Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Seriously Strange games - the results are in!

Seriously StrangeThe results for Paranormal Games held at last weekend's Seriously Strange conference are finally here. Just follow this link to see them.

One particular point of interest is the 'find the lady' game. In this, participants were presented with a grid of playing cards, all face down. There were 35 cards in total. One of the cards was the Queen of Hearts and participants had to say, by whatever paranormal method they preferred, which one it was. There was only one correct guess out from the 66 participants who took part.

So, what were the odds of getting the correct answer by random chance? Anyone who read the blog from two days ago will guess it is not 1 in 35! Once again, it depends on where the target was placed within the grid. With only one hit it is fair to say that it is unlikely that the answers to this game were obtained paranormally. So the spread of answers, shown in the photo here, reveal something about the natural cognitive spatial biases of the the participants.

The most obvious bias is, like the gold earring dowsing test (see photo), towards the centre and avoiding the edges of the grid. I had speculated before that answers to the dowsing test may have avoided the edges of the map because it was too far away to go to hide the earring. However, we see a very similar centric bias with the 'find the lady' grid, suggesting there may be a more fundamental cognitive spatial bias at work in both games. I still think that the secondary bias towards buildings in the dowsing tests has different causes, as outlined below.

If this 'find the lady' game was repeated many times without a target, and with many people, it would be possible to plot the spatial bias of a representative section of the population. It should then be possible to mathematically describe the bias so that you could produce the odds of anyone picking the correct answer in any particular position by pure chance. My guess is that the spatial bias is probably a relatively simple statistical distribution pattern. The odds are clearly much higher along the edges of the grid compared to the middle. Indeed, if you wanted to get lots of hits for such experiments, you need only place your target in the middle!

All of this tends to reinforce the idea that the choice of targets can affect the results of psi experiments. Just as in the xenonormal approach to field work, where we study possible natural causes of apparent paranormal sightings, a similar approach looks advisable in controlled experiments. It is vital to establish what a typical group of people would actually give as answers to any particular experiment when there is NO target present before doing any live runs. This is clearly an area where lots of research can, and should, be done.

People don't think randomly. Neither are they neutral recorders of their surroundings. It is only by studying their natural biases, whether congnitive or perceptual, that we can hope to separate the truly paranormal from the merely unlikely.

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