Reminder that big psi news is not as it seems: The Bem results

Wait, Maybe You Can’t Feel the Future.

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
An enlightening discussion with selected scientific minds can be see here:

  3 comments for “Reminder that big psi news is not as it seems: The Bem results

  1. December 7, 2011 at 9:13 PM

    When we interviewed Richard Wiseman about this, he told me that parapsychology journals are actually a lot better about publishing failed replication attempts than are established, peer reviewed journals like JPSP.

    • idoubtit
      December 8, 2011 at 10:06 PM

      Well, what else do they have to print? ;-)

  2. Massachusetts
    December 9, 2011 at 10:30 PM

    OK, I know this is going to get me in trouble. Einstein and other physicists apparently believe(d) that past, present and future are essentially happening all at once, existing as a kind of place, and our perception of the flow of time is a kind of illusion. At least that’s what I got out of the recent, and rather good, Nova episodes on Public Television, baring in mind that I’m not a physicist.

    So, if that’s the case, and the past and future are actually things that exist right along with the present we experience, then perhaps there is a way to sense them? Just a thought.

    Of course, there’s a big difference between speculating that such a connection can be established, and proving that such a connection can be established. If it is possible to do, you should be able to prove it. I’m just saying, that maybe the whole 4 dimensional space-time continuum way of looking at existence might provide a theoretical framework for those who seek to explore this possibility.

    From my understanding of the evidence, meaning the record of psychics in action, they need all the help they can get.

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