ArticlePDF Available

Plausibility, statistical interpretations, physical mechanisms and a new outlook: Response to commentaries on a precognition review

Article

Plausibility, statistical interpretations, physical mechanisms and a new outlook: Response to commentaries on a precognition review

Abstract

We address what we consider to be the main points of disagreement by showing that (a) scientific plausibility (or lack thereof) is a weak argument in the face of empirical data, (b) the statistical methods we used were sound according to at least one of several possible statistical positions, and (c) the potential physical mechanisms underlying precognition could include quantum biological phenomena. We close with a discussion of what we believe is an unfortunate but currently dominant tendency to focus on reducing Type-I statistical errors without balancing that approach by also paying attention to the potential for Type-II errors.
REPLY
Plausibility, Statistical Interpretations, Physical Mechanisms and a
New Outlook: Response to Commentaries on a Precognition Review
Julia A. Mossbridge
Northwestern University and Institute of Noetic
Sciences, Petaluma, California
Dean Radin
Institute of Noetic Sciences, Petaluma, California
We address what we consider to be the main points of disagreement by showing that
(a) scientific plausibility (or lack thereof) is a weak argument in the face of empirical
data, (b) the statistical methods we used were sound according to at least one of several
possible statistical positions, and (c) the potential physical mechanisms underlying
precognition could include quantum biological phenomena. We close with a discussion
of what we believe is an unfortunate but currently dominant tendency to focus on
reducing Type-I statistical errors without balancing that approach by also paying
attention to the potential for Type-II errors.
Keywords: precognition, retrocausality, statistical arguments, plausibility
We thank James Houran, Rense Lange, Dan
Hooper, and Samuel Schwarzkopf for their
commentaries on our review of experimental
evidence for precognition (Schwarzkopf, 2018).
Science advances not only when novel data are
observed in rigorous experiments, but also as a
result of serious debates about the interpretation
of those data. Here we respond to the two com-
mentaries by briefly stating our own positions
on what we believe to be the major points of
disagreement. We are grateful to the journal
editors and the commentators for the opportu-
nity to clarify these points.
Plausibility and the Scientific Venture
Both commentaries raise the question of the
plausibility of our interpretation of results from
experiments testing precognition and related ef-
fects. Schwarzkopf’s commentary (Schwarz-
kopf, 2018) is almost entirely focused on this
issue, so we first respond to his points here.
Schwarzkopf stated, “The plausibility of a
hypothesis depends on whether an observation
is consistent with our current understanding of
the world....Nomatter how strong the statis-
tical evidence, if the hypothesis is impossible, it
must necessarily be false (Schwarzkopf, 2018,
p. 95).” This argument is invalid because it is
circular. If our current understanding of the
world is inexact, which is a core assumption in
science, then we cannot be sure that any hy-
pothesis is impossible. Thankfully, Schwarz-
kopf is aware of this problem, so he immedi-
ately followed that statement with this one: “I
cannot confidently claim that precognition or
presentiment are impossible. I simply do not
know enough about the universe to know this
for certain. I am however extremely skeptical
that such retro-causal effects exist (Schwarz-
kopf, 2018, p. 96).”
Schwarzkopf’s skepticism is understandable.
Precognition challenges the commonsense no-
tion that cause precedes effect. Our scientific
skepticism remains intact as well, except unlike
Schwarzkopf, we have the benefit of repeatedly
observing reversals of the usual cause– effect
sequence in our own laboratory studies. We
invite Schwarzkopf and other scientifically
Julia A. Mossbridge, Department of Psychology, North-
western University, and Institute of Noetic Sciences, Peta-
luma, California; Dean Radin, Institute of Noetic Sciences.
Correspondence concerning this article should be ad-
dressed to Julia A. Mossbridge, Institute of Noetic Sciences,
101 San Antonio Road, Petaluma, CA, 94952. E-mail:
jmossbridge@gmail.com
This document is copyrighted by the American Psychological Association or one of its allied publishers.
This article is intended solely for the personal use of the individual user and is not to be disseminated broadly.
Psychology of Consciousness: Theory, Research, and Practice © 2018 American Psychological Association
2018, Vol. 5, No. 1, 110–116 2326-5523/18/$12.00 http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/cns0000152
110
minded skeptics to recall their first time reading
about the results of the delayed-choice quan-
tum-eraser experiment (Kim, Yu, Kulik, Shih,
& Scully, 2000). That experiment provided
highly repeatable data for a retrocausal phenom-
enon at the quantum scale. Because it seems to
violently disagree with everyday experience,
some scientists continue to struggle with that
interpretation and they offer different interpre-
tations of the data. The same is true, we believe,
for the data from precognition experiments.
Schwarzkopf went on to say, “Critically,
even if I accept that such effects are at least
possible, the rate at which they can be observed
in noisy psychology or physiology experiments
must be nanoscopic, many orders of magnitude
below those reported by these studies (Schwar-
zkopf, 2018, p. 96).” Schwarzkopf’s reasoning
is not clear. No reference or theoretical argu-
ments are provided that would allow us to judge
this claim, unless he is implying an effect op-
erating at the quantum scale. In any case, we
remind the reader that the supreme achievement
of science has been to repeatedly disprove our
cherished assumptions; for a recent summary of
some seemingly impossible phenomena in the
world of physics, consider the cover story in
New Scientist from April 2016, in which the
author states, “There’s no shortage of hints that
our current theories don’t provide a full picture
of reality” (Brooks, 2016, p. 28). It is abun-
dantly clear that this is also the case for the
fields of psychology and physiology.
Schwarzkopf continued, “If you observe an ef-
fect, you must ask whether it is plausible under the
hypothesis you are testing (Schwarzkopf, 2018,p.
97).” This suggests that if a dataset challenges
one’s prior conceptions, then one should question
the validity of the data. We agree. But if a meth-
odologically sound experiment provides data that
support a clearly stated hypothesis, even one that
violates one’s prior beliefs, then what? Reject the
anomalous data because existing theory must be
true? In our view such a position is antiscientific in
that, if followed to its logical limits, Schwarzko-
pf’s approach would collapse today’s scientific
worldview into unassailable dogma.
