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| Putting the psycho in|
|Men who stare at goats|
|By the powers of tinfoil|
Daryl J. Bem (1938–), a respected social psychologist, is more well known among skeptics for his investigations of the paranormal. His most famous study is titled "Feeling the Future: Experimental Evidence for Anomalous Retroactive Influences on Cognition and Affect", and the most famous subset of these is the "porn" experiment. When provided two hidden images, participants were able to correctly select the "arousing" image 53.1% of the time (more than the 50% predicted by chance). Afterwards, participants were shown which image was porn and which was not. Bem argues that this (and various other tests) constitutes evidence for "retroactive facilitation of recall" — or, people recalling events before they have happened.
Two papers (Galak, LeBoeuf, Nelson, & Simmons, 2012; Ritchie, Wiseman, & French, 2012) have since been published reporting attempts to replicate these experiments. Together these two papers report the results of 10 separate experiments using Bem's methods with a much larger combined sample. Only one of the ten experiments produced a significant result, although the authors (Galak, et al., 2012) report that when the results of their seven experiments were combined the overall effect size was close to zero. Additionally, Galak et al. performed a meta-analysis of all known published and unpublished attempts (comprising over 4,000 participants) to replicate Bem's retroactive facilitation of recall studies. The overall average effect size was not significantly different from zero.
Regardless of whether Bem's original study was designed well (and there are some indeed problems), it has not stood the test of time.
- James Alcock. Back from the Future: Parapsychology and the Bem Affair. Skeptical Inquirer, Jan. 6 2011.
- Daryl Bem's Home Page (archived from the original)
- Feeling the Future: Experimental Evidence for Anomalous Retroactive Influences on Cognition and Affect. Cornell University, 2011.
- Psychology Today, October 2012.
- The psychology of parapsychology, or why good researchers publishing good articles in good journals can still get it totally wrong. www.talyarkoni.org, 10 January 2011.