Tuesday, 13 May 2014 19:35

Precognition / Feeling the Future / Anomalous Cognition of Random Future Events- Can Science Prove We Can See the Future?

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Does psi exist? Is there evidence to support the notion of precognition? Can we see into the future? These are some the questions that parapsychologists have been asking and researching for over 130 years.

The last four years have seen a renewed interest in the field and a renewed debate due to the publication of a precognition experiment in a major widely respected research journal.

The following is a recap of the studies and meta-analyses that have been conducted and published since 2011.

In 2011 Daryl Bem published the following article, “Feeling the Future: Experimental Evidence for Anomalous Retroactive Influences on Cognition and Affect.” This article described nine studies with over 1,000 participants in the area of anomalous retroactive influence (i.e.: precognition). The experiments were simple, participants were from the general population, there was no specialized instrumentation, each session took less than 30 minutes and the statistical analysis was nothing more than a t-test.

All but one of the studies obtained statistically significant results. The overall results were Stouffer’s Z=6.66; p=1.34x10-11; mean effect size d=0.22. p values less than 0.01 or 0.05 are typical for rejecting the null hypothesis of an experiment. Therefore, this result would indicate a very strong presumption against the null hypothesis or another way to say it - strong evidence for precognition [1].

This study was immediately presented by parapsychologists and believers of evidence of psi. Other researchers and skeptics criticized the study methodology, analysis and interpretation [2, 3]. Bem later replied and defended his study and data [4]. Other scientists attempted to replicate some of Bem’s work, but failed [5-7]. The debate continued and a registry was created to track the attempts to replicate Bem’s experiments [8].

Then in 2012, a meta-analysis was done covering 26 experiments from 1978 to 2010. The overall results were Z= 6.9 ;p < 2.7 × 10-12; and mean Effect Size of 0.21 [9]. This data would again lean in favor of psi.

Now, in 2014, Bem et. al. [10] have submitted a meta-analysis of 90 experiments dealing with precognition (or as the title of the paper prefers to say, “Anomalous Anticipation of Random Future Events”). The overall results of this analysis were: a Hedges’ g of 0.09 (another way to express effect size), Z= 6.33; p = 1.2 × 10-10.

So, where does this leave us? Some studies showed positive results, while others gave negative results. The meta-analyses make a strong case for something anomalous occurring in these studies and give credence to precognition. No matter what the final decision is on precognition and psi phenomena, it is encouraging to see a data based debate is occurring and the scientific method is being applied to find the answers!

References

1. Bem, D. (2011). Feeling the Future: Experimental Evidence for Anomalous Retroactive Influences of Cognition and Affect. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 100 (3), 407-425.

2. Alcock, J. (2011). Back From the Future: Parapsychology and the Bem Affair. http://www.csicop.org/specialarticles/show/back_from_the_future

3. Wagenmakers, E., Wetzels, R., Borsboom, D., & van der Maas, H. (2011). Why psychologists must change the way they analyze their data: the case of psi: comment on Bem (2011). Journal of personality and social psychology 100 (3): 426–32.Cite uses deprecated parameters (help)

4. Bem, D., Utts J, & Johnson, W. (2011). Must psychologists change the way they analyze their data? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 101 (4): 716–719.

5. Ritchie, S., Wiseman, R., French, C.., & Gilbert, S. (2012). Failing the Future: Three Unsuccessful Attempts to Replicate Bem's 'Retroactive Facilitation of Recall' Effect. In Gilbert, Sam. PLoS ONE 7 (3): e33423.

6. Frazier, K. (2013). Failure to Replicate Results of Bem Parapsychology Experiments Published by Same Journal. Failure to Replicate Results of Bem Parapsychology Experiments Published by Same Journal. csicop.org. Vol. 37(2). Retrieved 13 May 2014. Available at http://www.csicop.org/si/show/failure_to_replicate_results_of_bem_parapsychology_experiments_published_by

7. http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2001721

8. http://www.richardwiseman.com/BemReplications.shtml

9. Mossbridge, J., Tressoldi, P. & Utts, J. (2012). Predictive Physiological Anticipation Preceding Seemingly Unpredictable Stimuli: A Meta-Analysis. Frontiers in Psychology. 3 (390), 1-18.

10. Bem, D., Tressoldi, P., Rabeyron, T., & Duggan, M. (2014). Feeling the Future: A Meta-Analysis of 90 Experiments on the Anomalous Anticipation of Random Future Events (April 11, 2014). Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2423692 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2423692

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