Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Presentiment update

I was interviewed for a TV program on premonitions by ABC News 20/20. It will be broadcast on Friday October 26, 2012, and then afterwards the entire show can be seen on the ABC website

Update (10/28/12): The broadcast program was completely different than what I had been told it would be by one of the producers. Someone at ABC News apparently thought there was too much science on the program, and as a result the show was dumbed down to the point where the content ranged between outright stupid and ridiculously silly. 

This page on the ABC site makes the show newsworthy because it reports on "Evidence of Premonitions Discovered in New Study." This title refers to a meta-analysis of presentiment experiments published in the journal Frontiers in Perception Science by Northwestern University neuroscientist Julia Mossbridge, University of Padova psychologist Patrizio Tressoldi, and University of California Irvine statistician Jessica Utts. 

What they analyzed were experiments similar to those I've been publishing since 1997 and describing every now and then on this blog. The paper's abstract reads:
This meta-analysis of 26 reports published between 1978 and 2010 tests an unusual hypothesis: for stimuli of two or more types that are presented in an order designed to be unpredictable and that produce different post-stimulus physiological activity, the direction of pre-stimulus physiological activity reflects the direction of post-stimulus physiological activity, resulting in an unexplained anticipatory effect. The reports we examined used one of two paradigms: (1) randomly ordered presentations of arousing vs. neutral stimuli, or (2) guessing tasks with feedback (correct vs. incorrect). Dependent variables included: electrodermal activity, heart rate, blood volume, pupil dilation, electroencephalographic activity, and blood oxygenation level dependent (BOLD) activity. To avoid including data hand-picked from multiple different analyses, no post hoc experiments were considered. The results reveal a significant overall effect with a small effect size [fixed effect: overall ES = 0.21, 95% CI = 0.15–0.27, z = 6.9, p < 2.7 × 10−12; random effects: overall (weighted) ES = 0.21, 95% CI = 0.13–0.29, = 5.3, < 5.7 × 10−8]. Higher quality experiments produced a quantitatively larger effect size and a greater level of significance than lower quality studies. The number of contrary unpublished reports that would be necessary to reduce the level of significance to chance (> 0.05) was conservatively calculated to be 87 reports. We explore alternative explanations and examine the potential linkage between this unexplained anticipatory activity and other results demonstrating meaningful pre-stimulus activity preceding behaviorally relevant events. We conclude that to further examine this currently unexplained anticipatory activity, multiple replications arising from different laboratories using the same methods are necessary. The cause of this anticipatory activity, which undoubtedly lies within the realm of natural physical processes (as opposed to supernatural or paranormal ones), remains to be determined.
The parenthetical portion of the last line of the abstract is rather peculiar. As I understand it, it was added by the authors due to the concerns of at least one referee, who was apparently worried that some may see this paper as supporting evidence for an anomaly that is far too similar to what people have reported through the ages as instances of precognition.


35 comments:

MickyD said...

This is a great paper - seminal I would say. What is even more encouraging is that it's getting positive traction in the mainstream media; Science Today, for example. Let's wait for the skeptical hailstorm (no doubt Wiseman and co are planning replications has I type these words) but so far, it looks good. On the actual Frontiers website I bring attention (in the comments section) that a preponderance of studies are from your good self and Dick Bierman and skeptics might argue that true replication hasn't been achieved. I would disagree, but it is re-assuring that mainstream scientists are now doing this research, either explicitly, i.e., Mossbridge or implicitly, i.e., in the hitherto unexamined data from standard physiology based studies.
Michael.

Marcus T. Anthony said...

"The parenthetical portion... was added... due to the concerns of at least one referee, who was apparently worried that some may see this paper as supporting evidence for an anomaly that is far too similar to what people have reported through the ages as instances of precognition." Loved the sarcasm! Journal referees can be annoying indeed. I recently refused to make major changes on a journal article requested by a referee - on the idea of 'entangled minds'. I thought (s)he didn't understand the article at all, or the approach taken. Instead I stuck the article on Amazon. I lost a journal 'credit' but kept my integrity :-)

Dean Radin said...

