Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Yet another ESP controversy.

Great outrage (described in the NYTimes article by Benedict Carey) is accompanying the forthcoming publication by The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology of a paper (link to PDF of paper is in Carey article) by Daryl J. Bem, who describes experiments over 10 years with ~10,000 students testing their ability to accurately sense random events. The critics maintain that extraordinary claims (conflicting with known science) require extraordinary validation (better than the usual 'less than 1/100 chance of being due to random correlation). Several critiques are being published alongside the Bem article, some presumably taking note  of the issues raised in Jonah Lehrer article that I described in a recent post,"The Truth Wears Off."  The last 50 years has seen multiple instances of seemingly (statistically significant) results on ESP,  drug effects, psychological mechanisms,  disappear over time as the experiments are repeated. (added note: in yesterday's NY Times Carey gives an excellent discussion of the statistics involved, in very simple language.)

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