"The presentiment studies provide evidence that our physiology can anticipate unpredictable erotic or negative stimuli before they occur. Such anticipation would be evolutionarily advantageous for reproduction and survival."


Daryl J Bem, PhD, is professor emeritus of psychology at Cornell University. Before Cornell he taught at Carnegie-Mellon, Stanford and Harvard, did graduate work at MIT, and received degrees from Reed College and the University of Michigan. Beyond teaching and writing on social psychology, including co-writing the textbook Fundamentals of Psychology, and the book Beliefs, Attitudes, and Human Affairs, most of his research has focused on group decision making, self-perception theory, personality theory, sexual orientation, and psi phenomena.

Bem's 2011 paper on precognition presented ten years of research, showing statistically significant evidence for psi, and challenging the widely held notion that causation only works in one direction, forward in time. Given his reputation as a professor, the prestige of the journal, and the rigorous methodology employed, the paper had all the halmarks of top notch science, yet he was proving the impossible, which really tweaked mainstream scientists. If you're at all familiar with skeptical reactions to psi research, you won't be surprised how often his critics used the circular argument fallacy to dismiss the evidence: psi is impossible therefore Bem's results are impossible. That doesn't really hold up too well by itself, not with someone like Bem behind it, so in the end many concluded that the methods of science itself must be to blame. All this propelled Bem into the national spotlight, with appearances on MSNBC and the Colbert Report.

Indeed, Bem's presentiment work triggered a sort of identity crisis, forcing scientists to question the rules and methods they so commonly rely upon. Replication, or the lack thereof, was already a growing embarrassment, particularly for psychology, and this was ironically how the skeptics ultimately resolved the dilemma for themselves and the public, by failing to replicate Bem's experiments. One of these failed replications involved none other than Richard Wiseman, who previously "failed" to replicate Rupert Sheldrake's experiments on ESP in dogs. History there clearly shows Wiseman's unscrupulous bias and unwillingness to budge, claiming he failed to replicate Sheldrake's results when his own data showed the opposite, which Wiseman grudgingly admitted to years after the fact. This throws into question the veracity of at list one failure to replicate. What's more, despite the shotgun blast of articles reporting on these failures, there actually were many successful replications.

"What Wiseman never tells people in Ritchie, Wiseman and French is that [...] they knew that there were three other studies that had been submitted and completed and two of the three showed statistically significant results replicating my results. But you don’t know that from reading his article. That borders on dishonesty."
— Daryl Bem, on Skeptiko

All this is documented in the 2017 Slate article Daryl Bem Proved ESP Is Real Which means science is broken. The title says it all: it's impossible therefor it's impossible is the message. People lost their minds, tried everything do discredit or dismiss Bem, then had to move on to the practice of science itself. Such soul searching is good, to be sure. There are definitely huge issues with the way science is conducted. Parapsychology has always pushed these boundaries, seeking to validate extraordinary claims with extraordinary science, and Bem's work did that in spades. Certainly some practices have improved since, like the preregistration of research goals and processes. Science is arguably more open because of professor Bem, and others like him, yet the issues with mainstream science remain pervasive, and the logic used to dismiss evidence for psi are as circular as ever.

By Daryl Bem

Fundamentals of Psychology

by Ed Smith, Daryl Bem and Susan Nolen-Hoeksema
Wadsworth Publishing; 1st edition, 2000

Beliefs, Attitudes, and Human Affairs

By Daryl Bem
Brooks Cole Publishing, 1970

(Film) Valid and Fraudulent Claims for ESP: How Can We Tell the Difference?

By Daryl Bem
International Remote Viewing Association, 2004

Papers of Note

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Feeling the Future: A Meta-analysis of 90 Experiments on the Anomalous Anticipation of Random Future Events

Daryl Bem, Patrizio Tressoldi, Thomas Rabeyron, Michael Duggan
[Under Editorial Review]

Abstract: In 2011, the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology published a report of nine experiments purporting to demonstrate that an individual’s cognitive and affective responses can be influenced by randomly selected stimulus events that do not occur until after his or her responses have already been made and recorded, a generalized variant of the phenomenon traditionally denoted by the term precognition (Bem, 2011). To encourage replications, all materials needed to conduct them were made available on request. We here report a meta-analysis of 90 experiments from 33 laboratories in 14 countries which yielded an overall effect greater than 6 sigma, z = 6.40, p = 1.2 × 10-10 with an effect size (Hedges’ g) of 0.09. A Bayesian analysis yielded a Bayes Factor of 1.4 × 109, greatly exceeding the criterion value of 100 for “decisive evidence” in support of the experimental hypothesis (Jeffries, 1961). The number of potentially unretrieved experiments required to reduce the overall effect size to a trivial value is 547. Several tests demonstrate that the database is not significantly compromised by publication bias, selection bias, or by “p-hacking,” the selective suppression of findings or statistical analyses that failed to yield statistical significance. An analysis of p–curve, the distribution of significant p values (Simonsohn, Nelson, & Simmons, 2014a; 2014b) estimates the true effect size of the database to be 0.20, virtually identical to the effect size of Bem’s original studies (0.22). We discuss the controversial status of precognition and other anomalous effects collectively known as psi.

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Feeling the Future: Experimental Evidence for Anomalous Retroactive Influences on Cognition and Affect

Daryl Bem
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 100, 407-425, 2011
doi: 10.1037/a0021524

Abstract: The term psi denotes anomalous processes of information or energy transfer that are currently unexplained in terms of known physical or biological mechanisms. Two variants of psi are precognition (conscious cognitive awareness) and premonition (affective apprehension) of a future event that could not otherwise be anticipated through any known inferential process. Precognition and premonition are themselves special cases of a more general phenomenon: the anomalous retroactive influence of some future event on an individual’s current responses, whether those responses are conscious or nonconscious, cognitive or affective. This article reports 9 experiments, involving more than 1,000 participants, that test for retroactive influence by “time- reversing” well-established psychological effects so that the individual’s responses are obtained before the putatively causal stimulus events occur. Data are presented for 4 time-reversed effects: precognitive approach to erotic stimuli and precognitive avoidance of negative stimuli; retroactive priming; retroactive habituation; and retroactive facilitation of recall. All but one of the experiments yielded statistically significant results; and, across all 9 experiments, Stouffer’s z = 6.66, p = 1.34 × 10 -11 with a mean effect size (d) of 0.22. The individual-difference variable of stimulus seeking, a component of extraversion, was significantly correlated with psi performance in 5 of the experiments, with participants who scored above the midpoint on a scale of stimulus seeking achieving a mean effect size of 0.43. Skepticism about psi, issues of replication, and theories of psi are also discussed.

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Must Psychologists Change the Way They Analyze Their Data? A Response to Wagenmakers, Wetzels, Borsboom, & Van der Maas (2011)

Daryl Bem, Jessica Utts and Wesley O Johnson
[Under Editorial Review]

Abstract: We agree with Wagenmakers, Wetzels, Borsboom, & van der Maas (2011) that there are advantages to analyzing data with Bayesian statistical procedures, but we argue that they have incorrectly characterized several features of Bem’s (2011) psi experiments and have selected an unrealistic Bayesian prior distribution for their analysis, leading them to seriously underestimate the experimental support in favor of the psi hypothesis. We provide an extended Bayesian analysis that displays the effects of different prior distributions on the Bayes factors and conclude that the evidence strongly favors the psi hypothesis over the null. More generally, we believe that psychology would be well served by training future generations of psychologists in the skills necessary to understand Bayesian analyses well enough to perform them on their own data.

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Updating the Ganzfeld Database: A Victim of Its Own Success?

Daryl Bem, John Palmer, Richard S Broughton
The Journal of Parapsychology, 65(3), 207–218, 2001

Abstract: The existence of psi—anomalous processes of information transfer such as telepathy or clairvoyance—continues to be controversial. Earlier meta-analyses of studies using the so-called ganzfeld procedure appeared to provide replicable evidence for psi (D. J. Bem and C. Honorton, 1994), but a follow-up meta-analysis of 30 more recent ganzfeld studies did not (J. Milton & R. Wiseman, 1999). When 10 new studies published after the Milton-Wiseman cutoff date are added to their database, the overall ganzfeld effect again becomes significant, but the mean effect size is still smaller than those from the original studies. Ratings of all 40 studies by 3 independent raters reveal that the effect size achieved by a replication is significantly correlated with the degree to which it adhered to the standard ganzfeld protocol. Standard replications yield significant effect sizes comparable to those obtained in the past.

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Does Psi Exist? Replicable Evidence for an Anomalous Process of Information Transfer.

Daryl Bem and Charles Honorton
Psychological Bulletin, 115(1), 4–18, 1994
doi: 10.1037/0033-2909.115.1.4

Abstract: Most academic psychologists do not yet accept the existence of psi, anomalous processes of information or energy transfer (such as telepathy or other forms of extrasensory perception) that are currently unexplained in terms of known physical or biological mechanisms. We believe that the replication rates and effect sizes achieved by one particular experimental method, the ganzfeld procedure, are now sufficient to warrant bringing this body of data to the attention of the wider psychological community. Competing meta-analyses of the ganzfeld database are reviewed, 1 by R. Hyman (1985), a skeptical critic of psi research, and the other by C. Honorton (1985), a parapsychologist and major contributor to the ganzfeld database. Next the results of 11 new ganzfeld studies that comply with guidelines jointly authored by R. Hyman and C. Honorton (1986) are summarized. Finally, issues of replication and theoretical explanation are discussed.

Many more excellent papers are on Daryl Bem's website


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