I don't think there will be a huge rush to try to replicate these studies. They require more expertise in psychophysiology than the average uber-skeptic has at their disposal.

Coffones said...

Hi Dean!
Sorry for the OT, but are there news on the replications of consciousness and double-slit experiment?
It was very interesting!

Dean Radin said...

Our replications worked out well. I'm writing them up now. I know of two other groups that are interesting in trying replications, but they're just getting started.

fls said...

There is mention made of a test for expectation bias. Do you have information about the sensitivity of that test for ruling out that bias?

MISS FORTUNE said...

It's the direct experience and it's usefulness in life that brings the reality of presentiment into knowing beyond believing ..example I was standing at the cornor coffee shop one morning at the spot i using pour my kona coffee into my cup when i feel uncomfortable there doing so and move aside a couple feet. Bam a sudden wind brings the heavy wooden and metal awning crashing down exactly where i had stood - i would have been injured had i not moved. As i marveled at the close call, before any sensation or thought came to mind i suddenly jumped backwards, a split second later a big sign flew through the space where my face would have been had i had not jumped. THAT jump impressed me as to the reality of reacting to a danger before not only it happened but before i could mentally register any thought or sensation.

MickyD said...

Dean, I wondered what you thought of this rather incendiary piece by J K Kennedy: http://jeksite.org/psi/misconduct.htm

I'm not suprised the skeptics are playing the fraud card with all the good press psi research has garnered lately.

Also, can you disclose the two groups who are starting replications of the double-slit work? would be good to follow their progress.

Dean Radin said...

Kennedy's basic concerns are sound and well stated. Similar discussions can be found in many other disciplines because the problem of "p-hacking," as it is now sometimes called, is endemic within the experimental sciences.

But the idea that psi research has an especially serious problem with investigator fraud or other forms of misconduct is neither persuasive nor justified. Reported experiments are either independently repeatable or they are not, and my reading of the meta-analyses indicate that many of the now-classic experimental paradigms do replicate just as well, if not better, than they do in more conventional fields. One would need to propose multi-investigator fraud or collusion to explain away those results, and I don't see that as plausible.

I'm not at liberty to reveal the other groups interested in replicating the double-slit studies because one group is waiting to see if they receive a grant to support the work, and the other is still in the earliest formative stages. I can say that neither group is from the United States.

MickyD said...

Hi Dean, thanks for replying. Look forward to the double-slit replications coming out. There is a thread on the Skeptiko forum that I find distasteful but wanted to bring to your attention. It's regarding the Burning Man expt. The insinuation is that the choice of a 2 hour sliding window was fortuitious and that different analyses had different sliding windows. The thread is here: http://forum.mind-energy.net/skeptiko-podcast/4248-burning-man-mind-controlled-huge-freakin-laser-experiment-3.html. I think these criticisms are rather shallow. Wondered what you think?
Regards, Michael.

Dean Radin said...

On the burning man experiment, we addressed the question of what would happen with the use of different length sliding windows in our posted analysis.

Our original analysis was not a sliding window but rather a cumulative analysis starting an hour before to an hour after the moment of ignition. We selected that period of time because it seemed reasonable. It turned out to be fortuitous as far as our hypothesis goes, but perhaps other lengths might have been even more fortuitous.

Enfant Terrible said...

Why in this paper the authors did not included the recent paper by Daryl Bem and the failed experiments of replication?

Dean Radin said...

Why ...? For the simple reason that the inclusion criterion for this meta-analysis was psychophysiological tests, and not behavioral tests.

Dean Radin said...

Daniel Akst from the Wall St. Journal did a nice job writing up the meta-analysis on presentiment:

http://blogs.wsj.com/ideas-market/2012/10/30/people-may-be-just-a-bit-psychic-even-they-dont-know-it/

Suyuti said...

