In a followup to this story, the results are in: A scientific experiment has found that two mediums were unable to demonstrate that they had special psychic powers.
The test by researchers at Goldsmiths, University of London, tried to establish whether mediums could use psychic abilities to identify something about five unseen volunteers.
The results, carried out under test conditions, did not show evidence of any unexplained powers of insight.
The experiment, designed by Chris French, head of the Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit at Goldsmiths, asked two professional mediums to write something about five individuals who were concealed behind a screen.
These five volunteers were then asked to try to identify themselves from these psychic readings – with a success rate of only one in five.
This was a result that was “entirely consistent with the operation of chance alone”, said Professor French.
Tipster Ross Balch (Sciencism podcast) notes what is particularly jading about this experiment – the response of the medium Patricia Putt that scientists or closed minded and that the so called “psychic energy” cannot work without face to face contact and talking to the subjects. He and many others suspect the reason these mediums need a face to face conversation is so that they can use cold reading techniques, whether they know it or not.
Ross continues, “Unfortunately I don’t think skeptics will ever escape the accusation of being closed minded.” Had this experiment showed evidence that these mediums really do have some interesting ability, the scientists and the skeptical community would have been thrilled to investigate further. “However it seems that no matter how much evidence is presented that psychic abilities don’t exist, these people refuse to change their beliefs, the very definition of closed minded.”
The psychics had agreed to the protocol beforehand.
Yes, psychics agreed protocol. Confident on the day. RT @randywombat: BBC story omits key info: did psychics agree this was good test?
— Simon Singh (@SLSingh) October 31, 2012
The Merseyside Skeptics and Simon Singh said (on Twitter) that this has been a valuable learning experience about testing, making sure all potential leakages of information are blocked. Apparently it blocked the actual psychic power too. Or something. But until we have something anomalous to explain, we can’t accept that such psychic powers exist.