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My Impression of a Goat

Discuss PseudoSkeptics and their Fallacies. Share strategies for debating them.

My Impression of a Goat

Postby Student of Sophia » 03 Aug 2009, 12:54

"The data convinced me. Repeatedly, average ESP scores of subjects who rejected any possibility of ESP success (whom I called goats) were lower than average ESP scores of all other subjects (whom I called sheep). This was inexplicable by the physical laws we knew; it implied unexplored processes in the universe, an exciting new field for research. From then on, naturally, my primary research interest was parapsychology." -Gertrude Schmeidler

Here's my impression of a goat:

"I don't believe in all this psi woo and I know I'm going to do really, really bad on this stupid psi test thus proving that psi is just woo!"

*takes test*

"There, see? I got hardly any hits at all. So much for psi." *snicker*

That was my impression of a goat.

"Gertrude made one of the most important discoveries ever in parapsychology, one with strong spiritual implications and one which I think none of the spiritual traditions knows about, for while it's something that can happen in everyday life, it's pretty much unobservable except under laboratory conditions. She gave many classes of students ESP tests, guessing at concealed cards, but, before giving or scoring the tests, she had students fill out questionnaires that asked, among other things, whether they believed in ESP.

When she analyzed the results separately for the believers - the "sheep" - and the non-believers - the "goats" - she found a small, but significant difference. The sheep got more right than you would expect by chance guessing, they were occasionally using ESP. The goats, on the other hand, got significantly fewer right than you would expect by chance.
Think of it this way. If you were asked to guess red or black with ordinary playing cards, no feedback until you'd done the whole deck, you would average about 50% correct by chance. If you got 100% correct, you don't need statistics to know that would be astounding. But if you got 0%? Just as astounding!

The sheep thought they could do it, they got "good" scores, they were happy. The goats knew there was no ESP, nothing to get, they got poor scores, they were happy, that "proved" their belief. These were not people who were sophisticated enough about statistics to know that scoring below chance could be significant…

Many other experimenters replicated this effect over the years.

The only way I've ever been able to understand it is to think that the goats occasionally used ESP, but on an unconscious level, to know what the next card was and then their unconscious, acting in the service of their conscious belief system, influenced them to call anything but the correct one."
-Charles Tart

The thing I don't agree with Charles about is that spiritual traditions do know about it. They call it faith.
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Re: My Impression of a Goat

Postby Scepcop » 03 Aug 2009, 20:31

That makes sense. If a skeptic is against psi and is testing someone with psi abilities, then both their biases cancel each other out, thus getting chance results. lol
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Re: My Impression of a Goat

Postby NinjaPuppy » 03 Aug 2009, 21:15

Student of Sophia - Thank you for sharing that information. It is very interesting and easily understood.
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Re: My Impression of a Goat

Postby Scepcop » 03 Aug 2009, 22:51

BTW, can you cite these studies, so I can reference them here in the future and maybe in my treatise? Are there any links to them?
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Re: My Impression of a Goat

Postby Student of Sophia » 04 Aug 2009, 00:18

Scepcop wrote:That makes sense. If a skeptic is against psi and is testing someone with psi abilities, then both their biases cancel each other out, thus getting chance results. lol


Yeah. An experiment with ten goats and ten sheep would probably not achieve overall significant results.

Yeah I got a few links about the sheep/goat effect.

I found an ESP SCREENING QUESTIONNAIRE

Abstract:

From a number of studies on the predictive factors involved associated with high ESP scores, an ESP screening questionnaire is developed. The purpose of this questionnaire is to predetermine which individuals should be selected for more in-depth and extensive study. It was distributed to a base of 500 college students to develop the weighing factors assigned to individual questions.

Predictive Factors:

The phenomenon known as extra-sensory perception (ESP) has been the object of tremendous interest and study throughout history. A survey of the literature indicates that there are a variety of approaches to screening potential ESP subjects. The search for predictive factors has led research toward correlating ESP performance to the items 1 to the items summarized:

[...]

"The formation of bell-shaped curve of the 500 persons testifies to the efficacy of the questionnaire. An interesting phenomenon was observed, known in the literature as "psi missing". These people, who score very low scores on the questionnaire, were tested with symbol coded cards. Their scores were very low, lower than statistically possible. This indicated a "Psi" presence in it's "absence". Due to some unknown factor, a certain small group will exhibit "Psi" ability by statistically scoring less than random chance. The questionnaire seems to catch and show this phenomenon, known as "Psi missing". (bold mine)

Since unconscious psi is the name of the game, that means that the implications go far beyond parapsychology. The 'experimenter psi effect', in which the unconscious psi of the experimenter influences the results (to weaken or strengthen, depending on the desire of the experimenter), would quite naturally be found in many scientific disciplines, to varying degrees. Not just parapsychology.

Experimenter Effects in Parapsychology

"What are experimenter effects and why are they important? Many parapsychologists have suggested that the belief of the experimenter may influence the outcome of their study – such that sceptics tend to find what they expect, and so do believers. Indeed, some have claimed that the experimenter’s own psi may affect the outcome of the study. This is an important issue for parapsychology because without an understanding of what causes experimenter effects, parapsychologists will not be able to specify the conditions under which other scientists can replicate their findings.

How did you study this? A series of KPU studies (e.g.Watt & Ramakers, 2003) have looked at the question of experimenter effects..."

