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Joakim Westerlund and Jan Dalkvist- A Test of Predictions From Five Studies on Telepathic Group Communications of Emotions

Joakim Westerlund and Jan Dalkvist- A Test of Predictions From Five Studies on Telepathic Group Communications of Emotions

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Westerlund & DalkvistThe Parapsychological Association Convention 2004 269
 Joakim Westerlund, & Jan Dalkvist
Department of Psychology, Stockholm University
The purpose of the present study was to test a set of predictions from a previous series of telepathy studies,involving 337 university students. In these studies, groups of receivers were asked to discriminate betweenpositive and negative emotional slide pictures that were being looked at by groups of senders. The senders andthe receivers were sequestered in separate acoustically insulated rooms. None of the eight predictions wasconfirmed by data from a replication study, involving a total of 605 university students as participants. Discussedare three explanations denying that any telepathic communication occurred, either in the original series of experiments or in the new ones, and three explanations assuming that some telepathic communication did occur,after all. The three explanations denying the occurrence of any telepathic effect were: (1) All significant resultsobtained in the original experiments were caused by random variation. (2) The replication experiments werebetter controlled than the original experiments. (3) The original positive results were obtained through systematicselection. All of these three explanations were judged to be plausible. The three explanations assuming that sometelepathic communication did occur were: (1) Some of the eight hypotheses were only partly true and need to bemodified. (2) The distribution(s) of some critical person or situation variable(s) had changed during the six yearsof experimentation, which, in turn, has affected the results. (3) The replication experiments were run at lessfavourable times with respect to some physical factors: local sidereal time (LST) – an astronomical time and spacemeasure, which is indirectly related to the magnitude of cosmic radiation that reaches the earth – anddisturbances in the earth´s magnetic field, as measured by the ap-index. On the basis of empirical tests, the twolatter explanations (changing distributions of critical personal or situational variables and changing LST or ap-index) were rejected as unlikely. It was concluded that, taken together, the three explanations assuming that notelepathic communication had occurred could well account for the failure to confirm any of the predictions.
Since the spring of 1993, a series of telepathy studies has been performed at the Department of Psychology at Stockholm University, with one of us (JD) as initiator. The studies have all been concerned with transmission of emotions and have been carried out as group experiments.The series of studies consists of two parts, an initial part, containing five studies (Studies 1-5), whichmainly served to generate a set of hypotheses, and a second part, in which these hypotheses were tested in areplication study. The five original studies have been published elsewhere (Dalkvist & Westerlund,1998a,b). A less detailed description of these studies will be given below.The basic design of the present series of studies rests on two different ideas. One was to try to strengthen“weak” telepathic signals by using several senders instead of one. (Even if this idea should turn out to be wrong, using several participants has the practical advantage of permitting large amounts of data to becollected during a relatively short period of time.)In spite of its practical advantages, group ESP experiments are rare, however. One reason may beRhine’s (1947/1971) negative evaluation of group testing as compared to individual testing:
One of the discoveries made during these years was the great disadvantage of group testing compared toindividual tests. Vernon Sharp and Dr. C.C. Clark of New York University compared
classroom test with privatetests and found, as we did at Duke, that individual tests give much better scoring rates. In fact, the group tests were little above the average expected from pure chance…. (p. 40)
Nevertheless, quite impressive results from group experiments on ESP have been reported, most notably by Carpenter (e.g., 1988).
Predictions from five studies on telepathic group communicationProceedings of Presented Papers270
 Another reason why group experiments on ESP are relatively rare may be a statistical problem that is metin group testing: due to the possible occurrence of dependency among the participants´ responses in grouptesting, the statistical assumption of independent measures runs the risk of being violated (the so-calledstacking problem). There are several ways of overcoming this problem, however, for example by simulation,a technique that has been used in the present series of studies as a complement to conventional statisticalmethods.The other idea on which the present design is based is that strong emotional messages – signals of danger, for instance – may be, for evolutionary reasons, easier to transmit telepathically than are moreneutral messages. Given the obvious link between emotions and needs, the notion that emotional stimuliare more efficient as ESP targets than are neutral ones is implied by evolutionary theories of ESP, such asthose of Stanford (1978, 1982) and Taylor (1999), positing that ESP serves the function of helping theindividual to fulfill his or her needs. A direct test of the notion that emotional stimuli facilitate ESP ascompared to neutral stimuli was performed by Moss and his co-workers some decades ago (Moss &Gengerelli, 1969; Moss, 1969; Moss Chang & Levitt, 1970), using a design that was quite similar to the oneused in the present series of studies (although individual senders and receivers, and not groups of sendersand receivers, were used). The results supported the notion that emotionally arousing stimuli favour ESPperformance. An attempt by Gelade and Harvie (1975) to replicate these findings did not succeed, however.