Its interesting, comes to a similar time when one of most famous Muslim scholars explains the phenomena of alien abductions:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y2DVj6NgTDI

TFlynn99 said...

I know it's already been said, but this is quite an excellent paper - soberly-reasoned and cogent. It's also supplemented by the fact that a few additional, successful presentiment studies have been published since the time of the paper's write-up.

My only gripe (and I realize this was probably beyond the scope of the present paper) is that I wish the authors would have given a little more consideration to those studies that are not, by definition, of "presentiment", but that still investigated unconscious, physiological psi effects. Only a few of such studies were included in the meta-analysis (denoted as "guessing tasks"); others were not because they did not directly test the hypothesis of the present paper, although they were mentioned elsewhere in the text. These particular unconscious-psi paradigms seem to be even less susceptible to potential confounds than the "presentiment" paradigm, which was clearly the emphasis of this meta analysis.

MickyD said...

Caroline Watt over at Koestler has started a registry for parapsych studies. I'm a bit cynical to be honest, given her general drift towards skepticism. Wondered what you think?
http://www.koestler-parapsychology.psy.ed.ac.uk/TrialRegistryDetails.html

Dean Radin said...

I think an experiment registry is a fine idea for formal hypothesis testing. Here is another one: http://openscienceframework.org/

But these registries will be used only if journal editorial guidelines are revised to ensure publication of any registered study regardless of outcome, and also if methods of assessment used in academia give credit for conducting registered studies that fail to show anything interesting.

Based on the inertia of history, I can predict that neither of these factors will change any time soon, and thus registries will continue to be lauded as a wonderful idea, but they won't be used much.

MickyD said...

Hi Dean,

Will it be possible to view your upcoming talk at the Aqus cafe, or will it be downloadable in the future.

Regards,
Michael.

Dean Radin said...

The Aqus talk was canceled due to circumstances beyond my control. We hadn't planned to record it.

In any case, I'm phasing out public talks. I'm much more interested in reaching thousands via webinars. So we are looking into live and recorded webcasting services.

E.g., one time on a multi-city book tour I ended up giving a talk to a total of two people, both of whom were staff from the book store! I swore I would never do that again.

David Bailey said...

Dean,

I wonder how much thought you have given to ways to increase the effect size of presentiment experiments.

Do erotic pictures give best result? There seem to be so many other possibilities - e.g. an evil looking mask combined with a moderate electric shock!

Dean Radin said...

My colleagues and I have tried using photos with extreme emotional contrasts, very loud sounds, electric shock, vibration, etc. All of these methods work more or less as expected, but use of extreme stimuli is only part of the puzzle. The other side is sensitivity to subtle "signals," so we've also tried experienced meditators vs. non-meditators, and that manipulation also gives the expected outcome. So, as in all domains of human performance, to get larger and more reliable effects it is important to optimize everything. One factor that hasn't been studied in the lab yet, which I think will further enhance the effect, is motivation. Preferably motivation with real-life consequences. Of course, it isn't easy to simulate this in the lab, which is one reason it hasn't been explored. I'm not talking about beating the stock market, but more critical events like personal safety.

David Bailey said...

Dean said: "I'm not talking about beating the stock market, but more critical events like personal safety."

Hmm - if you want some laboratory fear, how about recruiting some people with a phobia - say of spiders, and swapping the erotic images for spider images. I imagine some would agree to the experiment, and they would feel fear despite never being in any danger.

Also, I wonder if the pictures would not have more impact if you used VR goggles, and maybe 3D.

Anthony Mugan said...

Just as a possibly relevant aside the following paper in Physical Review Letters seems interesting:

prl.aps.org/abstract/PRL/v109/i25/e253902

If I'm understanding it correctly it suggests that the paths of photons in a complex medium are random but correlated due to interactions between their wavelike aspects, and this is in a 'noisy' environment where I (perhaps over simplistically) would have expected any entaglement to decohere...Not really my area of expertise but I hope I'm not off beam by thinking similar effects could be expected in matter particles such as electrons etc.

