Stories about how completely kooky our brains really are

Is Precognition Real? Positive Replications of Daryl Bem's Controversial Findings

Crystal Ball

I've previously mentioned the odd way in which most of the science press has covered the controversial 'feeling the future' experiments by Daryl Bem of Cornell University - in that a number of news stories have since been posted pointing out the failed replications of Bem's experiment, but very little has been said about positive replications. So, in the interests of balancing things up, here's a list of the positive replications courtesy of Daily Grail reader John Flynne:

There are, in fact - and this seems not to be widely known - quite a few positive replications of Bem's research. I was hoping you could bring these replications to light, so that public audiences interested in this matter will get all the facts regarding the issue of replicating Bem (2011), and recognize the bias in the view propagated by many pseudoskeptical journalists. If this information was more widely available, the "climate" surrounding the Bem controversy would, perhaps, be a bit different.

Here is a list of several positive Bem replications - these are not all extant conceptually similar "implicit precognition" experiments (which Dean Radin says are under meta-analytic review, presently), but only those studies that specifically replicate the experimental paradigms in Bem (2011):

  • Batthyany, A. (2010). Retrocausal Habituation and Induction of Boredom: A Successful Replication of Bem (2010; Studies 5 and 7). Social Science Research Network, Working Paper Series.

 (Link)
  • Franklin, M. S., & Schooler, J. W. (2011). Using retrocausal practice effects to predict online roulette spins. A talk presented at the Society for Experimental Social Psychology, Washington D.C., U.S.A., October, 2011.

 (Link)
  • Franklin, M. S., & Schooler, J. W. (2011). Using retrocausal practice effects to predict random binary events in an applied setting. A talk presented at Towards a Science of Consciousness, Stockholm, Sweden, May, 2011. {more recently: Franklin, M., and Schooler, J. (2012). Using retrocausal practice effects to predict random binary events in an applied setting. Toward a Science of Consciousness, Tucson X}.
  • Tressoldi, P. E., Masserdotti, F., & Marana C. (2012). Feeling the future: an exact replication of the Retroactive Facilitation of Recall II and Retroactive Priming experiments with Italian participants, Universita di Padova, Italy
  • Subbotsky, E. (2012). Sensing the future: The Non-standard observer effect on an ESP task. Lancaster University, UK
  • Bijl, A. & Bierman, D. (2013). Retroactive training of rational v.s. intuitive thinkers. Proceedings of the 56th Annual Convention of the Parapsychological Association. (Link)
  • Parker, A., & Sjödén, B. (2010). Do some of us habituate to future emotional events? Journal of Parapsychology, 74, 99–115.

 (Link)
  • Savva, L., Child, R. & Smith, M. D. (2004). The Precognitive Habituation Effect: An Adaptation Using Spider Stimuli. The Parapsychological Association Convention 2004, pp. 223 – 229. (Link)

{Regarding Savva (2004): In 2003, Bem presented preliminary data for this paradigm that would later be subsumed in his now infamously controversial 2011 publication, under "Experiment 5". The latter citation above by Savva et al. was a replication of this.}

There are several important findings in some these studies (besides the fact that they are positive). Franklin and Schooler (especially the latter) are two distinguished, mainstream scientists; in their research, they demonstrate an ability to utilize the precognitive habituation effect in "real world" events. Subbotsky found evidence of a psi-mediated experimenter effect. In Parker (2010), only participants who showed a standard habituation effect showed psi-mediated precognitive habituation. The correlation between the two was highly significant.

Thanks John!

Update: Andreas Muller has sent in links to abstracts and summaries for some of the papers, which I've added above. Thanks Andreas.

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Evolver Learning Lab: 'Discovering Your Psychic Potential'

Discovering Your Psychic Potential

We talk about psi research a lot here on TDG, but how many of us proactively work on trying to bring this mysterious/controversial 'latent ability' to the fore in our own lives? If you're interested in doing so, Evolver Learning Labs have a course starting this week that is sure to be fascinating: "Everybody's Psychic: Discovering Your Psychic Potential and What To Do with It". Hosted by one of our own admins, David Metcalfe, along with Craig Weiler, the course is made up of 5 weekly sessions featuring some of the world's leading experts on a number of psi-related topics.