The Effect of a Change in Pro Attitude on Paranormal Performance: A Pilot Study Using Naive and Sophisticated Skeptics

Abstract

A computerized symbol-identifying experiment was conducted to test Thalbourne’s (2004) concept of the ‘‘pro attitude’’ (an attitude towards a favorable outcome in a normal or paranormal task). Participants were required to identify the correct symbols randomly presented on computer in a run of 50 trials.

Skeptics were given a second run. After each run, hit-rates were presented on screen. A subgroup of randomly selected skeptics were informed that scores, if sufficiently high or low, indicate statistical evidence of psi. It was hypothesized that news of this information (the ‘‘treatment’’) would alter the pro attitude of some skeptics and lead them to try to score at chance, rather than risk producing scores that might indicate psi.

A significant correlation between hit rate and belief in psi after treatment (but not before treatment) was found for ‘‘converted’’ skeptics (i.e., ‘‘new believers’’ in psi). Post hoc evidence showed a significantly high hit-rate on symbol identification after conversion (but not before conversion). These results suggest a ‘‘conversion effect’’ in some skeptics, thus indicating a change in pro attitude. It was concluded that further research on the pro attitude is warranted since evidence of same may help identify sources of paranormal effects.

[...]

Hope to see more experiments along these lines, this is a pilot study. There could be more out there that I haven't found yet.

Experimenter effects with a remote facilitation of attention focusing task: a study with multiple believer and disbeliever experimenters

ABSTRACT

This article reports the 4th study in a series investigating experimenter effects with a remote facilitation of attention focusing psi task. The "helpee" focuses attention on a candle and presses a button whenever he or she feels distracted. Simultaneously, the remote "helper" follows a randomised counterbalanced schedule of "help" and "control" periods. It was predicted that the helpee would have fewer distractions during the help periods compared with the control periods. Nine psi believers and 5 disbelievers were trained to conduct a psi session and then conducted 36 psi trials in total. It was predicted that participants tested by believer experimenters would show greater remote facilitation of focusing than those tested by disbelievers.

Questionnaires measured participants' paranormal belief, expected and perceived success at the psi task, experimenter ratings, and experimenters' personality and cognitive ability. Overall, there were significantly fewer help presses than control presses, indica ting an effect of remote facilitation on the focusing task. Participants tested by believer experimenters had higher scores on the psi task than those tested by disbeliever experimenters, indicating an experimenter effect. There were no differences between participants or experimenters on the questionnaire measures.

[...]

CONSISTENT MISSING: A TYPE OF INFORMATION-PROCESSING ERROR IN ESP

ABSTRACT: Consistent missing (CM), defined as the tendency of the subject in an ESP test to mistake particular symbols for certain other symbols, has been discussed as a type of information-processing error in ESP and also as a possible source of psi-missing. The present paper surveys the relevant literature and summarizes (1) the extent of occurrence of CM, (2) the relationship between scoring rate and CM, and (3) the available evidence concerning the factors that lead to CM.

Six of the 11 subjects for whom CM analyses have been carried out showed significant CM effects in all or parts of their data. The presence of CM was not consistently related to the direct-hit scoring rate; and in the two sets of psi-missing data that are available, CM did not appear to be the dominant factor in the production of the negative scoring. The factors that apparently sometimes lead to CM confusions include the similarities of meaning and associations between targets as well as the visual resemblances.

Further work should pay particular attention to the subjects' reports about the nature of their ESP impressions in order to investigate the extent to which CM is determined by the specific mechanisms used to mediate ESP information into consciousness.

[...]

It should also be kept in mind that CM could occur when there is motivation for low scores. Thus, CM could be a mechanism for the production of psi-missing. From a more general point of view, CM could result from a situation in which, given that the correct target is to be avoided because of motivational factors, the calls are systematically associated with particular alternative targets rather than uniformly distributed over all the other targets. Thus, the presence of CM in psi-missing data does not disqualify the possible role of motivation. Also, under these conditions, CM would not necessarily reflect any particular similarity or "confusion" between targets.

[...]

Favorable Psychological Factors: An Organizational Schema

In addressing psi-conducive psychological conditions, I will make use of an organizational schema proposed by Allan Combs (1996). Combs’ schema includes three hierarchical levels: There are states of mind (such as sadness, joy, depression, enthusiasm, doubt, determination, and other moods and dispositions) that are relatively transient, and their defining content is important and narrow. These are supported by a second level: states of consciousness.

These consciousness states are larger and consist of unique configurations of sets of processes of thought, imagery, feelings, memories, world perceptions, and self-perceptions. Examples include the well-recognized ordinary and altered states that have been discussed extensively by Charles Tart (1969, 1975), Stanislav Grof (1975, 1985, 1988; Grof & Bennett, 1992), and others—ordinary waking consciousness, nondream sleep, dream sleep, meditative states, shamanic trances, hypnosis, and so on. Combs likens these states of consciousness to the so-called attractors of chaos theory. The third, and broadest, level is that of structures of consciousness. These are “entire overarching regimes that determine how the world is experienced and understood” (Combs, 1996, p. 263).

These are the more global forms of consciousness—the archaic, magical, mythical, mental, and integral patterns of thinking—identified by Jean Gebser (1949/1986). In these different structures of consciousness—which, according to Gebser, developed in successive historical periods, but which continue to be active in us, today, in various ways and at various times—different mental processes are possible, impossible, and differently valued. These five consciousness structures are more inclusive and more enduring than are states of consciousness and states of mind, and they may be likened to worldviews or mindsets (or even paradigms of thought).

[...]
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