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AN ASSESSMENT OF THE EVIDENCE FOR PSYCHIC FUNCTIONING
4.6 Was Anything Learned at SAIC?
4.6.1 Target Selection . In addition to the question of whether or not psychic functioning is possible, the experiments at SAIC were designed to explore a number of hypotheses. Experiments 1 and 10 were both designed to see if there is a relationship between the "change in visual entropy" in the targets and the remote viewing performance.
Each of the five senses with which we are familiar is a change detector. Our vision is most readily drawn to something that is moving, and in fact if our eyes are kept completely still, we cease to see at all. Similarly, we hear because of moving air, and our attention is drawn to sudden changes in sound levels. Other senses behave similarly. Thus, it is reasonable that if there really is a "psychic sense" then it would follow that same pattern.
Experiments 1 and 10 were designed to test whether or not remote viewing performance would be related to a particular type of change in the target material, namely the "change in visual entropy." A target with a high degree of change would be one in which the colors changed considerably throughout the target. A detailed explanation can be found in the SAIC reports of this experiment, or in the article "Shannon Entropy: A Possible Intrinsic Target Property" by May, Spottiswoode and James, in the Journal of Parapsychology , December 1994. It was indeed found that there was a correlation between the change in entropy in the target and the remote viewing quality. This result was initially shown in Experiment 1 and replicated in Experiment 10. A simulation study matching randomly chosen targets to responses showed that this was unlikely to be an artifact of target complexity or other features.
It is worth speculating on what this might mean for determining how psychic functioning works. Physicists are currently grappling with the concept of time, and cannot rule out precognition as being consistent with current understanding. Perhaps it is the case that we do have a psychic sense, much like our other senses, and that it works by scanning the future for possibilities of major change much as our eyes scan the environment for visual change and our ears are responsive to auditory change. That idea is consistent with anecdotal reports of precognition, which are generally concerned with events involving major life change. Laboratory remote viewing may in part work by someone directing the viewer to focus on a particular point in the future, that in which he or she receives the feedback from the experiment. It may also be the case that this same sense can scan the environment in actual time and detect change as well.
Another hypothesis put forth at SAIC was that laboratory remote viewing experiments are most likely to be successful if the pool of potential targets is neither too narrow nor too wide in terms of the number of possible elements in the target. They called this feature the "target-pool bandwidth" and described it as the number of "differentiable cognitive elements." They reasoned that if the possible target set was too small, the viewer would see the entire set and be unable to distinguish that information from the psychic information. If the set was too broad, the viewer would not have any means for editing an extensive imagination.
Combining these two results would indicate that a good target set would contain targets with high change in visual entropy, but that the set would contain a moderately-sized set of possibilities. The set of 100 National Geographic photographs used in the later days at SRI and at SAIC may have inadvertently displayed just those properties.
4.6.2. Remote Staring . Experiment 7, described in Appendix 2, provided results very different from the standard remote viewing work. That experiment was designed to test claims made in the Former Soviet Union and by some researchers in the United States, that individuals could influence the physiology of another individual from a remote location. The study was actually two separate replications of the same experiment, and both replications were successful from a traditional statistical perspective. In other words, it appeared that the physiology of one individual was activated when he or she was being watched by someone in a distant room. If these results are indeed sound, then they may substantiate the folklore indicating that people know when they are being observed from behind.
4.6.3 Enhanced Binary Computer Guessing. Experiment 2 was also very different from the standard remote viewing experiments, although it was still designed to test anomalous cognition. Three subjects attempted to use a statistical enhancement technique to increase the ability to guess forced choice targets with two choices. This clever computer experiment showed that for one subject, guessing was indeed enhanced from a raw rate of just above chance (51.6% instead of 50%) to an enhanced rate of 76 percent. The method was extremely inefficient, and it is difficult to imagine practical uses for this ability, if indeed it exists.
5. EXTERNAL VALIDATION: REPLICATIONS OF OTHER EXPERIMENTS
5.1. Conceptual Similarity: Ganzfeld Experiments
While remote viewing has been the primary activity at SRI and SAIC, other researchers have used a similar technique to test for anomalous cognition, called the ganzfeld. As noted in the SAIC Final Report of 29 Sept. 1994, the ganzfeld experiments differ from remote viewing in three fundamental ways. First, a "mild altered state is used," second, senders are [usually] used, so that telepathy is the primary mode, and third, the receivers (viewers) do their own judging just after the session, rather than having an independent judge.
