There are many psychological phenomena which science doesn’t yet fully understand. Parapsychology is the discipline which attempts to investigate them. Although parapsychologists use the scientific method for many of their experiments, they will often use other methods, such as qualitative analysis and case studies.
Parapsychology deals with topics such as: telepathy, clairvoyance, reincarnation, hauntings, psychokinesis, precognition, remote viewing, and near death experiences.
Many scientists deride parapsychology as a “pseudo-science”. They see little value in spending time investigating phenomena which haven’t been demonstrated to be technically true. This is, however, a defining feature of parapsychology. When a phenomenon is actually demonstrated to be true, it is no longer in the domain of parapsychology: it simply becomes part of psychology.
A good example of this is Lucid Dreaming. Lucid Dreaming is a phenomenon whereby a dreamer becomes conscious of his dream while it is taking place. Becoming aware of a dream while in the dream itself appears to provoke a change in our consciousness. The dreamer gains access to all his waking memories and can exercise a certain degree of control over the dream world.
Lucid dreaming was largely derided by many who said that there was no evidence for it. The only support for it was a bunch of personal anecdotes. Science cannot rely on anecdotes: it must rely on measurable data. Otherwise we’d be forced to accept any story about ghosts or alien abductions.
In the 1980′s Stephen LaBerge developed an interesting experiment at Stanford University. He recruited a bunch of people who claimed that they could lucid dream. He told them that when they became lucid, they should send a signal to the outside world by performing a particular back-and-forth eye movement. Normally, our eyes dart all over the place when we dream during REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. If he could show that people can make the eye movement which he taught them, then he could demonstrate that these people actually did become conscious in their sleep, could remember instructions given to them while they were awake, and could deliberately carry out those instructions.
LaBerge hooked up special eye-tracking equipment to his subjects, and he got the data he wanted. He demonstrated scientifically that Lucid Dreaming is a real phenomenon, and it moved from the realm of parapsychology into mainstream psychology.
So that’s one example of a phenomenon which was “upgraded” from parapsychology to psychology. Many scientists have become jaded because there are so many fraudsters who use trickery and illusion to demonstrate that these phenomena are real. Most of parapsychology is indeed unproven, so it is a good idea to remain skeptical; but we should keep an open mind.