We have previously countered Schwarzkopf’s
methodological and analytical concerns about pre-
sentiment experiments (Mossbridge et al., 2015),
and we and other investigators performing similar
experiments have also countered other critiques
(e.g., Bem, Utts, & Johnson, 2011;Dalkvist,
Mossbridge, & Westerlund, 2014;Mossbridge et
al., 2014;Radin, 2004;Utts, 1996). Indepen-
dently repeatable empirical results continue to
support the precognition hypothesis, so in prin-
ciple, the weight of the accumulating evidence
ought to eventually overcome skeptical objec-
tions. Unfortunately, the history of scientific
discoveries clearly documents that when and
even whether that happens depends more on
sociopolitical factors, idiosyncratic tempera-
ments, and maintenance of the status quo, rather
than a neutral assessment of data (Kuhn, 1970).
We agree with Schwarzkopf (2018) that, even
if rigorous meta-analyses continue to support the
precognition hypothesis, that does not necessarily
prove that some overlooked methodological arti-
fact cannot explain the effect. But we would point
out that over the past 40 years, there have been
repeated attempts to find such artifacts, and when
potential loopholes were identified, they were
closed and the phenomena continued to be ob-
served. It is thanks to critiques like Schwarzkopf’s
that this line of research has continuously tight-
ened its methods and controls, and in the process,
has introduced important methodological ad-
vancements, including the use of meta-analysis,
study preregistration, and awareness about selec-
tive reporting and multiple analyses. It is always
possible that other artifacts may someday be dis-
covered that will explain what seems like precog-
nition to instead be a result of a mundane, but
probably subtle, mistake. Our best guess at this
point is that this will not happen. But time will tell
(pun intended).
Ultimately, critiques about the plausibility of
precognition seem to rest far less on the available
evidence, and far more on what is deemed to be
already understood about the nature of conscious-
ness and its role in the physical world. Assigning
plausibility based on commonsense is obviously
unsatisfactory, but so are assumptions based on
the existing scientific worldview. That worldview,
a hodge-podge collection of sometimes contradic-
tory theories and data, continues to evolve, and it
does not take a crystal ball to predict that future
science will contain many surprises.
Is There Something Wrong With
the Statistics?
We find Houran, Lange, and Hooper’s (2018)
concerns with the statistical results cited in our
review partly reasonable and partly unreason-
111REPLY TO COMMENTS ON MOSSBRIDGE AND RADIN (2018)
This document is copyrighted by the American Psychological Association or one of its allied publishers.
This article is intended solely for the personal use of the individual user and is not to be disseminated broadly.
able. First, they raised the concern that our
interpretation of pvalues was likely to reinforce
the idea that pvalues reflect the probability of
the null hypothesis given the data. They are
correct. The way we discussed some of our
interpretations of pvalues might have rein-
forced this erroneous idea. Nevertheless, that
interpretation does not change the pvalues
themselves. Their second concern was stated as
follows.
These studies, however, have the conceptual flaw that
two-sided hypotheses of the form H
0
:0 and H
1
:
0 were apparently used, and these hypotheses
were tested by standard statistical tests. In this context,
we first note that it has long been recognized...that
rejection of such null hypotheses may result from an
exaggeration of the evidence for the postulated effect.
This occurs because standard statistical tests are con-
sistent only if the H
0
is false. (Houran et al., 2018,p.
99)
Yes, but the point of a well-conducted meta-
analysis is to determine whether the effect sizes
recorded in replications are in the same direc-
tion. They continued, “But, is it reasonable to
say that two experiments showing opposite (and
likely artificial) outcomes both support the same
kind of precognition? We don’t think so
(Houran et al., 2018, p. 100).” And neither do
we. That is why the meta-analyses applied to
the precognition and presentiment experiments
we discussed tested a one-sided hypothesis.
That is, these meta-analyses could only end up
with a significant outcome if the replications on
average produced outcomes in the same direc-
tion.
Their third concern was about what these
commentators call a “crap factor,” that is, noise
in the data, and how that crap factor can be
magnified by meta-analyses. There are several
opinions on this topic among statisticians, and
Houran et al. (2018) cite only one side of the
ongoing debate. It is obvious that noise exists in
all measurements, especially in the biological
and social sciences. One of the most straight-
forward ways to see through the noise is to
conduct a conservative meta-analysis. Other-
wise, there is no way to judge if an effect has
been independently replicated. And if effect
sizes need to be of a certain magnitude to be
taken seriously, then what is the appropriate
threshold? Taking an aspirin each day is said to
reduce the risk of a heart attack; the estimated
effect size is a mere 0.03 (Rosnow & Rosenthal,
2003). And yet, aspirin is regularly prescribed
for preventing heart attacks. By contrast, the
meta-analytical estimate of the effect size for
presentiment effects is nearly an order of mag-
nitude larger (0.21; Mossbridge, Tressoldi, &
Utts, 2012). Is that large enough? We suppose it
depends on one’s Bayesian priors about the
plausibility of precognition.
Houran et al. (2018) did suggest Bayesian
analyses, but they failed to point out that Bayes-
ian analyses are unavoidably influenced by sub-
jective bias—the setting of at least one of the
two necessary priors, which is set according to
the researcher’s beliefs. An article discussing
problems of multiple analyses pointed out that
Bayesian analyses increase researchers’ degrees
of freedom by giving them the decision to set at
least one prior (Simmons, Nelson, & Simon-
sohn, 2011). Because this degree of freedom is,
by definition, tied to a researcher’s prior beliefs,
it is not clear how Bayesian methods can pre-
vent a researcher from discovering something
that she did not already expect to find, or not
find something she preferred to avoid. Despite
such real concerns, in our paper we turned to the
medical Bayesian-analysis literature to assess if
precognition effects reported by Daryl Bem
were large enough to be of practical importance.
The answer was clearly yes.
Overall, we take issue with the final comment
on statistics made by Houran et al.
