Sheldrake vs UBC – the same experiment?

ouijaHelene Gauchou and Ronald Rensink at University of British Columbia published a paper back in 2012 titled “Expression of nonconscious knowledge via ideomotor actions” in which they used a Ouija board to access unconscious knowledge in blindfolded subjects. I read this paper back then, but obviously didn’t understand it’s significance at that time. Here’s a link to their paper:

https://www.cs.ubc.ca/~rensink/publications/download/Ouija-GRF.pdf

I stumbled across the same paper over the weekend, when reading a recent article on the UBC teams struggle to obtain funding for further Ouija board experiments. So they have taken a decision to crowd source the funding. (I think they only want $2000)

Intriguingly in their paper, the authors showed that a blindfolded subjects yes/no Ouija board responses to semantic memory questions are more accurate than the subjects volitional responses to questions, but only when the subjects confidence in the answer is low.

The authors don’t seem to consider that their results might actually be due to anything other than an interesting nonconscious expression of semantic memory.

However, when I carefully considered the design of their experiment outlined in their paper, it seemed to me that it actually looked very similar to Sheldrakes own ‘sense-of-being-stared-at-experiments’?

Here’s a link to one of Sheldrake’s relevant papers:

http://www.sheldrake.org/files/pdfs/papers/sensoryclues.pdf

a) Subject is blindfolded.
b) Subject can only give polarised Yes/No responses.
c) Experimenter and stooge know the correct yes/no response, and are staring at the subject and/or subjects hands.

Sheldrake’s own ‘sense-of-being-stared-at’ experiments seem to reveal inexplicable ‘real-time’ knowledge by the subject who is being looked at, and because these effects are ‘real-time’, it’s hard to understand how they could be described as an unconscious ‘memory’ effect.

I thought the similarities between Sheldrake’s and the UBC team’s experiments, and their similar results – which were both above chance – were intriguing. When considered together, they both seem to shed new light on what might be going on in these studies. I also think they reveal a little more about possible contributory factors to the ‘experimenter effect’.

In my view, it’s definitely worthwhile spending some time to study both experiments in detail.

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