A top shrink claims to have found proof that we can predict the future.
Daryl Bem, a social psychologist at Cornell University, is about to publish a series of studies in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, which we get for the spot the ID competition.
Bem’s theory is that all those Zener cards with stars and squares on them don’t actually prove anything and it was time to use a serious of tests similar to those to test for psychological disorders.
Across nine experiments, Bem tested the idea that the brain has the ability to not only reflect on past experiences, but also anticipate future experiences. This enables the brain to “see into the future”.
One of the tests involved giving students a list of words and after reading the list, were given a surprise recall test to see how many words they remembered.
Next, a computer randomly selected some of the words on the list as practice words and the participants were asked to retype them several times.
Apparently the students were better at recalling the words on the surprise recall test that they were later given.
Bem thinks that practising the words after the test somehow allowed the participants to “reach back in time to facilitate recall.”
In another experiment Bem showed people a photo and they had to quickly indicate if the photo was good or bad. So if you have a picture of a fluffy bunny you would press positive and if you saw a picture of Craig David you would press “kill, kill, nuke it from space.”
Shrinks have found that if you flash the word “happy” before the kitten picture, you will click the “positive” button faster. If you flash the word “ugly” before it, you will be slower to hit the button even if Craig David is involved.
But Bem’s reversed the time sequence on this effect by flashing the primed word after the person categorised the photo. He found that people categorise the nice picture quicker when it is preceded by a good word, you will also categorise it quicker when it is followed by a good word. According to Bem it was as if the brain knew what word was coming next.
It seems that the average “non-psychic” people seem to be able to anticipate future events so it is nothing unique to curiously obese neurotics who think their weight is due to the fact that they ate Madame Blavatsky’s energy, were once Cleopatra or a High Priest of the Sun in Atlantis.
Bem found that extraverted people high in stimulus seeking were nearly twice as good at it than the average person.
What lets Bem’s study down is that the numbers he quotes are only slightly larger than chance.
While the news that we can see the future is chucking out pretty much what most people consider science, Psychology Today thinks that these effects are actually pretty consistent with modern physics’ take on time and space.