The ganzfeld experiments conducted at Psychophysical Research Laboratories (PRL) were already mentioned in Section 3.4. Since the time those results were reported, other laboratories have also been conducting ganzfeld experiments. At the 1995 Annual Meeting of the Parapsychological Association, three replications were reported, all published in the peer-reviewed Proceedings of the conference.
The ganzfeld experiments differ in the preferred method of analysis as well. Rather than using the sum of the ranks across sessions, a simple count is made of how many first places matches resulted from a series. Four rather than five choices are given, so by chance there should be about 25% of the sessions resulting in first place matches.
5.2 Ganzfeld Results from Four Laboratories
In publishing the ganzfeld results from PRL, Bem and Honorton (1994) excluded one of the studies from the general analysis for methodological reasons, and found that the remaining studies showed 106 hits out of 329 sessions, for a hit rate of 32.2 percent when 25 percent was expected by chance. The corresponding p-value was .002. As mentioned earlier, the hallmark of science is replication. This result has now been replicated by three additional laboratories.
Bierman (1995) reported four series of experiments conducted at the University of Amsterdam. Overall, there were 124 sessions and 46 hits, for a hit rate of 37 percent. The hit rates for the four individual experiments were 34.3 percent, 37.5 percent, 40 percent and 36.1 percent, so the results are consistent across his four experiments.
Morris, Dalton, Delanoy and Watt (1995) reported results of 97 sessions conducted at the University of Edinburgh in which there were 32 successes, for a hit rate of 33 percent. They conducted approximately equal numbers of sessions under each of three conditions. In one condition there was a known sender, and in the other two conditions it was randomly determined at the last minute (and unknown to the receiver) that there would either be a sender or not. Hit rates were 34 percent when there was a known sender and when there was no sender, and 28 percent when there was a sender but the receiver did not know whether or not there would be. They did discover post hoc that one experimenter was more successful than the other two at achieving successful sessions, but the result was not beyond what would be expected by chance as a post hoc observation.
Broughton and Alexander (1995) reported results from 100 sessions at the Institute for Parapsychology in North Carolina. They too found a similar hit rate, with 33 hits out of 100 sessions, or 33 percent hits.
Results from the original ganzfeld work and these three replications are summarized in Table 3, along with the SRI and SAIC remote viewing results. The effect sizes for the ganzfeld replications are based on Cohen's h, which is similar in type to the effect size used for the remote viewing data. Both effect sizes measure the number of standard deviations the results fall above chance, using the standard deviation for a single session. Table 3
5.3 Conclusions about External Replication
The results shown in Table 3 show that remote viewing has been conceptually replicated across a number of laboratories, by various experimenters and in different cultures. This is a robust effect that, were it not in such an unusual domain, would no longer be questioned by science as a real phenomenon.
6. IS REMOTE VIEWING USEFUL?
Even if we were all to agree that anomalous cognition is possible, there remains the question of whether or not it would have any practical use for government purposes. The answer to that question is beyond the scope of this report, but some speculations can be made about how to increase the usefulness.
First, it appears that anomalous cognition is to some extent possible in the general population. None of the ganzfeld experiments used exclusively selected subjects. However, it also appears that certain individuals possess more talent than others, and that it is easier to find those individuals than to train people. It also appears to be the case that certain individuals are better at some tasks than others.
Second, if remote viewing is to be useful, the end users must be trained in what it can do and what it cannot. Given our current level of understanding, it is rarely 100 percent accurate, and there is no reliable way to learn what is accurate and what is not. The same is probably true of most sources of intelligence data.
Third, what is useful for one purpose may not be useful for another. For instance, suppose a remote viewer could describe the setting in which a hostage is being held. That information may not be any use at all to those unfamiliar with the territory, but could be useful to those familiar with it.
7. CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
It is clear to this author that anomalous cognition is possible and has been demonstrated. This conclusion is not based on belief, but rather on commonly accepted scientific criteria. The phenomenon has been replicated in a number of forms across laboratories and cultures. The various experiments in which it has been observed have been different enough that if some subtle methodological problems can explain the results, then there would have to be a different explanation for each type of experiment, yet the impact would have to be similar across experiments and laboratories. If fraud were responsible, similarly, it would require an equivalent amount of fraud on the part of a large number of experimenters or an even larger number of subjects.
What is not so clear is that we have progressed very far in understanding the mechanism for anomalous cognition. Senders do not appear to be necessary at all; feedback of the correct answer may or may not be necessary. Distance in time and space do not seem to be an impediment. Beyond those conclusions, we know very little.
A BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE SAIC EXPERIMENTS
Experiments Involving Remote Viewing
There were six experiments involving remote viewing, done for a variety of purposes.
Experiment 1: Target and Sender Dependencies:
Purpose: This experiment was designed to test whether or not a sender is necessary for successful remote viewing and whether or not dynamic targets, consisting of short video clips, would result in more successful remote viewing than the standard National Geographic photographs used in most of the SRI experiments.
Method: Five experienced remote viewers participated, three of whom (#s 009, 131 and 372) were included in the experienced group at SRI; their identification numbers were carried over to the SAIC experiments. Each viewer worked from his or her home and faxed the results of the sessions to the principal investigator, Nevin Lantz, located in Pennsylvania. Whether the target was static or dynamic and whether or not there was a sender was randomly determined and unknown to the viewer. Upon receiving the fax of the response, Dr. Lantz mailed the correct answer to the viewer. The original response was sent to SAIC in California, where the results were judged by an analyst blind to the correct target. Standard rank-order judging was used.
Results: Each viewer contributed ten trials under each of the four possible conditions (sender/no sender and static/dynamic target), for a total of 40 trials per viewer. There was a moderate difference (effect size = .121, p = .08) between the static and dynamic targets, with the traditional National Geographic photographs faring better than the dynamic video clips. There was no noticeable difference based on whether or not a sender was involved, supporting the same conclusion reached in the overall analysis of the SRI work. Combined over all conditions and all viewers, the effect size was 0.124 (p = .04); for the static targets alone it was .248 (exact p = .0073) while for the dynamic targets it was 0.00 (p = .50).
Experiment 4: Enhancing Detection of AC with Binary Coding:
Purpose: This experiment was designed to see if remote viewing could be used to develop a message-sending capability by focusing on the presence or absence of five specific features of a target. The target set was constructed in packets of four, with possible combinations of the absence (0) or presence (1) of each of the five features chosen to correspond to the numbers 00000, 01110, 10101, and 11011. This is standard practice in information theory when trying to send a two digit number (00, 01, 10 or 11); the remaining three bits are used for "error correction." Different sets of five features were used for each of ten target packs.
Method: Five viewers each contributed eight trials, but the same eight targets were used for all five viewers. There was no sender used, and viewers were told that each target would be in a fixed location for one week. They were to spend 15 minutes trying to draw the target, then fax their responses to SAIC in California. The results were blind-judged and the binary features were coded by both the viewers and an independent analyst.
Results: The results were unsuccessful in showing any evidence of psychic functioning. Neither standard rank-order judging nor analysis based on the binary guesses showed any promise that this method works to send messages.
Experiment 5: AC in Lucid Dreams (Baseline):
Purpose: Despite its name, this experiment did not involve lucid dreaming. Instead, it was used to test three novice remote viewers who were to participate in an experiment involving remote viewing while dreaming. This baseline experiment was designed to see if these individuals would be successful at standard laboratory remote viewing.
Method: For this baseline experiment, each of the three viewers contributed eight trials using a standard protocol common in the SRI era. For each trial, a target was randomly chosen from the set of 100 National Geographic targets used at SRI and SAIC. The target was placed on a table (so no sender was used) while the viewer, in another room, was asked to provide a description. The response was later blind-judged by comparing it to the target and four decoys, and providing a rank-ordering of the five choices.
Results: Of the three novice viewers, one obtained a promising effect size of .265, although the result was not statistically significant due to the small number of trials (8). Individual results were not provided for the other two viewers, but the overall effect size was reported as 0.088 for the three viewers.
