I was on The Early Show this morning talking about new research that came out regarding ESP. Daryl Bem, a highly regarded research psychologist, has demonstrated that ESP actually occurs and proved it with scientific method. Of course, since ESP does not fall into our general scientific realm, there are a lot of skeptics. Bem’s research methods are sound, and it will be interesting to see how people move ahead with this type of research. Below are some questions regarding what ESP is, how it occurs every day, and where we go from here.
- WHAT IS ESP? ESP, or extrasensory perception, focuses on how we receive information. Rather than receiving information through our five physical senses, we sense it with our mind. Casually, ESP is often referred to as our “sixth sense”, a gut instinct or a hunch. Essentially the presence of ESP implies that our brains have the ability to not only reflect on past experiences, but to also anticipate future experiences. The ability for the brain to “see into the future” is often called the psi phenomena, and has been studied quite a bit.
- HOW DOES THIS NEW RESEARCH SUPPORT ESP? The major problem is that much of the scientific community rejects ESP due to the absence of a solid evidence base, the lack of a clear theory that can explain ESP and the lack of experimental techniques that can support the presence of ESP with reliable results. This study, conducted by Daryl Bem, a well known, and highly regarded researcher, is the first that uses scientific techniques and method to provide evidence of ESP. Using 9 studies and about 1000 students, he demonstrated time and again that individuals can predict outcome on a variety of measures, from which side of a computer screen a picture will appear on to how many words they can recall from a list. His findings show that just over half of those involved had the ability to predict outcomes. Although this is not a huge effect, it is enough to be noteworthy.
- FOR THE SKEPTICS OUT THERE . WHAT ARE THE EVERYDAY INSTANCES THAT COULD MAKE US GO “HMMMMM” ABOUT E-S-P? (Coincidence or ESP? thinking about someone and then running into them, hearing a song on the radio after you were humming it, your friend’s photo) There are many every day occurrences that could possibly be considered ESP, especially if we look at is a that sixth sense, instinctual, predictive ability. You could be thinking of a song, not a very popular one, and all of a sudden it appears on your iPod or the radio. Maybe you were thinking about having to email someone, and, when you go onto your computer, there is an email waiting for you from that individual. We often label these things as coincidences, and maybe there is more to it than just coincidence. Maybe it is our minds predicting a future outcome.
- IS THERE ANY STRONG EVIDENCE THAT DISPROVES ESP? A few scientists have worked to replicate some of Bem’s research and have failed. This is a pretty significant problem within the scientific world. If studies can not be done exactly as they were originally, with the same findings obtained, it does bring the study under scrutiny. Generally, since there is such a lack of research and scientific method, ESP is rejected by the scientific community. The idea of ESP pushes many of us outside of our comfort zones of what is common sense, and for many it just doesn’t work with our daily beliefs. In other sciences, such as physics, sometimes, there is no clear and definitive explanation for why something happens, we just have to accept it. That may be the case with ESP too…maybe it just isn’t so easily defined and explained, and yet it exists.
- COULD ESP BE A FIGMENT OF OUR IMAGINATION . CAN MEMORY JUST BE PLAYING TRICKS ON US? Possibly, sure. Although there does seem to be too much evidence over time to support that it does exist on some level. It seems, though, that how open to it you are an how relaxed you are will definitely impact your ability to have any experiences involving ESP.
- THIS NEW RESEARCH ON E-S-P HAS SPURRED A LOT OF DEBATE ABOUT WHETHER STUDIES LIKE THIS SHOULD BE PUBLISHED IN MEDICAL JOURNALS – HOW CAN THIS HELP OR HURT THE STUDY OF THIS SUBJECT? Open debate is wonderful as it forces people to examine subjects objectively. The research, when presented to journals, goes through a pretty rigorous review process, so some group of people believed that Bem’s work had merit and deserved to be published. Is it because of who he is? Is it because it met criteria for having a scientific method? Who knows? Throughout history we have had to prove that different types of sciences had a valid place, and maybe now is the time to discuss parapsychology and all of its components, ESP and otherwise. If scientific methods can prove that it exists consistently, then maybe the presence of ESP isn’t so outrageous to consider.