New York Times, By BENEDICT CAREY, January 5, 2011
One of psychology's most respected journals has agreed to publish a paper presenting what its author describes as strong evidence for extrasensory perception, the ability to sense future events.
The decision may delight believers in so-called paranormal events, but it is already mortifying scientists. Advance copies of the "Feeling Future" paper, to be published this year in The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, have circulated widely among psychological researchers in recent weeks and have generated a mixture of amusement and scorn.
The paper describes nine unusual lab experiments performed over the past decade by its author, Daryl J. Bem, an emeritus professor at Cornell, testing the ability of college students to accurately sense random events, like whether a computer program will flash a photograph on the left or right side of its screen. The studies include more than 1,000 subjects.
Some scientists say the report deserves to be published, in the name of open inquiry; others insist that its acceptance only accentuates fundamental flaws in the evaluation and peer review of research in the social sciences.
"Several top journals publish results only when these appear to support a hypothesis that is counterintuitive or attention-grabbing," Eric-Jan Wagenmakers, a psychologist at the University of Amsterdam, wrote by e-mail. "But such a hypothesis probably constitutes an extraordinary claim, and it should undergo more scrutiny before it is allowed to enter the field."
Dr. Wagenmakers is co-author of a rebuttal to the ESP paper that is scheduled to appear in the same issue of the journal.
See also "The Truth Wears Off" in New Yorker
which describes a seemingly widespread effect of finding getting weaker, and which is likely explained by selective data analysis and bad data mining.
After all, if ESP exists, why the practitioners don't make money by picking stocks or lottery numbers?