Jonah Lehrer reports on a new study that appears to prove "psi" - instances of telepathy, clairvoyance or psychokinesis. But Lehrer reminds us it's been done before:
Consider the story of Adam Linzmayer. In the spring of 1931, Linzmayer, an undergraduate at Duke University, began participating in an experimental test of extra-sensory perception, or ESP. The study was led by the psychologist Joseph Banks Rhine and revolved around the Zener deck, a special set of cards featuring five different symbols. The test itself is straightforward: A card is drawn from the deck and the subject is asked to guess the symbol. While most of Rhine’s subjects performed in the neighborhood of random chance they guessed about 20 percent of the cards correctly Linzmayer averaged nearly fifty percent during his initial sessions. Furthermore, these “guesses” led to several uncanny streaks, such as when he correctly guessed nine cards in a row. The odds of this happening by chance are about one in two million. Linzmayer did it three times.
In a short time, Linzmayer lost his abilities, and performed only slightly higher than average. What makes the new study by Daryl Bem so important is "Bem’s attempt to create rigorous, well-controlled tests of psi that can be replicated by independent investigators."
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