New Study Fails to Replicate Previous Precognition Studies

Crystal Ball

We have previously covered positive results for psi experiments involving precognition (see the links at the bottom of the post) - also described as 'presentiment', or 'precall' - so it's only proper that we also mention failures to replicate those results. Which was the outcome of a new study conducted by Dr David Vernon, soon to be published in the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, available online as a PDF download. Here's the abstract:

The idea that future practise can somehow influence current behaviour has been examined within the paradigm of precognition. Previous work attempting to examine possible precognitive effects using a modified repetition priming task showed that participants were more accurate to respond to material they would see again in the future. Such a finding was taken to indicate that a task relying primarily on accuracy of performance, such as a memory recall task, could be a more sensitive measure of precognition, or ‘precall’.

Furthermore, utilising arousing images as opposed to everyday words may elicit a stronger precall effect, and by conducting such a study on-line it may be possible to eliminate and/or reduce any potential experimenter effects. The prediction when completing such a task was that post-recall practise would lead to greater precall of those items practised compared to items not practised.

Such an on-line precall study utilising emotive images was completed by 94 participants. However, comparison of the accuracy between images that were subsequently repeated and those that were not showed no evidence of a precall effect. Nevertheless, post recall practise did show an initial improvement in accuracy which plateaued after the second trial. The failure to find any evidence of precall could simply be indicative of the impossibility of such a notion. However, given that others have reported precall effects the failure to find a precall effect in this study is discussed in terms of possible methodological factors inhibiting psi performance.

It's worth pointing out that Dr Vernon notes in a recent blog post that he has now completed four experiments on precognition, with two being failing to replicate, while the other two "showed statistically significant effects, where practise in the future led to better recall in the present".

Link: PDF download of "Exploring precall using arousing images and utilising a memory recall practise task on-line"