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Rare and well done!


It takes a great deal of professional courage for academic psychologists toeven attempt to get such an experiment published . I also give kudos for the journal editors for publishing their results. There will be an emotional backlash from the typical players who will begin the predictable process of dubunking this study and discrediting even the idea that trance channeling is even a fit subject to explore. I'm sure that Ray Hyman will soon be heard from in this regard.

Very interesting study, and yet another high profile publication of psi research (after Bem's precog work in JPSP and Storm's Ganzfeld meta-analysis in Psych Bulletin). The authors suggest a potential flaw in the second study because photographs were used. They suggest this didn't have much of an impact on the overall findings. I beg to differ. You can read a lot from a photograph (for example, if somebody looks lean and muscular, then they probably work out and are into sport). As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. That is surely true in this context.

Michael Duggan:

"They suggest this didn't have much of an impact on the overall findings. I beg to differ. You can read a lot from a photograph"

But you won't get:

a) Mike, Mikey, Michael

b) different hair colors just prior to death

c) the chicken strangling thing

etc.

- Pat

I agree with michael duggan.
The study is interesting, but that they gave photographs to the mediums is a BIG weakness in my view. The 'hits' that Michael Prescott listed above could be completely coincidental.
It would have been better to give the mediums a personal item of the deceased, like a ring for example.

@ Pat:
Not from the photographs, yes, but are the things you have listed so specific that we must assume psychic powers? I think not. It's the typical, rather vague medium stuff. Sometimes it fits, yes, but also John Edward sometimes has an 'amazing' hit, so that doesn't mean anything.
I'd like to see some full transcripts, maybe there are more specific details?

.......and isn't it interesting that the first study was at chance when no photographs were supplied?

Of course it is.
Why is the evidence for mediumship always so flimsy at best?

"The 'hits' that Michael Prescott listed above could be completely coincidental."

Let's see Randi get them.

01 - Michael Duggan: You can read a lot from a photograph

Maybe, but "many of those who successfully chose their reading commented on details that certainly could not be “read” from a photograph, such as several of the statements that are described in the previous section."

02 - Jon Malast: I'd like to see some full transcripts, maybe there are more specific details?

Yes, there are more specific details: “'I think she collected some small things . . . either little china or glass things. Like little knicknacks. But I keep seeing an elephant with the trunk up, so this might be a special object or something that people would understand.' The sitter subsequently sent E.W.K. a photograph of a small ceramic elephant with its trunk up, part of his deceased wife’s larger collection and an item sitting on a table in their front hall."

And about the full transcripts just send an email to Emily Kelly.

03 - Michael Duggan: and isn't it interesting that the first study was at chance when no photographs were supplied?

The authors gave the first name and birthday (but not year) of the sitter. And the mediums themselves had suggested that this information would be sufficient to help them focus on the sitter, and they failed. They didn't suggest the use of a photograph.

04 - Jon Malast: Why is the evidence for mediumship always so flimsy at best?

Piper and Gladys Osborne Leonard gave wonderful evidence of paranormal phenomena - including survival - by decades. And I think your criticisms about this specific article are not valid. The authors clearly answered them.

@ Vitor:

02: Okay, this is at least interesting. I know nothing about the sitter's look, but if it was, say, an Indian or Chinese man, I'd say that elephant figures are not uncommon in these cultures?

04: I find the evidence from Piper's mediumship partially intriguing (I've read Deborah Blum's "Ghost Hunters" and Stephen Braude's "Immortal Remains"), but I'm still undecided about her. I've read some good criticisms on the JREF and also on this blog (by Martin Gardner and another guy who published an article in the JSPR; something of it may be invalid, but I think not all).

By Mrs. Leonard I'm very unimpressed. I've never seen anything from her that I couldn't normally explain. (And yes, I've read Smith's "The Mediumship of Mrs. Leonard".)

