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Scientific evidence for precognition? Bem publishes follow up to "Feeling the future"

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posted on Nov, 4 2015 @ 10:34 PM
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Some of you will have likely seen something on television or read an article about the work of Psi researcher Daryl J. Bem, social psychologist and professor emeritus at Cornell University. What separates Bem from many others conducting research in areas of parapsychology are his credentials and mainstream prominence. He started out in physics; getting his BA from Reed and conducting graduate work in physics at MIT before changing fields and receiving his PhD in social psychology at the University of Michigan. He's well regarded in his field and known for among other things, Self-perception theory, a theory that makes the counterintuitive (and quite possibly correct) assertion that when a person encounters something completely new for which there are no prior attitudes or biases, that person's mind will gauge its own body's physiological responses to form an attitude about it.

The following excerpt from a 2010 article appearing in the Cornell Chronicle describes some of the experiments he's been conducting since 2000. His research is viewed as groundbreaking by some and deeply flawed by others:


Rather than present a stimulus and measure a subject's response, Bem measured the subject's response before the stimulus was presented. In some earlier experiments by other psi researchers, participants were hooked up to physiological measuring equipment similar to a lie detector that measured emotional arousal. They sat before a computer and watched randomly selected images; some were erotic or very negative ("like the bloody photos you see on CSI") images.

"Your physiology jumps when you see one of those pictures after watching a series of landscapes or neutral pictures," Bem said. "But the remarkable finding is that your physiology jumps before the provocative picture actually appears on the screen -- even before the computer decides which picture to show you. What it shows is that your physiology can anticipate an upcoming event even though your conscious self might not."

Bem's nine experiments demonstrated similar unconscious influences from future events. For example, in one experiment, participants saw a list of words and were then given a test in which they tried to retype as many of the words as they could remember. Next, a computer randomly selected some of the words from the list and gave the participants practice exercises on them. When their earlier memory test results were checked, it was found that they had remembered more of the words they were to practice later than words they were not going to practice. In other words, the practice exercises had reached back in time to help them on the earlier test.

All but one of the nine experiments confirmed the hypothesis that psi exists. The odds against the combined results being due to chance or statistical flukes are about 74 billion to 1, according to Bem.


Following the publication of his controversial article Feeling the Future: Experimental Evidence for Anomalous Retroactive Influences on Cognition and Affect in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, he was all over television and in print/web media, appearing in an episode of Through the Wormhole entitled "Is There a Sixth Sense?" as well as a variety of news programs and even The Colbert Report.

As you may imagine, a renowned scientist claiming to have credible evidence of a people reacting to erotic and violent images before the images were even seen — aka precognition, a clear violation of the second law of thermodynamics — caused something of a stir. Google "Feeling the future" and you'll turn up quite a few articles, blog posts and links to videos. You can also read more on Bem and his work, including a brief summary of the controversy on his Wikipedia page.

Bem is back with a new paper, Feeling the future: A meta-analysis of 90 experiments on the anomalous anticipation of random future events published in the open access, open peer reviewed non-journal F1000 Research. As the title indicates, the results of a meta-analysis of 90 relevant replications of Bems experiments are detailed. It's both a follow up to the original article and a rebuttal to his critics.

Here's an excerpt from the "Results and discussion" section:


The complete database comprises 90 experiments conducted between 2001 and 2013. These originated in 33 different laboratories located in 14 countries and involved 12,406 participants. The full database with corresponding effect sizes, standard errors, and category assignments is presented in Table S1 along with a forest plot of the individual effect sizes and their 95% confidence intervals.

The first question addressed by the meta-analysis is whether the database provides overall evidence for the anomalous anticipation of random future events. As shown in the first and second rows of Table 1, the answer is yes: The overall effect size (Hedges’ g) is 0.09, combined z = 6.33, p = 1.2 × 10-10. The Bayesian BF value is 5.1 × 109, greatly exceeding the criterion value of 100 that is considered to constitute “decisive evidence” for the experimental hypothesis (Jeffreys, 1998). Moreover, the BF value is robust across a wide range of the scaling factor r, ranging from a high value of 5.1 × 109 when we set r = 0.1 to a low value of 2.0 × 109 when r = 1.0.

