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Eyes On The Back Of Your Head

  1. Oct 23, 2003 #1
    I saw a program about two serious studies done to test the notion that people can tell when someone is behind them looking at them.
    One study was conducted by a woman who explained to the volunteers that the point of the study was to show there was something to it.

    The other study was conducted by a man who explained to volunteers the point was to prove it was nonsence.

    The set ups were remarkable similar. People sat with their back to a two-way mirror watching TV. They were to click a button when they senced someone was behind the mirror looking at them.

    The people in the woman's study had an amazingly high success rate. Those in the men's never got it right. The people who made the program felt this showed some such sence must exist, but that people are unconsciously willing to suppress it for an authority figure who doesn't want it to be so.

    I have turned around to find people staring at me, but it seems, in retrospect, I had always turned to look for perfectly explainable reasons. Specifically, that they had been absent from their normal location in the room for a long time.

    In what are reported to be authentic cases of this, people say they feel the hair on the back of their neck stand up, which is what alerts them to the fact they're being watched.

    I'm wondering if anyone has stories to report, and ideas about why the woman's study could have produced the results it did?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 23, 2003 #2

    Ivan Seeking

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    Do you have any idea who did these studies? I have heard this claimed but I have never seen the credible evidence.
     
  4. Oct 23, 2003 #3
    Unfortunately, no. The man was British, the woman American. I saw this program about a year ago. I believe they had communicated with each other casually about the subject, but had each decided to test it on their own. It was a third party who later investigated and uncovered the differences in how they psychologically prepared the test subjects. They had independently of each other arrived at pretty much the same setup for preventing the subject from directly sencing anyone behind them. There was a time limit but they were instructed to press the button anytime they thought someone was looking at them, be it twenty times or none.
     
  5. Oct 24, 2003 #4
    Yes, I believe I saw that on TV too. I don't remember the names though.
     
  6. Oct 24, 2003 #5

    Ivan Seeking

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    Well Zooby, I have heard the explanation for this but one dare not mention this at logic parties: It requires belief in order to work. [The bible makes the same claim]. Of course, if true, this alone would not kill all laboratory results. The problem is this whole notion that analytical testing could destroy the mechanism for ESP. On one hand, with concepts like the uncertainty principle in mind this almost sounds plausible. On the other hand, the claim works painfully well as a cheap dodge. It is hard to see it otherwise.
     
  7. Oct 24, 2003 #6
    I want to hear the explaination!
     
  8. Oct 24, 2003 #7
    I found all that confusing because I'm not sure at any given point if you are refering to the ability to tell when someone is looking at you, or the notion that trying to test it kills it.

    The sugestion for why the results were so bad in the man's case was that he had effectively enlisted their cooperation in his goal of disproving the phenomenon. This did not make any ability go away. It might, in fact, imply they used the ability to unconsciously neglect to press the button when they felt they were being watched and to press it when they felt they weren't.
     
  9. Oct 24, 2003 #8

    Ivan Seeking

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    If this claim is true, then why can't it be reproduced?
     
  10. Oct 24, 2003 #9
    If it's true, it can be reproduced. I'm not aware of anyone saying it can't be.
     
  11. Oct 24, 2003 #10

    Ivan Seeking

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    It sounds like you are claiming proof of ESP.
     
  12. Oct 24, 2003 #11
    Nay, I am trying to find some satisfying explanation for why the woman's study had the results it did. I am not suspecting esp.

    I am wondering more on the lines of being able to detect EM fields as subtle as those given off by a human body. The precident for this being the animals who become agitated before a quake presumably due to EM disturbances. This, at any rate, is as whacky as I'm willing to go, if nothing better shows up.

    I was actually hoping to attract more reports of people who felt this had happened to them. I really only know of one person
    who seemed reliable who told me about this having happened to him. He was out in the woods, felt the hair stand up on the back of his neck, and turned around to see one of the local Indians staring at him. He may have heard an unusual russle of leaves, or noticed a squirrel chattering defensively behind him or whatever, so it is not inexplicable. The experimental set up is harder to explain.
     
  13. Oct 25, 2003 #12

    Ivan Seeking

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    Hehe. If true, this is called ESP. What's in a name?

    ESP is also known as pheromones.
     
  14. Oct 25, 2003 #13

    Ivan Seeking

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    Well, this would effectively prove that ESP exists. For this reason, since I don't recall any earthshaking papers about this, I have serious doubts about the claims. I have heard of such claims, but I have never seen a definitive case that locks it down.

    I will spend some time looking for this in a few days. Those nasty work deadlines are beckoning right now.
     
