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Journal to publish paper that backs ESP

Critics call acceptance of research 'pure craziness'

A respected psychology journal is publishing a study that supports the existence of extrasensory perception, or the ability to see the future. The paper, to be published by the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, is authored by respected Cornell psychologist Daryl J. Bem.

Bem’s study consisted of a series of nine tests, and included a total of 1,000 students, that purport to show the ability of participants to predict random events.

In one instance, subjects were asked to identify whether a picture had flashed behind a covered computer screen. The subjects were presented with a computer covered by two curtains. Behind one curtain would be a photo and behind the other, nothing. The picture would then appear randomly behind either curtain but only after the participant guessed which one. While the participants were able to accurately identify erotic photos at a rate of 53 per cent to 50 per cent, “They did not do better than chance on negative or neutral photos,” the New York Times reported.

“What I showed was that unselected subjects could sense the erotic photos,” Bem told the paper. “But my guess is that if you use more talented people, who are better at this, they could find any of the photos.”

Charles Judd, the journal’s editor, said the article had gone through the normal peer review process with four “trusted” psychologists offering their comments.

Other academics are appalled. “It’s craziness, pure craziness. I can’t believe a major journal is allowing this work in,” University of Oregon psychologist, and noted critic of ESP research, Ray Hyman said. A rebuttal by University of Amsterdam psychologist Eric-Jan Wagenmakers will appear in the same issue as the original paper. In an email to the Times, Wagenmakers argued that “such a hypothesis probably constitutes an extraordinary claim, and it should undergo more scrutiny before it is allowed to enter the field.”

Read the full story here.

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