PK in a Competitive Computer Game: A Replication

By Broughton, Richard S.; Perlstrom, James R. | The Journal of Parapsychology, December 1992 | Go to article overview

PK in a Competitive Computer Game: A Replication


Broughton, Richard S., Perlstrom, James R., The Journal of Parapsychology


In an earlier paper in this Journal (Broughton & Perlstrom, 1986), we reported two PK experiments that were in the form of a competitive game of chance. We used the game format to take advantage of the motivation potential inherent in that approach (see Broughton & Perlstrom, 1986, for a discussion), and we added a competitive element to heighten certain aspects of the game's motivational character further.

The experiments involved a computerized dice game that could be played in a competitive mode, that is, with an opponent. It was based on a commercially available product called OINK! (Beagle Bros., San Diego, CA) and was heavily customized by us for use as a PK experiment. In brief: The participant sat in front of a video monitor (similar to a small TV) on which two die faces appeared each time the player pressed a button on a game paddle. The object of the game was to accumulate a higher score (summing the numbers represented by the two die faces) than one's opponent. The game proceeded in alternating turns of five "rolls" of the dice. Players were penalized for rolling doubles (one of the rules in the commercial product). The random numbers governing the die faces came from a true random source built into the computer.

Each participant played the game in two forms. In the noncompetitive form, the participant had the computer as an opponent, and this part of the procedure was portrayed either as a "warm up" or a "baseline" game. In the competitive form, the test program convincingly simulated a live opponent linked to the subject's computer by a telephone connection. Since most of the participants were students from nearby Duke University, we arranged to have our simulated opponents represent the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (a long-standing sports rival of Duke). Prior to the test session each participant completed the Sport Competition Anxiety Test (SCAT) (Martens, 1977), and immediately prior to playing the dice game (in either form) the participant completed a subset of Spielberger's State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (Spielberger, 1973) to measure state anxiety. At an earlier visit to the lab, each participant was asked to complete the Participant Information Form (PIF), a 10-page questionnaire developed at the Psychophysical Research Laboratories in Princeton, NJ.

The first of the two previously reported experiments (CGC1, meaning "Competitive Game of Chance No. 1") revealed no overall PK scoring or any effects of competition for the 50 participants. For those 23 participants who completed and returned the PIF, several interesting correlations emerged. Chief among these was a negative correlation between the participant's state anxiety immediately prior to playing the competitive game and the score obtained in the game: |r.sub.s~(21) = -.52, p |is less than~ .01, two-tailed. This suggested that the more anxious a participant was at the start of the competitive game, the lower he or she would score. Another negative correlation turned up between the scores of subjects who had practiced any mental discipline such as yoga (as indicated on a PIF question) and their competitive game scores: |r.sub.s~(21) = -.85, p = 3 x |10.sup.-7~, two-tailed. This finding suggested that participants who practiced a mental discipline were also likely to score poorly in the competitive game. The state anxiety prior to the competitive game and the practice of mental discipline were positively correlated. These correlations were not found in the data from the noncompetitive games.

That these results were obtained only with those participants who took the trouble to complete the lengthy PIF indicted to us that the findings might relate only to a subset of participants who were particularly interested in the research or were otherwise motivated to cooperate. Therefore, for a second experiment, which, owing to its automated nature, was largely completed before we had finished the analysis of the first, we predicted two findings: In the competitive game the scores of participants who returned PIFs would show a significant negative correlation with their state anxiety score just prior to that game, and their game scores would be negatively correlated with the practice of a mental discipline. …

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