The influence of skeptics [WAS Re: no more lottery talk]

From: Richard Loosemore (
Date: Mon Jan 02 2006 - 08:01:12 MST


I can't help replying here, because there is an answer to your question.

Amongst psi researchers, it is already well known that the presence of
skeptics as *subjects* does have an interesting effect on some kinds of
experiments: they seem to make the scoring go significantly *below*
chance. Who knows why: you can pick your own interpretation of what
might be going on. This is called the "sheep-goat effect" and it has
been known for a long time. The effect was robust enough in at least
one experiment I knew of, that the difference between believers and
skeptics was highly significant, whereas the overall rate was (I think)
near chance.

And for your more general question, people have considered that in great
detail, too: some people tried to understand how layers of influence
extending out in time from the original observation could conceivably
sum to leave an actual result that was non-chance. Don't ask me what
the latest thoughts are on that one.

Richard Loosemore.

Mike Dougherty wrote:
> Suppose a system exists in multiple states (ex: psi observed &
> explained, observed & not explained, not observed)
> If that system is affected by each researcher that becomes entangled
> with it, then why can't we say that the involvement of a skeptic
> actually influences the results? Would anyone accept that the only way
> the research is valid is if there are no "non-believers"? This is
> completely counter to the scientific method of testing a theory. Maybe
> psi is inherently undetectable using this methodology. Sailors used
> lodestones to determine north-south bearing long before magnetism was
> proposed as the magic that made them work. Perhaps psi has a mechanism
> that we have not been able to determine. Perhaps it does not.

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