In the end, however, their basic logical argument relies
on the finding of unlikely data patterns that seemingly
support the existence of precognition....[This] very
argument is not logically tenable, and that the support
for this hypothesis derives from ambiguous data that
were gathered in a noisy context, and analyzed using
questionable assumptions. (Houran et al., 2018, p. 100)
This criticism is invalid because it implies
that there is something unique to this line of
research, when in reality the same criticism
could be applied to any experiment in any do-
main. We are all striving to improve our meth-
ods, and we suggested several such improve-
ments (e.g., preregistration, preregistered meta-
analytic methods, and prospective meta-
analyses). Schwarzkopf suggested an additional
approach in his commentary, namely, collabo-
rations between precognition researchers and
skeptics. That might sound reasonable, but ac-
tually it perpetuates a false distinction. It
wrongly implies that scientists who report suc-
cessful precognition experiments are not prop-
112 MOSSBRIDGE AND RADIN
This document is copyrighted by the American Psychological Association or one of its allied publishers.
This article is intended solely for the personal use of the individual user and is not to be disseminated broadly.
erly skeptical. For example, a scientist with no
prior involvement in precognition studies, like
Daryl Bem, conducts several experiments and
reports positive evidence. Skeptics then label
him a “proponent,” or worse, a “believer,” and
then he is no longer trusted as being sufficiently
skeptical. For the rare skeptics who actually
conduct an experiment and obtain positive evi-
dence, they either have to accept that they will
no longer be considered skeptical, or they must
feel obligated to dismiss their own evidence
based on the ever-convenient crap factor (e.g.,
Delgado-Romero & Howard, 2005, who, when
faced with their own evidence supporting
abilities, called it a “crud” factor).
Later in the Houran et al. (2018) commen-
tary, we were presented with a review of the
literature of transliminality and intuition. Al-
though these phenomena are intriguing and pos-
sibly relevant to precognition, we did not com-
ment on them within the limited space allotted
to us in our original review. However, we find
their discussion in the commentary more than
a little peculiar in light of their concerns
about the mysterious crap factor. Indeed, re-
search on transliminality and intuition are per-
fect exemplars for the very problems they had
already decried. And yet now the reader is ex-
pected to take these topics seriously?
They ended this part of their critique with
the statement, “Considerable research is still
needed in order to gain comprehensive models
of known perceptual and decision-making
mechanisms...before scientists have reason to
speculate about unknown, esoteric ones like
paranormal presentiment or precognition
(Houran et al., 2018, p. 104).” It seems to us
that if scientists felt compelled to wait until
everything known were already understood,
progress would come to a grinding halt. It is not
only reasonable to use rigorous methods to ask
well-formed questions of experiences sugges-
tive of precognition and other commonly re-
ported, if exotic, experiences, we feel it is ab-
solutely essential. Intuition, transliminality, and
déja` vu are experiences suggesting that some-
thing about our ordinary perception of time may
not be correct. What better way to probe that
unknown than by experimentally tackling our
basic assumptions about the nature of time
head-on about the nature of time?
Finally, suggesting an odd lack of familiarity
with the literature on intuitive thinking, Houran
et al. stated that, “Consistent with neurological
[sic] interconnectedness model, there is prelim-
inary experimental evidence that intuitive pro-
cesses involve interactions among the frontal,
temporal, occipital and parietal brain areas, and
perhaps even the cardiovascular system
(Houran et al., 2018, p. 102; McCraty, Atkin-
son, & Bradley, 2004a,2004b).” The studies
they cited explicitly provide evidence of presen-
timent and are noted as close replications of
previously reported presentiment experiments
(e.g., Radin, 1997). In fact, the key methodolog-
ical factor in those studies was that the upcom-
ing stimulus was selected at random, thus un-
known at the time of the response. Even a
cursory glance at the methods and the accom-
panying task-timeline figures in those citations
(Figure 2 in 2004a, Figure 1 in 2004b) show
that the period during which physiological pre-
responses are measured comes before the time
at which the software selects the stimulus. This
oversight suggests that Houran et al. (2018)
have not differentiated between methods used
to test for unconscious decision making or un-
conscious intuition and those used to test for
precognition. If this is indeed the case, then
Houran et al.’s concerns about our interpreta-
tions of the precognition data would make more
sense. Of course, if any sensory information
about an upcoming event is available at the time
a response is measured, it is perfectly reason-
able to assume that the results are not due to a
result of precognition. Clearly, it is only by
using methods that explicitly rule out such “sen-
sory leakage” about the future event, as was the
case in our reported experiments, that one can
begin to think about precognition as a viable
explanation. This apparent misunderstanding of
the methodological details of precognition ex-
periments perhaps explains Houran et al.’s con-
cerns about our interpretations of the data.
Physical Mechanisms and Causality
We agree with Houran et al.’s (2018) com-
ments that physical mechanisms and a discus-
sion of causality should be discussed in a review
about the possibility of precognition. We in-
cluded that material in our original submission,
but we were asked to remove it by an editor who
felt that the physics potentially underlying pre-
cognition did not appear to be within our areas
of expertise. We are grateful to have the oppor-
113REPLY TO COMMENTS ON MOSSBRIDGE AND RADIN (2018)
This document is copyrighted by the American Psychological Association or one of its allied publishers.
This article is intended solely for the personal use of the individual user and is not to be disseminated broadly.
tunity here to include that discussion in its en-
tirety.
A common criticism of the experiments reviewed here
is that reversed time violates common-sense assump-
tions about causality, and thus any positive effects
found in such studies are impossible and can only be
understood as flukes or flaws. Such complaints may
seem reasonable, but science has repeatedly demon-
strated that common-sense assumptions do not apply to
the world beyond the reach of the ordinary senses. For
example, Einstein demonstrated that matter, energy,
space and time are not the separate entities suggested
by commonsense, but rather they are intertwined rela-
tionships. Likewise, quantum theory tells us that
quanta (i.e., elementary particles) do not have definite
properties when no one is looking, at least not in the
way we understand either “properties” or “looking” in
common-sense terms.
