OBE Screening Questionnaire Project
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What is an 'Out of Body Experience'?

The Out-of-Body Experience (OBE) has been a topic of scientific psychological research for over a century. Phenomenologically, the OBE is characterized by a multiplicity of features, but those most commonly reported in the literature are: a floating sensation, seeing the physical body from a remote point in space, and the impression of travelling to distant locations. Surveys conducted over a number of decades have put incidence rates in the general population at between 8 to 15 percent, with some people reporting having had several OBEs in their lifetime.

OBEs have been reported to occur under a variety of different circumstances, e.g.

The majority of contemporary OBE research has focused on issues concerning either the veracity of the phenomenon, or to determine more precisely the underlying processes by which these phenomena may manifest themselves. This has been achieved through exploring individual differences between experients (OBErs) and non-experients (non-OBErs) or identifying circumstances surrounding OBE occurrence.

What is this project about?

The research we are currently conducting addresses a crucial aspect of OBE research. When surveys are used to study the OBE they usually provide a brief definition of experience and ask people to say if they have had one or not using a single ‘yes/no’ question. However, there are other similar hallucinatory experiences that could be mistaken for an OBE (e.g. autoscopy), so by using only one question to screen for the experience there is some room for error when interpreting the results of research studies employing this method. The aim of this study is to develop a multiple question ‘screening’ tool to enable researchers to more accurately discriminate between those who have had OBEs and those who have not. The study is being carried out in two phases.

Phase 1: Exploring the phenomenological features of OBEs:

Status: Completed March 2014.

The first phase involved an exploration of the range of phenomenological features of OBEs. To achieve this, a broad qualitative analysis of OBE literature, case reports and in-depth interviews with out-of-body experients (OBErs) was carried out.

Phase 2: Development of an OBE 'screening' scale:

The second phase used the findings of the first phase work to develop a new questionnaire scale that examined the features of OBEs in detail using a larger sample of participants. This questionnaire development is being carried out in two stages.

Stage 1: Initial questionnaire development

Status: Completed September 2014.

A 42-item questionnaire was piloted as an online survey. Data were collected over an eight-week recruitment period from mid-June until mid-August 2014.

Stage 2: Revised questionnaire development

Status: Ongoing (estimated completion in early December 2014).

A revised and re-designed questionnaire based on the findings from Stage 1 and is now online for further testing and validation. This stage of the study runs from early-October to early-November 2014. For this stage we need further participants.

If you are interested in taking part please follow this link to our Request for Research Participation page to find out more.