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Convincing Yourself - and Others - You are Psychic. A response to Benjamin Radford

Local Albuquerque writer and Skeptical Inquirer Editor, Ben Radford, enjoys presenting himself as a scientist while writing articles for the Alibi like "Convincing Yourself - and Others - You are Able to Speak with the Dead" which can be found here: And, "A Closer Look at Psychic Predictions" found here: Radford asserts that psychic mediums have been scientifically tested (though he does not share any reference to where these "tests" are published in any peer reviewed scientific journals) and that when they turn out to be right it is because they either made a correct guess, gave vague information, or had information already available through normal, mundane, non-psychic channels. He asserts that psychics and mediums engage in the techniques of cold reading, retrofitting, shotgun effect and delayed confirmation to support their claims of obtaining psychically derived information. As a psychic I do not know any psychics or mediums who would use these techniques to be convincing.  I do not use them myself, nor teach any of my students to use them.  Rather, to be truly convincing to myself and others, I would use the scientific method, and I would offer up my Year 2008 predictions from the Alibi's "Predictomatron" article for thorough review using the scientific method, and even though the year 2008 is not yet complete, there should be enough preliminary observations by this point in September to analyze and provide some preliminary findings.   For those of you who have not been involved in scientific research or can't remember what the scientific method is - here it is: Define the question Gather information and resources (observe) Form hypothesis Perform experiment and collect data Analyze data Interpret data and draw conclusions that serve as a starting point for new hypothesis Publish results Retest (frequently done by other scientists) In starting this review, I define the question as follows:  "Will the predictions I provided in the Alibi's "Predictomatron" article show a level of statistical accuracy above chance in terms of matching verifiable events that have happened throughout the world in the Year 2008 (so far)? Our second  step is to gather information and resources to make observations from and form our hypothesis.  In this case, since the set of psychic predictions is limited to one psychic's predictions for one year (a year not yet finished), we will similarly keep our literature review of published articles on the subject of psychic prediction to the set of those written by one "science-based" skeptic, Ben Radford, and in particular we will use a direct quote from Radford's article "A Closer Look at Psychic Predictions" to form our hypothesis. "...It will be interesting to see how 2008 predictions turn out, and I hope one or more of the psychics will turn out to be amazingly specific and accurate. However, using not psychic powers but past experience, I predict that won't happen." Hypothesis:  My 2008 Yearly predictions as published in the Alibi's "Predictomatron' article will not turn out to be amazingly specific nor accurate, (i.e., not above chance level.) Performing the Experiment and Collecting the Data: Methodology Though the "Predictomatron" article predictions were not conceived as a part of an experimental design, and in some parts they were written not as true predictions but only humorous entertainment, they do allow us to observe that they are not the product of cold reading, retrofitting, or in this case - delayed confirmation, especially since we are not waiting for the entire year to be over before we analyze them.  Whether or not these predictions could be considered a product of the "shotgun effect" brings up the question of accuracy and of our defining what level of accuracy is acceptable over a wide area of prediction about a large world during 12 months of time.  In this case, we have decided to accept verification in the form of one or more reliable news, industry, or government agency sources per specific prediction item analyzed, and/or specific item accuracy that is on par with, or better than, what normal scientific methods of prediction have achieved per event predicted, (e.g., hurricane category rating at landfall, hurricane cone of effect at landfall.) Data Collection: Thirty (30) currently verifiable specific prediction items were identified within the "Predictomatron" article.  A thorough web and news search was undertaken to produce verification of each specific prediction item.  Items were ranked +1 for corresponding with one or more reliable news sources or government/industry web posting/bulletins.  Items were ranked -1 if they contradicted one or more reliable news sources or government or industry web postings/bulletins.  Eleven (11) specific prediction items were counted as unverifiable or not yet verifiable, providing a total of forty one (41) specific prediction items. Data Analysis: Preliminary data analysis was performed by Cognitive Psychology researcher, Barbara. Corbisier, M.A. First we assumed that all predictions were incorrect or too vague to be verifiable, the result was t(29)=13.730, p<.001 Translation:  Of the 30 currently verifiable items that were rated, 26 were correct and 4 were incorrect.  Assuming none of the predicted items would be correct, there is less than 1 chance in 1000 that I would have been able to correctly predict 26 items purely by chance. Assuming that I would be able to predict half of the items, or 15 items, correctly, our statistical result was     t(29)=-223.897, p<.001 there is again less than 1 chance in a 1000 that I would have been able to guess 26 things correctly purely by chance.  Unfortunately, SPSS, our statistical software, did not allow us to calculate chances less than 1 in 1000. Conclusion:  At least one psychic made predictions for 2008 in the Alibi's "Predictomatron" article that are specific and accurate far beyond the level of chance.  Preliminary result:   Ben Radford's hypothesis has been proven wrong.

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