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My Impression of a Goat : PseudoSkeptic Fallacies • SCEPCOP Forum








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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
“Devotion to the truth is the hallmark of morality; there is no greater, nobler, more heroic form of devotion than the act of a man who assumes the responsibility of thinking.” - Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged
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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

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