Are humans psychic? Startling new study 'proves' that we can see the future
By FIONA MACRAE
- Students correctly predicted which words they'd be asked in memory recall test
You may already know this, but psychic powers might really exist.
Research suggests that far from being a trick employed by fairground fortune tellers, many of us are blessed with the ability to see into the future.
Influencing events before they happen is also within our remit, the study by a respected psychologist found.
The publication of the results in a leading social science journal will make waves in the staid world of science, where terms like clairvoyance, telepathy and ESP are dirty words.
They will also spark a million conversations about the significance of everyday occurrences, such as knowing who is at the end of the phone before picking it up.
Daryl Bem, a physicist and part-time magician-turned-psychologist, set out to investigate psi, or parapsychology to you and me.
In one experiment, students were shown a list of words to memorise. They were later asked to recall as many as they could and finally they were given a random selection of the words to type out.
Not surprisingly, they were better at remembering some words than others. But spookily, these tended to be the words they would later be asked to type, suggesting a future event had affected their ability to remember.
In another experiment, the students were shown an image of two curtains on a computer screen and told one concealed an erotic picture. The students chose the curtain hiding the naughty picture slightly more often than could be explained away by chance, this week's New Scientist reports.
Importantly, the position of the picture was randomly allotted by a computer which didn't make its decision until after the volunteer chose one curtain or the other.
To believers in the paranormal, this suggests the students were actually influencing future events.
In a third study, the students were shown a picture of a tempting-looking basket of fruit or a menacing pit bull terrier and timed while they rated the image as pleasant or unpleasant.
After making their choice, they were shown a word such as luscious or menacing.
Amazingly, the words shown seemed to affect their reaction time, despite them being flashed up after they'd rated the picture.
This suggests that they had had a premonition of the word and the thought of a menacing basket of fruit had slowed them down, compared to the mental image of a menacing dog.
In other words, they were able to see into the future.
Professor Bem, of Cornell University in New York State, carried out nine different experiments involving more than 1,000 volunteers.
All but one came down on the side of the psychics.
The odds against the combined result being down to mere chance or being a statistical fluke are 74billion to one, says the professor, who has a plea for the science world to open its mind to the possibility of the paranormal.
At least one sceptic who has read the research is willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.
Joachim Krueger, a US psychologist, said: 'My personal view is that this is ridiculous and can't be true.
'Going over the methodology and experimental design is the first line of attack. But, frankly, everything seemed to be in good order.'
The proof of the pudding, says New Scientist, will be in whether other scientists can repeat the professor's success.
Once has already tried to prove him wrong, by carrying out a failed attempt to repeat the word recall experiment using an online survey.
But Professor Bem, who has a reputation for careful work, says that allowing the students to work online rather than taking them into the lab could have simply meant they weren't concentrating hard enough.