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Straight Talk: The Ganzfeld (Advocates & Skeptics only)

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Straight Talk: The Ganzfeld (Advocates & Skeptics only)

Postby _Ice_Ages_14_Aces_ » 04 Sep 2011, 06:59

Image

"Ganzfeld" is a German word meaning, "whole field" It's a mild form of sensory stimulation originally developed by Gestalt psychologists to study the nature of visual imagery. The Ganzfeld Effect is an effect where an individual sees vivid mental images after the individual's brain has been stimulated. The Ganzfeld Experiments have been conducted or statistically analyzed or both in the field of parapsychology by parapsychologists, skeptics and statisticans, such as Charles Honorton & Darryl Bem, Robert Rosenthal, Ray Hyman, Richard Wiseman & Milton, etc.

While the accumulated Ganzfeld data, a.k.a. meta-analysis, since 1974-2010 are indeed highly statistically significant and therefore, strong evidence of Telepathy, the question as to whether or not the evidence is valid should be of some importance to both the believers and skeptics who frequent this board. I believe a detailed discussion of these experiments is needed.

I am looking forward to an informed, fair debate between believers and skeptics......
Last edited by _Ice_Ages_14_Aces_ on 12 Sep 2011, 10:58, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Straight Talk: The Ganzfeld (Advocates & Skeptics only)

Postby craig weiler » 04 Sep 2011, 08:04

The Milton and Wiseman Autoganzfeld meta-analysis that purportedly showed that there was actually no significant effect was debunked years ago. It had botched statistics and flawed methodology.

Chris Carter: Journal of the Society for Psychical Research 74: 156-167 (2010) Page 12

“Heads I Lose, Tails You Win”,
Or, How Richard Wiseman Nullifies Positive Results, and What to
Do about It: A Response to Wiseman’s (2010) Critique of
Parapsychology

But what Wiseman does not mention is this: it later turned out that Milton and Wiseman had
botched their statistical analysis of the ganzfeld experiments, by failing to consider sample
size. Dean Radin simply added up the total number of hits and trials conducted in those thirty
studies (the statistically-correct method of doing meta-analysis) and found a statistically
significant result with odds against chance of about 20 to 1. (Radin, 2007, pages 118, 316)
The 30 studies that Milton and Wiseman considered ranged in size from 4 trials to 100, but they
used a statistical method that simply ignored sample size (N). For instance, say we have 3
studies, two with N = 8, 2 hits (25%), and a third with N = 60, 21 hits (35%). If we ignore
sample size, then the unweighted average percentage of hits is only 28%; but the combined
average of all the hits is just under 33%.

This, in simplest terms, is the mistake they made. Had
they simply added up the hits and misses and then performed a simple one-tailed t-test, they
would have found results significant at the 5% level. Had they performed the exact binomial
test, the results would have been significant at less than the 4% level, with odds against chance
of 26 to 1. Statistician Jessica Utts pointed this out at a meeting Dean Radin held in Vancouver
in 2007, in which he invited parapsychologists and skeptics to come together and present to
other interested (invited) scientists. Richard Wiseman was present at this meeting, and was able
to offer no justification for his botched statistics.
Nevertheless, Wiseman mentions this study of his in his Skeptical Inquirer article, writing that
“the cumulative effect was small and insignificant.”
And this was not the only problem with the study. Milton and Wiseman did not include a large
and highly successful study by Kathy Dalton (1997) due to an arbitrary cut-off date, even
though it was published almost two years before Milton and Wiseman’s paper; had been
widely discussed among parapsychologists; was part of a doctoral dissertation at Julie Milton’s
university; and was presented at a conference chaired by Wiseman two years before Milton and
Wiseman published their paper.
Here we have a case in which Wiseman nullified a positive result by first engaging in
“retrospective data selection” - arbitrarily excluding a highly successful study - and then, by
botching the statistical analysis of the remaining data.
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Re: Straight Talk: The Ganzfeld (Advocates & Skeptics only)

Postby Arouet » 04 Sep 2011, 12:54

There are some pretty detailed threads discussing Ganzfeld on the JREF forum.
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Re: Straight Talk: The Ganzfeld (Advocates & Skeptics only)

Postby Twain Shakespeare » 04 Sep 2011, 13:50

As I said today on the thread"Prove esp doesn't exist, "One thing I "know" tho, is our minds confirm our conceptions of what is more than they notice contrary facts."

