Caroline Watt, a well-known proponent of parapsychology, and Richard Wiseman, a well-known critic, worked together in this study to test if an experimenter’s belief in psi indirectly affects the outcome of results of a study. What is critical in this study is that both experimenters removed themselves completely from the study and placed controls against biasing participants!
The results of this study are shocking! When looking at paranormal belief and reasoning tasks, only one of the researchers obtained a relationship, when both performed the exact same procedure! The relationship that was scientifically related was supportive of the researcher’s beliefs. The researcher that did not obtain results had findings in line with their own beliefs!
It is worth noting that belief in psychic powers did not show this effect. However, this is one of the first studies suggesting that unconscious ESP may be affecting how participants behave in carefully controlled studies. If true, much of what we believe we know about human behavior (or science in general), may, in fact, represent the unconscious attitude of the researcher! In this writer’s opinion, if this finding is true, other fields such as physics and chemistry may be in worse trouble. Their controls with human interference are in many ways less stringent than most psychology studies.
Submitted by: Brian Laythe
Watt, C., & Wiseman, R. (2002). Experimenter differences in cognitive correlates of paranormal belief and in psi. Journal of Parapsychology, 66, 371-385.