The second question is whether independent investigators can successfully replicate Bem’s original experiments. As shown in the third and fourth rows of Table 1, the answer is again yes: When Bem’s experiments are excluded, the combined effect size for attempted replications by other investigators is 0.06, z = 4.16, p = 1.1 × 10-5, and the BF value is 3,853, which again greatly exceeds the criterion value of 100 for “decisive evidence.”


As a nice bonus, the references section contains links to reference material for many of the studies considered in the analysis as well as some critiques and rebuttals which makes for a good list for further reading on the topic. Also take note of the reader comment from D. Sam Schwarzkopf of the UCL Experimental Psychology & Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, UK, author of a critcism of the 2011 paper which was published as an opinion article in the open access journal, Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.
edit on 2015-11-4 by theantediluvian because: (no reason given)




posted on Nov, 4 2015 @ 11:05 PM
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a reply to: theantediluvian

surely this type of study will be under recognized and met with much scrutiny. I am absolutely fascinated by this premise though. Great thread OP



posted on Nov, 4 2015 @ 11:47 PM
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a reply to: theantediluvian

It's a great thread btw, I just wanted to let you know even though others haven't responded. Some of the things I am interested is the collective unconscious and how that combined with arechtypes can explain some if not all of the strange and inexplicable encounters, I wonder how something like this could tie in. I am optimistic however evidence has been slim to none, I will post more later about my thoughts on all this, anyway great thread.



posted on Nov, 5 2015 @ 01:13 AM
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a reply to: theantediluvian

I remember one of the criticism of his first work was that, even if the experiments proved something, it would still be unclear whether it was precognition, clairvoyance or telepathy.

I don't have time to read the new paper now, but I'll come back to your thread.
Thank you for posting, I am really interested cause deep down I really wish we had some unrecognized abilities (us, humans).
S&F!



posted on Nov, 5 2015 @ 01:55 AM
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Very interesting read. Great thread by the way.



posted on Nov, 5 2015 @ 03:06 AM
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a reply to: theantediluvian

I suspect his theory will come to the fore because more and more people are questioning this kind of thing.

Oddly enough last night a tv programme on psychics living in the North of England was on and they discussed the figure that 1 in 4 of us had visited a psychic and the huge numbers of people either working or dabbling with this type of phenomena. I doubt the hard-core of the religious or political persuasion will care for it though.

We seem to be slowly going back to the way many ancient societies thought and viewed the world, fascinating in such a material and crass idol time. S&F.



posted on Nov, 5 2015 @ 04:21 AM
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a reply to: theantediluvian

Interesting theory, might explain my own precognition experiences.

S&F



posted on Nov, 5 2015 @ 04:39 AM
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a reply to: theantediluvian

Very cool thread.

Following along with interest. I have had many precognitions (sorry may be the wrong word or classification, I've never looked into it) kind of joked about it for a while especially as a fundamentalist/evangelical christian, that kind of thing was not cool. Some have been quite clear, some just feelings. I've seen traffic accidents ahead of time, making me go out of my way and take a different route. I actually slowed down on the freeway because I saw a truck swerve over into my lane, then it happened (there was nothing ahead of that that would have caused it to swerve). My wife was with me and that was when I started to believe it was true. I still doubt it, but I heed the big warnings. I still mostly joke about it.



posted on Nov, 5 2015 @ 04:51 AM
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I find similar to this the unique ability of having never done something before and without thought succeed only to try several times after only to fail. "Beginners luck" uh, huh.

There is a unique ability we all have that we somehow lose once we "think". Thinking is bad, um Kay.

But seriously, there is something to be said about instinct and how that correlates to beginners luck and how that correlates to OP of feeling something before you see it. And how all that correlates to everything existing in your visual cortex and it's where existence starts before seeing.

If a person shows a response to an image before the image is "shown" than the image doesn't originate in front of you that you are seeing. It enters from somewhere else and YOU project that image in front of you. Everything you see is therefore a projection of something originating from somewhere else. With all of us doing that we create our accepted reality. Heavy.



posted on Nov, 5 2015 @ 06:43 AM
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A failed experiment is - A failed experiment...


A study published last year in a scientific journal claimed to have found strong evidence for the existence of psychic powers such as ESP. The paper, written by Cornell professor Daryl J. Bem, was published in The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology and quickly made headlines around the world for its implication: that psychic powers had been scientifically proven.