  15. Oct 25, 2003 #14
    This is interesting. I'll see if I can find anything on this
     
  16. Oct 25, 2003 #15
    Denotation and connotation. Vain Seeking has all the same letters as Ivan Seeking, but I suspect you'd object to the distorted arrangement even if I asked:"What's in a name?"

    Persinger has proven that EM fields right up against a person's head can greatly alter their state of mind. From this, the question arises: how subtle does the field have to be before it has no effect anymore?
    Is this extra-sensory? By definition, if you are sencing something it is not extra-sensory.

    Why are you calling the sencing of pheromones extra-sensory? There is debate, I understand as to whether people sence pheromones, but I'm pretty certain the matter is settled in the case of insects.
     
  17. Oct 25, 2003 #16

    Ivan Seeking

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    Yes it is funny how connotation gets in the way.


    First, I'm sure you know that I am not trying to detract from this subject. I just felt compelled by the gods of objectivity to point out that ANY SIXTH SENSE really settles the issue. ESP does exist...at least in insects. The term ESP means any sense beyond the basic five.

    Next, if true, a sense of someone watching would pass the mustard for an ESP phenomenon. This does not imply anything about mind reading or fortune telling. Still, so as not to unfairly discredit your discussion, I will refrain for using the expression ESP.
     
  18. Oct 25, 2003 #17
    I said "denotation and connotation." The denotation of "Vain Seeking" is quite different than the denotation of "Ivan Seeking"
    The authentic "sixth" sence has been well know to mankind since time immemorial. It our sence of balance. We use it all the time every day. The physical organs responsible for our sence of balance are located in the structures of the inner ear. It is an authentic, physical sence. It is not ESP. I suspect it was left out of the list because it lacks the on-off quality that help us recognize the other sences. If we put our hands over our ears sound is deadened, if we lift our hand from the table we can no longer touch it. If we leave the rose bed, it's smell stays behind, after we're done eating, the taste of the food goes away eventually, shut your eyes and you can't see. Balance can't be turned off like this. This makes it somewhat harder to recognise.

    The prefix "extra-" means "outside" or "beyond" . It is not synonymous with the adjective "extra" which means "more than is due, usual, or necessary". Important distinction.
    I hope I have just shown why the latter assertion is not true and why pheromones cannot be considered ESP.
    ESP, in fact, denotes perception by means beyond or outside the sences; the connotation being: "inexplicable in any conventional terms - resulting from forces and energies outside those known to physics."
     
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2003
  19. Oct 25, 2003 #18
    I think the methodology in both cases is flawed by interference from teh testers. It was just as bad for the woman to tell the subjects that she was supporting the idea, as it was for the man to say he was trying to disprove it. Beyond that, I would have to see the full evidence, including hopefully videotape evidence. There are all sorts of ways people could know they were being watched...were they accounted for?
     
  20. Oct 25, 2003 #19
    Absolutely true. It was completely unprofessional of both of them to express any desire for a specific outcome to the test subjects. Anyone trying this again has to arrive at a way to maintain neutrality. The point of the show, was in fact, to reveal how it is possible to skew study results with this sort of "preparation" of the test subjects.
    Exactly: full evidence is needed in a case like this. In fact they did have tapes of a couple people being tested, just to give the general layout of the set up, but these went by too fast in the one viewing I had to be able to examine where the holes might be.
     
  21. Oct 28, 2003 #20

    hypnagogue

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    Ever hear of the sheep-goat effect? Here's a definition from http://www.mdani.demon.co.uk/para/paraglos.htm#S [Broken] :

    Here's a link arguing for the salience of the sheep-goat effect in psi experiments: http://www.tcm.phy.cam.ac.uk/~bdj10/psi/delanoy/node6.html

    As applied to the staring experiments in question, from http://www.skepticalinvestigations.org/observer/observer3.htm [Broken] :

    So we have the names of our experimenters! Marilyn Schlitz and Richard Wiseman. There is actually some more excellent information to get to the bottom of all this.