But perhaps one of the most self-evident concepts
questioned by modern science is the nature of causal-
ity. This topic has generated more uneasiness among
scientists and philosophers than is commonly appreci-
ated. As Bertrand Russell put it in 1913, “All philos-
ophers imagine that causation is one of the fundamen-
tal axioms of science, yet oddly enough, in advanced
sciences, the word ‘cause’ never occurs....Thelawof
causality, I believe, is a relic of bygone age, surviving,
like the monarchy, only because it is erroneously sup-
posed to do no harm.” (cited in Pearl, 2000, p. 337)
Or as mathematician John von Neumann wrote in
1955, “We may say that there is at present no occasion
and no reason to speak of causality in nature— because
no [macroscopic] experiment indicates its presence...
and quantum mechanics contradicts it.” (cited in
Rosen, 1999,p.88)
With such cautions in mind, it is worth noting that,
within physics, it is well-known that on a quantum
scale, present events can be influenced by future
events, a clear violation of the commonsense expecta-
tion that cause must always precede effect. As de-
scribed by physicist Brian Greene, “By any classical-
common-sense-reckoning, that’s, well, crazy. Of
course, that’s the point: classical reckoning is the
wrong kind of reckoning to use in a quantum uni-
verse.” (cited in Aharonov & Zubairy, 2005, p. 875)
This retrocausal effect, first proposed as a thought
experiment by Wheeler (1978), has been experimen-
tally demonstrated to high degrees of confidence in
physics labs around the world (Aharonov & Zubairy,
2005;Jacques et al., 2007;Peruzzo, Shadbolt, Brunner,
Popescu, & O’Brien, 2012). A critic might respond by
saying that time reversal might exist at microscopic
levels, but that it is irrelevant for understanding pre-
cognition because the special, fragile state of quantum
coherence—which is required to sustain these strange
effects—is rapidly washed out within the hot, wet
environment of the brain. This was the prevailing view
for many years. But today, with rapid theoretical and
experimental advancements in quantum biology (e.g.,
Vattay, Kauffman, & Niiranen, 2014), there are now
cogent reasons to suspect that living systems, including
the human brain, have very likely taken advantage of
quantum effects in nontrivial ways, including “har-
nessing quantum coherence on physiologically impor-
tant timescales” (Lambert et al., 2013, p. 10). In addi-
tion, with new evidence indicating that individual
neurons are associated with memory, learning, and
stimulus novelty (Rutishauser et al., 2015), it appears
to be increasingly likely that quantum-level effects,
which are present in neuronal synapses, may in fact
influence the brain.
These speculations do not fully explain retrocausal
effects in human conscious experience, but they do
strongly counter proposals that such effects are prohib-
ited by known physics. Thus, until the “quantum brain”
is better understood, the most prudent proposal we can
offer is that a conceivable physical mechanism for
precognition may be on the horizon. Whether a
fleshed-out model based on this idea will lead to fal-
sifiable theories will require further research.
From the above, it is clear that we disagree
with the Houran et al.’s (2018) assertion that
“The physics community has instead rejected
retrocausal mechanisms on well-substantiated,
empirical and logical grounds,” or that, “There
is nothing about quantum mechanics, or its
more modern incarnation, quantum field theory,
than enables any authentically retrocausal be-
havior (Houran et al., 2018, pp. 101–102).” As
to the concern about Einstein, at no point did we
assert that he championed retrocausality, nor
that general relativity supports retrocausality.
We simply quoted his “stubbornly persistent
illusion” phrase because it emphasized that as-
sessing the plausibility of any phenomenon
must always take into account assumptions
which may or may not be true.
Finally, we would like to point out that
Houran et al.’s (2018) description of the second
law of thermodynamics is questionable on two
grounds. First, their reliance on the second law
is odd because it contradicts their opening gam-
bit, which quoted Zeger (1991), namely, “Sta-
tistical models for data are never true (p.
1064).” The second law of thermodynamics is,
of course, a statistical model, thus, by their
logic, complete reliance on its infallibility is
questionable (Boltzmann, 1974/1886). Second,
their interpretation of the second law is incor-
rect. They state, “On more general grounds, any
means by which information could be trans-
ferred from a future event to a past event would
violate the Second Law of Thermodynamics. . .
(Houran et al., 2018, p. 102).” In fact, that
statement is only true for a closed system (Spa-
114 MOSSBRIDGE AND RADIN
This document is copyrighted by the American Psychological Association or one of its allied publishers.
This article is intended solely for the personal use of the individual user and is not to be disseminated broadly.
kovszky, 2017). Here we are dealing with living
organisms, that is, open systems. The second
law does not apply to open systems, including
humans, birds, and worms, the three living sys-
tems we discussed in our precognition review.
Further, recent empirical results reveal a rever-
sal of the arrow of time as a result of using a
closed system consisting of particles with quan-
tum correlations, which trade their correlations
for a decrease in entropy, suggesting that the
second law must be modified to take informa-
tion correlations into account (Micadei et al.,
2017).
The Crux of the Disagreements
The strength of today’s scientific worldview
rests upon theories that accurately explain ob-
servations, which, in turn, rest upon a host of
experimental methodologies. Those very same
methodologies were used in the experiments
under discussion, and they reveal what appear
to be precognitive effects. Thus, it is invalid to
argue that precognition is implausible, espe-
cially on methodological grounds, because do-
ing so would necessarily have to raise red flags
about the very foundations of the scientific
worldview. Thus, we suspect that plausibility
arguments against precognition are really based
on a commonsense or everyday view of reality,
and not the worldview actually revealed by sci-
ence, which abounds with counterintuitive dis-
coveries.
It seems to us that the commentators have
been primarily concerned about making a
Type-I error, (i.e., accidentally declaring some-
thing to be real that isn’t). All researchers are
taught to be careful about finding meaning in
data when meaning isn’t there. To guard against
this possibility, we advocated for further re-
search using even more rigorous approaches
than those already in place. At the same time,
we trust it is clear that overconcern about
Type-I error carries the risk of not seeing some-
thing in data that is in fact real. Concern about
Type-II errors is less commonly emphasized,
but it is just as serious a problem as Type I,
because it reduces the rate at which genuine
discoveries can be made. Another more serious
risk of overlooking the possibility that precog-
nition is real is that we may fail to make use of
potentially life-saving applications. A specula-
tive example that is not without precedent is that
precognitive remote viewers could potentially
determine the whereabouts or timing of immi-
nent terrorist events using precognitive means
(May & Marwaha, 2014). Even if a much less
dramatic application of precognition could save
lives on a smaller scale, it would be a pity to fail
to explore such applications because of over-
concerns about Type-I error. In summary, we
feel it is likely that better balance between con-
cerns about Type-I and Type-II errors will lead
to a higher rate of useful discoveries without
losing essential scientific rigor.