Not sure if this might have theoretical implications in due course or not but I'd be interested in any thoughts on this by those better qualified than myself.

MickyD said...

Enjoyable interview over at radiomistereo Dean. I was especially interested in the much larger effect sizes from the double-slit work as opposed to previous PK experimentation. This got me re-reading the extant PK literature, and meta-analyses. Most of these analyses except the Bosch, Steinkemp one, reveal highly significant effect sizes in the range of z = 12. I was wondering what is the current state of evidence for RNG PK effects since the Bosch MA eight years ago? With the exception of the double slit work, do the effects still hold up? Is anybody planning to do a more up-to-date authorative analysis? Finally, on your meta-analysis in 2000, that includes work from a meta-analysis in 1989, there are 515 expts - did this include the numerous PEAR lab and PEAR consortium work since 1987or were those expt's collapsed into a few datapoints for the purposes of the analysis?

Dean Radin said...

David Bailey: See http://archived.parapsych.org/papers/19.pdf for an example of a spider phobic experiment. The constraint in any lab study is that for obvious reasons you can only simulate real-world dangers and delights, and this significantly reduces the raw motivation that may be the fuel underlying presentiment effects.

MickyD: I haven't seen any lab-based RNG PK studies published in many years. There are a few groups doing field consciousness studies with RNGs, but that's about it. I vaguely remember that for the 2000 MA we collapsed the PEAR results into just a few data points. But I don't have the paper handy so I'm basing this on memory.

The Lay-Back Trader said...

Could it not be that the participants are actually influencing the random generator generating the tones or flashes.

Instead of presensing that they are about to flash, but actually having the thought, and then CAUSING the light or sound to go off??

MickyD said...

I was eagerly looking forward to the non-local mind future edition of Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, edited by yourself, Delorme and Tressoldi, but it looks like it's been pulled, as there's no link any more: http://www.frontiersin.org/human_neuroscience/researchtopics/nonlocal_mind_empirical_and_th/1124

Dean Radin said...

> looking forward to the non-local mind future edition of Frontiers in Human Neuroscience,...

So were we. We're investigating to see what happened.

Dean Radin said...

> Could it not be that the participants are actually influencing the random generator generating the tones or flashes.

This can be checked by checking the distribution of stimulus types used in the experiment. If that distribution is as expected by chance then it is unlikely that the RNG was influenced. Also, in some presentiment studies the stimuli are neutral -- light flashes or audio tones -- with no inherent reason to prefer one over another.

MickyD said...

I just hope the editors didn't get cold feet with such a controversial topic, although Frontiers have recently published quite a few psi related topics. It's a mystery.

Alexei said...

I think that the "neglegibility" of psi results may be dramatically increased if the participants of the experiment used the so called sigil method . If this method is used correctly, the results will undoubtedly be less negligible. It would also be great if there was an experiment where carefully chosen proffesional magic practitioners participated.

Alexei said...

I'd like to add that the sigil method is the easiest, the least cost-effective magic ritual.At the same time it's relatively effective.

MickyD said...

I was having an email exchange with a psychologist regarding the 23 studies that were excluded from this MA because there wasn't a sufficient post-stimulus response that would indicate what sign to give the pre-stimulus effect. She mentioned that those studies will always give a significant pre-stimulus effect anyway, because any difference will be significant. I disagreed but coming from a physical sciences background, was not massively equipped to develop the debate. I wondered what your thoughts are on the studies that weren't used in the analysis and, if possible, what would be the overall z score of ALL 49 studies had they been admitted to the MA? Thanks.

Dean Radin said...

> ... those studies will always give a significant pre-stimulus effect anyway, because any difference will be significant.

I'm afraid I don't know what this sentence means. Under the null hypothesis there is no relationship between pre-stimulus and post-stimulus differential effects. If there is a relationship, then something is alerting the person about their (randomly selected) future.

I don't have the full MA database in hand so I don't know what the overall z score is. I'd guess that it was at least, if not more significant, than the (conservative) selection presented this this paper.