    An article at http://www.hf.caltech.edu/ctt/show212/essay212.shtml [Broken] discusses scientific experimentation of psi through the prism of the Wiseman/Schlitz experiments, and includes links to Schiltz's original papers and the subsequent Wiseman/Schlitz joint paper. On the basis of this topic, a forum (now closed) was set up to discuss relevant questions, located at http://www.hf.caltech.edu/cgi-bin/hnctt/get/show212.html [Broken]. The forum discussion is of the highest quality and actually includes commentary from both Schlitz and Wiseman. Schlitz has an especially nice post about psi's place in scientific inquiry at http://www.hf.caltech.edu/cgi-bin/hnctt/get/show212/6/1.html [Broken].
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 1, 2017
  22. Oct 28, 2003 #21

    hypnagogue

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    The claim that belief is a critical part of psi can indeed be used as a cheap dodge, but on the other hand we certainly can't deny the power of belief. Belief has well-chronicled somatic effects in medicine and health. You posted an article a couple of weeks ago that stated that patients who are more receptive to believing in hypnosis are more readily hypnotized. The quality of a psychedelic drug experience is often conditioned by the user's beliefs and expectations of the experience prior to the ingestion the drug. And so on.

    So while we can and should recognize that belief is a dangerous thing to be referencing in our discussion, we should also recognize that we cannot write it off with a wave of the hand either. The beliefs of an individual have unmistakable causal effects on his/her mental and physical state; the trick in discussions of psi is determining if the power of belief extends beyond the individual's own body and mind.
     
  23. Oct 28, 2003 #22

    Ivan Seeking

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    Here is another source: Dr. Rupert Sheldrake.
    Note that I am still looking at this guy.

    http://www.sheldrake.org/

    http://www.lifebridge.org/bridgingtree/science.htm [Broken]

    http://216.239.39.104/search?q=cach...000.pdf+"Dr.+Rupert+Sheldrake"&hl=en&ie=UTF-8


    http://www.noveltynet.org/content/paranormal/www.parascope.com/articles/0997/starestruck.htm [Broken]



    http://www.noveltynet.org/content/paranormal/www.parascope.com/articles/1196/dogw.htm [Broken]
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 1, 2017
  24. Oct 28, 2003 #23
    Hypnagogue:

    Thanks for the exhaustive information.

    I hadn't heard of the sheep-goat effect as such. That particular term seems only to be applied to "Psychic Powers" testing, but that such an effect would exist is inevitable since it exists in all fields of human effort: those who believe they can succeed have a clear advantage over those who don't.

    Nevertheless, in order for that to apply here, the ability has to be proven to exist in the first place.

    I had a hard time making any sence out of the statistics at the link on that subject. I just had the vague impression there was some squeak-by indication that the ability seems to exist.
    The author said it was more definite than this, but I couldn't follow his reasoning. (Terminology was a barrier).

    To complicate that point, Fz+ turned me on to Chaos a few weeks ago and I've been reading about it. It has convinced me that statistics are the wrong way to go about understanding what is going on on a system; that the laws of averages are not applicable in explaining dynamcal systems.

    So when I asked what might explain the woman's results, what I meant was: how could the fact anyone seems to be able to do it be explained? What is the mechanism? I don't think believing you can do it gives you the ability to do it. It may, however, give you the confidence to use a preexisting ability if it exists. Likewise not believing could cause you not to use it.

    At this point in my thinking, though, Zero's point about needing to be able the examine tapes of the sessions, and the actual physical setup itself, is the most important one that has to be taken care of. The Fox sisters fooled people for years and were never debunked: eventually one confessed. I am suddenly extremely suspicious of the woman who prays for certain results! I don't recall that from the program I saw, and learning about it add a certain distinct aroma of fish to the subject. It makes me wonder if proving psychic powers = proving the existence of God, in her mind, and how far she'd be willing to go to achieve that.

    Edit to include: I haven't read the discussion forum yet. Big reading assignment beween you and Ivan.
     
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2003
  25. Oct 28, 2003 #24
    Hypnagogue,

    The forum was, as you characterized it: of high quality.

    That whole link is very good. My memory of the program must be very garbled because I didn't recall them using the closed circuit TV system to watch the subjects, but a two way mirror, for some reason. It is very hard to see how they could sence being watched over a TV circuit. That is about the most secure setup they could have arranged.


    I still need to understand how much better the woman's subjects did. A small margin, even three times in a row, isnt convincing enough, for me. I don't understand the meta-statistics technique, obviously. My recollection from the show, once again, seems to be twisted because I came away with the impression that her results were so far above chance that there was no disputing what they indicated.

    Edit: I have now read the Schlitz paper and am convinced this is not the same woman I saw in the show. She had the subject's skin conductance being monitored. I'm positive the subjects in the experiment in the show I saw pressed a button whenever they felt they were being watched.

    Schlitz mentions in the intro to her paper that the history of these kinds of experiments goes back to the 1800s. She also mentions smoone in the 70s who used a two way mirror, so I'm pretty sure the show I saw must have primariy been about someone elses study, but that it included something about this one as well; the sheep-goat aspect.
     
