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Patricia Putt Million Dollar Challenge Test Results In! PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Alison Smith   

Patricia Putt, who claims she is psychic, took the preliminary test for the One Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge today. The test was conducted by Professor Richard Wiseman and Professor Christopher French. In order to pass her challenge test, Mrs. Putt was required to pen psychic readings for ten volunteers who were then asked to identify their own readings from the group. At least five volunteers would have had to correctly identify their own reading.

None did. Mrs. Putt's readings were correctly identified by zero out of ten volunteers.

According to the testers, Mrs. Putt took this failure well, and did not blame the test or the testers but rather her own powers for failing.

There will be a longer article on the test and the results soon, so keep an eye on Swift for more information.

The JREF would like to send a special thanks to Professor Richard Wiseman, Professor Christopher French, Panka Juhasz, James Munroe, Suzanne Barbieri, and Fabio Tartarini for conducting the test. And, of course, we would also like to thank Patricia Putt for participating.

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I win
written by gabriel, May 06, 2009
I perdicted this result exactly. Where's my money?
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Hmmmmm
written by igetpissed, May 06, 2009
Somehow I am not surprised by this..
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Merits of the Protocol
written by grieve, May 06, 2009
Without seeing the longer article I cannot really speak to the merits of the protocol, but it is known that both parties have to agree on the protocol before hand, so both the JREF and Mrs. Putt had their chance to correct any weaknesses or perceived weaknesses in the protocol.

I am not saying this makes the protocol scientifically perfect, but it is at least a transparent process. I do hope the fuller article goes into more detail about the specific protocol.
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written by kenhamer, May 06, 2009
My understanding is this has nothing to do with "testing psychics" but rather testing whether Ms. Putt could do what she claimed. Had she passed the test she might have been able to claim psychic powers, but she did not pass the test, and she had agreed to the protocol in advance. (And kudos to her, both for seeing the challenge through (including properly applying) as well as graciously accepting the results.)

If someone were to write a detailed and accurate report "containing personal information" about me, I'm certain I would recognize it in short order. On the other hand, if the report were vague containing only general points (particularly if they could easily be applied to large portions of society) then it wouldn't be particularly detailed, specific, or exceptional, not to mention not being psychic.
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written by kenhamer, May 06, 2009
Furthermore, this was not a test of whether volunteers could recognize what other are saying or thinking about them -- it's about whether or not a person can determine traits and characteriscs of another person based on their proximity and voice.

What you're describing has nothing to do with this test, and is rather likely a completely different psychology test.
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@ Paul Claessen
written by J.C. Samuelson, May 06, 2009
Seems more like a test of the (in)competence of ten volunteers to recognize what people are saying/thinking about them! There are many studies that show, that, in general, we humans are rather bad in correctly identifying what other people think of us (we tend to err a LOT on the positive side!).


I agree that witness testimony is unreliable, and it's even understandable that any number of people might not recognize themselves in general, non-specific statements made by someone not claiming to have psychic ability. But a psychic should presumably be able to give specific details about a person which would unequivocally identify that person. For example, she (Mrs. Putt) could perhaps have succeeded had she stated that Volunteer X had an Uncle Y who has brown hair and likes lemon-flavored ice cream, and whose mother had worked for, say, the Peace Corps from 1969 - 1970 - and was found to be right!

It's still possible that all 10 volunteers were either biased against Mrs. Putt, and gave a negative response in spite of any accuracies, but it seems to me that if we assume their behavior to be honest we can only conclude that Mrs. Putt didn't give sufficiently specific information about them. Indeed, the most telling fact here is that Mrs. Putt herself admitted defeat!
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written by chillzero, May 06, 2009
The protocol was published in full on the JREF forum, under the MDC claims section.
For those saying asking people to identify their readings, I wonder how they think such a claimed ability *can* be tested?
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written by grieve, May 06, 2009
@Chillzero
Can you provide a link?
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written by Willy K, May 06, 2009
I might be the eternal pessimist, but I wouldn't be too surprised if Mrs. Putt will now claim that she has been tested by the world's greatest skeptics and leave out the fact that she was unsuccessful. smilies/cry.gif

I see ads on TV all the time for woo products where they state that they have been "clinically tested", knowing that most folks don't know that "clinically tested" is not the same as "clinically tested and proven."
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written by Otara, May 06, 2009
If Mrs Putt was generally identifying people so 'truly' they couldnt recognise themselves, presumably she wasnt getting a lot of feedback that her readings worked from her targets in the first place.

