An Anomaly of an Anomaly: Investigating the Cortical Electrophysiology of Remote Staring detection/Une Anomalie D'anomalie : Etude De L'electrophysiologie Corticale De la Detection Du Regard a Distance/ Anomalia De Una Anomalia:
Baker, Ian S., Stevens, Paul, The Journal of Parapsychology
Remote staring detection has been defined as "... the purported ability to detect when one is being watched or stared at by someone situated beyond the range of the conventional senses." (Braud, Sharer, & Andrews, 1993a, p. 391). Remote staring detection involves the measurement of behavioural or physiological reactions in starees when stared at by a starer, even though it should be impossible for the starees to know through any conventional sensory means that the starer is staring at them at any particular moment. Belief in this phenomenon as an everyday experience is considerably widespread, with incidences of belief ranging from approximately 70% to 94% of the populations sampled (Braud et al., 1993a; Braud, Sharer, & Andrews, 1993b; Coover, 1913; Cottrell, Winer, & Smith, 1996; Rosenthal, Soper, & Tabony, 1994; Sheldrake, 2003; Thalbourne & Evans, 1992). Over the past 100 years there have been several attempts to examine these anecdotal experiences and beliefs under controlled conditions. The earliest research in this area used relatively simple and direct behavioural measures that demonstrated an evolution of methodological sophistication over time as greater controls over extraneous variables were introduced (Coover, 1913; Poortman, 1959; Titchener, 1898; Williams, 1983). The introduction of the use of electrodermal activity (EDA) as a measure of autonomic nervous system (ANS) activity and as a potential indicator of a "fight-or-flight" response to being stared at remotely was a significant methodological development. This was particularly the case when the EDA method was combined with the use of CCTV systems to separate the starer and staree (Braud et al., 1993a, 1993b). Collectively referred to as the "EDA-CCTV" studies (Baker, 2005), several researchers found interesting results utilizing this method, including potential skeptic-believer experimenter effects (Schlitz & LaBerge, 1994; Schlitz, Wiseman, Watt, & Radin, 2006; Watt, Schlitz, Wiseman, & Radin, 2005; Watt, Wiseman, & Schlitz, 2002; Wiseman & Schlitz, 1997, 1999; Wiseman & Smith, 1994, 1994). A meta-analysis (Schmidt, Schneider, Utts, & Walach, 2004) of the 15 EDA-CCTV experiments that had been conducted at that time found a small but significant effect (d = .13, p = .01), suggesting evidence that requires further investigation.
This was the primary objective of the research presented in this paper. Firstly, previous EDA-CCTV methods were expanded to include central nervous system (CNS) activity. It would be expected that, if this phenomenon is genuine, then any stimulus processing or awareness of a remote stare should result in corresponding activity in the brain. Secondly, it was important to embed the potential effect within a wider theoretical framework. Assuming that remote staring detection is producing brain activity as the information is processed, does this processing follow similar systems to those that have already been identified in cognitive neuroscience; for example, the processing of faces and/or the gaze of others?
The significance of various forms of eye-based nonverbal communication in humans has been long established in the social psychology literature (e.g., Argyle & Cook, 1976; Ellsworth, Carlsmith, & Henson, 1972; Kirkland & Lewis, 1976). The human eye has the largest ratio of exposed, white sclera to dark iris compared to any other primate (Kobayashi & Kohshima, 1997; Riccardelli, Baylis, & Driver, 2000), which appears to aid humans in being particularly sensitive to the detection of gaze and its direction (Itier, Van Roon, & Alain, 2011). The impact of the gaze of another also elevates electrodermal measures of arousal (Helminen, Kaasinen, & Hietanen, 2011; Leavitt & Donovan, 1979; McBride, King, & James, 1965; Nichols & Champness, 1971; Strom & Buck, 1979), which neatly correlates with the EDA-CCTV measures of remote staring detection mentioned previously. …