References
Aharonov, Y., & Zubairy, M. S. (2005). Time and the
quantum: Erasing the past and impacting the fu-
ture. Science, 307, 875– 879. http://dx.doi.org/10
.1126/science.1107787
Bem, D. J., Utts, J., & Johnson, W. O. (2011). Must
psychologists change the way they analyze their
data? Journal of Personality and Social Psychol-
ogy, 101, 716 –719. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/
a0024777
Boltzmann, L. (1974). The second law of thermody-
namics. Populare Schriften, Essay 3, address to a
formal meeting of the Imperial Academy of Sci-
ence, 29 May 1886, reprinted in Ludwig Boltz-
mann, Theoretical physics and philosophical prob-
lems (S. G. Brush, Trans.). Boston, MA: Reidel.
(Original work published 1886)
Brooks, M. (2016). Unruly penguins. New Scientist,
230, 28 –30. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0262-
4079(16)30762-X
Dalkvist, J., Mossbridge, J., & Westerlund, J. (2014).
How to remove the influence of expectation bias in
presentiment and similar experiments: A recom-
mended strategy. Journal of Parapsychology, 78,
80 –97.
Delgado-Romero, E. A., & Howard, G. S. (2005).
Finding and correcting flawed research literatures.
The Humanistic Psychologist, 33, 293–303. http://
dx.doi.org/10.1207/s15473333thp3304_5
Houran, J., Lange, R., & Hooper, D. (2018). Cross-
examining the case for precognition: Comment on
Mossbridge and Radin (2018). Psychology of Con-
sciousness: Theory, Research, and Practice, 5,
98 –109. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/cns0000125
Jacques, V., Wu, E., Grosshans, F., Treussart, F.,
Grangier, P., Aspect, A., & Roch, J. F. (2007).
Experimental realization of Wheeler’s delayed-
choice Gedanken experiment. Science, 315, 966 –
968. http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.1136303
Kim, Y.-H., Yu, R., Kulik, S. P., Shih, Y., & Scully,
M. O. (2000). Delayed “Choice” quantum eraser.
Physical Review Letters, 84, 1–5. http://dx.doi.org/
10.1103/PhysRevLett.84.1
115REPLY TO COMMENTS ON MOSSBRIDGE AND RADIN (2018)
This document is copyrighted by the American Psychological Association or one of its allied publishers.
This article is intended solely for the personal use of the individual user and is not to be disseminated broadly.
Kuhn, T. S. (1970). The structure of scientific revo-
lutions (2nd enl. ed.). Chicago, IL: University of
Chicago Press.
Lambert, N., Chen, Y.-N., Cheng, Y.-C., Li, C.-M.,
Chen, G.-Y., & Nori, F. (2013). Quantum biology.
Nature Physics, 9, 10 –18. http://dx.doi.org/10
.1038/nphys2474
May, E. C., & Marwaha, S. B. (Eds.). (2014). Anom-
alous cognition: Remote viewing research and the-
ory. Jefferson, NC: McFarland.
McCraty, R., Atkinson, M., & Bradley, R. T.
(2004a). Electrophysiological evidence of intu-
ition: Pt. 1. The surprising role of the heart. Jour-
nal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine,
10, 133–143. http://dx.doi.org/10.1089/10755530
4322849057
McCraty, R., Atkinson, M., & Bradley, R. T.
(2004b). Electrophysiological evidence of intu-
ition: Pt. 2. A system-wide process? Journal of
Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 10,
325–336. http://dx.doi.org/10.1089/10755530432
3062310
Micadei, K., Peterson, J. P., Souza, A. M., Sarthour,
R. S., Oliveira, I. S., Landi, G. T.,...Lutz, E.
(2017). Reversing the thermodynamic arrow of
time using quantum correlations. In arXiv:1711.
03323 [quant-ph,]. Ithaca, NY: Cornell Univer-
sity.
Mossbridge, J., Tressoldi, P., & Utts, J. (2012). Pre-
dictive physiological anticipation preceding seem-
ingly unpredictable stimuli: A meta-analysis.
Frontiers in Psychology, 3, 390. http://dx.doi.org/
10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00390
Mossbridge, J. A., Tressoldi, P., Utts, J., Ives, J. A.,
Radin, D., & Jonas, W. B. (2014). Predicting the
unpredictable: Critical analysis and practical im-
plications of predictive anticipatory activity. Fron-
tiers in Human Neuroscience, 8, 146. http://dx.doi
.org/10.3389/fnhum.2014.00146
Mossbridge, J. A., Tressoldi, P., Utts, J., Ives, J. A.,
Radin, D., & Jonas, W. B. (2015). We did see this
coming: Response to, “We should have seen this
coming,” by D. Sam Schwarzkopf. In arXiv:1501.
03179v2 [q-bio]. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University.
Pearl, J. (2000). Causality: Models, reasoning, and
inference. New York, NY: Cambridge University
Press.
Peruzzo, A., Shadbolt, P., Brunner, N., Popescu, S.,
& O’Brien, J. L. (2012). A quantum delayed-
choice experiment. Science, 338, 634 – 637. http://
dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.1226719
Radin, D. I. (1997). Unconscious perception of future
emotions: An experiment in presentiment. Journal
of Scientific Exploration, 11, 163–180.
Radin, D. I. (2004). Electrodermal presentiments of
future emotions. Journal of Scientific Exploration,
18, 253–273.
Rosen, R. (1999). Essays on life itself. New York,
NY: Columbia University Press.
Rosnow, R. L., & Rosenthal, R. (2003). Effect sizes
for experimenting psychologists. Canadian Jour-
nal of Experimental Psychology, 57, 221–237.