Bem’s experiments suggested that college students could accurately predict random events, like whether a computer will flash a photograph on the left or right side of its screen. However scientists and skeptics soon questioned Bem’s study and methodology. Bem stood by his findings and invited other researchers to repeat his studies.


Replication is of course the hallmark of valid scientific research—if the findings are true and accurate, they should be able to be repeated by others. Otherwise the results may simply be due to normal and expected statistical variations and errors. If other experimenters cannot get the same result using the same techniques, it’s usually a sign that the original study was flawed in one or more ways.

Last year a group of British researchers tried and failed to replicate Bem’s experiments. A team of researchers including Professor Chris French, Stuart Ritchie and Professor Richard Wiseman collaborated to accurately replicate Bem’s final experiment, and found no evidence for precognition. Their results were published in the online journal PLoS ONE.


Sources:

* news.discovery.com...

* news.discovery.com...

This has nothing to do with science, as it is actually debunked. Sure, Dr. Bem has impressive bios, but his research is not worth anything as long as it is not repeatable.

Anything 'new' from him is just not worth the time or space here.



posted on Nov, 5 2015 @ 07:33 AM
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originally posted by: SuperFrog
A failed experiment is - A failed experiment...



Yes, you are correct, unfortunately it is a failed experiment as other scientists in three different universities were not able to replicate it... I was just coming to post exactly what you posted, I'm so disappointed.... oh well, maybe one day someone will be born with a 'super power'... I think I have watched too many XMen movies! lol

skepdic.com...



posted on Nov, 5 2015 @ 09:04 AM
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a reply to: Agartha

Except there were problems with their lousy attempts to reproduce said findings. I had a big debate regarding this topic in another forum a while ago, but sadly can't remember the details.

Anyway, just writing to subscribe, taking a look into the new study now.

TY, OP! S&F.




posted on Nov, 5 2015 @ 09:26 AM
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originally posted by: PublicOpinion

Except there were problems with their lousy attempts to reproduce said findings. I had a big debate regarding this topic in another forum a while ago, but sadly can't remember the details.

Anyway, just writing to subscribe, taking a look into the new study now.

TY, OP! S&F.



Please do try to find the details and come back with the problems you mentioned so we can discuss it.

edit on 5-11-2015 by Agartha because: (no reason given)



posted on Nov, 5 2015 @ 09:30 AM
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a reply to: Agartha

I'm upset this sounded so promising! I too felt cautious even saying anything, just because there's not a lot if any reproducible evidence and so i optimistically wait, intuitively know what is already true. Factually having to deny its reality : /



posted on Nov, 5 2015 @ 09:59 AM
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a reply to: TechniXcality

Very poetic, I feel ya.



a reply to: Agartha



Bem’s experiments have been extensively debated and critiqued. The first published critique appeared in the same issue of the journal as Bem’s original article (Wagenmakers et al., 2011). These authors argued that a Bayesian analysis of Bem’s results did not support
his psi-positive conclusions and recommended that all research psychologists abandon frequentist analyses in favor of Bayesian ones.


Wagenmaker and the debate regarding statistic methods ring some bells.


In his own critique, Francis (2012) remarks that “perhaps the most striking characteristic of [Bem’s] study is that [it meets] the current standards of experimental psychology.
...
Bem has put empirical psychologists in a difficult position: forced to consider either revising beliefs about the fundamental nature of time and causality or revising beliefs about the soundness of MRP (p. 371).”

P.4/5 in the PDF

Frankly, I would rather prefer to avoid this discussion.
Who has time for that when time itself has a tough stance nowadays?


edit on 5-11-2015 by PublicOpinion because: (no reason given)



posted on Nov, 5 2015 @ 10:04 AM
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originally posted by: PublicOpinion
a reply to: Agartha

Except there were problems with their lousy attempts to reproduce said findings.


So all of the independent replication attempts were "lousy"? Care to specify why?

Independent replication is the cornerstone of science. Denying results because they're not philosophically pleasing to you is not how science is conducted.



posted on Nov, 5 2015 @ 10:47 AM
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a reply to: GetHyped

That issue is addressed in this new paper.


