Abstract Details

When Realities Collide: A Methodology for the Systematic Study of Synchronistic Phenomena  Lesley Roy , James Clement Van Pelt (Center for Synchronicity Studies - Synchro Project, New Haven, CT )   P5

As commonly used, "coincidence" designates an event determined not by human influence or intention, but rather by a random element, yet which delivers meaning in a way that connotes intention--a message breaking through the window of a random (or wildly improbable) event. The idea that ontologically objective and veridical meaning can emerge from improbability and randomness challenges the dominant paradigm that human consciousness is the only source for meaning. The term used by Carl Jung for this encounter is synchronicity--in essence, meaningful coincidence--which he believed implied an immaterial domain called the collective unconscious. Since then that explanation has remained one theory among many, while skeptics regard the phenomenon as self-delusion or an indication of a poor grasp of the laws of probability. Yet there is little hard data to support either presumption. How does one study such an evanescent phenomenon? Russell Hurlbert has collected data on the raw contents of consciousness by paging subjects at random who then record their momentary mental contents. Given that the experience of synchronicity is a specific subset of momentary mental contents, a more structured approach is required. The word Synchro has been coined to designate a well-defined and vivid instance of synchronicity. This presentation proposes ways that evidence related to the Synchro phenomenon can be accumulated reliably and conveniently. A tentative classification scheme--a taxonomy of coincidence--has been developed to guide that effort. A unique collection methodology takes the step from pagers to iPhones. Subjects are assigned iPhones programmed with a custom application that facilitates reporting the traits of a Synchro experience immediately after it occurs. The data is then uploaded automatically from the iPhone to the project's data collection server. To standardize these reports, a classification method called RS3 --Roy Synchro Symbol System--is built into the custom "app". Standard Mac/Windows typographic characters are adapted to represent factors shaping the Synchro experience such as temporal proximity, context and mindset, degree of anomaly and low probability, intensity and significance, frequency and repetition, and others. As field reports accumulate, ongoing analysis of the growing database may reveal patterns constituting evidence supporting one theory or another from which plausible, falsifiable hypotheses can be derived concerning the ontological, epistemological, and/or psychological implications of the Synchro experience--if any. An early finding is that such events are very often erased from memory rapidly and irretrievably. Using the iPhone camera, the subject can take a photograph "in the moment" to aid in recalling the specifics of that particular Synchro. A third tool is the project website (synchrocenter.org) at which individuals from large sample groups (e.g. a student body) can report events they perceive as synchronistic, with the goal of accumulating a substantial collection of anecdotal evidence, which can be examined for possible correlations with the more rigorously reported data.