So while I agree being more accurate than a person can see themselves coould be how 'real' psychics might not get recognised, I doubt it applies to this claim.
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The protocol
written by Ugly Bug, May 06, 2009
@grieve:

The challenge applicants and their test protocols are on this forum page:

http://forums.randi.org/forumdisplay.php?f=43

Follow the link for Patricia Putt. The protocol is near the end of her page, but you can check out the earlier, draft, protocols as well.
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Trying to get the word out
written by kylev@kylev.com, May 06, 2009
I'm trying to get the word out about this result (and other things skeptic-related). I'm one of the moderators on the Skeptic section of reddit at http://www.reddit.com/r/skeptic/ . If some of you are reddit members, come up-vote this and other posts to counter the effects of "down-vote everything griefers" by visiting the "new" section: http://www.reddit.com/r/skeptic/new/

Thanks.
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written by KingMerv00, May 06, 2009
I can't say I'm surprised by the outcome but I'm glad to see that everything went smoothly and that Ms. Putt accepted the outcome gracefully. Cheers to her. smilies/grin.gif
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written by Alencon, May 06, 2009
I find the fact that a subject could have purposely ignored an accurate reading troubling.I doubt Ms. Putt (or anyone else) is psychic in any event, but the protcol does strike me as possibly flawed.

As for a better protcol, a lot depends upon the type of things Ms. Putt claims to be able to discover in her readings. If they are reasonably definable, then a better protocol might have been for those things to have been identified by the subjects before the reading and verified (in case the subjects lied). Then an objective comparison for accuracy could be made after the reading. Some percentage correct could be declared an accurate read and some number of accurate reads declared a success.

To make it completely double blind. Multiple reviewers could be given different "psychic predictions," at least one of which would be a "success," but only one of which would be the real predictions. That way not even the folks doing the comparison would know if it was a real reading or a bogus one.
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written by MadScientist, May 06, 2009
I'm disappointed; I guess I always hope that someone would demonstrate some real psychic abilities because that would mean an entirely unknown field to study (funny that - entirely unknown despite volumes written over the past centuries). On the other hand I really don't expect anyone to demonstrate any psychic abilities.
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written by MadScientist, May 06, 2009
@Alencon:

The subjects were instructed to pick out the results which they believed were meant for them (presumably what best describes them). In this case the fact that a subject can deliberately choose a poorer match doesn't matter at all since the testers known which words were written about each subject and can independently verify the accuracy. The test methods are OK and now that the results are in (the psychic readings), the testers can interpret the data in a number of ways which are not connected with the agreed rules for moving to the next phase of the MDC. If any readings do match an individual to a far greater degree than a typical horoscope (for example: Mr. X had a pet rabbit named Pookie who dies of a snake bite) then that would be good enough cause for further testing. Keep the claim being tested in mind: the psychic can know things about people simply by being near them. The psychic then wrote out what was learned from being near each subject; psychic did not know the subjects and the subjects did not know what psychically gained knowledge was written on which piece of paper, however the testers do know.
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I'll take it.
written by shig23, May 06, 2009
I've thought about it, and I think I'm going to step up to the challenge. Same claims, same protocols.

Because even if everything goes completely against me, I'll still have gotten to spend an entire day with Professor Wiseman.
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written by Mark P, May 06, 2009
"written by Alencon, May 06, 2009
I find the fact that a subject could have purposely ignored an accurate reading troubling"

This is not a real concern.

Sure I don't believe in psychic powers, but if someone gave *hard* details from a cold reading, then I would have to accept the result. I would want to know how they did it, if nothing else.

This women should, if she had the powers she claims, been able to get ten out of ten. All she needed to do was write one fact about each person. A has a wife named Peggy. B has a dog and three cats. C has had a brush with cancer. People would not have been able to brush off anything like that. They could ignore the results only if she wrote the usual generic bollox -- you sometimes feel insecure, and worry about your appearance.

Zero out of ten pretty much destroys her claims. Five or so would have been pretty amazing, frankly.
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written by chillzero, May 07, 2009
(sorry for leaving out link, and thanks to Ugly Bug for providing)
The spcific protocol is in this thread:
http://forums.randi.org/showthread.php?t=120794

Mark P - I agree with all that.
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Another One
written by Josh111485, May 07, 2009
As the song goes: "another one bites the dust!" smilies/grin.gif
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Still...
written by Griz, May 07, 2009
...a test which relies on subjective evaluation of not one but ten subjects who know what their there for and whose biases may go in many different directions concerning psychic reading seems stacked against the psychic to me. I'm not that concerned one way or another because in my mind this is just busy work, I am personally convinced that there are no psychics or psychic powers, and if you did manage to tweak the protocol so that it was completely objective, it wouldn't make a bit of difference. Maybe this is as close as it can get, and of course Putt agreed to it, but it still doesn't feel airtight to me.

