Re: PSI: Skeptics Opinions Needed.

Lee Daniel Crocker (
Thu, 5 Aug 1999 15:06:24 -0700 (PDT)

>> As for other explainations more plausible than psi, I can offer such
>> things as selective thinking, wishful thinking, self-deception, memory 
>> reconstruction, confirmation bias, communal reinforcement, subjective 
>> validation, etc.

> Yes, these are easy and *convenient* explanations, but they don't hold
> water, primarily because such selective thinking, self-deception, memory
> reconstruction, confirmation bias has not cropped up any other substantial
> instance. So why would it crop *only* when I have unexplained and
> aparrently 'psi' experiences?

But that's not true: your mind does those things many times every day. That's part and parcel of how it works. You just don't /need/ those explanations for other things, so you don't think they happen--that is itself an example of selective memory. ALL of your memories have been back-patched and filled in with post hoc explanations and biases. But since you have no particular need to research whether your memory of having 2 eggs for breakfast rather than 3 is accurate or modified, the question does not capture your attention.

The first anecdote is (and has been) easily explained as merely a manifestation of sensory inputs below conscious perception (faint sounds and smells you weren't directly aware of but that your dream amplified). The second is merely a case of post-hoc pattern hunting. Post-hoc analyses are always flawed, because every neuron in your brain is designed to look for patterns and will find them whether they are there or not. Rather than you and a friend comparing dreams informally, you should do something like create a multiple-choice questionnaire that each of you can fill out after a dream, and have a disinterested party compare the questionnaires periodically. Even if the correlation was genuine (and not overly influenced by the two of you seeing the same movie or something), the fact that you recount this particular story is post-hoc selection. You remember it because it was remarkable and unlikely, while you forget the thousands of other just as unlikely but less memorable events that happen daily.

I can cite similar events: I remember in great detail the time I had 4 treys beaten by a straight flush in 7-card stud; as the hand was being dealt, I had a feeling it was coming. After I got the case 3, and the woman across the table got the third showing spade, I even said verbally to the dealer in jest "That made her the straight flush, didn't it? My quads are no good." I'm sure I've had the same premonition-like feeling hundreds of times, but when they don't hit my brain doesn't amplify them and write them more strongly into memory--a brain wants to remember hits, not misses, so after-the-fact I don't even remember having premonitions when they miss.

Lee Daniel Crocker <> <>
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