Experiment 6: AC in Lucid Dreams (Pilot):
Purpose: A lucid dream is a dream in which one becomes aware that he or she is dreaming, and can control subsequent events in the dream. This ability has apparently been successfully trained by Dr. Stephen LaBerge of the Lucidity Institute. He was the Principal Investigator for this experiment. The experiment was designed to see if remote viewing could be successfully employed while the viewer was having a lucid dream.
Method: Seven remote viewers were used; four were experienced SAIC remote viewers and three were experienced lucid dreamers from the Lucidity Institute. The latter three were the novice viewers used in Experiment 5. The experienced SAIC remote viewers were given training in lucid dreaming. The number of trials contributed by each viewer could not be fixed in advance because of the difficulty of attaining the lucid dream state. A total of 21 trials were conducted, with the seven viewers contributing anywhere from one to seven trials each. The report did not mention whether or not the stopping criterion was fixed in advance, but according to Dr. May the experiment was designed to proceed for a fixed time period and to include all sessions attained during that time period.
Unlike with standard well-controlled protocols, the viewers were allowed to take the target material home with them. The targets, selected from the standard National Geographic pool, were sealed in opaque envelopes with covert threads to detect possible tampering (there were no indications of such tampering). Viewers were instructed to place the targets at bedside and to attempt a lucid dream in which the envelope was opened and the target viewed. Drawings and descriptions were then to be produced upon awakening.
Results: The results were blind-judged using the standard sum of ranks. Since the majority of viewers contributed only one or two trials, analysis by individual viewer would be meaningless. For the 21 trials combined, the effect size was 0.368 (p = .046). Information was not provided to differentiate the novice remote viewers from the experienced ones.
Experiment 9: ERD AC Behavior:
Purpose: The remote viewing in this experiment was conducted in conjunction with measurement of brain waves using an EEG. The purpose of the experiment was to see whether or not EEG activity would change when the target the person was attempting to describe was briefly displayed on a computer monitor in a distant room. Details of the EEG portion will be explained as experiment 8. Here, we summarize the remote viewing part of the study.
Method: Three experienced remote viewers (#s 009, 372 and 389) participated. Because of the pilot nature of the experiment, the number of trials differed for each viewer based on availability, with viewers 009, 372 and 389 contributing 18, 24 and 28 trials, respectively. Although it is not good protocol to allow an unspecified number of trials, it does not appear that this problem can explain the results of this experiment.
Results: Responses were blind-judged using standard rank-order analysis. The effect sizes for the viewers 009, 372 and 389 were 0.432 (p = .033), 0.354 (p = .042) and 0.177 (p = .175), respectively. The overall effect size was 0.303 (p = 0.006).
Experiment 10: Entropy II:
Purpose: This experiment was designed as an improved version of Experiment 1. After the unsuccessful showing for the dynamic targets in Experiment 1, the SAIC team speculated that the "target pool bandwidth" defined as the number of "cognitively differentiable elements" in the target pool might be an important factor. If the possible target material was extremely broad, viewers might have trouble filtering out extraneous noise. If the set of possibilities was too small, as in forced choice experiments, the viewer would see all choices at once and would have trouble filtering out that knowledge. An intermediate range of possibilities, too large to be considered all at once, was predicted to be ideal. The standard National Geographic pool seemed to fit that range. For this experiment, a pool of dynamic targets was created with a similar "band-width." In both Experiments (1 and 10) the researchers predicted that remote viewing success would correlate with the change in visual entropy of the target, as explained in Section 4.6.1.
Method: Four of the five viewers from Experiment 1 were used (#s 009, 372, 389 and 518). They each contributed equal numbers of sessions with static and dynamic targets, with the viewers blind to which trials had which type. Senders were not used, and all sessions were conducted at SAIC in California, unlike Experiment 1 in which the viewers worked at home. Viewer #372 contributed 15 of each type while the others each contributed 10 of each type. Standard rank-order judging was used.Results: Table 4 shows the results for this experiment. Unlike in Experiment 1, the static and dynamic targets produced identical effect sizes, with both types producing very successful results. The combined effect size for all trials is .55, resulting in a z-score of 5.22.