Because let's face it, the only function these test really serve is to put one more tool in our toolbox to shut up people like Sylvia Browne and John Edward.
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written by okmet, May 07, 2009
Granted much of my probability theory is limited and please correct me if I'm wrong, but shouldn't the probability that at least one picked the correct reading be about 65%?
Assuming probability that no one gets the right reading = .9^10 ~ 35%?
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Good point Okmet
written by Griz, May 07, 2009
If we judge these tests successful by results which exceed probably enough to indicate influence outside of random chance, should we also not say that a result significantly below probability also indicates outside influence of some sort?
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written by jadebox, May 07, 2009
If we judge these tests successful by results which exceed probably enough to indicate influence outside of random chance, should we also not say that a result significantly below probability also indicates outside influence of some sort?

But, by pure chance there was a better than one out of three probability that zero matches would happen. Do you really consider that to be "significantly below probability?"
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written by baldape, May 07, 2009
If the psychic was merely claiming the ability to give accurate personality readings, I'd have called the test a farce... Consider a pool of 9 jerks and 1 good person. A 100% accurate personality-psychic would write a corresponding 9 negative readings and 1 positive. Human psychology predicts that the 1 positive reading would get picked almost every time (ironically, the 1 "good" person might, of humility, be the only one *not* to pick that). As such, we see a worst-case scenario where a 100% accurate psychic could reasonably be expected to scor 0 out of 10. In fact, this will be somewhat vindicated if, in the results, a particular description is picked 4 or more times (not expected by chance).

NOTE: It's important to realize that she could be an accurate psychic and no very little of human psychology or statistics; and might therefore agree to a protocol without recognizing it's great potential for a false negative. So I do not consider her acceptance of the protocol to be a valid reaction to my objection.

However, I retract that objection if the psychic felt she could predict concrete, objective facts about her subjects. If that were the case, she would have been best served to focus on simple, hard-and-fast calls like number of pets, number of syblings, names of deceased relatives, etc. Assuming she did so, and failed, I would agree that this was a solid demonstration of her lack of psychic ability.

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Probabilities in the test protocol
written by Ian MacMillan, May 07, 2009
Assuming that each of the ten test subjects can choose any of the readings, the probability of getting zero correct answers by guesswork is (approx) 1 in 2.87 or 65.1%. For five correct answers the probability is (approx) 1 in 672. See http://faculty.vassar.edu/lowry/binomialX.html for an online probability calculator.
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Clarification
written by Ian MacMillan, May 07, 2009
Since I cannot edit the post above, the zero out of ten result will occur approx 34.86% of the time, and the other results 65.1%.
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Gotta love the skeptic crowd
written by Blonk, May 08, 2009
Instead of blindly accepting and cheering the results we expect (and maybe hope for) it's peer review extravaganza smilies/cheesy.gif
Look for that in the land of psychics, CAM etc, you'd have a hard time.
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Nostradamus vs Randi..., Lowly rated comment [Show]
Nostradamus vs James Randi
written by dennisjones, May 08, 2009
http://www.thesupernaturalworl...opic=24429



to see the REAL MASK OF NOSTRADAMUS
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written by Kuroyume, May 08, 2009
^
|
Loon
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Nostradamus vs James Randi, Lowly rated comment [Show]
Not a great test...
written by NewCoaster, May 08, 2009
I also agree this was not a valid test, but am looking forward to the full report.

First of all, 0/10 is just as likely as 10/10, and if she had scored that 10/10, the testers would certainly have mentioned that it could happen by random chance alone
But you can't apply statistics for random events to something that is judged so subjectively. We don't know the pre test bias of the judges, but just as pro-sCAM are biased to see positive results, anti-sCAM may be biased to see negative results. Also as a very small study, it has very limited power./
A better test may have been for biographies and personality profiles done of the test subjects ahead of time, according to validated methodology. Then after the test have an independent panel of judges view both profiles and see if there were any valid hits.
I haven't really thought this through for other sources of error or bias, but I think its a far better protocol than the one used.
This isn't the sort of test that's going to win support from the sCAM community who accuse JREF of being biased and making up their own rules.
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written by Mark P, May 08, 2009
First of all, 0/10 is just as likely as 10/10


smilies/angry.gif Are you mental? How would lotteries work if that were true?

The chance of 10 out of 10 is = 10! = 1 in 3,628,800. Yes that can happen by chance alone. One time in every three million or so. In which case the protocol specified the next step.

