Clairvoyance, telepathy and ESP – are they myth or magic, and can the existence of these powers be scientifically proven?
Professor Daryl Bem, described by the Daily Mail Online as “a physicist and part-time magician-turned-psychologist”, set up a series of experiments to investigate the vast subject of psi.
There have already been countless similar experiments, but, as in a packed commuter train, “there’s always room for one more”.
Professor Bem, of Cornell University, New York State, carried out nine different experiments involving more than 1,000 volunteers.
The results were reported in the New Scientist.
In one experiment, students were shown a list of words to memorise. They were later asked to recall as many as they could. Finally, they were given a random selection of the words to type out.
The best remembered words tended to be the random words they were later asked to type, which suggested a future event had affected the students’ ability to remember.
In another experiment, individual students were shown an image of two curtains on a computer screen and told one concealed an erotic picture. Asked to choose between the two curtains, the choice fell on the curtain hiding the erotic picture more times than could be explained away by chance.
The position of the picture was randomly allotted by a computer after the volunteer had made the choice. This suggested, stated the report, that “the students were actually influencing future events”.
In a third study, the students were given a choice of two pictures – one of a basket of fruit and one of a menacing pit bull terrier. They had to rate the image as pleasant or unpleasant, and were timed as they made their choice.
After doing so, they were shown a word such as luscious or menacing. These words seemed to slow their reaction time. It suggested, stated the report, “they had a premonition of the word, and the thought of a menacing basket of fruit had slowed them down, compared to the mental image of a menacing dog. In other words, they were able to see into the future.”
All but one of the nine experiments carried out, came down on the side of psychic ability.
Professor Bem has pleaded with the science world to open its mind to “the possibility of the paranormal”.
US psychologist Joachim Krueger said: “My personal view is that this is ridiculous and can’t be true.
“Going over the methodology and experimental design is the first line of attack. But frankly, everything seems to be in good order.”
The proof of the pudding, says New Scientist, will be whether other scientists can repeat Professor Bem’s success.
One has already tried to prove him wrong, but failed in an attempt to repeat the word-recall experiment using an online survey.
Professor Bem says that allowing students to work online rather than in the laboratory, could simply mean that they weren’t concentrating hard enough.