The Philosopher's Eye

News and brain candy for the philosophy community

Students Possess Psychic Abilities!

Why study when you can foresee what the questions will be?

Apparently students possess psychic abilities, but only when it comes to porn. A study is soon to be published revealing statistically significant evidence that supports the existence of precognition, the ability to see into the future. Precise details are not yet available, but we can get a good impression of the experiment from the media reports. Each student was shown an image, and then a picture of two curtained screens on a computer monitor; behind one curtain was an image, behind the other a blank wall. The students were asked to click on the curtain that they thought had the image behind it. Some of the students were shown an “erotic” image beforehand, one assumes that others were shown “non-erotic” images of some description. Some, but not all, of the images behind the curtain were also of an erotic nature. The theory seems to be that if the participants were ‘primed’ erotically (i.e. by being shown an erotic image), and the end result is an erotic one (i.e. they see another erotic image if they successfully select the correct curtain) they might perform better at the task. Prof. Emeritus Daryl Bem hypothesised that 50% of participants would select the right curtain, but that those shown an erotic image would show a higher success rate. And indeed, it seems that his hypothesis was satisfied…statistically.

53.1% of those shown erotic stimuli guessed the correct curtain, significantly deviating from chance, whilst only 49.8 of those shown non-erotic stimuli guessed the correct curtain, not deviating from chance. These percentages were acquired from 100 sessions of 100 (50 male and 50 female) students, so the additional 3.1% does seem to be statistically significant. Empiricists take note: you must now believe in the existence of psychic abilities!

Or perhaps not. If there are two major challenges for psi-researchers, the empirical and the theoretical, Bem has made some small headway in only one; and it is, as of yet, only a small advance. Studies such as this will need to be repeated, refined, and shown to reveal similar findings before the banking world starts recruiting psychic consultants. The theoretical challenge is untouched, and until really significant evidence appears, it seems the default position of disbelief should be maintained. It is, after all, very difficult to imagine precisely how one might see into the future; it is, to put it philosophically, vulnerable to paradox and metaphysically queer. And indeed, if it were openly possible, why on earth wouldn’t humans be, well, more successful?! Such a valuable attribute would surely be selected naturally by an evolutionary process, and one would imagine that if it did exist then we would see it everywhere…but we do not. To my knowledge, no investment banker attributes their success to precognition…or maybe working 80 hours a week researching companies is just to check and make sure?

Related Articles:

Naturalisms in Philosophy of Mind

Steven Horst

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This entry was posted on January 10, 2011 by in Viewpoint and tagged , , , , , , .

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