Is Telepathy Sound? Bem et al. (2010) Scientific grant proposal
Background and Need
Recently, Bem et al. (2010) has raised a firestorm of controversy over statistics and a nova of controversy over their highly significant and nontrivial implications. Two keys to the scientific method are replicability and dissemination. New themes or directions should rely on studies that other could replicate to see whether similar results occur. One effort to replicate one experiment (Galak and Nelson 2010) did not produce an outcome supporting ESP. As its authors correctly noted, this failure to replicate results does not conclusively answer this very important research question. Hence, further efforts to assess this phenomenon are needed.
Furthermore, these efforts might be extended to improve the likelihood of detecting precognition. A recurring notion in Bem et al. (2010) is that persons could anticipate erotic stimuli (specifically, images presented on a monitor) statistically above chance because of ESP, and that they did not anticipate non-erotic stimuli above chance. This presumably occurs because only erotic stimuli are sufficiently titillating to produce arousal even a few seconds before their generation. Notably, these effects occurred in unscreened Psychology students, and hence could be validated by other persons who work in a Psychology environment, such as the grantwriter and his colleagues.
Hence, this proposal capitalizes on this opportunity by delivering a series of studies that replicate key elements of Bem et al. (2010). Furthermore, to increase the likelihood that precognitive effects (if existent) are observed, the emotional salience of the erotic stimuli will be substantially increased.
This study will assess whether male persons who work in a Psychology environment can anticipate erotic events before they occur. Advertisements will be posted through numerous mechanisms to seek female Psychology students eager to contribute to a scientific endeavor of pivotal importance. To avoid ethical issues surrounding proper treatment of research subjects, these persons will not be research subjects (as noted below).
First, the grantwriter (or one of his colleagues who he alone may designate) will be seated in a comfortable leather chair. Next, this person (who is the research subject) will be asked to guess which of two curtains will contain the erotic stimulus. After the guess is recorded, the student will be asked to stand behind one of the curtains (decided completely randomly) and disrobe. Next, the curtain that the subject picked will be lifted. If the experimenter fails to correctly guess the curtain that would contain the erotic stimulus, he will receive a mild electric shock. If he successfully guesses, the subject will be told that, for the good of science, she must provide the most erotically exhilarating reward ever. Indeed, if humanity is ever to resolve one of the most pressing and pondering quandaries in its entire history. you must challenge conceivable limits of what two human beings can handle. The experimenter shall similarly so endeavor, thereby increasing the likelihood that any effect (if any) is found.
One methodological facet of Bem et al. (2010) that was noted in Alcock's reply is that study's reliance on images that the research subject selected. To maximize accord with the original article, we will also allow the subject to select the erotic stimuli in this study.
To ensure that any desired effects can be found, we will also replicate scientific procedures and attitudes regarding multiple comparisons and post-hoc testing. Specifically, all subjects will complete a questionnaire with numerous questions about background, lifestyle, phone number, and other details that may correlate with psychic ability. Next, we will conduct several t tests. We will assess whether the subject could correctly guess the curtain more often than chance for students with certain characteristics or combinations of them. We will not apply correction for multiple comparisons, thus increasing the likelihood of attaining significant results. We will then develop an hypothesis consistent with these results.
Our guarantee of this project's success is the exceptional enthusiasm of the consortium. Our consortium relies on experts with very strong experience wanting to conduct a study of this nature. While we recognize that consortia and proposals often espouse eagerness toward a certain research direction, we really really mean it this time. We are very open to negotiate as needed to make this project a success. For example, to both broaden the statistical base and facilitate the reviewing procedure, it may be scientifically appropriate for some of the persons reviewing this grant to also participate as research subjects.
In summary, we need to resolve whether ESP is real. Bem et al. (2010) suggested that people may be able to anticipate erotic stimuli through ESP, but effect sizes were small, and could be amplified via more erotic stimuli. The opportunity to capitalize on this potential Kuhnian paradigm shift can not be ignored.