Despite what debunkers would have you believe, many respected scholars, scientists and researchers feel that we’ve moved beyond proving that psi exists. Now it's time to start thinking about how to integrate psychic functioning into our daily lives. Are you ready to learn to live with psi?

In this unique course, you will reach a deeper understanding of your own psychic potential, discover what makes the psychic experience distinct, and benefit from the experiences of researchers and high functioning psychics who have paved the way for a new paradigm in consciousness.

Craig Weiler, of the Weiler Psi Blog, and David Metcalfe, Reality Sandwich contributing editor and “Psi in the News” columnist, have gathered together some of the leading thinkers in the field of of Parapsychology and Anomalistic Science to help you understand, integrate and learn to use the most recent research in this new frontier of psi. They include:

  • James Carpenter, president of the Parapsychological Association and author of the groundbreaking theory of psi, First Sight.
  • Julie Beischel, PhD. Co-Founder and Director of Research at the Windbridge Institute, whose work investigates the therapeutic value of mediumship and the mysteries of discarnate communication
  • Dan Booth Cohen and Emily Volden, pioneers of Systemic Constellations, a new form of therapy that assumes that consciousness is nonlocal
  • Chris Carter, author of the authoritative book, "Science and Psychic Phenomena: The Fall of the House of Skeptics"
  • William Bengston, author of Energy Cure, his memoir of researching hands-on healing in a rigorous, scientific environment

Through in-depth discussions of the latest findings, we’ll clear up the misunderstandings that have arisen due to the skeptical sub-culture’s tenacious efforts to defend an outdated understanding of science. In this course, you will discover what contemporary research has to say about the physiology, psychology and social importance of psi experiences and how that applies directly to you and your daily life!

You’ll gain a better understanding of your own psychic potential by discovering exciting new theories on how psi really works.

You will be part of the discussion, able to ask your questions on camera, just like a Skype call. If you happen to miss a live session, you can view a video recording at any time. These sessions will be filled with provocative information, clear instruction, and practical advice from teachers who are among the world's leading experts in their respective fields.


Learn about:

  • Working therapeutic programs that utilize psychic intuition and theories of non-local consciousness
  • Fascinating experiments in non-invasive healing techniques
  • War stories from the battle to keep research on psi objective to foster scientific progress
  • Insights into the characteristics of high functioning psychics
  • Research that explores the reality and social function of mediumship.

The course starts in a few days, so head on over to the Evolver site and sign up for the course - should be a real treat.

An App to Remember Your Dreams

    Way back in September, Greg posted news of a Kickstarter for SHADOW, a dream recording app & online community. The app's creator, Hunter Lee Soik, assembled an impressive team of dream experts to help shape SHADOW -- Kelly Bulkeley, Deirdre Barrett, Scott Sparrow, and the oneiroboss Ryan Hurd himself, to name a few. I'd planned to interview Hunter recently, but a near-miss with a car saw my phone get run over. Then my mac decided to go to the great apple tree in the sky. Thankfully, Hunter was unfazed by this conspiratorial Pauli Effect and kindly took time from his extremely busy schedule to answer a few questions via email (one for each hour of sleep you should all be getting).

    As I type this, there are only forty winks hours to go until the Kickstarter ends. The pledge goal has been reached (which is fantastic news for the SHADOW team, congratulations!), and this is your last chance to snag some terrific swag and gain early access to SHADOW before it's officially released next year. In the meantime, give your spinning top a whirl and enjoy the interview.

    RMG: In a nutshell, what is SHADOW and how did it come about?

    HLS: SHADOW is a mobile alarm clock that helps users remember and record their dreams in a global dream database. The idea came about when I finally started dreaming again after a dozen years of hard work and little sleep. I wanted to remember what I was experiencing in my sleeping life, but I couldn't find an app that melded a social dream journal with the kind of sophisticated design aesthetic I was looking for. So I learned as much as I could about sleep and dreams, approached some dream researchers with the idea, and SHADOW was born.

    RMG: How does the app actually work?

    HLS: You set the alarm like any other alarm clock, but when it wakes you up it uses a series of escalating sounds that helps preserve your dreams. Traditional alarm clocks destroy dreams by transitioning you out of sleep too quickly. Once you're awake, SHADOW prompts you to record your dreams via voice or text (you can speak directly into the app or type what you remember). Then, with your permission, we pull

Viral Video for Rayban Sunglasses Shows How Easily Our Eyes Can Be Fooled

It's a viral ad for Rayban, so apologies to all for succumbing to the machinations of advertising executives, but this video is worth posting just to show how easily our eyes can be fooled. Stay with it for the twist at the end!

