Saturday, February 2, 2008

Psychic powers

Incidentally, talking of psychic powers, not everyone who shows an amazing ability is necessarily deliberately deceiving others (though most are).

Funnily enough I discovered this myself, doing a silly card trick with two friends. My first friend and I set up a "mind-reading" situation where he would ask the colour of the next card and I would guess. The clue was he'd say "right" or "ok" depending on whether it was black or red. We appeared to start doing it just mucking around, when we had in fact carefully rehearsed. We made sure we included a few mistakes to add credibility. We were curious to see how long it would take before our other friends rumbled us.

One other friend was amazed, so we tested her. And she found she could do it too. She got more and more excited as she got card after card right - apparently using her own "psychic powers". She was subliminally reading the same clues, of course. Her disappointment on discovering how she was really doing it was, of course, huge. I felt quite guilty.

4 comments:

Enigman said...

Maybe we'd expect there to be genuine psychics, picking up such subliminal information (both physiological and parapsychological) from the background, if property dualism was true. Such people wouldn't be able to get lottery numbers (and the like) that way, but if many of us were just a bit like that it might explain why so many of us are prone to star psychics (who are pretty obvious really). If we're not just matter arranged like computers, and if we're not incarnate souls, then property dualism is indicated. And if property dualism is true then we ought to expect a low-level psychic background (which we may have evolved to block out, much as computers block out viruses). (At the very least, if the folk metaphysics is that we're neither robots nor spirits, that could explain why people are so prone.)

Cuttlefish said...

Ack...

enigman, leave the explanations until after the phenomenon has been demonstrated to exist in the first place. It has not. Roughly a century of experimental research in parapsychology and spiritualism, and it is so far a history of charlatans, frauds, victims and the self-deluded.

Stephen, I have seen the same in my students--some phenomenon seems extraordinary (and is, in truth, pretty damned cool), but has a mundane explanation... and they are disappointed. Why? Why not rejoice in the discovery that you are able to detect the fact that you have been fooling yourself?

pod said...

As my friend DC says, if you want to know more, the area of Anomalistic Psychology is what you want to check out. Goldsmiths is a useful resource to check out too: www.goldsmiths.ac.uk/apru/

Enigman said...

It's only natural to be disappointed, that one was fooling oneself; but what were they thinking? That they could do magic? That God so loved them that He made them good at guessing games? No, and I bet they would have been much less credulous about conjuring tricks, and Santa Claus. Can't you hear that crying out for an explanation?

I'm pretty sure that the nonexistence of psychic abilities should be a prety good argument against property dualism (although the folkiness of the latter might explain the common credence in the former), but that nonexistence is hardly established by testing star psychics and finding out that they are in show business, or even by testing such sad people as want to be laboratory rats.

Maybe your guess is better than mine, cuttlefish, but guesswork isn't fieldwork; and postulation (of explanations) precedes predictions (and verifications), even in science.