Saturday, November 27, 2010

Levers shifting by themselves, buttons being pushed, instrument readings changing.

Even stranger than relativy (see previous post) is ESP or psi or ... whatever you want to call it. I can't figure out if this article is serious or not, but it is being published in an APA journal, and the authors have something interesting to say about random numbers (more on that later).

"Feeling the Future: Experimental Evidence for Anomalous Retroactive Influences on Cognition and Affect", Daryl J. Bern, Cornell. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. DOI: 10.1037/a0021524. You can read a preview here and a critique. From the abstract of Bern's paper:
Precognition and premonition are themselves special cases of a more general phenomenon: the anomalous retroactive influence of some future event on an individual’s current responses, whether those responses are conscious or nonconscious, cognitive or affective. This article reports 9 experiments, involving more than 1,000 participants, that test for retroactive influence by “time- reversing” well-established psychological effects so that the individual’s responses are obtained before the putatively causal stimulus events occur.
This reminds me of the second pilot episode of the original Star Trek series, Where No Man Has Gone Before, where two crew with highest "ESPer ratings" get shiny eyes and havoc ensues. Classic dialog :)
KIRK: Extrasensory perception. Doctor Dehner, how are you on ESP?
DEHNER: In tests I've taken, my ESP rated rather high.
KIRK: I'm asking what you know about ESP.
DEHNER: It is a fact that some people can sense future happenings, read the backs of playing cards and so on, but the esper capacity is always quite limited.
You might as well watch it now, you know you want to.

Back to the Bern paper. The way I understand it, and there is a good chance that I am wrong, is that subjects were told something like "you'll be shown two blank boxes on the screen labeled 1 and 2. One of them hides and image and the other nothing. For each trial, tell us behind which number is the image." Simple enough. But the interesting part is that the number of the box hiding the image was not determined until after the subjet made their choice. And, the number was not always generated by a typical pseudo random number generator, they used a hardware device to generate random numbers:
... if a true hardware-based RNG is used to determine the left/right positions, the next number in the sequence is indeterminate until it is actually generated by the quantum physical process embedded in the RNG, thereby ruling out the clairvoyance alternative. This argues for using a true RNG to demonstrate precognition or retroactive influence.
But alas, the use of a true RNG opens the door to the psychokinesis interpretation: The participant might be influencing the placement of the upcoming target rather than perceiving it, a possibility supported by a body of empirical evidence testing psychokinesis with true RNGs [reference to D.I. Radin, Entangled minds: Extrasensory experiences in a quantum reality, 2006].
But, like I said, I don't really understand the paper. Back to watching Sally Kellerman and Gary Lockwood and their shiny eyes.