Parapsychologists Comment on the Current State of Psi Research

Author and blogger (at Paranormalia) Robert McLuhan recently attended the annual conference of the Society for Psychical Research (S.P.R.) held at Swansea in Wales. Robert took along his video camera, and created the nice little travelogue above documenting the trip, as well as interviewing a number of parapsychologists and researchers - including Caroline Watt, David Luke and Richard Broughton - about the current state of psychical research and where the field is heading. Thanks Robert!

Kickstarter: Shadow, an App to Record Our Dreams

Our friend, dream researcher Ryan Hurd, sends word that he has a new book out - and what's more, he's partnered up with a Kickstarter campaign that's getting plenty of buzz (see above) to offer the book as one of the rewards at the $20 pledge level:

My new ebook is finally ready for pre-order. I'm talking about Dream Like a Boss (Book 1): Sleep better, dream more and wake up to what matters most.

So I have partnered with a new dream app company --SHADOW-- to manage an exclusive launch. You can't get the ebook on Amazon yet, only through the SHADOW fundraising campaign that began today.

SHADOW shares many of the values and goals I do, namely to help bring back dreaming as a valid way of knowing in this overly rationalized (but not exactly reasonable) world.

SHADOW is a smartphone app to help you remember, record, share and analyze your dreams. It's super slick and has a top notch team of dream researchers behind it (including me) as well as A-list designers and business advisors.

Together, we're gonna build the biggest open-source dream database in the world: and part of my job is to make sure we do it ethically, transparently, and with the blessings of the dream research community.

I encourage you to check out SHADOW's fundraising page on KickStarter. If you donate at the $20 level and choose one of the options with my name, you'll get access to Dream Like a Boss before anyone else, and you'll get early access to SHADOW as well.

As mentioned above, the Shadow app is getting plenty of coverage, including from Wired and Boing Boing (and now, *cough*, The Daily Grail). Funnily enough, I thought to myself a few years back that some sort of dream database would be an amazing thing well-suited to this age of mobile devices - so I will be interested to see how Shadow goes about implementing it (maybe I should actually act on my ideas sometimes!). It's very exciting to me - pulling this mass of data from our inner worlds and collecting it in a searchable database. The possibilities in terms of analysis are amazing, from a general feel for negative or positive mindsets, through to geographical differences in dreaming, and even perhaps to identify precognitive dreams.

I'll be putting myself down for $20, so that I get both the app and Ryan's new book!

Link: SHADOW | Community of Dreamers

Kickstarter: Preserve a Famous Parapsychology Lab as a Museum

The Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research (PEAR) laboratory, which ran from 1979 to 2007, was well-known as one of few centres in the world dedicated to studying parapsychological topics and the role of consciousness in 'creating' reality. Located at Princeton University’s School of Engineering and Applied Science, PEAR was run by Bob Jahn (Emeritus Professor of Aerospace Sciences and Dean Emeritus of the School of Engineering and Applied Science of Princeton University) and laboratory manager Brenda Dunne. Both Jahn and Dunne have continued the lab's legacy in recent years as International Consciousness Research Laboratories (ICRL), a not-for-profit organization.

Many of PEAR's experiments were designed around 'human-machine' interactions - "to study the potential vulnerability of engineering devices and information processing systems to the anomalous influence of the consciousness of their human operators" - and with PEAR's closing, these machines are now very much part of the history of psi research. As such, Bob Jahn and Brenda Dunne are looking to preserve the PEAR laboratory into the future as a museum, and are seeking funds via Kickstarter to achieve that goal:

The purpose of this project is to create an archival museum to preserve, display, and demonstrate the unique and attractive experimental equipment that served as the nucleus of the studies conducted at the PrincetonEngineering Anomalies Research laboratory.

Each device combined rigorous scientific controls with aesthetically attractive feedback displays designed to appeal to their human operators, who attempted to shift the means of these distributions in alternating directions. Thus, each qualifies as an example of kinetic art as well as a scientific research tool.

