Back in January, a paper published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology appeared to prove that ESP is real, that in certain circumstances (involving, as it happens, erotic pictures) people really can predict the future. Naturally, this got more attention than your average academic publication.
Now that nearly a year has passed, I wanted to see if any replications had been published. I e-mailed Stuart Ritchie, a doctoral student in psychology at the University of Edinburgh, who, along with two colleagues, ran Bem’s experiments but didn’t get the same results.
Their subjects couldn’t predict the future. This has been noted on blogs but, according to Ritchie, he and his colleagues haven’t had any success getting their paper published.
Credit: @tvjrennie (John Rennie) on Twitter
So, the peer review process does not work ideally. Journals bias the results. It’s a shame. But, in a bright spot, the internet has made commenting on these matters quite convenient:
The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (JPSP), which published last year’s positive result by Daryl Bem, has refused publication of the replication without even sending it out for peer review. The situation highlights the risk of a publication bias existing in psychology (and other sciences), whereby negative results are far less likely than positive findings to see the light of day.
Scientific journals can be as bad as newspapers in preferring eye-catching stories to negative findings