by Bonnie Butcher

“There is a long history of wanting to know the future. After all, it would serve you very well if you knew about it.”

These are the words of Cornell University Professor Emeritus Dr. Daryl Bem during his recent visit to the University of West Georgia. The presentation, “Feeling the Future: Recent Experiments in Precognition,” included an exploration into Bem’s widely known research with students at Cornell.

Dr. Daryl Bem“These were experiments that took place over a period of about 10 years and were published in 2011 in The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,” Bem stated.

He prefaced the lecture by sharing some terms commonly found in the field of parapsychology.

“The term ‘psi,’ or extrasensory perception, refers to anomalous processes of information or energy transfer that are currently unexplained by known physical or biological explanations,” he said.

Various forms of psi include telepathy, clairvoyance, psychokinesis, and precognition. Precognition is the anticipation of a future event and the special case of retroactive influences of future events on current responses.

“Precognition is the one that most interests me, both because of my background in physics and it is the one that most boggles the mind,” said Bem.

In one trial of his recent experiments on the subject, Bem told the participants, “This is an experiment that tests for ESP.”

One of the experiments included a computer screen displaying two curtains. The subject’s job was to decide which curtain had a picture behind it. Several of the images contained explicit material, and participants were informed of this before beginning the experiment.

Bem found that the subjects could correctly identify the explicit images at a rate above chance, 53.1 percent of the time. However, their ability to locate neutral images only occurred 49.8 percent of the time.

In total, Bem conducted nine different experiments with more than 1,000 participants. Through several of these experiments, he found that precognition could be scientifically supported.

So, what was actually discovered during this research?

Put simply, Bem found there was in fact an anomalous retroactive influence of a future event on the individuals’ current responses. This occurrence provided results that were, as he described, truly mind-boggling.

This recent work on psi has received widespread attention in both the professional and popular media, including recognition on the Colbert Show. Bem has also published on several diverse topics in psychology, including group decision making, self-perception, personality theory, sexual orientation, and psi.

“Almost no one has an explanation for information that travels backwards in time,” he stated. “Given my background in physics, it is particularly intriguing now to ask whether quantum mechanics can provide a mechanism for precognition.”

Hosted by the psychology department, the Bill Roll lecture is held annually in memory of parapsychological researcher and UWG Professor Dr. Bill Roll.

Posted on November 18, 2016