Science Proves We Can See The Future

Is the flow of time constant, or can events that haven't occurred yet influence our behaviour? A new paper provides scientific proof that humans can see into the future. You probably saw this coming.

Can we see into the future? It's a power claimed by soothsayers, oracles, witches, astrologists and prophets since time began flowing in the direction science generally accepts it flowing in: forward. In these technological times, such powers fall into the realm of parapsychology and science fiction. That could be about to change.

Daryl Bem of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York has been studying the phenomenon of precognition for the past eight years. Now he's about to have a paper published on his studies in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, and even his most sceptical colleagues are having a hard time refuting it.

The weight of Bem's findings comes from his methods. Instead of using questionable original methods for determining his test subjects' talent for precognition, most of Bem's experiments were those meant to study well-known psychological phenomenon, only reversed.

For instance, Bem took an experiment on priming, which studies the effect of a subliminally flashed word on a person's response to a picture, and reversed it. In a traditional priming experiment, subjects would have a word like "Ugly" flashed, and then be shown a picture of a kitten. The result would generally be the subjects taking longer to determine whether or not the photo was pleasant.

Bem reversed the experiment. He showed the picture, asked if the subjects found the image pleasant or not, and flashed the subliminal word after they answered. The results indicated that priming worked both backwards and forwards in time.

Other experiments produced small results, but statistically significant ones. Test subjects were told an erotic image was going to flash on the screen, and asked to guess which of two positions it would depict. They guessed correctly 53.1 per cent of the time.

The paper has been scrutinised by colleagues, peers and reviewers for the the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, and while some edits were proposed, the paper passed muster.

"My personal view is that this is ridiculous and can't be true," says Joachim Krueger of Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, who has blogged about the work on the Psychology Today website. "Going after the methodology and the experimental design is the first line of attack. But frankly, I didn't see anything. Everything seemed to be in good order."

It's a very debatable subject, and the published paper will likely spur more arguments than agreements, but it's an interesting subject for study nonetheless.

Can we see into the future? Ask me next week, when the answer will be "I don't know."

Evidence that we can see the future to be published [NewScientist]


    "Other experiments produced small results, but statistically significant ones. Test subjects were told an erotic image was going to flash on the screen, and asked to guess which of two positions it would depict. They guessed correctly 53.1 per cent of the time."

    So they had a 50% change of guessing correctly, and they guessed correctly pretty much 50% of the time. How is this significant? How is that supposed to support precognition?

      One way of getting statistical "significance" is to have a very large sample size, which this guy has (> 1000).

      However, another statistical gauge (arguably more important) is the effect size, which is pretty low in this paper.

      So while the results are unlikely to have occured by fluke (less then 5% chance), the observed "effect" of pre-cog was very small and probably has no real world predictive value at all.

      This wold be god news for the researchers though, because it means more funding to get better results

      It depends on the sample size.

      If the asked 20 people and 11 guessed right thats not significant.

      If they asked 2 million and 1.1 million guess right, that would be significant.

      The devil is in the details with science papers. They would have to do standard statistical analysis to prove it was a real difference and not just chance.

        Statisticians however have a nasty habit of going

        P value of 0.949 could never happen
        P value of 0.951 IT MUST BE TRUE!!!

        From this you can conclude that there was a high chance that people were guessing with over a 50% chance each time. What sample size doesn't rule out is anything going on with the methodology. I suspect there's simply some sort of selection bias going on, with respondees more likely to give a similar pattern to the authors than an entirely un-like one, simply because people are people and not random number generators.

      -They've done studies, you know. 53.1% of the time, it works everytime...

      -that doesnt make sense..

    There’s a difference between precognition and logic, most people are just good at taking a blind (but good) guess based on what they already know (past experience), what is thought of as frequent and other visual cues and conscious perceptions the subject has in the scenario.

    Studies like this really, in my opinion, are a mockery of how well our brains can process scenarios in real time and give out logical and thoughtful outcomes.

      How would you explain the reverse priming? (assuming that no funny buggers is going on)

      I guess the 53% predictive experiment could be explained as similar to rock paper scissors...but the priming I'm not sure there is so simple an answer.

        I'd explain the reverse priming pretty simply.
        I mean, we can assume that the people have been asked to state what they think of the image. So they're going to be thinking about it. Whether they get primed or not they're going to be thinking about what to say because that's what they're being tested on.
        You could take away the priming aspect altogether and the result would be the same.

        I guess.

    I don't see how this proves "precognition" of any sort. The arrangement of the images was not random but logically chosen by the experiment's authors. If I can predict the next thing someone will say, it doesn't make my psychic, it just means that I was able to correctly evaluate the situation and make an educated guess based on previous experience.

    I'd seriously like to read the entire abstract of this study, because it sounds like more funding-bait. 53% 'support' precognition, compared to a totally expectable 50%, combine this with the fact that all these subjects are taking part of a study where they KNOW they're being tested to some degree on the answers they provide.

    Sorry, it doesn't prove shit. But the institution doesn't care. It made an article on New Scientist, Kotaku and countless other publications, they've brought enough publicity to guarantee funding of their next project.

    Shame on you, Kotaku.

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