And both cases are so old. :( Why isn't there any 21th century "white crow"? This would make a belief in mediumship A LOT easier! But our best seem to be John Edward and Gordon Smith. That's awful.

I suppose you own the full article of the Kelly study? Were it possible to send it to me? I'm interested.

Jon, here it is:

http://drgaryschwartz.com/files/QuickSiteImages/Kelly_1__JNMD_Mediumship_study.pdf

Thank you!
I will read it tomorrow.

"Why is the evidence for mediumship always so flimsy at best?"

Straight from the scoftic's stencil, including the obligatory "at best."

"It's the typical, rather vague medium stuff. Sometimes it fits, yes, but ... that doesn't mean anything."

If that were the case, then the sitters wouldn't have been able to correctly choose the one-of-six medium-reading that "fit."

Well, let's imagine I had lost my grandma Emma.

I'd get six readings from mediums: three of them were made for young women, two for middle-aged women, and one for my grandma Emma. In this case the reading for my grandma had not to be very specific. In fact, it could be very vague, but probably it still would be more specific to me than the others?

And remember that only 14 readings (of 38) have been chosen correct (and that despite the fact that the mediums had photographs).

The question is can any of the hits be apportioned to logical inferences facilitated by "reading" the photographs? I think this is possible. Can this explain all of the significance? Probably not.

"Well, let's imagine I had lost my grandma Emma. I'd get six readings from mediums: three of them were made for young women, two for middle-aged women, and one for my grandma Emma."
But:
"Each sitter was sent 6 transcripts -- the real one, as well as 5 intended for other persons, all 6 selected from the SAME AGE and gender group." --------

--------


"And remember that only 14 readings (of 38) have been chosen correct ..."


But:

"7 others were ranked second."
-----------
-----------


"... (and that despite the fact that the mediums had photographs)."


Irrelevant, since same-aged photos were used.


===========
===========

"and isn't it interesting that the first study was at chance when no photographs were supplied?"
That's not implied by what I read above, but rather that the scoring procedure was different:
"The scoring of the transcripts was handled in a "global" fashion. In the first study, sitters had been asked to score each item of information individually, but the authors say this proved problematic"

Why not? How much of the significance can it explain?

PS: I say again, if these results occurred by chance, let's see the scoftics match them with a parallel experiment. (I wouldn't be surprised if there are failed attempts in scoftics' file drawers.)

=========


"I've read some good criticisms on the JREF and also on this blog (by Martin Gardner and another guy ..."

Gardner's debunking has been pretty much debunked by a recent long article on (I think) the Paranormailia site that was referenced here somewhere. (Citation needed.)

Yes, the 'age' point is invalid, I've already seen it.

The blog article was by Greg Taylor from The Daily Grail. It's a good read and counters some of Gardner's claims, but overall there remain some serious objections from different sources that prevent me from saying that Mrs. Piper was psychic. Maybe she was. Maybe not. We will never know this for sure. But as long as there is no 'new' Mrs. Piper, I will have my doubts.

Mrs. Piper, if genuine and still alive, would rip Randi's MDC in shreds, that's for sure.

"Why not? How much of the significance can it explain?"
I'm unsure which of my statements you're referring to, or whether you're referring to all of them.

If you're asking why the difference in scoring procedure should have affected the results so dramatically, I sure can't give an expert opinion.

But I can surely say that the knock-down, prima facie explain-away debunking-point that It's the age of the subjects in the photos, stupid has been disposed of.

Why the hell do you think of me as a debunker? I'm not.

I was referring to michael duggan's post, btw.

Here's the link to the long Gardner-debunking thread, "Skeptical of a Skeptic," on the Daily Grail from November 2010:

http://www.dailygrail.com/Essays/2010/11/Skeptical-Skeptic

"Sometimes it fits, yes, but also John Edward sometimes has an 'amazing' hit, so that doesn't mean anything."

Not sure I follow this, unless the assumption is that Edward is a fraud. I know of no evidence for that.