ICRL encourages seriously motivated young scholars and others who are challenged to explore the role of consciousness in physical reality. To this end, it is our hope that the successful completion of this project will enable us to continue to stimulate new scientific initiatives and pragmatic applications of consciousness-related physical phenomena for generations to come.

Full details about the project, including the rewards for various pledge amounts, can be found at the Kickstarter website. If you're interested in psi research, this one should be right up your alley.

Link: Kickstarter: Creating a PEAR Museum

The Secret Life of Uri Geller

James Randi calls him a fraud who tricks people with magic tricks of "the kind that used to be on the back of cereal boxes". Magical legend Jim Steinmeyer on the other hand says that he's "one of the greatest magicians of all time". Scientists at Stanford Research Institute believed he had real magic powers. Most of the public know him simply as the guy who bends spoons. But the documentary above, The Secret Life of Uri Geller, explores a different side to the controversial 'psychic' entertainer: his involvement with both Mossad and the C.I.A. Did they believe he truly had paranormal powers, or was he being used by one side or the other (or both) for their own ends? Well worth a watch, no matter where your opinion on the man lies.

Scientists Meet to Discuss Extraordinary Powers of the Mind

Telepathy Professor X Style

Do identical twins share a telepathic connection? Could clairvoyance be used to win money at casinos? Does the future affect the past? These are some of the questions being put forward - and perhaps answered - at the 56th Annual Convention of the Parapsychology Association being held this weekend in Viterbo, Italy.

A common skeptical response to claims of telepathy or clairvoyance is to ask why, if such talents exist, are they not used to win money from casinos. Psi researchers Dick Bierman and Thomas Rabeyron decided to put the idea to the test, and began by running simulations of a 32 trial remote viewing experiment. They found that if a viewer was able to perform with an effect size of around 0.35, and used a simple red/black betting strategy, they could multiply their starting capital 10 times over. Consulting 17 actual experiments on remote viewing, the pair found that the data showed a mean scoring rate (in a binary situation) of around 63%, leading them to state that "if these results could be confirmed this would falsify theories that predict that it is impossible to use psi in a consistent and robust way". Perhaps with a bit of humour, Bierman and Rabeyron also noted that those sort of results could signal "the end of the financial problems in the field of psi research".

Another research project to be discussed at the convention is a piece of collaborative research between centres in Copenhagen, Gothenburg and London, in which identical twins who report "exceptional experiences of an apparent telepathic and synchronous nature" are being recruited for a future study. Researchers note that some promising results have emerged in experiments where one twin is monitored with psychophysiological sensors while the other (isolated) twin experiences random startle stimuli. A questionnaire found that 60% of twins surveyed reported exceptional experiences, with about 11% reporting frequent telepathic experiences, often concerning the bodily welfare of the other twin, while others reported shared dreams. Furthermore, identical twins reported having these experiences significantly more often than 'regular' twins. Researchers hope to use the survey, and other testing, to select a pool of twins whose future experimental results will give a larger effect size than has been achieved with psi experiments in the past. Whether they'll also be sent to Professor Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters is an unanswered question...

And in other experiment on the same theme as the widely reported precognition study by psychologist Daryl Bem (though not a replication), scientists found that research subjects reacted quicker to a symbol on the first time through the experiment, if they were shown the same symbol in the second phase. What's more, with the subjects split into two groups based on rational and intuitive thinking styles, it was found that the 'intuitives' were responsible for the entire effect! That group on its own showed an effect that, by luck alone, would happen only 1 in 1000 times.

Other papers to be presented at the convention include research into precognitive dreams, possible links between geomagnetic activity and psychic awareness, and correlations between psi abilities and schizotypy. You can read through the full list of abstracts and the convention program via the embedded PDF below:

Russell Targ Talks About the Early History of 'Remote Viewing'

Russell Targ is a well-known figure in the field of parapsychology, being a key figure (along with Hal Puthoff) in experimentation with techniques of 'remote viewing' in the 1970s. The talk above was given last month at the 'ExTED' conference "Brother Can You Spare a Paradigm" (formerly TEDxWestHollywood until TED withdrew their support in the wake of last month's controversy) in Los Angeles. In the talk he regales the crowd with tales of his work with everyone from psychics like Pat Price to the military and C.I.A. Told with a nice dose of humour, it's a fun little talk that also acts as a neat introduction to this topic if you haven't read the books about it.