Rupert Sheldrake: Telephone Telepathy

Rupert's genius is developing simple, scientifically sound ways of demonstrating psi phenomena. Telephone telepathy is one of my favorites, and this video is a great way of showing how the test works, and a glimpse at the results.


muzuzuzus said…
hah that was great AND its made me like the Nolan Sisters . They've got good sense of humour ;)
gildedchute said…
For a while I've had the idea that small groups of musicians who play intensively together for a long time might be among the best candidates for tests of interpersonal psi. (Alongside obvious candidate groups like siblings of course!) Not only do these groups spend long periods together concentrating on a shared mental task, the task involves emotional and aesthetic as well as mechanical performance. And it's a task involving precise and subtle co-ordination of timing, so Libet's experiments might suggest that a rhythmically tight band, especially one that plays rhythmically subtle or flexible music, should be expected to have some entanglement going on. And there are anecdotes suggesting that some tight bands do indeed demonstrate unusual mental closeness or sympathy. An all-too-obvious example is The Beatles: in his Revolution in the Head Ian MacDonald remarks on "the group's often reported sense of psychic collectivity" (p. 125, and note the anecdote on that page). Though of course we've also seen every imaginable form of conflict, bad blood and treachery inside bands...
Enfant Terrible said…
Hi, Dean

is in your plans to try a replication of Sheldrake's work?
Dean Radin said…
After speaking with Rupert about this and similar experiments, I've been inspired to come up with a replication of his automated telephone telepathy experiment (that will work in the US, which is not a trivial issue).
Gareth said…
One of my favourite heretics.

I love the everyday nature of the experiments that Dr. Sheldrake devises. In my opinion a large part of the appeal of his work is due to the fact that most people can identify with the concepts and results (eg. I can identify with the experience of knowing who's calling before I pick up the phone, but I struggle to identify with the experience of the ganzfeld procedure).
Dean Radin said…
It's true that many lab experiments can seem abstract and divorced from reality. But they also provide simple ways of controlling and interpreting what's going on. I try to design studies that match what people actually report, but also match what scientists are comfortable seeing and evaluating. Sometimes that strategy works, sometimes not so much.
Gareth said…
I also think the more traditional lab-based experiments are vital in providing an environment with strict controls that stand up under close scrutiny. The everyday- and lab- approaches compliment eachother and are both vital in spreading knowledge.
Unknown said…
How is it possible for the receiver to draw a line between "genuine" psi hunches or just "random" thoughts?

If I sat there, I'd probably doubt my hunches up to the point where it's nothing but a guessinggame.

How to distinguish?
Dean Radin said…
> How is it possible ...?

dawnow said…
I can't think of any obvious serious flaws in the experimental method. Maybe, however, there is the possibility that the die is slightly (accidentally) loaded in some way so a particular number comes up more often. Then if the receiver happens to like that particular sister more than the others, her score would be higher than chance. The way to get around this would be a series of control tosses to demonstrate the true randomness of tosses of that particular die. How are skeptics challenging these results, other than simply claiming fraud?
O J said…
I think it is interesting that other telepathy type experiments have results that are better than would be expected by change, but only better by a small margin. Why do you think this is the case?
Dean Radin said…
> loaded in some way so a particular number comes up more often. Then if the receiver happens to like that particular sister more than the others, her score would be higher than chance.

This is known as the "stacking effect," when one bias happens to match another bias. But this same effect has a downside. If the two biases happen to mismatch each other, you can end up with a result that is wildly below chance.

Tossed dice may not be as random as one might like, but in short sequences, as they are used in these experiments, the random sequence is usually perfectly adequate. In any case, it's only in many repeated sessions, with many participants, that a solid statistical case can be made.

> How are skeptics challenging these results, other than simply claiming fraud?

There are no legitimate challenges that I'm aware of. Other than fraud, only highly selective reporting could explain these results in a conventional way. Psi researchers are acutely aware of the biasing effects of selective reporting, and there are very few people actually conducting these experiments in the first place. So when meta-analytical "filedrawer" estimates are made to see how big the supposedly unreported database would have to be, you can quickly calculate that selective reporting is an exceedingly unlikely explanation.

Of course, "these results" are not just the video sessions shown here, but many other well controlled, filmed sessions, along with less tightly controlled unobserved sessions (and ganzfeld studies, and the EEG studies, and ...).
Dean Radin said…
> other telepathy type experiments have results that are better than would be expected by [chance], but only better by a small margin.

Because human performance is variable, and very few people have systematically practiced telepathy for the roughly 10,000 hours it takes to become an expert (in anything). The same variability can be found in many tests of ordinary human performance, and in expert performance as well.
nick herbert said…
Nice experiment by Rupert. But video did not indicate how many trials the sisters did, a small but very important fact which for me seriously marred the presentation.
Dean Radin said…
"We conducted 12 trials in which the participant and her callers were 1 km apart. Six out of 12 guesses (50%) were correct. The results were significant at the p=0.05 level. "

