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Near Death Experiences

Research Scales Used to Classify an NDE : the Greyson Scale

Near Death Experiences Series, Article 14 (Reviewed by the Editorial Board)

 As previously mentioned (1), one of the most widely used scales to classify and distinguish NDEs from other mental states, was developed in 1983 by Professor Bruce Greyson, a psychiatrist who currently teaches at the University of Virginia. He criticized the Ring scale (The Weighted Core Experience Scale, WCES) as being based upon 10 arbitrary points  which were derived from the occurrence of what was then thought to be the most fundamental features of the NDE.  As the scientific understanding of the NDE grew it became clear that a new scale was required. Greyson devised this new measurement scale, which he based upon interviews with 74 people who had had NDEs. He then collected the 16 most frequently encountered features, as recalled by his sample of 74 people, and developed a 16- feature questionnaire, which he termed ‘the Greyson scale’.
The Greyson scale gives each of the 16 features a score of 0, 1 or 2. The score depends first on whether the feature has been experienced (1) and secondly on how intense the experience has been (if intense 2). Therefore, using this scale, anyone’s experience can be graded and given a score. There is a potential maximum score of 32, but for an experience to be defined as an NDE, Greyson stated that a minimum score of 7 was needed.
Useful albeit with some limitations
Since the early 1980s research studies have used one of these two scales to standardize and compare the NDE experiences recounted by people. Although both research scales have some limitations in their day-to-day applications, they have been particularly useful during research as they have provided a basic means of defining an NDE and semi-quantifying the depth of the experience. For example, one person may have a score of 8 on the Greyson scale, whereas somebody else may have a score of 16. The person with the higher score is very likely to have experienced eight to ten features of an NDE, whereas the other person has probably experienced four to six features. However the Greyson scale to be valid must be given to people who have had what is likely to have been an NDE.  If it is given to any transcendent experience then it will give a false value and label some mystical or psychotic experiences as NDEs.
The Greyson Scale
- Experiencing an altered state of time
- Experiencing accelerated thought processes
- Life review
- Sense of sudden understanding
- Feelings of peace
- Feeling of joy
- Feeling of cosmic oneness
- Seeing/feeling surrounded by light
- Having vivid sensations
- Extrasensory perception
- Experiencing visions
- Experiencing a sense of being out of physical body
- Experiencing a sense of an ‘otherworldly’ environment
- Experiencing a sense of a mystical entity
- Experiencing a sense of deceased/religious figures
- Experiencing a sense of a border or point of no return
According to the literature  the incidence estimates (3) are higher with the WCEI, average score of 37%, than with the Greyson NDE Scale which yields 18% incidence average score (with unspecified criterion). However, if the NDE Scale is used with a cut-off criterion of 7 then this yields an incidence of 17%.
....... If you want to know more, visit the near death experiences section of our web site (4)
 (1) Research Scales used to classify an NDE : the Weighted Core Experience Index

(2) Greyson, B. 1983. The Near-Death Experience Scale : Construction, reliability, and validity. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease 171:369-75.

(3) Holden, JM, Greyson B., James D.  2009. The Handbook of Near-Death Experiences  ABC-CLIO, LLC. California.

(4) Near Death Experiences

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