Rutishauser, U., Ye, S., Koroma, M., Tudusciuc, O.,
Ross, I. B., Chung, J. M., & Mamelak, A. N.
(2015). Representation of retrieval confidence by
single neurons in the human medial temporal lobe.
Nature Neuroscience, 18, 1041–1050. http://dx.doi
.org/10.1038/nn.4041
Schwarzkopf, D. S. (2018). On the plausibility of
scientific hypotheses: Commentary on Mossbridge
and Radin (2018). Psychology of Consciousness:
Theory, Research, and Practice, 5, 94 –97. http://
dx.doi.org/10.1037/cns0000125
Simmons, J. P., Nelson, L. D., & Simonsohn, U.
(2011). False-positive psychology: Undisclosed
flexibility in data collection and analysis allows
presenting anything as significant. Psychological
Science, 22, 1359 –1366. http://dx.doi.org/10
.1177/0956797611417632
Spakovszky, Z. S. (2017). The second law of ther-
modynamics: 5.1. Concept and statements of the
second law (Why do we need a second law?). In
16. Unified: Thermodynamics and propulsion [VN
Chapter 5; VWB&S-6.3, 6.4, Chapter 7]. Cam-
brdge, MA: MIT. Retrieved from http://web.mit
.edu/16.unified/www/FALL/thermodynamics/notes/
node37.html
Utts, J. (1996). An assessment of the evidence for
psychic functioning. Journal of Scientific Explora-
tion, 10, 3–30.
Vattay, G., Kauffman, S., & Niiranen, S. (2014).
Quantum biology on the edge of quantum chaos.
PLoS ONE, 9, e89017. http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/
journal.pone.0089017
Wheeler, J. A. & Marlow, A. R. (Ed.). (1978). Math-
ematical foundations of quantum theory. New
York, NY: Academic Press.
Zeger, S. L. (1991). Statistical reasoning in epidemi-
ology. American Journal of Epidemiology, 134,
1062–1066.
Received November 16, 2017
Revision received November 28, 2017
Accepted December 24, 2017
116 MOSSBRIDGE AND RADIN
This document is copyrighted by the American Psychological Association or one of its allied publishers.
This article is intended solely for the personal use of the individual user and is not to be disseminated broadly.
... There are two motivations for these experiments. First, for more than a decade I have gathered data confirming previous results from physiology and psychology experiments showing that the body and brain respond before a randomly selected future event in a way that is correlated to that future event in a statistically predictive sense (for review [2][3][4]). While these effects are considered controversial in physiology and psychology (e.g., [5][6][7][8], some physicists are less willing to dismiss them out of hand, given recent interest in so-called retrocausality and time symmetry [9][10][11][12][13][14][15][16][17][18][19][20][21]. ...
... If such CADS-like correlations were to be found, a further speed-up in processing might be possible by monitoring the early logic gates and arriving at a solution faster than the quantum algorithm does. Another potential practical implication for scientific research is that researchers examining psychological and/or physiological prediction of truly random future events in humans and animals [2][3][4]6] could potentially collaborate with experimental physicists to better apply these effects for predictive purposes. ...
Preprint
Full-text available
The idea that events in what we call the future could influence events in what we call the present or past has been called retrocausation, retrocausality, time symmetry, or atemporality. It has been argued that empirical demonstrations of such effects include delayed-choice experiments and inhibited spontaneous emission. What unites these physical phenomena is the ambiguity about causality that they introduce. Presented here are empirical demonstrations of a similarly causally ambiguous phenomenon at a long (seconds-to-minutes) time scale. Specifically, the mean output of a photomultiplier prior to future events is, on average, recorded as registering different results depending on those future events. This phenomenon co-occurs with what is called a duration-sorting effect. That is, different experimental run durations appear to regularly produce different photomultiplier output that depends on these future durations. The actual output (number of photons detected) is recorded prior to the event that appears to predict it (the duration of the experimental run). Assuming these effects are replicated and no alternative explanations are found to explain the results, the implications for theory and applications of such long time scale, causally ambiguous duration-sorting (CADS) effects may have far-reaching impacts on quantum computing, physiology, psychology and our understanding of the foundations of physics. 2 Novel atemporal behavior; Mossbridge
... A large body of phenomenal reports about precognition experiences [37][38][39], together with a number of empirical studies and meta-analyses thereof, indicate the existence of precognition phenomena and have even evoked hypotheses about the relevance of precognition during the evolution of human cognition [40,41]. On the other hand, phenomenal reports cannot be confirmed statistically and replications of many of the empirical studies failed to reproduce the effect, taking the existence of precognition into question [41][42][43][44][45][46][47][48][49][50]. ...
Article
Full-text available
Current theories about visual perception assume that our perceptual system weights the a priori incomplete, noisy and ambiguous sensory information with previous, memorized perceptual experiences in order to construct stable and reliable percepts. These theories are supported by numerous experimental findings. Theories about precognition have an opposite point of view. They assume that information from the future can have influence on perception, thoughts, and behavior. Several experimental studies provide evidence for precognition effects, other studies found no such effects. One problem may be that the vast majority of precognition paradigms did not systematically control for potential effects from the perceptual history. In the present study, we presented ambiguous Necker cube stimuli and disambiguated cube variants and systematically tested in two separate experiments whether perception of a currently observed ambiguous Necker cube stimulus can be influenced by a disambiguated cube variant, presented in the immediate perceptual past (perceptual history effects) and/or in the immediate perceptual future (precognition effects). We found perceptual history effects, which partly depended on the length of the perceptual history trace but were independent of the perceptual future. Results from some individual participants suggest on the first glance a precognition pattern, but results from our second experiment make a perceptual history explanation more probable. On the group level, no precognition effects were statistically indicated. The perceptual history effects found in the present study are in confirmation with related studies from the literature. The precognition analysis revealed some interesting individual patterns, which however did not allow for general conclusions. Overall, the present study demonstrates that any future experiment about sensory or extrasensory perception urgently needs to control for potential perceptual history effects and that temporal aspects of stimulus presentation are of high relevance.
