Talking to the Dead, Listening to Yourself

An Empirical Study on the Psychological Aspects of Interpreting Electronic Voice Phenomena
by John E. Buckner and Rebecca A. Buckner
Previously published in the Skeptic Magazine Vol. 17, No. 1, 2012


A common theme in ITC research concerns how people experience the phenomena. Studies conducted by the ATransC indicate that, on average, people correctly understand Class A examples about 25% of the time. (For Class B and C transform EVP radio-sweep, that approaches 0%.) Dr. Mark Leary has conducted similar studies with similar results. See also: Phantom Voices

This common theme of so little agreement in what is said in a reported EVP example naturally leads to a second common theme. That is, the presentation of EVP examples to the public by EVP researchers and practitioners that few or no listeners are able to understand. This leads to an unavoidable assumption that the practitioner is delusional.

Of course, the assumption that people who believe in things paranormal are delusional is contagious, and ultimately leads to qualified researchers avoiding anything paranormal, little or no funding for research and an increased probability that the conservative mainstream will eventually begin enforcing anti-fortunetelling laws … again.

Here is an article that was published in the Skeptic Magazine. It can be read on John Buckner’s page on We are offering it to you here because it is a reasonably well-considered study that asks all of the right questions. The fact that it was published by the skeptical should not overshadow the message it offers to the paranormal community: Pay attention to how you look to the public. Either follow the rigor of using a listening panel and carefully planned protocols for your field work or help the rest of us by refraining from sharing your examples with the public.

From the article

“Overall, the results of this study support the psychological explanations for EVP. The phenomenon was reliably produced in the sense that teams generally identified potential EVP, but they were inconsistent in identifying when an EVP occurred or in their interpretation of the alleged communication. Still, it is possible that the one matched EVP is a result of communication with the deceased. Another possibility is that noise was generated from some other source and follows a particular pattern, which caused the teams to interpret the noise in a similar fashion. We feel the latter explanation is more likely the case, given the physical explanations for EVP, such as human error. Unfortunately, the limited experience we’ve had sharing this information with proponents of EVP has been somewhat disheartening. The matching EVP identified by two of the teams seems to over-shadow the 150 potential EVPs identified that did not match. This is an example of the confirmation bias, or the tendency to look for and find confirming evidence for one’s beliefs and to ignore the disconfirming evidence. This is a very common effect found in paranormal circles, most notably psychic readings in which the sitter remembers the handful of hits and forgets the numerous misses.”      This article is here.

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