This isn't the sort of test that's going to win support from the sCAM community who accuse JREF of being biased and making up their own rules


Since, like you, they haven't the foggiest idea of real testing of subjects. This was an agreed protocol, so not only of JREF's making.
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written by kenhamer, May 08, 2009
I think it's worse than 10! -- much worse, in fact.

The 10! presumes that one person picks their reading, then the next only has to choose from the 9 remaining, then the 3rd person chooses from the remaining 8, and so on. But in this case, each volunteer was given all 10 readings, and asked to choosed their own. This means that 2 or more people could select the same reading ("two men say they're Jesus, one of them must be wrong"), but in each case random chance would give each and every volunteer a 1 in 10 chance of selecting the correct reading.

Therefore, the true probability of all 10 volunteers selecting the correct reading, by chance would be 0.1^10, or 0.0000000001 (perhaps more easily understood as 1 in 10 billion.)
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Probabilities
written by nervinjapan, May 08, 2009
kenhamer has it right. Each subject is picking one reading from ten, so has one chance of picking the right evaluation and nine chances of picking a wrong one. That's a one-in-ten (or 0.1) chance of being correct. Since there are ten subjects, you multiply 0.1 by itself ten times to get the probability of ten correct choices, which gives one in ten billion.
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To those concerned with probability/in disagreement with the test protocol
written by UglyLikeMe, May 08, 2009
The situation was not: Patricia Putt, write ten readings for ten people. Ten people, pick from one of the ten readings. Okay, bye.

If this was the case, testers like Prof. Wiseman and Prof. French wouldn't be necessary, the JREF could have just put an ad out on craigslist for some testers. The random volunteers were a step in the testing protocol, but were not the be all/end all, the readings were most likely then compared to the volunteers to see how accurate they were by Wiseman and French. In any case, the simple fact that these two men were overseeing this testing process should lead one to imagine that the protocol was sufficient for the claim being tested, as part of their livelihood is, indeed, their scientific integrity. I understand being skeptical, but come on, at this point you're calling these men's integrity into question in an effort to 'get your point across', which is to assume you're smarter than they are. >:-P
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Yes you guys are correct
written by Mark P, May 09, 2009
One in ten billion it is.

The 10! only applies for lotteries etc, not this particular protocol.
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written by kenhamer, May 09, 2009
I hope this clarifies the odds (which is to say I hope I'm right but it's been a long time since I last studied statistics - if I'm wrong, I'm sure someone will correct me.) Here are the approximate odds for the ten possible outcomes:


odds of 0/10 right: 1 in 3
odds of 1/10 right: 1 in 26
odds of 2/10 right: 1 in 232
odds of 3/10 right: 1 in 2091
odds of 4/10 right: 1 in 18817

odds of 5/10 right: 1 in 169351

odds of 6/10 right: 1 in 1524158
odds of 7/10 right: 1 in 13717421
odds of 8/10 right: 1 in 123456790
odds of 9/10 right: 1 in 1111111111
odds of10/10 right: 1 in 10000000000

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Probabilities
written by ianmacm, May 10, 2009
The figures given above are a bit of a puzzle. There is an online probability calculator at http://stattrek.com/Tables/Binomial.aspx . There are ten trials, and p=0.1 for a successful guess. For five correct answers, the probability is p=0.0014880348, or 1 in 672. When Derek Ogilvie took a similar test for the full Million Dollar Prize, he was required to get six correct answers, with the probability at p=0.000137781 or 1 in 7258.
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"I was told there'd be no math......"
written by NewCoaster, May 11, 2009
Mark P, Said


smilies/angry.gif Are you mental? How would lotteries work if that were true?


Ad hominum attack aside, it's been 30 years since I took a statistics course, and it wasn't my intent to get involved in a math argument. But this is not the same as a lottery, with 10! possible combinations. Each person has a 1 in 10 choice/guess. Each of the profiles has a 10% chance of being picked. Also, what if all 10 picked the same one as being uniquely theirs? Does that count as 10/10?


I don't think the lady is any more psychic than my dog, but this protocol isn't designed to prove anything. I'm aware it was an agreed to protocol, but I'm saying it wasn't a good one.
Most psychics and astrologers provide readings that are vague enough and have enough opposites ( "you are outgoing, yet also can be shy at times") so that most people can identify with something. Randi himself has demonstrated this by giving the same astrologers report to groups of people and them being convinced it was accurate. So, I'm a little suspicious that NOBODY picked one of those profiles. That, to me, is just as suspicious as 10 of them picking one.

So, good for her for going through with it, and good for JREF for continuing to offer the $million challenge
But, I still don't think this test proves anything, and the sCAM community will tear it apart, as we would if they presented a test like that.

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