The paper, which was described last month, is about to be published in a respected journal of pyschology, and is already available at Bem’s website.
conducted nine experiments that test for psi, involving 1,000 subjects.
Of the nine, eight showed evidence of extra-sensory perception playing a
part in the results. In one test, participants saw a list of words and
were given a test in which they tried to retype as many of the words as
they could remember. These results were checked against words randomly
selected by a computer. The participants also performed practice
exercises using these words. When the early test results were compared
to the later words, it was shown that they remembered more of the words
they were going to practice later than words they weren’t going to
practice. The study results showed that the practice exercise performed
later appeared to help the subjects in an earlier test.
These and more counterintuitive results are understandably causing a ruckus
in the psychology community. Critics are taking exception with the the
methodology used and Bem’s conclusions that suggest the existence of
some sort of psi phenomenon.
should also be causing some discomfort among colleagues is Bem’s
reference to quantum mechanics as way to explain the notion of ESP. As
portion of his paper is devoted the comparison of psi to entanglement,
the quantum phenomenon that descriptions the inability to fully describe
objects without also describing other objects that may be spatially
separated by an arbitrary distance. The phenomenon, desribed by the
Einstein–Podolsky–Rosen paradox, is best represented by photonic
entanglement and it’s application to practical arenas such as quantum
encryption. According to Bem, cognition may also entangle.
who follow contemporary developments in modern physics, however, will
be aware that several features of quantum phenomena are themselves
incompatible with our everyday conception of physical reality,” Bem
writes. He cites the two main tenets of John Bell’s theorem regarding
the non-local nature of quantum phenomena (the EPR paradox) and that the
act of observation plays a role in determining what will be observed.
features of quantum mechanics have led to ‘observational’ theories of
psi in which it is not just the act of observation but the consciousness
of the human observer that plays an active role in what will be
observed,” he says in his white paper.
appears from the study that Bem’s subjects beat chance by at least 50%,
a not inconsiderable amount given the large selection size of his test
group. But in much the same way as some quantum phenomena, the results
defy so much of what is known about how the mind works that the results
cannot be referenced. We can’t describe what it means.
Informal comparisons between psi and quantum phenomena are fine. Even successful mathematically rigorous execution of Bell test experiments
were forced to rely on certain assumptions. But until we provide an
adequate hypothesis of psi–or until we understand cognitive phenomena
enough that it does not attract metaphors with quantum phenomena–the
notion of psi must remain that: a notion.