BemThe Parapsychological Association Convention 2004 431
PRECOGNITIVE AVOIDANCE AND PRECOGNITIVE DÉJÀ VU
Daryl J. Bem
Cornell University, New York
At last year’s PA convention, I reported on a phenomenon called “Precognitive Habituation” (PH; Bem,2003), a phenomenon that emerged from a search for a straightforward laboratory demonstration of psi thatcould: (a) be observed using participants from the general population; (b) be conducted with noinstrumentation beyond a desktop computer; (c) be evaluated by simple statistical tests; and, (d) bereplicated by any competent experimenter, including a skeptical one.On each trial of the PH procedure, the participant is shown a pair of negatively arousing or positively arousing (erotic) photographs on a computer screen and asked to indicate which picture of the pair he orshe prefers. The computer then randomly selects one of the two pictures to serve as the “habituation target”and displays it subliminally several times. If the participant prefers the picture subsequently designated asthe target, the trial is defined as a “hit.” Accordingly, the hit rate expected by chance is 50%.The PH hypothesis is that the repeated exposures of the target can reach back in time to diminish thearousal it would otherwise produce, thereby rendering negatively arousing targets less negative and positively arousing targets less positive. Because the two pictures in each pair are matched for valence and arousal,participants are predicted to prefer the target-to-be on trials with negatively arousing pictures and the non-target on trials with positively arousing pictures. Preferences on trials with non-arousing (“low-affect”)pictures were not expected to differ from chance.More than 400 men and women participated in 9 variations of the PH experiment, including anindependent replication by a skeptical investigator. Collectively the studies provided strong support for thetwo predicted effects. Across the six basic studies, the hit rate was significantly above 50% on negative trials(52.6%,
(259) = 3.17,
= .0008) and significantly below 50% on erotic trials (48.0%,
(149) = -1.88,
=.031). Additional replications are currently in progress at several laboratories around the world.Currently I am using a similar protocol to explore two new precognitive effects: Precognitive Avoidance(PA) and Precognitive Déjà vu (PDV).
The Precognitive Avoidance Procedure
On each trial of the Precognitive Avoidance procedure, the participant is again shown two matchedpictures and asked to indicate which picture he or she prefers. In this protocol, however, all the pictures arelow-affect pictures. The computer then randomly selects one of the two pictures to serve as the trigger for afull-screen exposure of a highly arousing picture; the other picture of the pair produces only a blank screen.If the participant selects the picture that produces the arousing picture, the trial is designated a “hit. Theinitial PA hypotheses were that participants will selectively avoid exposing themselves to the negatively arousing pictures and, perhaps, selectively expose themselves to the positively arousing pictures. In other words, the “hit” rate will be significantly less than 50% for negative trials and (possibly) significantly greaterthan 50% for positive trials. At this point, it appears that there are systematic individual differences: Those high in anxiety show thepredicted effects on the negative trials, but those high in sensation seeking show the reverse effect,significantly exposing themselves to the negatively arousing images. Erotic and positive (nonerotic) picturesare not yet showing any systematic patterns. At the moment, there are too few sessions to be confident of these patterns, but there does appear to be precognitive responding with this protocol.