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Study: Odds against existence of ESP

COLUMBIA, Mo., May 18 (UPI) -- Recent claims for the existence of extra-sensory perception don't stand up to statistical analysis, U.S. and European researchers said.

Jeffrey Rouder and Richard Morey from the University of Missouri, along with colleagues at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, analyzed experiments by psychologist Daryl Bem of Cornell University, who is claiming evidence for ESP.

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Their application of a relatively new statistical method that quantifies how beliefs should change in light of data suggests there is only modest evidence behind Bem's findings that people can feel, or sense, events in the future that could not otherwise be anticipated and cannot be explained by chance alone.

Statistically, beliefs are odds, they say. For example, a skeptic might hold odds that ESP is a long shot at a million-to-one, while a believer might believe it is as possible as not (one-to-one odds).

Rouder and Morey show Bem's experiments might change belief by a factor of 40 in favor of ESP. The believer should now be 40-to-1 sure of ESP, while the skeptic should be 25000-to-1 sure against it, they said.

The skeptic's odds are appropriate, Rouder and Morey conclude in their study, appearing online in the Psychonomic Bulletin & Review.

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"We remain unconvinced of the viability of ESP. There is no plausible mechanism for it, and it seems contradicted by well-substantiated theories in both physics and biology," they wrote. "Against this background, a change in odds of 40 is negligible."

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