Communion Of Dreams

Apprehending erotic stimulus . . . from the future!
November 12, 2010, 1:37 pm
Filed under: Augmented Reality, Predictions, Psychic abilities, Science, Science Fiction, Society

As I’ve noted recently, I’m pretty much a hard-nosed skeptic. But as I said in that post:

But I am much less willing to invest my energy into any enterprise which doesn’t seem to be well grounded in proven reality.

“Proven reality.” Well, what constitutes proof?

* * * * * * *


The term psi denotes anomalous processes of information or energy transfer that are currently unexplained in terms of known physical or biological mechanisms. Two variants of psi are precognition (conscious cognitive awareness) and premonition (affective apprehension) of a future event that could not otherwise be anticipated through any known inferential process. Precognition and premonition are themselves special cases of a more general phenomenon: the anomalous retroactive influence of some future event on an individual’s current responses, whether those responses are conscious or nonconscious, cognitive or affective. This article reports 9 experiments, involving more than 1,000 participants, that test for retroactive influence by “timereversing” well-established psychological effects so that the individual’s responses are obtained before the putatively causal stimulus events occur. Data are presented for 4 time-reversed effects: precognitive approach to erotic stimuli and precognitive
avoidance of negative stimuli; retroactive priming; retroactive habituation; and retroactive facilitation of recall. All but one of the experiments yielded statistically significant results; and, across all 9 experiments, Stouffer’s z = 6.66, p = 1.34 × 10-11 with a mean effect size (d) of 0.22. The individual-difference variable of stimulus seeking, a component of extraversion, was significantly correlated with psi performance in 5 of the experiments, with participants who scored above the midpoint on a scale of stimulus seeking achieving a mean effect size of 0.43. Skepticism about psi, issues of replication, and theories of psi are also discussed.

* * * * * * *

Communion of Dreams
is about a re-evaluation of reality. As I note on the homepage for the book, a dust jacket blurb could read in part:

When an independent prospector on Titan discovers an alien artifact, assumptions based on the lack of evidence of extra-terrestrial intelligence are called into question. Knowing that news of such a discovery could prompt chaos on Earth, a small team is sent to investigate and hopefully manage the situation. What they find is that there’s more to human history, and human abilities, than any of them ever imagined. And that they will need all those insights, and all those abilities, to face the greatest threat yet to human survival.

* * * * * * *

That .pdf above comes from the site of DARYL J. BEM, Professor of Psychology at Cornell University. His work is starting to get some real notice. Why? Well, here’s a nice summation:

Dr. Bem, a social psychologist at Cornell University, conducted a series of studies that will soon be published in one of the most prestigious psychology journals (Journal of Personality and Social Psychology). Across nine experiments, Bem examined the idea that our brain has the ability to not only reflect on past experiences, but also anticipate future experiences. This ability for the brain to “see into the future” is often referred to as psi phenomena.

Although prior research has been conducted on the psi phenomena – we have all seen those movie images of people staring at Zener cards with a star or wavy lines on them – such studies often fail to meet the threshold of “scientific investigation.” However, Bem’s studies are unique in that they represent standard scientific methods and rely on well-established principles in psychology. Essentially, he took effects that are considered valid and reliable in psychology – studying improves memory, priming facilitates response times – and simply reversed their chronological order.

And a very good description of one of the specific experiments:

Perceiving Erotic Stimuli from the Future

The first experiment described in Bem’s new paper involves perceiving erotic stimuli from the future — specifically, perceiving whether an erotic picture is going to appear in a certain location or not.  As usual in empirical psychology, the experimental setup is a bit involved — but if you want to really appreciate the evidence for precognition that Bem has obtained, there’s no substitute for actually understanding some of the experiments he did.  So I’m going to quote Bem’s paper at some length here, regarding his first experiment.

The setup was, in Bem’s words, as follows:

One hundred Cornell undergraduates, 50 women and 50 men, were recruited for this experiment using the Psychology Department’s automated online sign-up system.  They either received one point of experimental credit in a psychology course offering that option or were paid $5 for their participation.  Both the recruiting announcement and the introductory explanation given to participants upon entering the laboratory informed them that

[t]his is an experiment that tests for ESP.  It takes about 20 minutes and is run completely by computer.  First you will answer a couple of brief questions.  Then, on each trial of the experiment, pictures of two curtains will appear on the screen side by side.  One of them has a picture behind it; the other has a blank wall behind it.  Your task is to click on the curtain that you feel has the picture behind it.  The curtain will then open, permitting you to see if you selected the correct curtain.  There will be 36 trials in all.

And the result? From the same source as above:

1.    “Across all 100 sessions, participants correctly identified the future position of the erotic pictures significantly more frequently than the 50% hit rate expected by chance: 53.1%.” (which is highly statistically significant given the number of trials involved, according to the calculations shown in the paper)
2.    “In contrast, their hit rate on the non-erotic pictures did not differ significantly from chance: 49.8.  This was true across all types of non-erotic pictures: neutral pictures, 49.6%; negative pictures, 51.3%; positive pictures, 49.4%; and romantic but non-erotic pictures, 50.2%.”

In other words the hypotheses made in advance of the experiment were solidly confirmed.  The experiment yielded highly statistically significant evidence for psychic precognition.  Much more than would be expected at random, given the number of subjects involved, the Cornell students were able to perceive the erotic stimuli from the future  —  but not, in this context, the non-erotic ones.

* * * * * * *

[Spoilers ahead.]

In Communion of Dreams the discovery is that we live in a reality which has been subject to artificial controls on our psychic abilities. Why this was done is unclear, and exactly what range of ‘natural’ psychic ability humans have isn’t known. These are things which I may explore at greater length in subsequent books (hint, hint.)

But I do find it fascinating that there are these cracks in our current perception of reality. Little glimpses into perhaps a greater understanding. There may not be a concerted effort to hide the truth from us, as in my book, but there is something going on, some way in which our scientific theories only ride along the surface of a wave without penetrating it. Perhaps we exist not in the moment, but in a moving field of possibilities, some of which are so powerful that they echo backwards in time.

It’s something to consider. Playfully.

Jim Downey

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