Re: The influence of skeptics [WAS Re: no more lottery talk]

From: Richard Loosemore (
Date: Mon Jan 02 2006 - 09:08:05 MST

It has been pointed out that I should provide a reference to the
experiment that I referred to below: the one I know of was done by Carl
Sargent, but I cannot remember which one. Will have to do some
checking. Heck, I'm out of date on this stuff: I stopped doing
parapsychology back in the mid-80s.

More generally, though, it is difficult for me to pick one reference on
this: if you go to the literature and look up "sheep-goat effect" you
should find hundreds of examples.

Richard Loosemore.

Richard Loosemore wrote:
> Mike,
> I can't help replying here, because there is an answer to your question.
> Amongst psi researchers, it is already well known that the presence of
> skeptics as *subjects* does have an interesting effect on some kinds of
> experiments: they seem to make the scoring go significantly *below*
> chance. Who knows why: you can pick your own interpretation of what
> might be going on. This is called the "sheep-goat effect" and it has
> been known for a long time. The effect was robust enough in at least
> one experiment I knew of, that the difference between believers and
> skeptics was highly significant, whereas the overall rate was (I think)
> near chance.
> And for your more general question, people have considered that in great
> detail, too: some people tried to understand how layers of influence
> extending out in time from the original observation could conceivably
> sum to leave an actual result that was non-chance. Don't ask me what
> the latest thoughts are on that one.
> Richard Loosemore.
> Mike Dougherty wrote:
>> Suppose a system exists in multiple states (ex: psi observed &
>> explained, observed & not explained, not observed)
>> If that system is affected by each researcher that becomes entangled
>> with it, then why can't we say that the involvement of a skeptic
>> actually influences the results? Would anyone accept that the only
>> way the research is valid is if there are no "non-believers"? This is
>> completely counter to the scientific method of testing a theory.
>> Maybe psi is inherently undetectable using this methodology. Sailors
>> used lodestones to determine north-south bearing long before magnetism
>> was proposed as the magic that made them work. Perhaps psi has a
>> mechanism that we have not been able to determine. Perhaps it does not.

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