 A total of 337 participants, 222 females and 115 males, with a mean age of 26.7 yrs (range: 18-65 yrs)took part in the five original studies (Dalkvist & Westerlund, 1998a,b). Except for some 20 participants whocame from other disciplines and were paid for their participation, participants were undergraduatepsychology students at the Stockholm University, who chose to participate in the study as part of theircourse requirements. The studies comprised from 2 to 9 single experiments each, twenty-four in all; themean number of participants per experiment was 13.75. As stimuli, 30 slide pictures, 15 with positive motifs (e.g., nature pictures and pictures of happy people)and 15 with negative ones (e.g., pictures of traffic accidents or starving children) were used (for a completedescription, see Dalkvist & Westerlund, 1998a,b). When the participants arrived at the laboratory, they were (quasi)randomly divided into two groups, onesender group and one receiver group. The senders and the receivers were sequestered in two acoustically insularated rooms, with one room between them. The two experimental rooms were connected with eachother by a signal device; a lamp in the receiver room could be turned on and off from the sender room.There were two experimenters in the sender room and two in the receiver room.Before the experiment started, the participants rated their belief in telepathy on a three-point scale. InExperiments 4 and 5, corresponding ratings were also made after the experiment, but on a seven-point scale,to obtain more fine-grained data (we considered the possibility of substituting the three-point scale usedbefore the experiment with a seven-point scale, but refrained from doing so as that would have made it moredifficult to make comparisons).The slides were presented in random orders, a new order for each group of senders. The senders´ only task was to look at the pictures and to “hold on to” the feelings evoked by the respective pictures as long asthey were being shown. The receivers were instructed to guess whether a given picture was positive ornegative (they were informed about the number of slides, but not that the number of positive and negativepictures was the same). One of the experimenters in the receiver room watched the signal lamp and reportedto the receivers when a new picture was shown to the senders. Each picture was shown for 20 seconds, withan inter-stimulus interval of about 0.5 seconds. When all 30 pictures had been shown, the participants changed rooms, and those who had served assenders now served as receivers and vice versa. Thus, each experiment consisted of two separate sessions, afirst one in which half of the participants started as senders and the other half as receivers and a second
Westerlund & DalkvistThe Parapsychological Association Convention 2004 271
session in which the roles were reversed, using the same stimulus pictures presented in a different randomorder. With a view to obtaining a psychological description of the pictures used, they were rated on six differentscales (by participants other than those taking part in the main experiments). All of the pictures were rated with respect to how (a) unpleasant/pleasant, (b) involving, (c) familiar and (d) perceptible (easy toapprehend) they were. In addition, the 15 negative pictures were rated with respect to how (a) compassion-arousing and (b) repulsive they were, and the 15 positive pictures with respect to how calm or exciting they  were. Moreover, on the basis of the four “emotional” scales for negative pictures, a scale of negativeemotionality was constructed.Hit rate, defined as number of correct responses or proportion of correct responses (when stimulus data were analysed) was invariably used as the dependent variable in the data analyses. (No majority vote analyseshave been done so far.) Hit rate was analysed as (a) a function of person or situational factors (for example,belief in telepathy and the order of the task as sender and the task as receiver) and (b) a function of stimulusfactors (for example, rated characteristics of the pictures).Data analyses were made both by means of conventional statistical methods and by means of a so-calledMonte Carlo method, a simulation technique, alluded to in the introduction, which in contrast toconventional statistical methods does not require that any particular statistical assumptions be satisfied.Together, the results from the five original studies seemed to support the hypothesis that telepathy exists.For example, several significant results were obtained when analysing effects of person and situationalfactors, the most consistent finding being that participants who believed in telepathy had a lower hit ratethan that expected by chance. With respect to stimulus factors, hit rate for the first picture presented washigher than expected by chance. Furthermore, a negative correlation was obtained between negativeemotionality and hit rate for the pictures with negative motifs; that is, the more unpleasant a negativepicture was, the lower the hit rate tended to be. (No relationship was found between hit rate and emotionalratings for positive pictures.) Still another stimulus effect obtained was that the picture immediately preceding the current picture tended to affect the hit rate of that picture. For a more detailed presentationof the results from the original studies, see Dalkvist and Westerlund (1998b).There were some problems with the results, however. The major problem was that, for the most part, thestudies were explorative in character and had not been planned to test particular hypotheses. Thus, exceptfor an initial hypothesis of an (unspecified) effect of belief in telepathy on hit rate, all the findings weremade post hoc during the course of the studies.
On the basis of the results of the five above studies, a number of predictions were formulated and testedin a replication study, originally consisting of two parts. These predictions were all based on statistically significant (or, in one case, marginally significant) results obtained when data from the five studies were puttogether. The predictions (given below) were announced in
the Journal of Parapsychology
(Dalkvist & Westerlund, 1998b) before the data analyses had started.The new study was an exact replication of the latest of the five original studies, except that two minorfurther control measures were adopted. The first one concerned the communication between one of theexperimenters in the sender room and one of the experimenters in the receiver room. Previously, theexperimenter in the sender room had orally informed the experimenter in the receiver room when theexperiment was going to start. Because the experimenter in the sender room had just finished changing theorder of pictures in the magazine and could then have noticed whether the first picture to be presented wasnegative or positive, it is conceivable (though highly unlikely) that this information had been unconsciously transmitted to the experimenter in the receiver room by means of body language or by the voice. This wasnow prevented by replacing the oral communication with communication by means of a light signal.

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