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Estonian Psychic Test Results PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by James Randi   

From Estonia we received the following:

Here is the short test report of the challenge for the self-described psychics here in Estonia. If any additional information is needed, please contact the board member of the Estonian Skeptics Society – Martin Vällik. The following report is translated by Elver Loho – a contributor for your newsletter regarding Sniffex.

Thank you for inspiration!

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Real Psychic Challenge

Bad news: Estonia got its own localized version of America's Psychic Challenge.

Good news: Three of the contestants approached the Estonian Skeptics Society to have their abilities properly tested. No prizes, no media, just scientific testing.

The experiment began on a lovely summer evening. Nineteen different fairly common items had been brought together, all clearly distinguishable and from different areas of life. Inside a garden house sat a "transmitter" – a person whose job it would be to take a random item from the pile and to telepathically transmit information about the item to a test subject sitting outside. The telepathic transmitter was accompanied by a member of the skeptics who wrote down the objects that were being telepathically transmitted and communicated with another skeptic outside who was observing the test subject, about when the transmitter or the receiver was ready to proceed. Each of the three subjects tried to guess six items.

All mobile phones were far away and everyone participating in the experiment was searched with a metal detector to look for any electronic transmitters. None were found.

Guessing three out of six items correctly was deemed to be evidence of paranormal abilities. Everyone participating in the test signed papers saying that they had understood and agreed to the rules.

Before the results were revealed, the subjects testified that the experiment had been honest and that they were satisfied with the arrangements.

And the results were surprising for everyone. Out of all the eighteen tries the three psychics had managed to guess... zero.

When the transmitter inside the garden house was holding in her hands a small brush and trying to telepathically transmit its image, the receiving psychic instead described "a round smooth object, a ball." A small apple was received as "a bigger object, a toy, a teddy bear." A key was received as a drinking glass, a saw as a carrot. A training landmine was perceived as a leather wallet, and a condom as a light bulb, a compass as a candle.

There was a small debate about the condom, though. It was argued that since “spiritually” sex has something to do with light, then perceiving a condom as a light bulb should count as a hit. Everyone else disagreed.

All in all, everyone agreed with the setup, everyone agreed with the results, everyone left on friendly terms, and stunning new evidence for telepathy was not discovered.

We thank the Estonian Skeptics Society, and Martin Vällik, who sent us this very interesting report, as well as translator Elver Loho.

However, this is an excellent example of how such a test can be more complicated than necessary, and how differences of opinion can interfere with the smooth carrying out of the protocol. Allow me to make certain observations:

First, in this test, the target pool should have been defined in advance, with a list of all possible targets being provided to those trying the test. That way, there could have been no argument or doubts about whether a guess has been correct, or “almost” correct... Such a test is called, “forced choice,” and the statistics can be easily and firmly worked out in advance. All possible targets are on the list, and only a direct choice counts, at all. However, the targets must be very distinct. As an example, some of the “remote viewing” targets we’ve used at the JREF over the last few years have been: bottle of ketchup, telescope, cracker, bottle of ink, book, shoe, coconut, and clock – all recognizable items, and not easily confused with one another. Of course, these were targets belonging to an almost-infinite pool of objects. Statistics could not therefore be assigned, but the “RVers” insisted they could identify a target from such a pool, so we used that.

Second, I see here no mentioned provision for target selection by the “transmitter.” Some targets are more attractive, and are thus more likely to be chosen. There should have been a method – choosing a slip from a container, for example – for arriving at a truly random choice.

Third, I would have assigned more than one “transmitter” to send the thoughts; it could be argued that the individual chosen, had a poor ability to transmit!

We look forward to hearing of more such tests!

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