Go here for the full article:
David Bailey said…
I am very impressed by Rupert Sheldrake. He has a knack of devising experiments that demonstrate psi in a normal emotional context - such as human-pet relations, or responding to a telephone call - and he is rewarded with much larger effect sizes. Someone mentioned a biased dice - but the dice would have to be grossly distorted to explain 40% rather than 25%. Big effect sizes rule out a lot of subtle possible explanations of that sort.
Aaron said…
It seems like this experiment is cheap as relatively easy to do. Why on earth aren't more people doing this? People with close connections would volunteer to do it just for fun. The statistical result appears staggering. With such a result it would seem relatively easy to convert this experiment into a repeatable psi demonstration that would persuade skeptics. Am I naive? Why isn't it being done?
Dean Radin said…
The automated version of this experiment, which is the best way to do it, is technically nontrivial. That's one reason it isn't being done more. Another is that there are very few scientists who have the skills, interest, and the resources to properly do this sort of experiment, and even fewer who might do it and if they get a significant result, risk publishing those results. The strength of the taboo against investigating these phenomena cannot be overestimated.
Mike said…
Dean, While the following is most likely Sheldrake's "cup of tea," you might be interested: Psychic dog signals incoming phone calls
MickyD said…
Hi Dean,

A bit off topic (apologies) but have you had a look at the data from the online suite of tests? Do you intend to publish, and what results have been found in terms of overall effect size and psychological / geo-physical correlates.
Dean Radin said…
> have you had a look at the data from the online suite of tests? Do you intend to publish ...

No and yes. I've been busy with other projects and haven't looked at the online data for years. Some day I will.
Mike said…
Scientific Community Unfair to Dr. Rupert Sheldrake, Imperial College London Dissertation Asserts:
Tor said…
Hi Dean,

Just recently I looked at your article

"Compassionate intention as a therapeutic intervention by partners of cancer patients: effects of distant intention on the patients´ autonomic nervous system"

In the beginning of the discussion section it is written "It might be noted that the absolute magnitudes of the observed effects were still rather small, for example, for the receiver’s SCL, the peak changes over baseline amounted to fractions of a microSiemen.."

Could you enlighten me about what is a typical response above the baseline (in microSiemen) for senders?

Dean Radin said…
> Could you enlighten me about what is a typical response above the baseline (in microSiemen) for senders?

2 to 10 microSiemens is not uncommon for a response to a stimulus.
Tor said…
"2 to 10 microSiemens is not uncommon for a response to a stimulus."

So the smaller DMILS effect, is it at all visible/detectable above noise in single trials? Or is it just as you group them the together that the signal to noise ratio gets high enough?

Of course, any one single trial might be a fluke, but if someone consistently get a signal in the hypnotized direction, then that would be interesting.
Dean Radin said…
Effects are not generally visible in single trials, just as event related potentials (ERPs) in EEG studies are usually buried in noise. Many repeated trials are needed to statistically raise the signal out of the noise.
Tor said…
Thanks for your answers Dean, and sorry for the typos. Seems like my spell checker is a bit too aggressive without me noticing.

In recent years I've occasionally been looking at so called bio-energy research. Especially the subcategory that has emerged from China examining external qi. Some of the reported effects here are much larger than what is usually reported from DMILS and MMI studies in the west.

Especially the study of Xin Yan and his abilities are fascinating. The review article “Certain Physical manifestation and Effects of External
Qi of Yan Xin Life Science Technology
(Journal of Scientific Exploration, Vol. 16, No. 3, pp. 381–411, 2002) shows some huge effects on radioactive decay time. Normally REG studies show a change from baseline of only a small fraction of a percent, but these studies range from 1-12% changes. Some of these experiments were done remotely, e.g qi was projected from the US to China. In another study he completely kills off all cancerous grown cells within 24 hours, compared to none in control groups (External Qi of Yan Xin Qigong induces G2/M arrest and apoptosis of androgen-independent prostate cancer cells by inhibiting Akt and NF-jB pathways
, Mol Cell Biochem (2008) 310:227–234
DOI 10.1007/s11010-007-9684-2)
. Reading these reports I can not see any obvious signs of incompetence in research design. And there have been extensive collaboration with western well known institutions during recent years.

If you ever get the chance Dean, I think testing Xin Yan could be very interesting.

Anadu Kune said…
Hi Dean

This may be a bit off topic but I was reading an earlier post on spoon bending which got me very interested in the subject. In doing further research on the topic I found that many people report that this actually happens. This blew my mind a bit because I had long ago written spoon bending off as slight of hand trickery.

The point of this is that I am curious as to what you felt during the experience and how you were told to focus on the spoon. I am also curious about meditation and how to go about doing it. I was just wondering if you could give me a few pointers on where to start.
Simon Hay said…
Hi Dean,

I think it will be hard to replicate a relaxed environment in a test. From personal experience as psychic when I'm tested unkowingly by a client it's difficult to be accurate. The information doesn't flow. Full disclosure - its fair to say I'm a better healer than a psychic, but from experience there's something about being tested that interfers.

So on the healing table a client might keep something from me intentionally and I may not pick it up. If they tell me a little about why they're there but forget something I'll find it.

I tend to get emotional personal things when I'm reading, and if I hit a nerve, the reaction from the client can shut down the information.

It works the other way too. Extreme ends of the scale seem to have an affect. Yes everybody wants it to work expectation is high - a mediocre result. This is rot and I don't want to be here - a mediocre result.

Surprise, humour, gratitude, middle range emotions intentions seem to get the best results. How you test this I don't know.

I'm just sharing my personal experience and observations.
A. Shadow said…
Very interesting clip, I thoroughly enjoyed it!

I'm not sure how to word this, but it was interesting how some of the sisters were unable to pick up on the more skeptical sister: it's like there was a "mental block" there that kept the other sisters from picking up on her.

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