A Pilot Study Exploring Relationships between Interoception, Mindfulness & Exceptional Experience

A Pilot Study Exploring the Relationships between Interoception, Mindfulness and Exceptional Experience

Christine Simmonds-Moore, David Mitchell & Maya Baumeister

University of West Georgia

Introduction: This project sought to explore how mindfulness and interoception correlate with different forms of exceptional experience (ExE) and to one another. Exceptional experiences (ExE) refer to a range of unusual but not uncommon ways of experiencing the world, including experiences that are often labeled as “paranormal”. Belz and Fach (2015) note that there are four main ways in which people experience ExE. These occur as anomalies in the self-model (internal), anomalies in the world model (external and on the body); dissociative phenomena (self and world are dissociated) and coincidence phenomena (unusual coincidences between the self and the world models). To date there is little research on the correlates of these different ways of experiencing ExE.

Meditation and meditative states of consciousness are associated with increased reporting of ExE and psi performance (Roney-Dougal, 2015; Penberthy et al., 2020). Mindfulness may be important in the etiology of ExE, given its association with an attitude or stance that is openly aware as well as focally attentive in a non-judgmental way to one’s inner and outer experience. Baer and colleagues (2008) identified five general qualities of mindfulness and this study explores how these different facets might relate to the different types of ExE.

Interoception refers to how much the body is being listened to within the current psycho-social context and may be important in understanding consciousness (Craig, 2009). This study explores how different aspects of interoception relate to the different types of ExE. Prior research suggests a relationship between certain types of meditation and increased interoception (Kok & Singer, 2017), but more research is needed to clarify the nature of the relationship. This study explores correlates between mindfulness, interoception, and ExE subscales and a qualitative analysis of open-ended questions about each ExE subtype.

Methods: This was a convergent mixed methods design. Psychology undergraduate and graduate students at UWG were invited to participate in an online survey which was set up in Qualtrics. The survey included a consent statement; demographics questions, a measure of mindfulness (the FFMQ), a measure of interoception (the MAIA), and the PAGE-R measure for exceptional experiences (Fach, Atmanspacher, Landolt, Wyss, & Rössler, 2013). This has 4 subscales measuring the different ways of experiencing ExE; ExE in the environment, internal ExE, knowledge-based ExE and physical ExE. Open-ended sections followed each subsection of the PAGE-R to ask participants to elaborate on the experience that they indicate having experienced in the questionnaire.

Results: There were 52 usable responses (14 were male and 38 were female). One of the 5 facets of mindfulness correlated positively and significantly with all 4 of the ExE subscales. Six of the 8 interoception subscales correlated positively and significantly with ExE subscales. Several mindfulness facets correlated positively and significantly with interoception subscales. A TA identified themes for each of the ways in which people described different forms of ExE.

The Parapsychological Association is an international professional organization of scientists and scholars engaged in the study of psi (or ‘psychic’) experiences, such as telepathy, clairvoyance, psychokinesis, psychic healing, and precognition. The primary objective of the PA is to achieve a scientific understanding of these experiences.

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Published on May 10, 2022