And thanyou Craig Weiler. Another thing I have confirmed, having studied both rhetoric and statistics, is that "There are liars. There are damned liars. Then there are statisticians". and "figures don't lie, but liars figure."
"What's so Funny about Peace, Love, and Understanding?"
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Re: Straight Talk: The Ganzfeld (Advocates & Skeptics only)

Postby craig weiler » 05 Sep 2011, 00:17

Yup. The ganzfeld studies are a done deal.

Rigorous science to exclude sensory leakage? Check
Replication by a variety of respectable sources? Check
Straightforward statistics to do meta analyses? Check
Meta analyses checked by PhD statisticians? Check
Peer reviewed? Check
Positive results? Check

Game over.
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Re: Straight Talk: The Ganzfeld (Advocates & Skeptics only)

Postby Arouet » 05 Sep 2011, 00:27

Well, there are people who disagree with some of your checks...
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Re: Straight Talk: The Ganzfeld (Advocates & Skeptics only)

Postby craig weiler » 05 Sep 2011, 01:32

Of course there are people who disagree. However that doesn't change the fact that the scientific debate is over.

No one can prove that the existing data is invalid. They've tried countless times and failed.
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Re: Straight Talk: The Ganzfeld (Advocates & Skeptics only)

Postby Arouet » 05 Sep 2011, 03:59

Someone on skeptiko recently reported a stat that the entirety of parapsychological studies over the last 100 yrs is the equivalent of about 2 months work in any other field.

Parapsychology has raised some interesting questions. But the debate is far from over. It's just beginning. The field is in relative infancy.

The absolute best that you have with ganzfeld is a statistical anomaly. There is no understanding about what exactly is going on, if there is indeed something interesting going on.

There is no scientific consensus about ganzfeld, and quite a lot of debate about the stats used, the meta-studies (including the validity of meta-studies), the techniques used, etc.

Why discuss these things in such absolute terms when clearly there is a ton of debate going on right now!
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Re: Straight Talk: The Ganzfeld (Advocates & Skeptics only)

Postby _Ice_Ages_14_Aces_ » 05 Sep 2011, 06:50

craig weiler wrote:The Milton and Wiseman Autoganzfeld meta-analysis that purportedly showed that there was actually no significant effect was debunked years ago. It had botched statistics and flawed methodology.


Wiseman and Milton's Autoganzfeld meta-analysis were indeed statistically flawed for some justifiable reasons:

1) Their meta-analysis didn't contained the standardness criteria like Honorton's 85 MA, so their meta-analysis were heterogeneous compared to the 85 MA.

2 They conducted a one-tailed test, when in proper statistical analysis, is supposed to be two-tailed.

Dean Radin simply added up the total number of hits and trials conducted in those thirty
studies (the statistically-correct method of doing meta-analysis) and found a statistically
significant result with odds against chance of about 20 to 1. (Radin, 2007, pages 118, 316)


I agree with Radin's statistical analyses; however, some or probably few of his meta-analyses mentioned in the 2007 book are seriously flawed. One good example was when he combined the studies of Ganzfeld, presentiment, PK Dice, etc. as if they were one large study. This is not a proper way to do a meta-analysis. The proper way to do a meta-analysis is to combine homogeneous studies, but unfortunately, Radin combined all the psi studies as if they were one large study.

The 30 studies that Milton and Wiseman considered ranged in size from 4 trials to 100, but they
used a statistical method that simply ignored sample size (N). For instance, say we have 3
studies, two with N = 8, 2 hits (25%), and a third with N = 60, 21 hits (35%). If we ignore
sample size, then the unweighted average percentage of hits is only 28%; but the combined
average of all the hits is just under 33%.


Actually, the combined average hit rate is 32%. While the average hit rate of these 3 imaginative studies is 32%, it is not statistically significant and therefore, no evidence of psi-hypothesis because If you do a proper, two-tailed statistical analysis, you will get Z=1.45699, P=0.14512. On the other hand, If the average hit rate is 35% (N=76 hits: 27), then that would be statistically significant and therefore, evidence for the psi-hypothesis.....
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Re: Straight Talk: The Ganzfeld (Advocates & Skeptics only)

Postby _Ice_Ages_14_Aces_ » 05 Sep 2011, 07:25

Arouet wrote: The absolute best that you have with ganzfeld is a statistical anomaly. There is no understanding about what exactly is going on, if there is indeed something interesting going on.