"By Mrs. Leonard I'm very unimpressed. I've never seen anything from her that I couldn't normally explain."

Even the book and newspaper tests? The Bobby Newlove case?


A good psychometrist can give a reading from handling a photograph without ever contacting the deceased.

It simply illustrates the difference between a psychic and a medium.

For me, not an interesting study at all.

"By Mrs. Leonard I'm very unimpressed. I've never seen anything from her that I couldn't normally explain."

Even the book and newspaper tests? The Bobby Newlove case?

Excellent examples.

Oops--here's an active link:

Here's the link to the long Gardner-debunking thread, "Skeptical of a Skeptic," on the Daily Grail from November 2010:

http://www.dailygrail.com/Essays/2010/11/Skeptical-Skeptic

"Why the hell do you think of me as a debunker? I'm not."
Because you posted the following sweeping, condescending dismissal:
"Why is the evidence for mediumship always so flimsy at best?"
And also posted the following implausible appeal to coincidence, complete with a sweeping, dismissive adjective:
"The 'hits' that Michael Prescott listed above could be completely coincidental."

(continuing from my post above:)
And because you posted this:


"But our best seem to be John Edward and Gordon Smith. That's awful."

Gary Schwartz (sp?) has reported some respectable stuff, and Edward hasn't been shown to be "awful." Calling him names is a typical scoftic twitch. Scoftics' typical attacks on them are characteristically overblown rather than fair-minded.

And because you posted this, indicating you're a JREF follower and seemingly considered Gardner's critique to carry much weight:


"I've read some good criticisms on the JREF and also on this blog (by Martin Gardner and another guy ..."

John Edward is a hot/cold reader. That's so obvious. And yes, that implies to me that he is a fraud. Does anyone really think he is talking to the dead? THAT guy?

Mrs. Leonard: For the newspaper tests, look here: http://forums.randi.org/showpost.php?p=534748&postcount=155 There are other possibilities than supernatural powers.
I'm not sure about the book tests and the Newlove case (to comment it I had to read the literature again).
My main concern regarding Mrs. Leonard is that almost all of the transcripts look like cold reading to me. Unlike Mrs. Piper she almost never tells us any full names (only this "a name that begins with A"-stuff that we also know from cold readers) or really striking details.
And than she says, for example, that Oliver Lodge's son Raymond is smoking and drinking beer in the afterlife. Sorry, but I don't buy that.

"Because you posted the following sweeping, condescending dismissal:
"Why is the evidence for mediumship always so flimsy at best?""

Why is this a dismissal?
To me, these seem to be the facts. There is very little evidence in favour of mediums from the modern age. Look at the introduction of the Kelly/Arcangel study, most of the studies in the past weren't impressive (Wiseman/O'Keeffe, Cardena) or had serious problems (Schwartz, Robertson/Roy).

"And also posted the following implausible appeal to coincidence, complete with a sweeping, dismissive adjective:
"The 'hits' that Michael Prescott listed above could be completely coincidental.""

Huh? There is NO dismissive adjective?!
And why is it implausible? The few things that are mentioned in the article aren't so specific at all. If you have many pages of transcripts, it is not surprising that some of the stuff fits to a certain person, also in a way that could be considered meaningful. And don't forget that there were people who didn't see anything meaningful in their readings. We shouldn't just focus on the hits, but also on the misses.

"And because you posted this, indicating you're a JREF follower and seemingly considered Gardner's critique to carry much weight"

Much weight? Where did I write that? I wrote that I think that some of it is invalid, but not all. I think that there are certainly much better criticisms on the JREF board than Gardner's.
And no, I'm not a JREF 'follower'. I have lesser than 20 posts there. I'm just interested to hear both sides in a debate.

