Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Journal of Personality and Social Psychology ESP Paper

This one has been discussed for a few months online but, to be honest, psi phenomena were not high on my reading list toward the end of last year. The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology is an extremely good psychology journal by most sensible metrics, and so its decision to publish a paper on ESP has set the cat among the pigeons. The NYT gives an account of this here. A large amount of the internet comment on this centres around the limitations of classical hypothesis testing as well as publication bias in psychology journals. Bem discusses these issues in the conclusion, acknowledging some elements of the "file-drawer" problem though not problems, in his opinion, sufficient to generate the results. He also discusses some problems that might arise in replication. The paper reports statistically significant evidence in 8 out of 9 experiments looking at four types of "psi" phenomena - precognitive approach to erotic stimuli and precognitive avoidance of negative stimuli; retroactive priming; retroactive habituation; and retroactive facilitation of recall. The NYT article above gives some flavour of the reactions to this paper.