The Ganzfeld meta-studies uses the same statistical significance tests in scientific disciplines, such as medicine, biology, etc. to see whether or not, their studies show empirical evidence of the alternative hypothesis. If we reject the statistical significance tests in the Ganzfeld, then the same can be done to other scientific studies.......

There is no scientific consensus about ganzfeld, and quite a lot of debate about the stats used, the meta-studies (including the validity of meta-studies), the techniques used, etc.


While a meta-analysis is a good statistical method for systematic review, it is very easy for systematic biases to come in. The file-drawer problem is one of the most prevalent problems that meta-analyses suffer from in other scientific studies; however, there is no evidence for the presence of the file-drawer in the ganzfeld meta-analyses. Another problem that meta-analyses suffer from is heterogeniety which Radin, Wiseman and Milton fall to....

Why discuss these things in such absolute terms when clearly there is a ton of debate going on right now!


I had critqued the Ganzfeld and Autoganzfeld methdology, such as the possibility of judging biases, randomization flaws, sensory leakages, etc. and I found no evidence for such flaws, so I concluded as a skeptic that the Ganzfeld is well controlled against conjurers and other flaws....
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Re: Straight Talk: The Ganzfeld (Advocates & Skeptics only)

Postby craig weiler » 05 Sep 2011, 07:44

The test here is simple. Would this evidence be accepted if this were any other type of science without all the hoopla? The answer is: immediately.

The skeptics need to take a step back and realize that these studies meet any sane scientific standard.

Wiseman's study was more flawed than I indicated because I limited the size of the quote. He also bundled an experimental study in the group, which should never have been used in a meta analysis along with the replication studies. It adversely affected the results in Wiseman's favor, of course.
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Re: Straight Talk: The Ganzfeld (Advocates & Skeptics only)

Postby Arouet » 05 Sep 2011, 14:48

What does "any other type of science" mean? All you have shown - at best - in Ganzfeld is a small deviation from chance. The effect size is at best small. That's always worrying in any science. Are you familiar with the Ioannidis study which showed that most scientific studies are indeed wrong, and that small biases creep into almost all research. We must be very careful with small effect sizes as they are most succeptible to the small biases. Ioannidis found that even when there is no effect we expect to find a small effect due to experimenter bias. His research did not involve parapychology by the way.

Add into that the great debate over the methodologies used and you don't have a very reliable paradigm. Not yet anyway. Every time they tightened the protocols the effect size decreased.

I'm not saying there might not be something interesting going on, but the Ganzfeld research seems to be pretty muddy right now.

The question is not: would this evidence be accepted in any other science - we should be looking at those sciences too much more closely. Look at the problems being found now with anti-depressant research, and vitamin research! Many studies that seemed good in the past get subsequently thrown out and rethought.

This is a complex issue and we are not well-served by trying to fast-track it. And when the results of the experiment could be considered revolutionary we need to take even greater care. We need as mud-free research as possible.
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Re: Straight Talk: The Ganzfeld (Advocates & Skeptics only)

Postby Arouet » 05 Sep 2011, 14:48

What does "any other type of science" mean? All you have shown - at best - in Ganzfeld is a small deviation from chance. The effect size is at best small. That's always worrying in any science. Are you familiar with the Ioannidis study which showed that most scientific studies are indeed wrong, and that small biases creep into almost all research. We must be very careful with small effect sizes as they are most succeptible to the small biases. Ioannidis found that even when there is no effect we expect to find a small effect due to experimenter bias. His research did not involve parapychology by the way.

Add into that the great debate over the methodologies used and you don't have a very reliable paradigm. Not yet anyway. Every time they tightened the protocols the effect size decreased.

I'm not saying there might not be something interesting going on, but the Ganzfeld research seems to be pretty muddy right now.

The question is not: would this evidence be accepted in any other science - we should be looking at those sciences too much more closely. Look at the problems being found now with anti-depressant research, and vitamin research! Many studies that seemed good in the past get subsequently thrown out and rethought.