... Notwithstanding earlier research by Dean Radin, in a recently published paper, the authors argue the case for "precognition" (a cognitivesentient factor) at a quantum scale. (Mossbridge, Julia A. & Radin, Dean, 2018) The article is chosen here as an illustration because Jung explained the existence of precognition as it appears in "prospective dreams". iii Therefore, a direct correlation exists between the research of Mossbridge, Radin, and Jung. ...
Chapter
The media model called “belief” serves as the language by which humans converse with God in the scripture of redemption. Hypothetically, redemption is based on the same cognitive dynamic as healing with dream analysis established by Carl Jung. These dynamics promote coherence within a sentient-cognitive psyche (a combination of conscious/unconscious scales of sentience), universal reality based on unity/energism, and narrative/dramatic structure. Based upon these dynamics, this chapter establishes a correspondence between the cognitive language of the mediated dreamscape and the cognitive language of belief that allows for conversation between God and humanity. The key to understanding this cognitive conversation is the belief model of sentience. Conflicting belief systems are endemic to human experience. Differences in the languages of belief contribute to the most psychotic-hysterical misunderstandings and their resulting mayhem. Due to illiteracy relative to the emergent language of cognitive mediation, the portents for planetary survival are dire.
Preprint
Full-text available
This is a draft pre-print. Please look for newer versions before citing.
Article
Full-text available
Objective: We set out to gain a better understanding of human psychic or “psi” functioning by using a smartphone-based app to gather data from thousands of participants. Our expectations were that psi performance would often be revealed to be in the direction opposite to the participants’ conscious intentions (“expectation-opposing”; previously called “psi-missing”), and that gender and psi belief would be related to performance. Method:We created and launched three iOS-based tasks, available from 2017 to 2020, related to micro-psychokinesis (the ability to mentally influence a random number generator) and precognition (the ability to predict future randomly selected events). We statistically analyzed data from more than 2,613 unique logins and 995,995 contributed trials using null hypothesis significance testing as well as a pre-registered confirmatory analysis. Results: Our expectations were confirmed, and we discovered additional effects post-hoc. Our key findings were: 1) significant expectation-opposing effects, with a confirmatory pre-registered replication of a clear expectation-opposing effect on a micro-pk task, 2) performance correlated with psi belief on all three tasks, 3) performance on two of the three tasks related to gender, 4) men and women apparently used different strategies to perform micro-pk and precognition tasks. Conclusions: We describe our recommendations for future attempts to better understand performance on forced-choice psi tasks. The mnemonic for this strategy is SEARCH: Small effects, Early and exploratory, Accrue data, Recognize diversity in approach, Characterize rather than impose, and Hone in on big results.
Book
Full-text available
New peer-reviewed journal on anomalous experience and cognition
Preprint
Full-text available
While it is clear that climate change is affecting many species including humans, it is not clear whether humankind could or should try to remedy Earth’s warming climate. The situation requires cross-disciplinary, out-of-the-box thinking. Here we describe the use of a novel collaborative approach to developing creative hypotheses related to climate change. In most scientific explorations, the scientific method is used to explore a topic of interest. In contrast, in this case report, we used a topic of interest to us (intuition) to explore new ways of inspiring science. We did not test a hypothesis about intuition or try to prove that a psychic aspect of intuition exists. Instead, we explored how using an intuition-guided research approach might help address several questions pertinent to climate science. Seven intuitives who were not climate scientists were asked to use their intuition to address questions they would be shown in the future, most of which currently do not have clear answers. The content of the questions, which we called “objectives,” was informed by a collaboration between the project leads and two atmospheric scientists. To respond to the unknown objectives, the intuitives used a technical form of psychic functioning called remote viewing. This project was strictly intended to spark creativity and new ideas in climate science, so we did not attempt to prove that the intuitives were using psychic abilities in their work. Instead, we used an interpretation-heavy process, similar to Rorschach blot interpretation, that nonetheless offered insights, ideas, hypotheses, and motivations to examine new directions in climate science. Based on what we learned within this project, we provide very tentative suggestions for understanding climate change and its mitigation as well as suggestions for those considering using an intuition-guided research approach to stimulate new scientific ideas.
Preprint
Full-text available
Previous studies have shown that the choice reaction time to a positive or negatively valenced photo can be influenced by following positive or negative words. Congruent photo- word pairs led to shorter reaction times than incongruent pairs. Since the potentially influencing word appears after the button is pressed, this effect has been described as a retroactive psi effect (Bem, 2011, Exp. 4). The present paper reports on two studies that replicated the original English retroactive priming task using German words. Two new analysis methods are applied by (1) assessing whether the influence of a classic anterograde priming effect is detectable, which is not, and (2) controlling in study 2 for potential false positive effects by utilizing a specially designed sham control task. By applying confirmatory analyses criteria, the anomalous cognition hypothesis concerning a positive psi effect is rejected in both studies. Exploratory post-hoc analysis shows a significant positive retroactive priming effect in study 1 for men only and an overall weak significant negative priming effect in study 2. We discuss these ambivalent findings as typical anomalous result patterns in experimental parapsychology. Through these results, both those who are sceptic of anomalous cognition and those who believe in it can find confirmation of their assumptions.
Article
Full-text available
The idea that in behavioral research everything correlates with everything else was a niche area of the scientific literature for more than half a century. With the increasing availability of large data sets in psychology, the “crud” factor has, however, become more relevant than ever before. When referenced in empirical work, it is often used by researchers to discount minute—but statistically significant—effects that are deemed too small to be considered meaningful. This review tracks the history of the crud factor and examines how its use in the psychological- and behavioral-science literature has developed to this day. We highlight a common and deep-seated lack of understanding about what the crud factor is and discuss whether it can be proven to exist or estimated and how it should be interpreted. This lack of understanding makes the crud factor a convenient tool for psychologists to use to disregard unwanted results, even though the presence of a crud factor should be a large inconvenience for the discipline. To inspire a concerted effort to take the crud factor more seriously, we clarify the definitions of important concepts, highlight current pitfalls, and pose questions that need to be addressed to ultimately improve understanding of the crud factor. Such work will be necessary to develop the crud factor into a useful concept encouraging improved psychological research.
