Major Concepts Included Under Anomalous - A Primer

The following are relevant non-prejudicial terms in the area of anomalistic experience developed by Vernon Neppe. All of these terms have previously been published.

ANOMALOUS: Historically, this term has become the preferred one in the whole discipline. This term was first used by Neppe

  • in research and lectures in the mid 1970s in his temporal lobe work (1)
  • in print first in 1984 in a book section (2) but in book chapter titles in 1992 and 1993 (3, 4)
  • in a classification in 1985 (5)
  • in a subjective incidence study in 1986 (6)

"Anomalous" has become a popular non-prejudicial way of describing unusual or strange of kinds of experience or unexplained meaningful coincidences or experiences of Delta kind.

"Delta" technically is even less prejudicial because "anomalous" is a self-excluding definition. As phenomena become understood, even if it were in the most complex quantum way, it could be argued they are no longer anomalous. Delta still would include the no longer anomalous terminology.

Anomalous Experience: synonymous with Anomalous Mental Phenomena (AMP) (see below. AMP unfortunately uses the term "mental" and a mental component is not proven for anomalous experience. A general term that includes AC and AP. This is also known as Psi.

DELTA: (7) Any kind of anomalous experience. A term suggested so as to avoid the prejudicial interpretations of terminology such as extrasensory and psychokinesis.

AFFERENT DELTA (7) refers to events that are on the receiving or afferent limb of the experience. The most common form of this is commonly called ESP - Extrasensory Perception.

EFFERENT DELTA (7) refers to events that are on the outgoing or efferent limb of the experience. The most common form of this is commonly called PK - Psychokinesis

SUBJECTIVE PARANORMAL EXPERIENCE (SPE) also called SUBJECTIVE PSI EXPERIENCE: (1) This is a non-prejudicial method of portraying the subject's impression that they have had experiences of such a peculiar or meaningful kind that they would perceive them as psychic or paranormal or of psi kind. These could be on either the afferent or efferent limbs or with combinations and involve the areas below listed under commonly used terms on anomalous experiences.

SUBJECTIVE PARANORMAL EXPERIENTS (SPE-ents) (1) Subjects who have experienced SPEs. Generally this refers to an experimental research group who have acknowledged having had large numbers of different kinds of SPEs using the low score subjective verifying criteria listed under Criteria For Low-Score Subjective Paranormal Experience

SUBJECTIVE PARANORMAL NON-EXPERIENTS (NSPE-ents) (1) Subjects who have not experienced SPEs. Generally this refers to an experimental or control group who have never acknowledged having had SPEs.

By using these two terms, SPE-ents and NSPE-ents this allows research study of two comparable subjective groups, not proving they are really "psychic" but looking at qualities of experiences just as one would examine "hallucinations".


Over the years, terminology for anomalous phenomena has evolved, even more. We recommend the use of terms like Anomalous Cognition, Anomalous Perturbation but as indicated we prefer the term Anomalous Experience to Anomalous Mental Phenomena. We recognize the contribution of The Cognitive Sciences Laboratory who have used the following as primary definitions:

Anomalous Cognition (AC) -- A form of information transfer in which all known sensorial stimuli are absent. In this process some individuals are able to gain access to information from events outside the range of their senses by a currently not understood mechanism. Several synonyms for this phenomenon are in use: Remote Viewing (RV), Clairvoyance, and ESP.

Anomalous Perturbation (AP) -- A form of interaction with matter in which all known physical mechanisms are absent. In other words, some individuals are alleged to be able to influence matter by an as yet unknown process. This phenomenon is also known Psychokinesis (PK).

Anomalous Mental Phenomena (AMP) implies a mental component so it is not used here -- A general term that includes AC and AP. This is also known as Psi.


Subjective Anomalous Experience (6): This term is synonymous with the more commonly used Subjective Paranormal Experience (1) except broader without even implying the subjective paranormality just the anomalous nature. The areas encompassing PK and ESP imply the term Psi. This is largely synonymous with Paranormality and in the lay-person sense Psychic experience.

Veridical Dream: A dream which coincides with an unexpected, unknown, past, present or future reality.

Simultaneous Dream: A dream which coincides in many details with a dream that another person has had.

Extrasensory Perception (ESP): Experience of, or response to, a target object, state event or influence without sensory contact (Ebon, 1978).

