Further Studies of Autonomic Detection of Remote Staring: Replication, New Control Procedures, and Personality Correlates

By Braud, William; Shafer, Donna et al. | The Journal of Parapsychology, December 1993 | Go to article overview

Further Studies of Autonomic Detection of Remote Staring: Replication, New Control Procedures, and Personality Correlates


Braud, William, Shafer, Donna, Andrews, Sperry, The Journal of Parapsychology


In a previous paper (Braud, Shafer, & Andrews, 1993), we reviewed the scientific literature dealing with the purported ability to detect when one is being watched or stared at by someone situated beyond the range of the conventional senses. Surveys indicated that between 68% and 94% of various samples reported having had staring detection experiences in their everyday lives. Previous investigations provided suggestive evidence that persons were indeed able to detect, consciously, when they were being stared at under conditions in which precautions were taken to eliminate possible subtle sensory cues. In particular, positive conscious-guessing results were obtained in two studies in which sensory cueing was eliminated through use of one-way mirrors (Peterson, 1978) and use of a closed-circuit television system (Williams, 1983).

We hypothesized that stronger effects might be obtained if relatively "unconscious" autonomic nervous system activity were used as the indicator of staring detection, rather than conscious guessing. Our reasoning was that autonomic reactions might be less distorted by higher cognitive processes and therefore might provide a purer and more sensitive indicator. We presented the results of two original experiments in which sympathetic nervous system activation was assessed by means of electrodermal monitoring during randomly interspersed remote-staring and nonstaring (control) periods. The monitored participant was unaware of the number, timing, or scheduling pattern of these two types of periods. The possibility of sensory cueing was eliminated through the use of a closed-circuit television system for staring: the starer devoted full attention to the staree's image on the television monitor. In the first experiment, 16 untrained participants evidenced significant autonomic discrimination, becoming more activated during staring than during nonstaring periods. In the second experiment, 16 subjects who had been extensively trained to become more aware of their interconnections with other people and less defensive about their connectedness also evidenced significant autonomic discrimination, but became more calm during staring than during nonstaring periods; the starer had been similarly trained. As judged by effect sizes, unconscious autonomic detection did indeed appear to yield stronger effects than did previous conscious verbal or motoric detection assessments.

In the present paper, we present our attempts to replicate and extend our previous findings. Identical equipment, basic procedures, and analysis methods were used. The first replication involved 3 new starers and 30 new starees. The second replication involved the same starer who had participated in the earlier experiments reported in 1993, but employed 16 new starees. We made two additions in these studies. One of these was the introduction (into Replication 2) of an additional empirical control condition. This was a "sham control" in which we treated sessions and data as we did for real staring sessions, but staring did not, in fact, occur; this provided an empirical assessment of the likelihood of obtaining chance discriminations of otherwise equivalent session segments. The second improvement was the introduction of a new personality assessment for the starees in both replications. In addition to the Myers-Briggs Type Inventory (MBTI) we had been using in the original studies, we included an assessment of social anxiety or discomfort in a social situation (a Social Avoidance and Distress scale), in order to explore the possible interrelationships of these personality characteristics with the autonomic staring detection effect.

METHOD

Subjects

Thirty volunteer participants (22 females and 8 males) served as "starees" for Replication 1, and 16 volunteers (5 males and 11 females) participated as starees for Replication 2. In Replication 1, half of the starees were persons already known by the starers (relatives, friends, or familiar undergraduate classmates), whereas half were unknown at the time of the laboratory session (i. …

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