Friday, November 08, 2013

Metaphysics of the tea ceremony

I've posted a few more articles on my evidence page, including this one: Metaphysics of the tea ceremony: A randomized trial investigating the roles of intention and belief on mood while drinking tea, by Yung-Jong Shiah and myself.  Our objective was to test, under double-blind, randomized conditions, whether drinking tea "treated" solely with good intentions would enhance mood more than drinking the same tea. We used oolong tea.

This was a follow-up to an earlier, similar study testing whether intentionally "treated" chocolate would result in improved mood, also under double-blind conditions. Both studies showed that the treated substance resulted in better mood. The latest study also studied the role of expectation to see if it modulated this intentional effect. It did, to a highly significant degree.

The bottom line is that if you believe/expect that you are consuming a specially treated substance, that belief alone will strongly influence your mood. But if the substance is also intentionally "treated," then it will influence you even more. And vice versa -- if you don't believe, you're less likely to see any effect.

This is related to the sheep-goat effect, long observed in psi studies, and to placebo effects in medicine and to experimenter expectancy effects in a wide range of areas. These effects have not been warmly embraced in science or in medicine despite the evidence that they exist because of a core assumption that underlies much of scientific epistemology: objective measurements are supposed to be completely independent of observation or psychological factors. This assumption works well enough to be useful in many contexts, but it's not universally true.

When core assumptions are found to be incorrect, that's where real progress begins.

17 comments:

The Thought Criminal said...

I hate tea, does it work with coffee?

I have to say the tea ceremony seems very relaxing when I watched a movie of it.

Billy Mavreas said...

dean

i've been following (intermittently) the discussions around Psi & evidence , etc.

and i'm curious, what about the human energy field and chakras ? have there been studies supporting these things ?

thanks
billy

Anthony Mugan said...

Presumably the effect would be expected to show up without any specific food or drink etc., but rather be related to the effects of intention and / or expectation? Presumably that would need a different experiment to formally establish?
Mind you, I do enjoy a good cup of tea and a chocolate biscuit!

I had got the impression that the placebo effect was quite well established, given the use of placebos in medical trials, but that is not my area so perhaps I've misunderstood that. The expectation side of this result does seem like a classic placebo effect, with the intention effects being more clearly psi related. I don't know enough about it to know if we understand the origins of moods in the brain etc. to know if this could indicate macro-pk effects or could be accounted for by micro / quantum level effects?

Anthony Mugan said...

To add / amend my earlier comment - the expectation aspect of this doesn't conform totally to the placebo effect of course, given the interaction of intention and expectation found in the study (that will teach me to rush a comment)...

Very intriguing

Joel Ezra said...

Dear Dr Radin,





I have been closely following your work for some time.




I am heavily influenced by the integral yoga, especially the descriptions of the supramental principle of consciousness, of Sri Aurobindo and am deeply into it without being formally affiliated to the organization.




I have my own subjective as well as objective experiences and perspectives on the subject of mind-matter.




Existence on any scale or in any aspect is simply a graduated manifestation of energy, matter and consciousness that are related to each other in intimate ways since unity in variety is the universal theme.



Nothing aside from the abovenamed triune exists in cosmos of which we're an integral aspect.



Order is a sign of intelligence, while activity is an indicator of energy.



Both go together.





Whichever way you look at it, logically speaking and based on the growing body of empirical evidence, energy is conscious.




Order, disorder, devolution, involution, evolution, entanglement, emergence, unification, mind, life, death, growth, decay, motive and the finely tuned universal constants are some obvious manifestations of the universal conscious-energy field.




It's a common error made by most sages and nearly all mind-matter researchers to consider consciousness as independent of energy/matter.




Consciousness is awareness albeit of differing degrees but it's neither substance nor is it dynamic to do work in order to perform its numerous tasks of cognizance, cogitation, reasoning, inference and intuition among others.




Anything lacking substance/energy, cannot come into existence nor can it function since energy is needed to do work.




So, the only logical conclusion that can be drawn is that consciousness, like the wave/particulate nature of energy, inheres in energy field which thus makes energy conscious.




Degree of vibration differentiates between the varied planes of conscious-energy field with each specific frequency of the field giving rise to a different set of phenomena.




More, later....




Thanking you,




Joel



(Mumbai, India)

Unknown said...

The main outcome of interest would be the comparison of change in mood between the groups drinking treated vs. untreated tea, prior to divvying up the participants into various subgroups (such as "belief"). Do you have the results for that comparison?

Dean Radin said...

> The main outcome of interest would be the comparison of change in mood between the groups drinking treated vs. untreated tea ...

This is reported in the paper. The p value associated with this comparison is 0.02.

Unknown said...

Thank you. Where is that result? I can find a comparison between treated and untreated in a small sub-group (those who believe they received treated tea) with a p-value of 0.02 (table 4). Is that what you mean? Is there a comparison between the 95 subjects in the treated group and the 94 subjects in the untreated group?

