding 1690
Veering away from philosophy, lets look at actual paranormal investigating. In order to observe paranormal phenomena, we need to enter a location to do so. While we may not be in the room at the time, we are likely setting up equipment like recorders or video cameras to be able to observe any possible activity. Us entering a location means that just like in the butterfly effect theory above, just by us being there, we have changed things. I know this is a question I have actually asked myself on several occasions. Is activity occurring because there is a potential haunting, or is it happening because I am there? I know that many people who actively investigate the paranormal think this often as well. Do you ever hear someone refer to themselves as a paranormal beacon? Whenever they are around activity just seems to gravitate towards them. Some people feel it is due to some sort if psychic gift they may have and that spirits resonate with them. Others feel it is because they have a special connection with the other side because it is something that they are out there doing so often.
We all have a different perception when it comes to the paranormal. If we apply the above when it comes to the paranormal, we ask the question - is paranormal activity happening when there is no one to observe it? This then means that paranormal phenomena purely comes down to how a person observes this phenomena and then how they perceive it. The way they perceive it in a lot ways can be affected by what their expectation is before they even walk through the door.
Expectation alters perception
Remember expectation alters perception. You can go into an investigation thinking that because you are investigating the number 1 advertised most haunted location in the world that you are going to have an amazing night full of paranormal activity. What happens by the end of the night? You may have had a few things happen, but if it hasn't lived up to your expectations, you are going to walk away disappointed. Alternatively you may have someone who have never investigated before and was unaware of the 'hype' surrounding a location. They don't have an expectation and have nothing to compare it to. If a few things happen no matter how small, they are likely to walk away pretty excited and intrigued. You have people walking in and experiencing the same thing, but their perception of how it went is completely different.
It is important when it comes to the paranormal, to walk in with a clear mind free of expectation. If you set a bar high, it is going to be harder to reach. Open yourself up to the possibility that you could be wrong. Talk to your peers. Review the evidence. Remember things like a recording and in particular video recordings are usually an unbiased point of view that show things as a whole and as they really happened. Don't just review the evidence but play back your experience in your head as well and compare the two. You will also perceive things differently when you aren't in the heat on the moment running high on adrenaline. Hindsight can offer a lot of clarity.
“Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.”
― Alexander Pope
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