Academic journal article The Journal of Parapsychology

Permutation-Based Methods for Examining Confusion Data in ESP Experiments

Academic journal article The Journal of Parapsychology

Permutation-Based Methods for Examining Confusion Data in ESP Experiments

Article excerpt

Although much of the emphasis in ESP studies involves statistical analysis of the direct hits on the selected targets, the importance of examining the structure of the misses has also been recognized (Rhine, 1952). For example, a considerable body of research has focused on the displacement effect, which suggests that subject calls might precede or succeed the presented targets by one or more places (Pratt & Foster, 1950; Russell, 1943). A review of the displacement trend is provided by Milton (1987). Crandall (1989) examined the displacement trend, noting the dry spell of a few decades since it had initially been reported in parapsychological literature.

A second, but less substantial, volume of research under the umbrella of psi-missing is associated with the study of confusion structures (Cadoret, 1957; Cadoret & Pratt, 1950; Kelly, 1980; Kelly, Kanthamani, Child, & Young, 1975; Kennedy, 1979; Timm, 1969). As these authors have observed, a systematic tendency to confuse certain targets with other targets can also be indicative of the presence of ESE Cadoret and Pratt (1950) provided a significant contribution with their development of the consistent missing (CM) theory, which reflects the propensity of subjects to exhibit systematic patterns in their incorrect identifications of the targets. These authors also proposed a [chi square] test for determining whether or not such systematic patterns were present in the data. They noted the necessity of developing a "method of evaluating the misses that was independent of the number of hits" (Cadoret & Pratt, 1950, p. 245). In reference to the Fisk and Mitchell (1953) and Fisk and West (1957) clock card experiments designed to examine misses, Kennedy noted that "the CM analysis that evaluates incorrect calls in isolation from direct hits has not been applied to most of these data" (Kennedy, 1979, p. 116). Kelly et al. extended the CM paradigm by comparing the resulting confusion structures of visual recognition and ESP tasks for the same exceptional subject. Kelly et al. used nonmetric multidimensional scaling (MDS) to reveal similarities between the two confusion structures. In light of the substantive findings that can be uncovered from confusion data, we should not be surprised to find that future analyses in this area were strongly encouraged by Burdick and Kelly (1977, p. 101): "The confusions methodology opens up a rich set of possibilities for investigating the mechanisms of psi, and we hope it will be vigorously pursued in future work."

Despite the suggestion for further development of methods for studying ESP confusion data, research in this area remains rather scant. This dearth of literature in parapsychology is in marked contrast to experimental psychology, as this latter area has a literature base that is replete with studies emphasizing the analysis of confusion structures. Psychological applications include visual recognition of letters and/or digits (Townsend, 1971), visual recognition of textures (Cho, Yang, & Hallett, 2000), lipreading tasks (Manning & Shofner, 1991), auditory recognition tasks (Morgan, Chambers, & Morton, 1973), taste recognition (Hettinger, Gent, Marks, & Frank, 1999), odor discrimination (Kent, Youngentob, & Sheehe, 1995), and tactile recognition (Vega-Bermudez, Johnson, & Hsiao, 1991). This body of research examines the study of confusion in sensory perception. Clearly, research should be further extended in extrasensory perception.

At least two important issues are associated with the study of confusion matrices obtained from ESP experiments: (a) the implementation of tests for the presence of systematic patterning in a single confusion matrix or among multiple confusion matrices, and (b) the deployment of analytical methods to uncover confusion structures that are masked by noisy data. In this paper, permutation-based methods are presented to tackle both of the issues related to analyzing confusion data from ESP experiments. …

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