Dean Radin said...

> a comparison between the 95 subjects in the treated group and the 94 subjects in the untreated group?

I see, I misunderstood your question. This comparison was not reported in the paper because the modulating effect of belief was so clear that it didn't seem very informative to pool data across disparate beliefs.

Nevertheless, the mean change in mood for the entire treated group was 10.9 (on day 5, the preplanned day of interest), and for the entire untreated group it was 6.8. A t-test comparing these data resulted in p = 0.051, one-tailed. So the comparison was in the predicted direction, but weakened considerably for reasons made clear by Figure 2 in the paper.

Unknown said...

Ah, so the results were negative for the effect of intention. I'm not sure why you suggest it would be "pooling" to look at the results with respect to the intervention group. Had "belief" been an independent variable, under experimental manipulation, this might make sense.

I don't see how this result is all that interesting? It seems only to confirm that people will report small (in terms of clinical relevance) differences in subjective measures, based on expectation, or that people will attribute changes in mood, after the fact, to a treatment. But aren't these the sorts of biases we are trying to eliminate when we use placebo controls and blinding?

Dean Radin said...

> Ah, so the results were negative for the effect of intention.

No, as I wrote in my response to your question: "the comparison was in the predicted direction...."

> I don't see how this result is all that interesting?

Two points, both of which are surprising: First, within the placebo-controlled group, *in which all members believed that they were drinking treated tea*, those who actually did drink the treated tea reported a significantly improved change in mood as compared to those who didn't. So intention had a measurable effect under double-blind placebo-controlled conditions.

Second, within the placebo-enhanced group, *in which all members actually did receive the treated tea*, and where some believed that they did and others believed that they did not, there was a large (clinically relevant) difference in change in mood. This indicates that belief significantly modulated the intentional effect.

A next step to take in this type of experiment would be to correlate the mood measures against participants' a priori beliefs in the possibility that intentional effects are effective *in principle*. I would guess, based on the many previously reported sheep-goat psi experiments, that those who reject the possibility of such effects would not show any change in mood in any condition.

Unknown said...

I don't see how that is surprising. It is expected that once you start forming subgroups post hoc and testing them for statistical significance, some of these groups may "pass" due to chance. And the effect of "belief" on reports of subjective measures is well-established, and is the reason blinding and placebo controls are used when one is interested in finding out whether there is a real effect (vs. various statistical and cognitive errors giving the appearance of an effect). It would have been surprising if placebo-enhancement didn't show a difference, or if one of your subgroups didn't show "statistical significance" (given a choice of variables on which to form subgroups).

Is this meant to test the effect of intention (which would be surprising if present) or the effect of belief (which is so well-established that it is usually regarded as a problem to be overcome)? If you want to test the effect of intention in the setting of belief, then all the subjects could be chosen a priori for their belief (prior to randomization into intention/non-internation groups). Or the belief condition could be one of the experimental manipulations (i.e. the subjects are told they are receiving an intention or non-intention tea).

Dean Radin said...

> It is expected that once you start forming subgroups post hoc and testing them for statistical significance, some of these groups may "pass" due to chance.

Of course, but these groups were formed based on a planned variable. And, as we mentioned in the paper, after adjustment for multiple tests the placebo-enhancement condition remains very significant.

I maintain that that comparison was very surprising. If the placebo-enhanced outcome was merely due to belief then the nocebo-enhanced comparison ought to have shown a similar outcome. But it didn't.

Unknown said...

Ah, the unexpected part is that the effect in the nocebo-enhanced group due to belief was not as large as that in the placebo-enhanced group. I guess there isn't any particular reason to expect that forming subgroups post hoc would distribute the effect equally amongst the subgroups. Still, it would be interesting to test that idea by manipulating the variables a priori with the use of an "assigned or primed expectation".

Linda

Dean Radin said...

> It would be interesting to test that idea by manipulating the variables a priori with the use of an "assigned or primed expectation".

I agree!

Tor said...

What I get from this article is that belief can both boost and completely cancel a real intention effect.

I also susepct that if the study had been substantially bigger in terms of participants, there would actually turn out to be a significant difference in the nocebo-enhanced condition too (but a smaller difference than for the placebo-enhanced condition). I'd expect that as the normal workings of the placebo effect, and it would be weird if that wasn't the case here too.

And I agree that a follow up where the more traditional pre-determined sheep/goath setup was used would be both interesting and clearifying. Not to mention the intention effects on the tea/food itself (maybe it would be more subtle than a change in some material structure?)

Michelle Courtney DeFiore said...

Actually, I was also thinking if coffee will work because I don't drink tea unless they are iced tea or any kind of tea in a bottle. If it's about new thought metaphysics, I really wanted to know about this. Thank you for sharing.