I'm sorry,it seems nobody of you guys are familiar with Bulgarian woman Vanga(1911-1996).Seems to me she was even more impressive than Piper and Leonard(and she was blind,so couldn't perform "cold reading").
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baba_Vanga
I'd provide some impressiva reading about her,but it's all in Russian language :)

Jon Malast

01.My main concern regarding Mrs. Leonard is that almost all of the transcripts look like cold reading to me

Can't be cold reading, Leonard obtained excellent results in proxy sittings. This means that the proxy sitter knows little or nothing about the deceased or about the family or friends of the deceased.

02. Look at the introduction of the Kelly/Arcangel study, most of the studies in the past weren't impressive (Wiseman/O'Keeffe, Cardena) or had serious problems (Schwartz, Robertson/Roy)

Kelly/Archangel study clearly says:

"it seems important to try to repeat the high-quality earlier research, that seriously called into question the adequacy of modern scientific assumptions about the relationship of mind and brain."

@ Vitor:

"Can't be cold reading, Leonard obtained excellent results in proxy sittings."

What I meant is that most of it sounds very vague and is open to interpretation.

For example:

"They all here. They brought a new lady ... This isn't an old lady. I feel one full of life. And a very nice lady, too. Awfully nice. I feel that when she was on the earth plane she was what you call "particularly" liked."

"I get a feeling of him being rather a kind of authority on something ... I see books round him, too ... As if he got a lot of books on some special sort of subject that people think he is clever at, and like, come and ask him."

This is very vague, isn't it? Most of her readings are in this style.

And with 'high-quality earlier research' Kelly/Arcangel are referring to the SPR work from the beginning of the last century, I suppose (Piper, Leonard, Home, Palladino etc.). These are interesting, but modern attempts to test the abilities of mediums have failed to provide solid evidence for their claims, as far as I can see. I support the work of Kelly, Beischel and others, because I want mediumship to be true, but I am still noch convinced.

noch = not

"John Edward is a hot/cold reader. That's so obvious."
It's obvious to scoftics that that's all he is (which is what you're implying)--it's not obvious to the rest of us. Of course he gropes his way--that seems to be unavoidable. But there's a difference, albeit one of degree--between "I'm getting an A" and really FISHING for clues. That's obvious to our side, though not to scoftics.
"Does anyone really think he is talking to the dead? THAT guy?"
Well put. But, if you're prepared to play the "looks fishy" card, be prepared to have the "looks respectable" card count against you in the case of other , more "respectable" mediums.
"And than she says, for example, that Oliver Lodge's son Raymond is smoking and drinking beer in the afterlife. Sorry, but I don't buy that."
Many mansions? Valhalla?
"Why is the evidence for mediumship ALWAYS so flimsy at best?""

Why is this a dismissal?
... There is very little evidence in favour of mediums from THE MODERN AGE."


Ahh, but that's not what you said, was it? What you said was the dismissive "ALWAYS," not "IN THE MODERN AGE." This sort of instinctive overstatement is a scoftic giveaway.

"To me, these seem to be the facts."

That's obvious.

"Look at the introduction of the Kelly/Arcangel study, most of the studies in the past weren't impressive (Wiseman/O'Keeffe, Cardena) or had serious problems (Schwartz, Robertson/Roy)."

SCOFTICS say that Schwartz had serious problems. They make a big fuss about a momentary half-inch gap in a screen between a medium and sitter. A serious problem, that molehill? Come on.

"Huh? There is NO dismissive adjective?!"

Oops, I should have said "adverb." Here it is:

"The 'hits' that Michael Prescott listed above could be COMPLETELY coincidental."

==========
==========

"The few things that are mentioned in the article aren't so specific at all."


What?!?! What about the ceramic elephant, as well as the things Pat mentioned (quoting him)?:

"a) Mike, Mikey, Michael

b) different hair colors just prior to death

c) the chicken strangling thing"

=============
=============

"And don't forget that there were people who didn't see anything meaningful in their readings."


