Looks like Russell Targ was right on schedule with the publication of The Reality of ESP. Researchers from Northwestern University have conducted a meta-analysis of presentiment studies that is being featured in the current edition of Frontiers in Perception Science. A lot of terms are being used: presentiment, unexplained anticipatory effect, ‘anomalous anticipatory activity,’ to basically say that they are talking about finding evidence for precognition, at least on the emotive level. They have concluded that there seems to be evidence to support the idea that we are able to perceive an event prior to it’s occurence, despite the fact that there is currently no adequate causal model in mainstream science (ie. what’s included in the text books.)
“Presentiment without any external clues may, in fact, exist, according to new Northwestern University research that analyzes the results of 26 studies published between 1978 and 2010.
Researchers already know that our subconscious minds sometimes know more than our conscious minds. Physiological measures of subconscious arousal, for instance, tend to show up before conscious awareness that a deck of cards is stacked against us. “What hasn’t been clear is whether humans have the ability to predict future important events even without any clues as to what might happen,” said Julia Mossbridge, lead author of the study and research associate in the Visual Perception, Cognition and Neuroscience Laboratory at Northwestern.
A person playing a video game at work while wearing headphones, for example, can’t hear when his or her boss is coming around the corner. “But our analysis suggests that if you were tuned into your body, you might be able to detect these anticipatory changes between two and 10 seconds beforehand and close your video game,” Mossbridge said. “You might even have a chance to open that spreadsheet you were supposed to be working on. And if you were lucky, you could do all this before your boss entered the room.”
This analysis supports the research findings of scientists, such as Dean Radin, Russell Targ, Hal Putoff, Ed May, Brenda Dunne, Robert Jahn, Marilyn Schlitz, Daryl Bem, Charles Tart, J.B. Rhine and others who have looked into these areas of anomalous perception over the past 80 years. Targ mentions in The Reality of ESP that the effect size seen in their studies of precognition and presentiment are significantly larger than the effect size shown by researchers who have claimed that aspirin can lower the risk of heart disease. While the findings regarding aspirn have been put into practical use by the medical community, more robust data from research into anomalous perception have been ignored. In their summary, the North Western researchers indicate coming to a similar conclusion regarding the effect size:
“The available data support the hypothesis tested by the current meta-analysis. Specifically, for paradigms producing post-stimulus physiological effects that differ among two or more intermixed and randomized stimulus classes, the group mean difference between physiological responses accompanying these stimulus classes seems to be in the same direction before and after stimulus presentation. For the 26 studies that fit our inclusion criteria (see Table A1 in Appendix), the estimated overall ES is small (most conservative estimate: 95% CI = 0.15–0.27), and is statistically significant. Though the ES is small, it is important to note that important scientific and health advances have been made by further examination of effects about half the size of this one (e.g., achievement scores vs. classroom size ES = 0.11, health outcomes vs. social support ES = 0.11; Rosenthal and Rosnow, 2008).
These results seem not to be an artifact of poor experimental design, as higher-quality experiments that addressed known methodological concerns (randomization and expectation bias analysis) produced a quantitatively if not significantly higher overall ES and level of significance than lower-quality studies. Further, the unexplained anticipatory effect examined here seems not to be due to expectation bias, as the overall effect was still highly significant when we included only those studies that reported expectation bias analyses and found that expectation bias could not explain the effects. Additional examination of other potential moderators of the effect revealed that the male-to-female ratio among study participants was not correlated with study ES; neither was the number of trials performed by each participant in a study correlated with ES.”
It should be noted that the meta-analysis focused on studies that were not necessarily looking specifically for presentiment. As noted in the ABC News coverage of the report, “Mossbridge said that researchers are not sure whether people are really sensing the future, but added that her group’s findings were particularly interesting because the 26 studies she examined had purposes other than to look for evidence of presentiment.” In a way this points to what parapsychologists and scientists studying psi have said for years, once you look at the data, and are confronted with the phenomena, it’s impossible not to see that there are questions that need to be followed up with further research. In this case the data had to sneak in the back door to avoid getting caught up in bias and preconceived notions of what is and isn’t possible. How’s that for a replication of Daryl Bem’s results?
For a quick fix on this new report, check out Science Daily’s blurb (quoted first above) on the work at North Western University, or for the whole paper, head over to the full write up at the Frontiers in Perception Science website.