Psychic Pair Test Failure - Was it Really Scientific?

Over at the BBC I'm reading Sean Coughlan's Psychic Pair Fail Scientific Test concerning Chris French's Halloween Challenge.

And the first thing I'm struck by is Mr Coughlan's odd title BBC News education correspondent.

News as education?

Sounds suspiciously like propaganda to me.


The first thing I find unscientific about this's we all know people who'll deny certain positive characteristics attributed to them.

Some truly generous people hate to be described as such for instance.

Many a great hero'll tell you they're no such thing and may even get cross with you for insisting they are.

So it goes without saying this's even more true when it comes to negative descriptions.

We say greedy - they say healthy appetite.

We say mean - they say sensible with money.

We say nasty - they say truthful.

And when it comes to other less polarisable characteristics things get even more vague all of which Chris French as a psychologist should be fully aware of.

Better judges of such attempted descriptions surely'd be third parties who know the person and since even then there'd be a tendency to bias it should some sort of committee of such friends and/or relatives.

The other questionable dimensions to this experiment are

1) how talented or allegedly talented were these psychics? If someone tells you they're excellent musicians yet they're clearly tone deaf then if you were sufficiently unscrupulous with a certain agenda to push you could actually use such people to make a statistical case for there being no such thing as true musicians or even such a thing as music.

2) who were the individuals being described? Were they random people off the street? Believers in psychic powers with a point to prove? Or members of skeptical societies with an axe to grind?

Whatever the case this 'test' looks much more like a typical French or Wiseman style public show trial of the paranormal to me rather than a true scientific experiment.

And if it was only a bit of Halloween fun why not ask the psychics to guess more extraordinary things like career or medical histories rather than vague wishy-washy characteristics which even the most talented of wordsmiths might find difficulty describing never mind less fluent or verbally astute individuals made even more tongue tied by the kind of pressures even talented doctors would find it difficult to diagnose under.


Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
emlong's picture
Member since:
18 September 2007
Last activity:
1 day 11 hours

Just more straw men "experiments." That's how Randi operates too. They find the crummiest examples of paranormally talented people and then "test" them. It is a farce. The last person of any talent Randi tested damn near burnt him and could have claimed the million dollar challenge (the Russian girl with "X-Ray Eyes")had she correctly diagnosed one more person successfully. As it was Randi made sure she was tested when tired and with conditions he changed at the last minute, ie he "took her out of her normal game." That is the last time Randi dared use anyone with real talent. It scared him to death and almost cost him a million bucks.