Academic journal article The Journal of Parapsychology

Psi on the Web: Two Replication Studies

Academic journal article The Journal of Parapsychology

Psi on the Web: Two Replication Studies

Article excerpt

Radin was one of the first experimenters to use networked computers to perform a psi experiment (Johnson, 1977). This was followed in 1984 by Tedder, who conducted a remote computerised parapsychological study in which selected participants accessed a site from internationally distant locations to take part in the experiment at a time of their choosing. However, Web experimentation in parapsychology using a self-selected population was initiated by Bierman (1995; Bierman & Wezelman, 1996a, 1996b) and has since been taken up by a number of researchers (e.g., McDermott, 1997; Rebman, Radin, & Stevens, 1996; Steinkamp, 1998; Stevens, 1997). Although Web experimentation is still very much in its infancy, if it can be used successfully, it has the potential to revolutionize psi research.

Once programmed, experiments on the Web can quickly accrue a large number of trials, thus enabling researchers to conduct studies with high power to detect more easily what is presumably a small effect. Moreover, the automated nature of such experiments should enable others to replicate them with comparative ease and without having to dedicate too much time to them. Of course, if Web experimentation is generally unsuccessful, it may serve as an indication that psi is not possible, at least under the conditions that the World Wide Web provides. Nevertheless, with the sheer diversity of ways in which studies can be conducted over the Web (e.g., allowing participants to perform only a few trials at one time, changing the amount of feedback, pre-selecting participants, and selecting forced-choice or free-response designs), it is too early to make any firm conclusions either way.

A previous set of exploratory studies (Steinkamp, 1998) indicated that participants may perform particularly well on their first trials and that if participants fill out a questionnaire with a set of simple arithmetical questions and report a positive attitude to completing this questionnaire, their subsequent psi performance will be good. The studies reported here aimed to replicate these findings. The previous experiments had very low power, and so the number of trials was increased considerably for the subsequent studies reported here.

This article is divided into two parts. The first part provides details of the replication questionnaire studies. The second part describes an attempted replication of the comparison between performance of first and subsequent trials.

QUESTIONNAIRES AND PSI PERFORMANCE: A DIRECT REPLICATION

The previously published experiment (Steinkamp, 1998) compared psi performance after participants had responded to two different types of questionnaire: One ("mathematical") questionnaire consisted of a series of six simple arithmetical sums for participants to complete (e.g., 64/4), and the other ("intuitive") questionnaire comprised a number of simple verbal questions (e.g., "Do you consider yourself to be creative?"). The present study used the same two types of questionnaire but with some methodological improvements. For example, this time both questionnaires had the same backgrounds throughout rather than using a more colorful one for the intuitive questionnaire. This previous design with a more colorful background on the intuitive questionnaire potentially made comparison between the two conditions difficult, for it was unsure what influence, if any, a colored background had on participants' motivation and performance. Similarly, whereas previously questions in the intuitive questionnaire were answered in a variety of different ways (e.g., input boxes, radio buttons allowing only ayes or no answer, or selection boxes in which participants opt for one out of a number of choices) and those in the mathematical questionnaire used only input boxes, in this replication study both questionnaires used input boxes only for participants' answers. Input boxes are boxes in which participants have to physically type in their response rather than, for example, just selecting one answer out of a number of possibilities. …

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