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Dean I. Radin- Enhancing Effects in Psi Experiments with Sequential Analysis: A Replication and Extension

Dean I. Radin- Enhancing Effects in Psi Experiments with Sequential Analysis: A Replication and Extension

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Enhancing Effects in Psi Experiments with Sequential Analysis: A Replication andExtension
Dean I. RadinInstitute for Advanced Studies at Waltham (Massachusetts)
Several studies have demonstrated that small effects observed in psi experimentscan be enhanced through the application of statistical averaging procedures such asmajority vote. In one such study, a technique known as sequential analysis wasused to increase the effective hit rate in a pseudorandom number generatorexperiment. Sequential analysis is an attractive alternative to the more common fixedlength procedure because it provides greater statistical power with fewer trials. Thepresent study was a conceptual replication of the use of sequential analysis in a psiexperiment, with the addition of a novel bit-weighting scheme designed to furtherenhance the obtained hit rate. The experiment, consisting of five blocks of 1,000sequential analysis trials each, produced by a single subject, showed evidence forpsi and replicated the finding that statistical averaging techniques can be used toenhance the “raw” hit rate. The results also suggested that the use of a bit-weighting scheme in conjunction with sequential analysis may be a promising areato explore in further amplifying hit rates in similar experiments.
The essential goal of most psi experiments involving random number generators (RNG) isto cause the RNG to generate outputs so the resulting distribution mean is shifted fromchance expectation in accordance with pre-assigned directions. Meta-analyses of therelevant experimental literature show that although the observed effect is statisticallyunequivocal, it seems to be stochastic in nature, and the magnitude of the mean shift is quitesmall, generally fractions of a percent over the chance hit rate (Honorton, 1978; May,Humphrey & Hubbard, 1980; Radin & Nelson, 1989). While a genuine psi effect of anymagnitude is of theoretical importance, it seems likely that most practical applications of these effects as well as greater scientific interest will require results that are much greater inmagnitude. Indeed, the following critic's opinion probably reflects that of many(uninformed but well-meaning) scientists:
“Sensible people will simply say that as long as the effects are minuscule, there is inall probability some combination of perfectly ordinary causes producing the effects,and no matter what the
value is, and no matter how scrupulous the experimentalcontrols are, there is no reason to take the paranormal seriously” (Glymour, 1987,p.590).
Higher hit rates may be accomplished in at least three ways: By gaining a betterunderstanding of the stochastics of the psi process through further research, by selectingsubjects who have a history of superior performance on similar tasks, and by applying
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statistical averaging procedures to extract a presumed “signal” from noise. This paperaddresses the third approach.A number of researchers have investigated ways of applying statistical averagingprocedures to boost effective hit rates in psi experiments (cf. Morgan & Morris, 1991).For example, one such attempt was reported by Ryzl (1966), who devised a complicated,repeated-calling procedure that turned 19,350 binary trials, averaging a 62% hit rate,
intothe successful decoding of 15 decimal digits, without error. In the 1970's, Brier andTyminski (1970a, b) and Dean and Taetzsch (1972) reported the use of averagingtechniques to predict results in casino games. In the 1980’s, Carpenter (1982) successfullytransmitted the Morse code equivalent of the word “peace,” and Puthoff (1985) guessedhidden roulette-wheel spins and coin flips. All of these studies were reportedly successful,suggesting that psi effects – even small magnitude, stochastic effects – can be effectivelyamplified by the use of straightforward majority-vote averaging techniques.More recently, Puthoff, May and Thomson (1985, 1986) described the use of a less well-known statistical method, called “sequential analysis” (Wald, 1973). This variable-lengthsampling procedure, first suggested by Taetzsch (1962) for use in psi studies, offers severaladvantages over conventional fixed-length tests (such as those tested with t or Z scores) inthat it (a) provides the equivalent statistical power of fixed length tests with only about half the number of trials; (b) it allows one to define the
a priori
chance hit rate (p
= 0.5 for abinary task), the presumed “psi” hit rate (typically p
> .5 for a binary task), and thedesired Type I (
) and Type II (
) error; and (c) the variable-length, but not optionalstopping, nature of this technique may help to offset the undesirable psychological conditionof “performance anxiety,” which may result from knowledge that a fixed-length test isnearing its end point.
Sequential Analysis
Because sequential analysis is not as well-known as conventional statistical tests, I willdigress a bit to describe how it works. Prior to beginning a sequential analysis process,one selects
a priori
values for p
, p
. These values are plugged into equations
 that create a decision graph similar to that shown in Figure 1. In the following example, wedecide to test the hypotheses, H
: “0 and 1 are equally likely (p
.5)” and H
: “1 is morelikely (p
We also decide to use
= .3.Figure 1 illustrates the variable-length nature of sequential analysis and the three types of decisions that result from this process. The term “subtrial” in Figure 1 is equivalent to one
By Pavel Stepanek.2Appendix A shows the basic sequential analysis
equations, from Wald (1973).3The H
choice of p = .7 is arbitrary. It is set fairly high to help make a clear distinction betweenchance results and non-chance results.
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binary sample. As shown, there are three regions produced in the sequential analysisdecision curve. If the upper region is reached, sequential analysis determines that we aresampling from a distribution where p
.7 and
= .3. That is, the decision “1” (or“distribution is not chance”) is concluded. If the bottom area is reached, sequentialanalysis determines that we are sampling from a distribution where p
.5 and
= .3;the decision reached is therefore “not 1” (or “the distribution is chance”). While theaccumulated data remain in the middle band, shown as the white diagonal in Figure 1, wecontinue to collect data, or “pass” our decision onto the next trial.
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
····· ········· ····
Decision "1"Decision "Not 110050%69.2
Figure 1. Sequential analysis decision graph (after Puthoff, May & Thomson, 1985, p. 295).
The three lines shown in Figure 1 illustrate how these three choices can be reached. If three “1” bits are obtained in a row, this is viewed as a 100% hit rate (3 hits out of 3trials). Because the third hit runs into the “Decision 1” region of the graph, sequentialanalysis concludes that we are sampling from a distribution with p = .7 or better. Thus, itdeclares the decision “1.” If the samples are more variable, but the cumulative hit rateremains above chance, sequential analysis will also conclude “1,” although it will take moretrials, e.g., the 69.2% hit rate shown in the graph took 13 trials before the line ran into the“Decision 1” region. The third line shows that a pure chance hit rate (50%) took 10samples to reach the decision “not 1,” or “it seems we sampling from a distribution inwhich p = .5 or less.”In a binary psi experiment, a similar graph is also kept for the “0” bits. This results in fourdecisions: “1”, “0”, “not 1”, and “not 0.” For simplicity, the last two results may beconsidered a “I can’t make up my mind” situation, in which sequential analysis decides thatthe data collected so far is so close to chance expectation that it cannot unambiguouslydecide whether the sample comes from a distribution of mostly 1’s or mostly 0’s (wheremostly is defined as p
.7). By stopping the sampling process when a “not 1“ or “not 0”decision is reached, sequential analysis in effect separates out the deviant binary sequencesfrom sequences that hover more closely around chance. In other words, when a “1” or

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