Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Mediumship study published

Electrocortical activity associated with subjective communication with the deceased

Arnaud Delorme (1,2), Julie Beischel (3), Leena Michel (1), Mark Boccuzzi (3), Dean Radin (1) and Paul J. Mills (4)

  • 1 Institute of Noetic Sciences, Petaluma, CA, USA
  • Institute of Neural Computation, SCCN, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, CA, USA
  • Windbridge Institute, Tucson, AZ, USA
  • Department of Psychiatry, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, CA, USA

  • During advanced meditative practices, unusual perceptions can arise including the sense of receiving information about unknown people who are deceased. As with meditation, this mental state of communication with the deceased involves calming mental chatter and becoming receptive to subtle feelings and sensations. Psychometric and brain electrophysiology data were collected from six individuals who had previously reported accurate information about deceased individuals under double-blind conditions. Each experimental participant performed two tasks with eyes closed. 

    In the first task, the participant was given only the first name of a deceased person and asked 25 questions. After each question, the participant was asked to silently perceive information relevant to the question for 20 s and then respond verbally. Responses were transcribed and then scored for accuracy by individuals who knew the deceased persons. Of the four mediums whose accuracy could be evaluated, three scored significantly above chance (p < 0.03). The correlation between accuracy and brain activity during the 20 s of silent mediumship communication was significant in frontal theta for one participant (p < 0.01). 

    In the second task, participants were asked to experience four mental states for 1 min each: (1) thinking about a known living person, (2) listening to a biography, (3) thinking about an imaginary person, and (4) interacting mentally with a known deceased person. Each mental state was repeated three times. Statistically significant differences at p < 0.01 after correction for multiple comparisons in electrocortical activity among the four conditions were obtained in all six participants, primarily in the gamma band (which might be due to muscular activity). 

    These differences suggest that the impression of communicating with the deceased may be a distinct mental state distinct from ordinary thinking or imagination.

    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.