The one exception was a replication failure conducted by Wagenmakers et al. (2012), which yielded a non-significant effect in the unpredicted direction, ES = -0.02, t(99) = -0.22, ns. These investigators wrote their own version of the software and used a set of erotic photographs that were much less sexually explicit than those used in Bem’s experiment and its exact replications.

(Page 9 in the PDF)

Very lousy, me thinks I remembered that correctly.
edit on 5-11-2015 by PublicOpinion because: (no reason given)





So all of the independent replication attempts were "lousy"? Care to specify why?


My words you say? Whatever.
edit on 5-11-2015 by PublicOpinion because: screw the spin-docs



posted on Nov, 5 2015 @ 11:48 AM
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a reply to: SuperFrog


This has nothing to do with science, as it is actually debunked. Sure, Dr. Bem has impressive bios, but his research is not worth anything as long as it is not repeatable.

Anything 'new' from him is just not worth the time or space here.


I wholly disagree. As long as his experiments are competently designed, conducted in a careful and controlled manner and the results are reported in good faith with conclusions drawn using commonly accepted methods of analysis, then his experiments are just as scientific as any other.

That doesn't mean that his hypothesis isn't wrong or that there aren't unintended flaws in his experiments or the analyses of the data but that's not the same as saying, "This has nothing to do with science" or "Anything 'new' from him is just not worth the time or space here" which in this case are more statements of your own opinions on the subject of his research than valid criticism of his professionalism or methodologies.

I don't believe your criticism could be more off base. Bem has been completely open and forthcoming and has not only encouraged other scientists to replicate his experiments, he's gone to extraordinary means to facilitate these efforts.

As to this statement: "it is actually debunked"

Is it? What's the criteria for debunked? One experiment that fails to replicate the observed results? Two? Three? Ten? How versed are you on the specifics of the experiments you're citing? Well enough to rule out differences in conformity to the designs of the original experiments? I noticed some differences reading Correcting the Past: Failures to Replicate Psi that are of some potential concern:


Of the seven experiments that we conducted, four were conducted online. It is not immediately clear why precognition would not be observed online (i.e., the theoretical development of the construct does not specify whether this should moderate the effect), but we thought that it was reasonable to give the online environment additional consideration. One possible concern might be that, if people are taking the test at some remote location, their surroundings might be sufficiently distracting to make them less attentive



At that point the program, using a pseudo-random number generator, randomly assigned 24 words to be practiced; six words were randomly chosen from each of the four groups of 12
words.


Conducted online? They're admitting that at the very least, 4 out of 7 of their experiments were conducted in a far less controlled environment. I'm not a scientist but I am an IT professional and this leaves me with a number of questions about external influences:

- How was the program structured and were the images or words selected by a server and the selections transmitted to a client software or were they generated on the participants computers? Where the images stored on a server and transmitted to the client or were they stored on the participant's PC?
- What about network related factors like latency? How about hardware performance factors? Perhaps the effects Bem measured in his experiments exist at intervals short enough to be adversely affected by any of these uncontrolled environmental factors.
- What PRNG did they use? IIRC, Bem (who importantly here has a background in physics) used a hardware RNG.

...and so on and so forth.

I've read a number of articles, blog posts, etc that are critical of Bem's research and analysis and I noticed an apparent regard for the man even among those who disagreed with him. I think perhaps in your own skeptical zeal you've gone beyond what could be reasonably justified.
edit on 2015-11-5 by theantediluvian because: (no reason given)



posted on Nov, 5 2015 @ 12:16 PM
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originally posted by: theantediluvian
I wholly disagree. As long as his experiments are competently designed, conducted in a careful and controlled manner and the results are reported in good faith with conclusions drawn using commonly accepted methods of analysis, then his experiments are just as scientific as any other.

Did you miss my links where ONLY he was able to get those results?? No other lab/test ever produced similar results. It seems to me that Dr. Bem here produced data, which is not very scientific of him.


originally posted by: theantediluvian
That doesn't mean that his hypothesis isn't wrong or that there aren't unintended flaws in his experiments or the analyses of the data but that's not the same as saying, "This has nothing to do with science" or "Anything 'new' from him is just not worth the time or space here" which in this case are more statements of your own opinions on the subject of his research than valid criticism of his professionalism or methodologies.

