In Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass, the White Queen tells Alice that in her land, “memory works both ways.” Not only can the Queen remember things from the past, but she also remembers “things that happened the week after next.” Alice attempts to argue with the Queen, stating “I’m sure mine only works one way…I can’t remember things before they happen.” The Queen replies, “It’s a poor sort of memory that only works backwards.”
This is the opening paragraph from a really interesting article published over at the Psychology Today blog The Social Thinker, written by Melissa Burkley, Ph.D. The idea invokes an interesting discussion of what memory is, what precognition might be and how the two are related. Imagine, just for a moment, being able to ‘remember’ the future. Consider the idea of being able to improve your mid-term final grade, business dinner or even that conversation with your mother-in-law simply by thinking about them and perfecting them in your own mind after they happen.
The implications of this possible evidence within the paranormal community could be far reaching; it introduces almost as many questions as it provides answers for. Here is a bit more information on the research:
Dr. Bem, a social psychologist at Cornell University, conducted a series of studies that will soon be published in one of the most prestigious psychology journals (Journal of Personality and Social Psychology). Across nine experiments, Bem examined the idea that our brain has the ability to not only reflect on past experiences, but also anticipate future experiences. This ability for the brain to “see into the future” is often referred to as psi phenomena.
I would love to hear everyone else’s opinion on this study. How do you think it will affect the paranormal field? Do you believe the findings (based on the original article) are valid proof that we are (or can be) psychic?
Over the past few weeks, we’ve been party to quite a bit of discussion on research into the paranormal as a whole. Most of these conversations centered around the scientific aspect of paranormal research. Questions that came up frequently involved both personal experiences and the requirements of ‘proof’ or ‘evidence’. As I pondered the topic, I was reminded of something I’d learned about a long, long time ago (I’m showing my age…lol) and decided to post my own belief here, for everyone to read and discuss. I should probably warn you, this post will be quite long; I’ve never suffered from a loss of words!
The Scientific Method
According to what I learned in school, the scientific method contains steps. It’s a process, one that begins with observation and research. Back in the day, we were taught that the method was as follows:
Now, I don’t know if they’ve updated this process since I left school, but I still stand by the steps included here. I should also probably point out that I understand that not all scientific research can adhere to these steps, but I’d like to think that cases such as that are the exception, not the rule. So how does this process apply to paranormal research? Well, from my own experience, we’ve never left the observation and research phase. Skeptics clamor for proof of the beyond, irrefutable evidence that ghosts exist; this isn’t possible to provide, because there are no conclusions here- only theory. As we collect our observations and conduct our research, the theory we work with might change, but it is impossible to design an experiment without knowing what you are trying to accomplish or prove with that experimentation. All of this leads to the existence of skeptics and believers, those who are adamant that the paranormal exists in the context of ghosts, hauntings and other spiritually-linked events and those who are just as adamant that there is no proof, therefore it can’t possibly be real. For the purpose of this blog post, we’re going to define these two terms as follows:
1. One who instinctively or habitually doubts, questions, or disagrees with assertions or generally accepted conclusions.
1. a supporter who accepts something as true
If you’re ready for more, this article continues after the jump. Continue reading
Kudos to these researchers for doing the hard work.
Sometimes a ghost story can be used to start an investigation that leads to a injustice being corrected. Hopefully, this will cause the record to be set right for these people and their families.
We spend countless hours doing research, digging through microfiche, squinting at census records and bouncing ideas off each other. Often, we uncover information that completely unravels the urban legend or debunks a ghost story, but it usually opens up doors to a more interesting story. Like they say “Truth is stranger than fiction”.
“…if you don’t believe in reincarnation, then the odds are that you have at least felt a ghostly presence behind you in an “empty” house. Or that you have heard loved ones speak to you after they passed away. Or that you have a lucky shirt. Or that you can tell when a certain person is about to text you, or when someone unseen is looking at you. For if you have never had a paranormal experience such as these, and believe in none of the things that science says do not exist except as tricks played on the gullible or—as neuroscientists are now beginning to see—by the normal workings of the mind carried to an extreme, well, then you are in a lonely minority. According to periodic surveys by Gallup and other pollsters, fully 90 percent of Americans say they have experienced such things or believe they exist.
This excerpt is taken from Newsweek (Monday, November 3, 2008). Are you surprised to find that 90 percent of Americans claimed to have had a paranormal experience or to hold to the belief that the paranormal exists? I wasn’t, but researchers sure are. They continue to study the phenomenon, flabbergasted by the idea that in today’s modern, science-based world people continue to cling to these archaic beliefs.
In 2006, researchers Neil Dagnall, Andrew Parkera and Gary Munley published an article titled, “Paranormal belief and reasoning” in the scientific journal Personality and Individual Differences. The article addresses the psychology of the paranormal, and the abstract’s first sentence shows exactly where the document is headed:
“This paper examined whether belief in the paranormal is linked to a general weakness in probabilistic reasoning, or whether belief in the paranormal is directly linked to the perception of randomness (misrepresentation of chance).”
Probabilistic reasoning, also known as probabilistic logic, refers to problem-solving techniques that center on “the use of probability theory for weighing evidence and inferring conclusions.”1
Interestingly, the results of the study weren’t what one might expect. Instead of proving that those who believe in the paranormal have a weakness of probabilistic reasoning, they found that weakness was a deficit in perception of randomness. From the article:
“These results suggest that paranormal belief is not associated with a general weakness in probabilistic reasoning but arises from a specific deficit associated with perception of randomness (misrepresentation of chance).”
In the article,”Putting Randomness in its Place,” author Gennady Stolyarov II addresses this topic further.
” A widespread misunderstanding of the meaning of the term “randomness” often results in false generalizations made regarding reality. In particular, the view of randomness as metaphysical, rather than epistemological, is responsible for numerous commonplace fallacies.
To see randomness as metaphysical is to see it as an inherent aspect of reality as such?as embedded inextricably in “the way things are.” Typically, people holding this view will take it in one of two directions. Some of them will see randomness pejoratively?thinking that there is no way reality could be like that: chaotic, undefined, unpredictable. Such individuals will typically posit that, because reality cannot be random, it must therefore be centrally planned by a super-intelligent entity, such as a deity.
Others, however, will use the metaphysical perception of randomness to deny evident and ubiquitously observable truths about our world: the facts that all entities obey certain natural laws, that these laws are accessible to human beings, and that they can inform our decision-making and actions.”
This view isn’t unique; in fact, if you search Google Scholar for ‘paranormal weak mind,’ you’ll turn up roughly 5,000 results. So the question becomes simple- in the face of all this scientific proof to the contrary, how and why is it possible that these paranormal beliefs continue to thrive