Article
Full-text available
In previously reported double-blind experiments, electrodermal activity (EDA) monitored during display of randomly selected photographs showed that EDA was higher before emotional photos than before calm photos (p = 0.002). This differential effect, suggestive of precognition, was dubbed "presentiment." Three new double-blind experiments were conducted in an attempt to replicate the original studies using the same basic design, but with new physiological monitoring hardware, software, stimulus photos, subject populations, and testing environments. The three replications involved 109 participants who together contributed 3,709 trials. The new studies again showed higher EDA before emotional photos than before calm photos (p = 0.001). All four experiments combined involved 133 participants and 4,569 trials; the associated weighted mean effect size (per trial) was e = 0.064 ± 0.015, over 4 standard errors from a null effect. As a more general test, presentiment predicts a positive correlation between pre-stimulus EDA and independently assessed emotionality ratings of the photo targets. The observed correlation across all four experiments was significantly positive (p = 0.008). Consideration of alternative explanations, including expectation, sensory cues, hardware or software artifacts, inappropriate analyses, and anticipatory strategies, revealed no suitable candidates that could systematically generate the observed results. This series of four experiments, supported by successful replications conducted by other investigators, appears to demonstrate a small magnitude but statistically robust form of precognition in the human autonomic nervous system.
Article
Full-text available
Memory-based decisions are often accompanied by an assessment of choice certainty, but the mechanisms of such confidence judgments remain unknown. We studied the response of 1,065 individual neurons in the human hippocampus and amygdala while neurosurgical patients made memory retrieval decisions together with a confidence judgment. Combining behavioral, neuronal and computational analysis, we identified a population of memory-selective (MS) neurons whose activity signaled stimulus familiarity and confidence, as assessed by subjective report. In contrast, the activity of visually selective (VS) neurons was not sensitive to memory strength. The groups further differed in response latency, tuning and extracellular waveforms. The information provided by MS neurons was sufficient for a race model to decide stimulus familiarity and retrieval confidence. Together, our results indicate a trial-by-trial relationship between a specific group of neurons and declared memory strength in humans. We suggest that VS and MS neurons are a substrate for declarative memories.
Article
Full-text available
A recent meta-analysis of experiments from seven independent laboratories (n = 26) indicates that the human body can apparently detect randomly delivered stimuli occurring 1–10 s in the future (Mossbridge etal., 2012). The key observation in these studies is that human physiology appears to be able to distinguish between unpredictable dichotomous future stimuli, such as emotional vs. neutral images or sound vs. silence. This phenomenon has been called presentiment (as in “feeling the future”). In this paper we call it predictive anticipatory activity (PAA). The phenomenon is “predictive” because it can distinguish between upcoming stimuli; it is “anticipatory” because the physiological changes occur before a future event; and it is an “activity” because it involves changes in the cardiopulmonary, skin, and/or nervous systems. PAA is an unconscious phenomenon that seems to be a time-reversed reflection of the usual physiological response to a stimulus. It appears to resemble precognition (consciously knowing something is going to happen before it does), but PAA specifically refers to unconscious physiological reactions as opposed to conscious premonitions. Though it is possible that PAA underlies the conscious experience of precognition, experiments testing this idea have not produced clear results. The first part of this paper reviews the evidence for PAA and examines the two most difficult challenges for obtaining valid evidence for it: expectation bias and multiple analyses. The second part speculates on possible mechanisms and the theoretical implications of PAA for understanding physiology and consciousness. The third part examines potential practical applications.
Article
Full-text available
We give a new explanation for why some biological systems can stay quantum coherent for a long time at room temperature, one of the fundamental puzzles of quantum biology. We show that systems with the right level of complexity between chaos and regularity can increase their coherence time by orders of magnitude. Systems near Critical Quantum Chaos or Metal-Insulator Transition (MIT) can have long coherence times and coherent transport at the same time. The new theory tested in a realistic light harvesting system model can reproduce the scaling of critical fluctuations reported in recent experiments. Scaling of return probability in the FMO light harvesting complex shows the signs of universal return probability decay observed at critical MIT. The results may open up new possibilities to design low loss energy and information transport systems in this Poised Realm hovering reversibly between quantum coherence and classicality.
Article
Full-text available
Research on psychic functioning, conducted over a two decade period, is examined to determine whether or not the phenomenon has been scientifically established. A secondary question is whether or not it is useful for government purposes. The primary work examined in this report was government sponsored research conducted at Stanford Research Institute, later known as SRI International, and at Science Applications International Corporation, known as SAIC. Using the standards applied to any other area of science, it is concluded that psychic functioning has been well established. The statistical results of the studies examined are far beyond what is expected by chance. Arguments that these results could be due to methodological flaws in the experiments are soundly refuted. Effects of similar magnitude to those found in government- sponsored research at SRI and SAIC have been replicated at a number of laboratories across the world. Such consistency cannot be readily explained by claims of flaws or fraud. The magnitude of psychic functioning exhibited appears to be in the range between what social scientists call a small and medium effect. That means that it is reliable enough to be replicated in properly conducted experiments, with sufficient trials to achieve the long-run statistical results needed for replicability. A number of other patterns have been found, suggestive of how to conduct more productive experiments and applied psychic functioning. For instance, it doesn't appear that a sender is needed. Precognition, in which the answer is known to no one until a future time, appears to work quite well. Recent experiments suggest that if there is a psychic sense then it works much like our other five senses, by detecting change. Given that physicists are currently grappling with an understanding of time, it may be that a psychic sense exists that scans the future for major change, much as our eyes scan the environment for visual change or our ears allow us to respond to sudden changes in sound.
Article
Mossbridge and Radin reviewed psychological and physiological experiments that purportedly show time-reversed effects. I discuss why these claims are not plausible. I conclude that scientists should generally consider the plausibility of the hypotheses they test.
Article
This chapter discusses the relation between mathematics and the quantum theory of physics. After the development of noncommutative algebra, it was connected with dynamics by means of an analogy between the commutator and the Poisson bracket of the Hamiltonian form of mechanics and thus, a general quantum mechanics was set up. An important feature of the theory was the wave equation, which had to be linear, and thus treated the time dimension differently from the space coordinates.