General Extrasensory Perception (GESP): ESP of any kind. This includes telepathy, clairvoyance, precognition and retrocognition. GESP involves a percipient (receiver) who endeavors to obtain information and sometimes a transmitter called an agent.

ESP Agent: The "sender" in telepathy, whose mental states are apprehended by the percipient (Ebon, 1978).

Several subgroups:

  • Based on time:
    1. Precognition: foreknowledge
    2. Contemporaneous ESP: current ESP
    3. Retrocognition: knowledge of the past
  • Based on agent and percipient
    1. Clairvoyance: no agent necessary to transmit information
    2. Telepathy: agent involved in transmission of information
    3. Psychometry: Divination of information from objects by the percipient
  • Special kinds of experimental GESP
    1. Remote viewing: atttempts to obtain information about a target from afar
    2. Ganzfeld: a certain specific kind of limiting auditory and visual environment
    3. Forced choice: predictions based on specific limited targets e.g. dice face, set of Zener cards.

Mediumistic Trance: A state of consciousness involving mental dissociation with post-trance amnesia induced by a medium, who claims to be controlled by a spirit (Chaplin, 1976).

Out-of-Body Experience: The impression that one is outside one's physical body.

Presence: An extrasensory awareness of someone (dead or alive) who is felt to be present.

Psychokinesis (PK): The extramotor manipulation of objects or events.

Common subgroups of PK:

RSPK: recurrent spontaneous psychokinesis The more technical term for what is sometimes (prejudicially) referred to as Poltergeist phenomena. Spontaneous events producing changes such as movements of objects or changes in electrical or computerized phenomena.

PKMB: psychokinetic metal building Ostensible metal bending by non-physical means.

Experimental psychokinesis: The influence of information or objects under experimental conditions.

Paranormal Aura: An emanation surrounding a living being (Chaplin, 1976) (as opposed to the focal aura that precedes a secondary generalization of a seizure).

Paranormal Healing: The act of curing by paranormal means.

Xenoglossy: The communication of strange or foreign terms allegedly unknown to the experient.

Ectoplasmic Materialization: The production of a special visible physical substance by a medium.

Reincarnation: The doctrine of previous lives occurring in a single individual.

Automatic Writing: The production of verbal or graphic material without conscious control (Chaplin, 1976).

Near Death Experience (NDE): An experience that occurs at a time close to death that is of such a kind that the person perceives it as meaningful, spiritual, mystical and psychic. The term has, at times, been extended to this kind of experience but without the closeness to death. Because of its subjectivity, some would not classify this as paranormal.

Déjà experience: Any inappropriate impression of familiarity of the present experience with the remote past. Like Near Death Experience (NDEs), because déjà vu is subjective and has been demonstrated to have several different subtypes, I do not classify this as within the domain of psi experience. However, I called a subgroup of such experience, Subjective Paranormal Déjà Vu. There are twenty different kinds of déjà experience.


  1. Neppe VM. An investigation of the relationship between temporal lobe symptomatology and subjective paranormal experience. MMed Psych thesis. Johannesburg, University of the Witwatersrand, 1979; 1-1-178 &i-xv.
  2. Neppe VM: The relevance of the temporal lobe to anomalous subjective experience, In: White RA, Broughton, RS, eds. Research in Parapsychology 1983. Metuchen, NJ.:Scarecrow Press; 1984: 7-10.
  3. Neppe VM: Clinical psychiatry , psychopharmacology and anomalous experience, In: Coly L, McMahon, JDS, eds. Psi and Clinical Practice. New York: Parapsy Found; 1993: 145-162.
  4. Neppe VM: Anomalous experience and psychopathology, In: Shapin B, Coly, L, eds. Spontaneous Psi, Depth Psychology and Parapsychology. New York: Parapsy Found; 1992: 163-180.
  5. Neppe VM. A multiaxial classificatory system for anomalous experience. Ppsych J of South Africa. 1985; 6 (1): 57-72.
  6. Swiel DJ, Neppe, VM. The incidence of subjective anomalous experience in naive subjects. PJSA. 1986; 7 (1): 34-53.
  7. Neppe VM. Extrasensory perception--an anachronism and anathema. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research. 1984; 52 (798 Oct): 365-370.


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