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.

    Sunday, April 28, 2013

    Show me the evidence

    Critics are fond of saying that there is no scientific evidence for psi. They wave their fist in the air and shout, "Show me the evidence!" Then they turn red and have a coughing fit. In less dramatic cases a student  might be genuinely curious and open-minded, but unsure where to begin to find reliable evidence about psi. Google knows all and sees all, but it doesn't know how to interpret or evaluate what it knows (at least not yet).

    In the past, my response to the "show me" challenge has been to give the titles of a few books to read, point to the bibliographies in those books, and advise the person to do their homework. I still think that this is the best approach for a beginner tackling a complex topic. But given the growing expectation that information on  virtually any topic ought to be available online within 60 seconds, traditional methods of scholarship are disappearing fast.

    So I've created a SHOW ME page with downloadable articles on psi and psi-related topics, all published in peer-reviewed journals. Most of these papers were published after the year 2000. Most report experimental studies or meta-analyses of  classes of experiments. I will continue to add to this page and flesh it out, including links to recent or to especially useful ebooks. This page may eventually become annotated, then multithreaded and hyperlinked, and then morph into a Wiki.

    Update (November 5, 2013): Here's a link to another good web site with links to scholarly articles on parapsychology, on Carlos Alvarado's blog.

    Monday, March 11, 2013

    Psi wars at TED

    Another reply, April 19, again on the Huffington Post.

    The latest (April 18, 2013) reaction, an excellent one, on the Huffington Post. The bottom line is that TED has made a tragic strategic mistake.


    Brought to my attention by Craig Weiler.
    "In this case, the brouhaha started when apparently skeptics by the names of Jerry Coyne and PZ Meyer tried to have a video by parapsychologist Rupert Sheldrake removed from TED talks because they felt he was unscientific...."
    See Craig's blog for the full story: The psi wars come to TED

    Or here for the TED site discussion, which shows the furor evoked by TED's censorship.

    Or here for a discussion about this topic on the Daily Grail.

    Or here for a "big picture" opinion by Craig Weiler.

    This episode is just another shameful example of the psi taboo at work. It is promulgated by small-minded, loud-mouthed "skeptics" who intimidate editors with bullying tactics.

    And now this, which is a predictable next step on the part of TED:

    TED Not Satisfied With Current Censorship: TEDxWestHollywood is Taken Down

    Some view this affair as a clash between those who hold a materialist worldview vs. some other (non-materialist?) worldview. My own opinion is that the research I do on psi phenomena is orthogonal to such ideologies. That's because the very meaning of "material" has changed so much over the past few centuries, and indeed even recently with the discovery of dark matter and energy, that to try to draw a strong distinction between material vs. non-material worldviews doesn't make sense. E.g., I am completely comfortable with the idea that one day psi will be discovered to be a property of matter. It would just be a more comprehensive understanding of matter than the one we have today.

    TED's silent revolution. New commentary on the TED censorship.

    (Updated 4-19-13)

    Saturday, March 09, 2013

    Tuesday, February 05, 2013

    Thursday, January 24, 2013

    Talk on Paranormal Phenomena

    Talk on the paranormal by Prof. Simon Thorpe on January 15, 2013.  Thorpe is the CNRS (French National Research Center) Director of Research for the Brain and Cognition Research Center at the University of Toulouse, France. The material he discusses will not be particularly new for most readers of this blog, but he does an excellent job summarizing some of the psi data.