Gertrude Raffel Schmeidler papers, 1943-1983

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Schmeidler, Gertrude Raffel
30.8 Linear Feet
circa 24,000 items
Collection ID:


Scope and content:

The Gertrude R. Schmeidler Papers span the period 1943-1983. The bulk of the collection consists chiefly of Research Files but also includes Correspondence and Writings. The research data located in the Research Files consists primarily of information which Schmeidler gathered through her work with students and colleagues as an experimental psychologist and parapsychologist. This data formed the basis of her published journal articles and books about how various factors and traits affect a person's extrasensory perception (ESP) abilities. There are very few personal papers located in the collection.

The value of the collection may be viewed from several perspectives. One is able to see how researchers collaborate with each other; to evaluate the value of networking and mentoring; to study the role of women in parapsychology; and to become aware of groups and institutes interested in the study of ESP, such as the American Society for Psychical Research, the Duke University Parapsychology Laboratory, and the Parapsychology Foundation, Inc.

Reflected in much of the research is the work for which Schmeidler is most notable, the development of the metaphor of the sheep and goats. She determined through several cycles of ESP card-guessing experiments that "sheep" (persons who believed that success was possible in ESP tasks) scored higher than "goats" (those who rejected the possibility of success). Later documentation in the sheep/goat research includes data and correspondence by Murray Melnick and Christopher Scott pertaining to their study of earlier tabulations of Schmeidler's sheep/goat research.

The following correspondents, researchers, and subjects are generally represented throughout the Correspondence and Research Files Series. Included are: Gardner Murphy, Schmeidler's mentor and the person who first interested her in psychical research; Ingo Swann, who studied PK (psychokinesis) effects on temperature; Caroline Chapman, a psychic with whom Schmeidler conducted proxy settings; Eileen Garrett, a psychic who was president of the Parapsychology Foundation Inc., and with whom Schmeidler conducted proxy settings; Steve Heyman, who studied the effect of time and impatience on ESP abilities; Betty Humphrey, who worked in the Duke Parapsychology Laboratory in the late 1940s and early 1950s and used drawings as her ESP targets; Larry Lewis, who attempted to find out if ESP hones into a target like sonar; and Thelma Moss, who studied a house haunting. Schmeidler collaborated with Swann, Heyman, Lewis, and Moss on the research topics listed above and co-authored journal articles which were published as a result of their research. Schmeidler also published an article about her proxy settings with Chapman. The research data relating to the Garrett settings was never published. There is scattered correspondence between Schmeidler and J. B. and Louisa Rhine, but not a substantial amount. There are several letters between J. G. Pratt, who was working at the Duke University Parapsychology Laboratory, and Schmeidler pertaining to the Chapman proxy settings in the mid 1950s. There are numerous letters between Schmeidler and Humphrey, some describing the working environment at the Duke University Parapsychology Laboratory; others relate to Humphrey's research. Other topics are represented primarily in the Research Files Series, including data about how various attitudes, conditions, traits, and surroundings affect ESP abilities. Among them are frustration, utilizing Saul Rosenzweig's Picture Frustration Study; Rorschachs and ESP scores of patients suffering from cerebral concussions; background stimuli; Rorschachs and ESP scores in maternity patients; ESP and memory; ESP scores following psychotherapy; and mood and attitude as predictors of ESP performance; telepathic rapport based on personality traits; and others such as long distance experiments in telepathy, precognition, poltergeists, and clairvoyant medical diagnosis based on the Silva Mind Control method.

The data for experiments, both successful as well as unsuccessful, are in the collection. The results of some were never reported in the literature. Because of the amount of data in the collection, it is possible that some of the experiments could be replicated and/or studied for new results.

The Writings Series primarily consists of information pertaining to the work she co-authored with Robert A. McConnell, ESP and Personality Patterns.

Folders throughout the collection contain Schmeidler's typed notes which describe the data, list the name of the researcher with whom she collaborated, and in some cases the article or articles which resulted from the research. Others indicate the nature and subject of the correspondence and include information pertaining to her various writings.

Through Schmeidler's correspondence with colleagues world-wide and her collaboration with fellow scientists, one is able to gain an understanding of the vast range of experiments and topics studied in the parapsychological field. One is also able to study the difference in research styles between Americans and Europeans. Since the research files span a period of forty years, the collection also reflects the various methods, materials, and equipment used for research in the field.

Related collections in the Department include the Parapsychology Laboratory Records and the Louisa Rhine Papers.

Biographical / historical:
Date Event
1912, July 15
Born Long Branch, New Jersey
B.A. magna cum laude Smith College, Northampton, Mass.
Statistical assistant at Foundation for Neuro-Endocrine Research
M.A. Clark University, Worcester, Mass.
Ph.D. Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.
Instructor at Monmouth College, Long Branch, New Jersey
Married Robert Schmeidler
Research Associate at Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.
Taught in the Department of Psychology, City College of the City University of New York
Research Officer at the American Society for Psychical Research, New York
Published article, "Separating the Sheep from the Goats," in the Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research
Consultant at Barnard College, New York
Co-author of the work ESP and Personality Patterns, with Dr.Robert A. McConnell
President, Parapsychological Association
Earned the William McDougall Award for Distinguished Work in Parapsychology, established by the Parapsychology Laboratory at Duke University
Edited Extrasensory Perception
President, Parapsychological Association
Edited Parapsychology: Its Relation to Physics, Biology, Psychology and Psychiatry
Associate Editor of Wolman's Handbook of Parapsychology
President, American Society for Psychical Research
Published book Parapsychology and Psychology: Matches and Mismatches
Acquisition information:
The Gertrude Schmeidler Papers were given to the Duke University Library by Dr. Schmeidler in 1987. Copyright interests in these papers have not been transferred to the University.
Processing information:

Processed by Janie C. Morris

Assisted by: Lynne Derhammer and Carlos Alvarado

Date Completed: March 15, 1991

Encoded by Alvin Pollock and Stephen Miller

Physical location:
For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the library's online catalog.
Rules or conventions:
Describing Archives: A Content Standard


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Collection is open for research.

Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection.

All or portions of this collection may be housed off-site in Duke University's Library Service Center. There may be a 48-hour delay in obtaining these materials.

Please contact Research Services staff before visiting the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library to use this collection.

Terms of access:

Because of the nature of some of the research data contained in the Research Files: Subject Subseries, release of certain information contained in it may give rise to liability (e.g. for defamation or invasion of privacy). Use of names of living individuals mentioned in the data is prohibited without their consent. Duke University assumes no responsiblity for infringement of literary property rights and copyrights, or for liability to any person for defamation or invasion of privacy.

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Preferred citation:

[Identification of item], Gertrude Raffel Schmeidler Papers, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.