The Other Experiments at SAIC
There were four additional experiments at SAIC, not involving remote viewing. Two of them (experiments 3 and 8) involved trying to measure brain activity related to psychic functioning and will be described briefly. Experiment 3 used a magnetoenchephalograph (MEG) to attempt to detect anomalous signals in the brain when a remote stimulus was present. Due to the background noise in the brain measurements and the expected strength of the signal, the experimenters realized too late that they would not be able to detect a signal even if it existed. Experiment 8 utilized an EEG to try to detect the interruption of alpha waves when a remote viewing target was briefly displayed on a computer monitor in another room. The area of the brain tested was that corresponding to visual stimuli. No significant change in alpha was seen.
Experiment 2: AC of Binary Targets:
Purpose: This experiment attempted to replicate and enhance random number generator experiments conducted at SRI. In these types of experiments a computer randomly selects one of two choices to be the target, denoted as 0 or 1. The internal workings of the computer then rapidly oscillate between 0 and 1 and the subject pushes a mouse button when he or she thinks the internal choice matches the target choice. This process is repeated over many trials. The computer tabulates the results and the experiment is a success if the subject guesses the correct answer more often than would be expected by chance. The purpose is to see if humans can correctly guess computer-selected binary targets, and hopefully by extension, correctly solve binary choice problems in real situations.
Method: This SAIC experiment was designed to enhance the accuracy of binary guessing by using a statistical technique called sequential analysis. Rather than just one guess for each decision, the subject continues to guess until the computer ascertains that a decision has been reached. The computer keeps track of the number of times zero and one have each been guessed and announces a decision when one of the choices has clearly won out over the other, or when it is clear that it is essentially an ongoing tie. In the latter case, no decision is recorded. Three subjects participated (#s 007, 083 and 531) in this experiment. Subject #531 had been successful in similar experiments at SRI.
Results: Using this method for enhancing the accuracy of the guesses, subject #531, who had been successful in previous similar experiments, was able to achieve 76 correct answers out of 100 tries. This remarkable level of scoring for this type of experiment resulted in an effect size of .520 and a z-score of 5.20. The other two subjects did not differ from chance results, with 44 and 49 correct decisions out of 100 or 101. (One subject accidentally contributed an additional trial.)
Although the result for subject 531 is remarkably successful, it does not represent a very efficient method of obtaining the decision. To reach the 100 decisions required a total of 21,337 guesses, i.e. over 200 guesses for each decision. Of the individual guesses, only 51.6 percent were correct, for an effect size of .032, similar to other forced choice experiments. Due to the large number of guesses, the corresponding z -score was 4.65. Combined over all three subjects, 56 percent of the 301 decisions were correct and the effect size was 0.123. The combined results were still statistically significant, with p = 0.017, as shown in Table 1.
Experiment 7: Remote Observation:
Purpose: It is often reported anecdotally that people know when they are being watched. Two experiments were conducted at SAIC to determine whether or not these anecdotes could be supported by a change in physiology when someone is being observed from a distance. The experimental design was essentially the same for the two experiments. This work was a conceptual replication of results reported by researchers in the Former Soviet Union (FSU), the United States and Scotland. The experiments in the FSU were interpreted to mean that the physiology of the recipient was being manipulated by the sender, an effect that if real could have frightening consequences.
Method: The "observee" was seated in a room with a video camera focused on him or her, and with galvanic skin response measurements being recorded. In a distant room the "observer" attempted to influence the physiology of the observee at randomly spaced time intervals. During those time intervals, an image of the observee appeared on a computer monitor watched by the observer. During "control" periods, the video camera remained focused on the observee but the computer monitor did not display his or her image to the observer. There were 16 "influence" periods randomly interspersed with 16 "control" periods, each of 30 seconds, with blank periods of 0 to 5 seconds inserted to rule out patterns in physiology.
Results: To determine whether or not the galvanic skin response of the observees was activated while they were being watched, the response during the control periods was compared with the response during the "influence" periods for each subject. The results were then averaged across subjects. In both experiments, there was greater activity during the periods of being watched than there was during the control periods. The results were statistically significant in each case (p = .036 and .014) and the effect sizes were similar, at 0.39 and 0.49. As preplanned, the results were combined, yielding an effect size of .39 (p = .005). As an interesting post hoc observation, it was noted that the effect was substantially stronger when the observer and observee were of opposite sexes than when they were of the same sex.
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