That, I think, goes beyond what you can support from the study. There were people--17 of 38--who didn't rate the match #1 or #2. But it doesn't mean they rated it #5 or 6. Even if they did, that doesn't mean they saw nothing meaningful in their readings.

"We shouldn't just focus on the hits, but also on the misses."

Strawman. Our side isn't focusing only on the hits, we're focusing on the hit-to-miss ratio, which is quite significant.

"Much weight? Where did I write that? I wrote that I think that some of it [Gardner's critique] is invalid, but not all."

You first said that Gardner's criticism was "good," which implied "much weight." You didn't put your qualification first, as above, you put it as an afterthought:

"I've read some GOOD CRITICISMS on the JREF and also on this blog (BY MARTIN GARDNER and another guy who published an article in the JSPR; SOMETHING of it MAY be invalid, but I think not all)."

Gardner's critique was atrociously uninformed and deceptive, obviously driven by his militant scofticism, so anything in it that looks good on the surface is dubious and should not be given the benefit of the doubt. Citing him as a trustworthy source in this matter indicates to me that you share his partisan mindset.

"I'm just interested to hear both sides in a debate."

But the ears have walls, it seems.

PS:


"I wrote that I think that some of it [Gardner's critique] IS invalid, ..."

Actually, you only said it "MAY BE invalid."

I am having trouble posting . This is a test.

"John Edward is a hot/cold reader. That's so obvious."

Not to me. If you're interested, read my essays on Edward here (very top of page):

http://tinyurl.com/4vjgq2u

They're a blast from the past! I wrote them before I had even started this blog, back when I was only beginning to look into this stuff.

You might also be interested in this 2009 post about Edward, in which a specific claim of cold reading is analyzed:

http://tinyurl.com/4sev9qg

I admit that it's natural to be doubtful about someone who has parlayed his abilities into a multimillion-dollar career, two TV shows, and an almost Vegas-style "act." And some other celebrity mediums are certainly open to question. Arthur Ford used trickery in at least the later stage of his career - though he *may* have had genuine abilities in his earlier years, before alcohol and high living took their toll - and Sylvia Browne has embarrassed herself repeatedly with inaccurate predictions and failed readings. (Use the Google search tool on the left side of this page to search the blog for "Sylvia Browne"; it makes entertaining reading.) Even so, Edward has had enough remarkable hits to impress me. YMMV.

"For the newspaper tests, look here ..."

I looked. The person who wrote that critique knows very little about the tests. He says the "stories" may have been embellished, failing to realize that Drayton Thomas sent Leonard's predictions to the SPR each night, where they were kept on file and later subjected to independent analysis by the fiercely skeptical Eleanor Sidgwick. He says the news articles may have already been written and speculates that Leonard had an accomplice working at the paper, but this explains nothing, since no one knew how the pages would be mocked up until the edition was put to bed, and this often happened after the predictions were made.

Actually, most of this information appears in the passage quoted by the critic, so I guess he was aware of it, but just ignored it. He seems to have no knowledge of the case other than this passage, and he didn't even seem to register most of its salient points. If he was seriously going to critique the case, he should have read Drayton Thomas' book "Some New Evidence for Human Survival," which is entirely devoted to the book and newspaper tests. It's sold by Amazon, and previewed in Google Books.

I hope I don't come across as too confrontational, Jon. I actually think it's very healthy and useful to hear from people on the other side of this debate, and I appreciate your interest.

Jon,

Have you ever seen John Edward or Gordon Smith in person? You are so certain they are cold/hot reading -perhaps you could cite some examples?
I have seen both of them several times and I have met Gordon Smith.I think I'm a pretty good judge of character . Neither of these men strike me as a "fraud".They are both genuine sincere people who believe in what they are doing.You come away from spending time in their company feeling uplifted and positive.
The sceptic psychologist Chris French has said "I don't know what Gordon Smith is doing but it's not cold reading."

