Thursday, June 16, 2011


COLUMBIA, 6/16/11  (Beat Byte) --  A sixth sense that allows mere mortals to speak with ghosts, see the future, or feel the supernatural is statistically unlikely, according to a new study by University of Missouri psychology professor Jeffrey Rouder and Richard Morey from the University of Groningen in the Netherlands.  
Their study counters recent claims by Cornell University psychologist Daryl Bem, which ended up on The Colbert Report earlier this year. 

Otherwise known as "extra-sensory perception (ESP)," a sixth supernatural sense has always run counter to the science of everyday experience.  But Bem -- a well-regarded emeritus professor -- claimed evidence for ESP in recent experiments and published his findings in The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, a selective, peer-reviewed mainstream journal.  His work is significant because for the first time, it applied the scientific method via established experimental and psychological protocols to a para-psychological phenomenon. 
Bem's paper prompted Rouder and Morey to apply a new statistical test to the possibility of a sixth sense.  The Mizzou team's analysis -- based on a concept called a "meta-analytical Bayes factor" --  found only modest support for ESP.  Their methods also incorporated an interesting twist:  they re-defined a person's beliefs in terms of statistical odds
A non-believer might say that the existence of God is a long-shot -- that there's only a one in a billion chance God exists.  A believer, on the other hand, might say there's a one-in-one chance God exists.   Applying this idea to the ESP results, Rouder and Morey show that Bem's experiments find odds of 25,000-to-1 against ESP -- a far more skeptical result than Bem originally claimed. 
“We remain unconvinced of the viability of ESP," Rouder says.  "There is no plausible mechanism for it, and it seems contradicted by well-substantiated theories in both physics and biology." 
Their paper -- A Bayes factor meta-analysis of Bem's ESP claim -- appears in a recent edition of the journal Psychonomic Bulletin & Review.

1 comment:

  1. ESP is not the same as PSI. You'd think as researchers at a university the FIRST thing they'd do is base a counter on facts. Bem's statistics may be off but I believe if he's not right on, he's headed in the right direction.