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2003
  26. Oct 28, 2003 #25

    hypnagogue

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    Zooby, here's a brief discussion on statistical techniques in an experimental design:

    When it comes to experimental testing of hypotheses, the important measure of statistical discrimination is the p-value. The experiment is set up to test a null hypothesis. The null hypothesis is typically conservative and generates predictions that the experiment aims to empirically contradict. If the the null hypothesis is empirically refuted, an alternate hypothesis (formulated before the experiment) is adopted as an explanation for the observed data.

    In the case of the Schlitz experiments, the null hypothesis would be "there is no psi phenomenon; therefore, we should not observe a statistically significant correlation between the subjects' EDAs and the experimental observation periods"; the alternate would be "there is some psi phenomenon occurring; therefore, we should observe a statistically significant correlation between the subjects' EDAs and the observation periods." "Statistically significant" here means that the correlation is much stronger than pure chance would allow, or (equivalently) that there is a very low probability that we would observe such a strong correlation if the underlying processes really were random.

    The null hypothesis is accepted or rejected on the basis of the p-value, which is the probability that the experimentally established correlation between subjects' EDAs and observation periods would be as strong (or weak) as it was observed to be if their EDA fluctuations really were random and not aided by some psychic ability. So, a high p-value means that the experimental data fits nicely into the null hypothesis, whereas a low p-value indicates that the null hypothesis is inadequate to explain the data. It is decided before the conducting of the experiment what constitutes a sufficiently low p-value to reject the null hypothesis. Typically accepted threshold values for rejection are .05 and .01.

    It is important to note that highly significant p-values can occur even if the difference of the observed data from the expected parameters seems trivial on the surface, if the sample size of collected data is large enough. For instance, suppose we conduct an experiment to test whether a certain coin is fair or biased (null hypothesis = fair). If we flip it 100 times and see that it comes up heads 52 times, we will conclude that this deviation is well within the expected value of 50 heads and that we can't reject the null hypothesis with great confidence; that is, there is a fairly high probability that even if the coin is perfectly fair, we will see it come up heads 52 times in 100 flips, so the observed deviation from the expected value of 50 is not statistically significant. However, if we flip the coin 10 trillion times and see that it still comes up heads 52% of the time, we will have an extraordinary low p-value, since there is a very low probability that a perfectly fair coin will be this far from 50% heads over so many trials; that is, the observed deviation is highly statistically significant and we can reject the null hypothesis with confidence.

    In Schlitz's original paper, she recorded a p-value of p < .005, meaning that there is less than a 0.5% chance that she would have recorded the correlation data she did if her subjects' EDAs really were fluctuating randomly in synch with observation periods, rather than being aided by some kind of psychic ability. In the Schlitz/Wiseman paper, Schlitz recorded p = 0.04. It is worth noting that the first p-value was calculated using a one-tailed test while the second used a two-tailed test; the gist of this is that two-tailed tests are more conservative in that p-values are higher for two-tailed tests than for one-tailed tests.
    -----

    Here's a brief introduction to how meta-analysis works:

    The technique of meta-analysis involves performing statistical analysis on a hypothesis using data congolmerated from experiments that have already been run. These experiments all should test the same hypothesis and use fundamentally equivalent experimental designs.

    The advantage of meta-analysis is that it can be conducted on a vast array of data, allowing one to establish extremely significant p-values for even miniscule effects (see this old thread for an example of meta-analysis supporting psi phenomena). The obvious disadvantage of meta-analysis is that the designs of the separate experiments are not all completely identical. There is also the problem of the file drawer effect, which basically is the phenomenon that papers which establish positive results tend to be published while those that do not tend to be 'stuffed into the file drawer,' never to be accessible to analysis. The file drawer effect can be offset by further statistical meta-analysis, however, by showing that in order for the file drawer effect to statistically negate the conclusions of a certain meta-analysis, X number of papers that failed to establish positive results would have to have been compiled but never published. Establishing X to be a high number minimizes the likelihood that the file drawer effect is really salient grounds for doubting a particular meta-analysis.
    -----

    I agree that the statistics aren't going to uncover the precise mechanisms of how psi works, if it exists. It is an invaluable tool, however, for establishing the existence of psi in the first place.

    I'm not very knowledgable on chaos theory myself; however, whatever it says, it can't negate the usefulness of statistics in describing, if not explaining, sensitive and dynamic systems. Physics on the quantum scale is exquisitely sensitve and even, as far as we can tell, non-deterministic. Yet on the macro scale of classic physics we observe regular, deterministic behavior, thanks to the macroscopic statistical tendencies of all those little and unpredictable quantum particles.
     
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