Tuesday, June 16, 2009

First Twitter experiment probes belief in the paranormal

Magazine issue 2712. highlights comments

THE US government has spent millions of dollars trying to find out if "psychic spies" could identify a distant location with mind power alone. Now one psychologist has used nothing more than an iPhone and the social messaging service Twitter to test the idea. The results fail to show any support for the paranormal.
Richard Wiseman of the University of Hertfordshire in Hatfield, UK, together withNew Scientist, enlisted thousands of "twitterers" for an experiment. Of these, 38 per cent believed in the paranormal, and 16 per cent claimed some psychic ability.
Each day, Wiseman sent a "tweet" from one of five possible locations in Edinburgh, UK, inviting guesses as to what he was looking at. Believers and sceptics performed equally badly, failing collectively to guess correctly in four trials (see charts).
After finding out the answer, 31 per cent of the believers said they had felt some link between their thoughts and the target, compared with only 12 per cent of sceptics. Wiseman says this may explain why they believe in the paranormal: "This type of creative thinking might make people see illusory relationships in the real world, and help convince them that there are uncanny matches between their dreams and subsequent events." See Tweeting my way to a scientific breakthrough for Wiseman's account of the experiment

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