On contrary, as Dr. Sagan once has said - extraordinary claim require extraordinary evidence... which Dr. Bem failed to provide.


originally posted by: theantediluvian
I don't believe your criticism could be more off base. Bem has been completely open and forthcoming and has not only encouraged other scientists to replicate his experiments, he's gone to extraordinary means to facilitate these efforts.

And once no one could replicate his experiments... what then? World is full of 'new age' scientist, some of them making big bucks by selling para-science to masses... If you don't trust me, check Dr. Chopra's net worth... People are buying into this just because they like to believe there is something 'more'.... but as you can see, experiments just prove there is not...



originally posted by: theantediluvian
As to this statement: "it is actually debunked"

Is it? What's the criteria for debunked? One experiment that fails to replicate the observed results? Two? Three? Ten? How versed are you on the specifics of the experiments you're citing? Well enough to rule out differences in conformity to the designs of the original experiments? I noticed some differences reading Correcting the Past: Failures to Replicate Psi that are of some potential concern:


Conducted online? They're admitting that at the very least, 4 out of 7 of their experiments were conducted in a far less controlled environment. I'm not a scientist but I am an IT professional and this leaves me with a number of questions about external influences:

- How was the program structured and were the images or words selected by a server and the selections transmitted to a client software or were they generated on the participants computers? Where the images stored on a server and transmitted to the client or were they stored on the participant's PC?
- What about network related factors like latency? How about hardware performance factors? Perhaps the effects Bem measured in his experiments exist at intervals short enough to be adversely affected by any of these uncontrolled environmental factors.
- What PRNG did they use? IIRC, Bem (who importantly here has a background in physics) used a hardware RNG.

...and so on and so forth.

I've read a number of articles, blog posts, etc that are critical of Bem's research and analysis and I noticed an apparent regard for the man even among those who disagreed with him. I think perhaps in your own skeptical zeal you've gone beyond what could be reasonably justified.

You're missing big pictures... nobody except Dr Bemmy was able to replicate his experiments... and that is enough for me and rest of the world...

Sorry, but that is just how science works...

This reminds me of teachers believing that full moon effects kids in school - which is proven wrong (there is actually a study and someone even did PhD on the topic) and still if you ask majority of teachers... they will tell you it does...



posted on Nov, 5 2015 @ 12:34 PM
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a reply to: Agartha

Relating to my post above about some of the differences in the experiments, I wanted to make an observation about the rather pronounced bias exhibited in the treatment of researchers and the scrutiny of their experiments by Mr. Carroll in the link you've posted:

On Bem:


You can see the psi assumption at work in this assessment. The real challenge, as I see it, is to prove that these statistical deviations from chance are not due to statistical flukes; faulty equipment; fine equipment affected by temperature, humidity, altitude, electro-magnetic interference from nearby equipment or personal items carried by subjects or researchers, etc.; errors in data recording, collection, collating, and in calculations from the data.

...

There is also the problem of cheating and sloppiness. Zealous psi researchers, depending on very small deviations from chance (Bem's subjects scored 1.7 to 3 percent above chance overall) to get the statistic they want, can't be assumed to always be honest and careful in the running of their labs.


Then when speaking of the experiments conducted by Galak, Nelson, etc:


In addition to the researchers mentioned above who failed to replicate Bem's experiment, Jeff Galak of Carnegie Mellon University and Leif D. Nelson of University of California, Berkeley, also failed in their attempt at replicating one of Bem's nine experiments (number 8, the one involving "recall"). The conclusion stated in the abstract of this other study reads:


As I noted above, their experiments were conducted in a far less controlled manner than Bem's. When it comes to Bem, he's concerned about the effect of altitude on the hardware and insinuates a potential for 'sloppiness' but the experiments yielding his expected results aren't subject to any criticism at all despite the fact that they introduced a vast number of additional factors that could influence the results. Take all of his concerns about Bem's experiments and multiply those by each online participant (with different hardware, at different altitudes with different humidity, etc) and then add to that a host of new factors stemming from networking, the use of a software PRNG (pseudo-random number generator), etc.

Clearly everyone has opinions and his is after all a skeptical blog, but ironically enough that's a blatant example of confirmation bias.




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