In addition to the above post - Chris French and Gordon Smith both appeared in a TV show in the UK recently where they both gave readings to two people who couldn't see them .Chris french did what you accuse JE and GS of doing while GS gave specific information. Naturally CF did not impress while GS was very impressive and both sitters said he gave them very good readings . Not a scientific test I know but CF has made a study of cold reading so if anyone can do it he should be able to . As it is he failed miserably.
James Randi also tried it on a TV show some years ago .They only showed a small part of it as it was so bad.
You must be searching for something or you wouldn't have read all those books. I hope you find what you are looking for. If it's absolute scientific proof I doubt that you will find it -not yet anyway.

Pearl, do you have any links to support these observations?

It occurs to me that referring to mediumship evidence as 'flimsy' depends where one looks. The term 'mediumship' applies to a wide range of phenomena and not just clairvoyance of the type demonstrated by John Edward and Gordon Smith et al.

We have on here in the past discussed the mediumship of Leslie Flint and Alec Harris to name but two. The evidential value of their mediumship was attested to by reputable people - this doesn't mean it was therefore true, I would concede - but 'flimsy'? I don't think so.

As far as the Edwards and Smiths are concerned and Colin Fry too, I think they have a dilemma which is that they are trying to give (if we accept the premise) evidence to people who want to communicate with loved ones who have died,it seems to me that it is not a 'test' per se, perhaps more of a collaboration. In addition, in clairvoyance it is said that often this information is not passed to the medium in the same way as a simple conversation through a translator and requires some processing or interpretation by the medium.

I can see how that might sometimes look like cold reading as they are in conversation with the recipient, but I find it hard to accept that this is all that is happening given the astonishing information that often seems to be communicated.

"If it's absolute scientific proof I doubt that you will find it - not yet anyway."

I definitely agree with that.

Speaking of Chris French, I was amused to read a comment attributed to him in an article about hauntings and poltergeists.

From the article:

=====
Professor Chris French, a parapsychologist at Goldsmiths, University of London, and editor of The Skeptic magazine, says he has yet to hear of a single convincing haunting.

“Just because we cannot explain these phenomena does not mean that ghosts are the souls of the dead or even that something paranormal is occurring,” says Professor French.

“It’s very difficult to investigate hauntings in a scientific manner. They often rely on eyewitness testimony, which can be unreliable. They also tend to be investigated by people with an agenda. They want to see ghosts in action - or at least something paranormal - so that’s what they tend to see. When you add all these factors together, you have to be sceptical. I certainly wouldn’t bet my house on the existence of ghosts or poltergeists. But then again, I might be wrong.”

Professor French points to famous hoaxes such as the Amityville Horror to dispute not only the Cardiff case, but hauntings in general.

http://tinyurl.com/2aao4mc
======

I found this funny because it's exactly the kind of boilerplate skeptical response that Robert McLuhan addresses in the chapter on poltergeists in his book "Randi's Prize." It's all there - the reference to Amityville (long accepted as a hoax by parapsychologists), the claim that there is no convincing evidence (despite many well-known cases that seem impossible to explain by any normal means), the implication that skeptics have carefully investigated the cases themselves (seldom, if ever, true).

Very good punch on French's part cause certainly he and other skeptics would never have an agenda :)

I am at the point now days when it comes to the paranormal, if a "skeptic" tells you the grass is green, the sky is blue you step outside and check!

err very good point, not punch :)

freudian slip kris? :)

Continuing ...


"And both cases are so old. :( Why isn't there any 21th century "white crow"? This would make a belief in mediumship A LOT easier!"

Agreed.

"... modern attempts to test the abilities of mediums have failed to provide solid evidence for their claims ..."

OK, but it's not "so flimsy" either. It's somewhere in between. It's intriguing or suggestive, meaning it needs more research to get to the bottom of it (and more funding, and maybe some impartial panel to oversee these experiments). Then we'll get somewhere.

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