This is a complex issue and we are not well-served by trying to fast-track it. And when the results of the experiment could be considered revolutionary we need to take even greater care. We need as mud-free research as possible.
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Re: Straight Talk: The Ganzfeld (Advocates & Skeptics only)

Postby craig weiler » 06 Sep 2011, 00:54

In reading your last post, I was struck by how closely you hew to the skeptical line. That's not good.

All of the points you are raising come directly from skeptical literature and have all been addressed at length in psychical research literature. You really need to read some books favorable to parapsychology to form a more well rounded viewpoint. You don't appear to distinguish between actual scientific facts and skeptic talking points.

This is harmful to you because it gives you a distorted picture not only of parapsychology, but statistical sciences in general. Here's what I'm referring to:

at best - in Ganzfeld is a small deviation from chance. The effect size is at best small. That's always worrying in any science. Are you familiar with the Ioannidis study which showed that most scientific studies are indeed wrong, and that small biases creep into almost all research. We must be very careful with small effect sizes as they are most succeptible to the small biases. Ioannidis found that even when there is no effect we expect to find a small effect due to experimenter bias. His research did not involve parapychology by the way.


This is a talking point. It involves misapplying a principle of statistics: First of all, the Ganzfeld effect is not all that small. There is a success rate of between 30%-47% in various studies with most of them falling into the 33% range. Second, you deal with this problem by simply having larger sample sizes, which is why meta-analyses are done. Here is an excerpt from The Conscious Universe

While only the 1985 meta-analysis, the autoganzfeld study, and the Edinburgh study independently produced a hit rate with 95 percent confidence intervals beyond chance expectations, it is noteworthy that each of the six replication studies (after the autoganzfeld) resulted in point estimates greater than chance. The 95 percent confidence interval at the right end of the graph is the combined estimate based on all available ganzfeld sessions, consisting of a total of 2,549 sessions. The overall hit rate of 33.2 percent is unlikely with odds against chance beyond a million billion to one.


As you can see, the problem has been adequately dealt with. Parapsychological studies, particularly successful ones, are picked over endlessly, so it's not surprising that the scientists are very thorough.

Add into that the great debate over the methodologies used and you don't have a very reliable paradigm.


This is just a skeptic talking point. What debate over methodologies? None of that shows up in the scientific literature, indicating that scientists don't take this debate very seriously. And it doesn't make sense from a purely practical standpoint. The ganzfeld has been replicated at universities all over the world and none of them seem to have a problem with the methods used; probably because they're very straightforward. So where is the debate coming from? CSICOP. A skeptical organization with strong ties to active atheism.

Every time they tightened the protocols the effect size decreased.


Skeptical talking point. There is no evidence of this.

The question is not: would this evidence be accepted in any other science - we should be looking at those sciences too much more closely. Look at the problems being found now with anti-depressant research, and vitamin research! Many studies that seemed good in the past get subsequently thrown out and rethought.


This is an apple and oranges problem. Parapsychological research is done largely for reasons of scientific curiosity with no profit motive involved. The results are all doubted before the ink is dry on the reports and studies are picked apart relentlessly. Since credibility is not assumed, openness is the name of the game because the reputations of the researchers are at stake.

Contrast this to anti-depressant research where vast amounts of money are at stake. It is well known that money is a powerful motivator for cheating. In those cases, researching the studies was a challenge because there was deliberate obfuscation; something unheard of in parapsychology. Negative studies were suppressed and some were made to look positive despite evidence to the contrary. I'm not familiar with the vitamin research so I can't speak to it, but I'm sure my point is made.

I think that you are making two mistakes here: One: you're relying so heavily on skeptical sources that you're missing a lot of real data and two: you're not recognizing what constitutes "enough." The ganzfeld studies, when examined in their entirety, meet this standard. It is "enough."
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Re: Straight Talk: The Ganzfeld (Advocates & Skeptics only)

Postby Arouet » 06 Sep 2011, 05:14

It's been awhile since I've gone through the ganzfeld stuff but Craig the debate is more complex than you're making it out. Have you seen Ersby's work on the mata-studies (he has thread's on JREF and Skeptiko.).

Those numbers by Radin include studies that should not have been included in the meta analysis.

Anyhow, I'll have to brush up on it since the details are not in my head right now. There are talking points on all sides.
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