“Inspired by the White Queen’s Claim”

Just in case Americans were looking for a few more reasons to distrust academia.

According to an article by Benedict Carey in the New York Times, one of the country’s top psychology journals has agreed to publish an article outlining the case for ESP. Right, extrasensory perception (ESP), feeling things beyond the five senses. This means stuff like telepathy, clairvoyance, precognition.

As Casey writes:

One of psychology’s most respected journals has agreed to publish a paper presenting what its author describes as strong evidence for extrasensory perception, the ability to sense future events.

The decision may delight believers in so-called paranormal events, but it is already mortifying scientists. Advance copies of the paper, to be published this year in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, have circulated widely among psychological researchers in recent weeks and have generated a mixture of amusement and scorn.

The paper (available here) describes laboratory experiments in which subjects were asked to perceive future events (e.g. whether a computer would flash a picture on the left or the right) concluding that students appeared to be able to do so.

The paper quotes extensively from Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass and includes the following line:

Inspired by the White Queen’s claim, the current experiment tests the hypothesis that memory can “work both ways” by testing whether rehearsing a set of words makes them easier to recall—even if the rehearsal takes place after the recall test is given.

“This is just an embarrassment for the entire field,” said Ray Hyman, an emeritus psychology professor at the University of Oregon.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer