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psyc 100 class notes

16 Pages

Course Code
PSYC 100
Daniel J Levitin

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October 12Look into my eyes you are getting sleepy very sleepy Next Tuesday everybody have a good Thanksgiving How many people left the province Oh cool How many went to the United States New England Florida West coast How many went to Ontario So next Tuesday in this very room at 600 theres a special lectureyou may have seen posters about it up on campus as part of a twoday symposium on scientific thinking and skepticism McGill has a center for science and public policy You may know Professor Schwartz who has a radio show and writes for the Montreal Gazette Hes invited three famous scientists who are skeptics about they promote skepticism and clear thinking about scientific and nonscientific matters There are three days of talks in this symposia but theres one you might want to attend is the one in here at 6 by James Randi Ill tell you a little what this is all about because it actually mixes very well with what were talking about today which is intelligence and thinking and problem solving but as a consequence of the talk being in here were going to end a little early next Tuesday just before 5 to make room for all the people coming inSo you all know what psychic phenomena are or the paranormal or ESP it goes by various different names So people who study this kind of thing have lots of different names and terminology as do people in every fields but in general what were talking about with claims of paranormal are things like being able to move objects at a distance just with force of mind without touching them or being able to read someones thoughts or being able to predict what card is going to come up next if cards are being randomly drawn or to pick a lottery number or either influence the toss of a coin or spin of a roulette wheel or just know whats going to come up all of these are examples of paranormal activity and I guess you would include things like talking with the dead talking with yourself in a past life and things like that Now the interesting thing about paranormal research is that for the most part theres been a lot of work on this ability or the possibility of this ability Going back to the 1950s and there have been millions of scientific dollars spent trying to show whether these kinds of things exist and most of the time the people doing the research are not trained in the human behavioral sciences they were not psychologists In many cases they were scientists or physicists or chemists or people who had scientific training but didnt know very much about the human brain or behavior or potential and thats caused some difficulties in the research James Randiwhos the one whos going to be speakingthe Amazing Randithats his other name because hes a magician600 in this room next Tuesday and a group of like minded people about 25 years ago set out to test these claims of paranormal activity all over the world And so they would go and see somebody who could read minds and try to put proper scientific controls around the ability and see ifit would still be there so for example maybe one of the kinds of things kinds of experiments there would be somebody who claimed he could guess what card you were looking at face to face the person would look at a playing card Imtalking about a regular deck of 52 cards maybe 54 if jokers are in the experimenter is looking at a card and the person with psychic ability is sitting across from him or her and the person with the psych ability tries to guess what the card was or the suit or the color red or black so the claim might be that this person with paranormal or extrasensory senses if the person was just guessing you would expect the person to get the card right about half the time 26 are red 16 are black and maybe they found the person couldnt just get the card 26 times but 40 And you run some statistical tests on it and you find out the person is doing above chance looks like somethings going on here so the question is what happens if you institute some scientific controls like shuffling the deck What if the experimenter isnt allowed to wear glasses or you dont allow mirrors in the room or you dont allow the person to see the experimenter It turns out that in every reported claim of the paranormal when scientists were trained in behavioral sciences went in to investigate it the phenomenon completely disappeared Now the psychic people say of course it did these paraspsychological things are very sensitive we dont really understand how the thoughts are translated but theyre very sensitive and they dont like to be intimidated and you put a skeptical grumpy scientist in the room of course its not going to work Its like trying to get a musician to come up with a really good performance when theres a jury sitting there scowling at them or you tell a painter paint me something really great right now Im going to time you in the artistic domain it seems obvious that itd be difficult to perform and the parapsychologists same its the same thing Put a scowling bad vibes skeptical scientist in there it aint going to work But Randi and the other scientists think thats too convenient of an excuse and so theyve tried all different kinds of interventions with the set up In some cases they have a computer looking at the cards so the scientist doesnt have to be there and you have another person in the room Theres essentially a computer that in a digital fashion is looking at the cards and the parapsychologist is trying to read the computer Or you may put a person in there but their faces are hidden and parapsychologist cant see their facial expressions it always disappears Randi was so confident that all of these reported cases are due to these kinds of anomalies I mentioned earlier hes a magician hes earned a fair amount of money in his career and he tooka million dollars of his own money and put it in a bank account in whats called an escrowaccount hes not allowed to take any out The money is there as a prize if anybody in the world at anytime can demonstrate the abilities of parapsychology psychic phenomena under controlled conditions that a board of independent scientists oversee hell give them a million dollars And in the 25 years that the million dollars has been there no one has even tried to claim it And its not like people dont know about it he takes out ads and he tells people the million dollars are there There have been a lot of inquiries but when the people inquire Randi always says well if youre doing it with cards they cant be your cards they have to be cards we buy at the store because Randi wants to be sure theyre not marked in some way because somebody can buy a 20 dollar set of marked cards at the magic store in order to claim the million dollars right So I mean you have to be careful about this kind of stuff
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