Twitter Used to Test Psychic Ability

June 04, 2009 07:15 PM
by Rachel Balik
Researcher Richard Wiseman has asked the public to participate in a test for the psychic power of remote reviewing, and to report their results via Twitter.

Remote Viewing Test Conducted Via Twitter

This is apparently the first time that Twitter has been used to conduct a scientific experiment. Wiseman, a British researcher from University of Hertfordshire, hopes that 10,000 people will participate, according to the Telegraph. He noted, however, that he is not convinced that he will find any substantive evidence for the existence of remote viewing, the alleged psychic ability to perceive a distant, unknown location.

Wiseman will travel to various locations in England. In each instance, he will ask participants to send their impressions of the spot back to researchers using Twitter; Wiseman will then put five photographs on a Web site and ask participants to choose which of the five was the correct location.

Wiseman’s experiment is not flawless, LiveScience columnist Benjamin Radford notes. The fact that all participants will be self-selected prevents the data pool from being entirely random. And, of course, the experiment will not be able to conclusively prove or disprove the existence of psychic powers.

Background: Past psychic experiments

Joseph and Louisa Rhine were among the first to engage in systematic research of psychic powers in the late 1920s at Duke University. Joseph Rhine developed a card deck that that has been used for decades as a testing device for ESP, and the Rhine Research Center continues the Rhines’ work today.

During the height of the Cold War in the 1960s and 70s, both the Soviet Union and the United States governments conducted various experiments that sought to confirm the existence of psychic powers. Wired reports on a few of the American studies; for example, one tried to determine if it were possible to influence the results of a random number generator and sought a universal principle that would unite physics and metaphysics.

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Related Topics: Online Participants in Scientific Research

The Internet offers a rich pool of potential subjects and assistants for scientific research.

For example, a 2008 study found that the psychological condition of narcissism was correlated with certain features on a Facebook page, Scientific Blogging reported. Researchers Laura Buffardi and W. Keith Campbell of the University of Georgia gave a personality questionnaire to Facebook users, and compared the results to information found on their Facebook pages.

In February 2009, astronomers launched Galaxy Zoo 2, the second version of a project that invites public to help classify the images of galaxies in the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. Within 48 hours of the project launch, users had performed about 2 million classifications, a feat that would take a single PhD student approximately 8 months to accomplish.

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