September 6, 2006

Dumb call

Somehow an article about an experiment purporting to prove telephone telepathy (i.e., when someone calls just when you were thinking about them) is the most popular story on Yahoo News today. I shudder to think how many people are e-mailing it to their friends saying, I told you this was true!

There are, of course, doubts about the validity of this experiment, but the biggest objection isn't even mentioned.

Each person in the trials was asked to give researchers names and phone numbers of four relatives or friends. These were then called at random and told to ring the subject who had to identify the caller before answering the phone.

But that isn't how the supposed phenomenon works! The whole idea is that you think of the person before the phone rings. Even if this experient were valid, it would be proving something entirely different from what most people say they've experienced.

The "real" experience, of course, can be explained as a simple (and classic) case of confirmation bias. That is, no one ever counts the times they think about someone and that person doesn't call.

Posted by Daniel Radosh


I got an RSS notification for this post, and I knew it was from you even before I clicked on it.

I knew you were going to write about this article before I even surfed over here!

That's what I aim for: predictability.

"Confirmation bias?" Is that some sort of scientific term meaning E.S.P.?

If E.S.P. stands for "Examples that Support your Point," then yes.

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