Cornell Studies “Retroactive” Psychic Powers

A recent Cornell experiment delved into a little-explored psychic phenomenon: Retroactive Psi, or the strange ability for events in the future to affect people’s perception of the present. The New York Times reports that the experiments, conducted by psychology professor Daryl Bem, were more likely to classify an image held up to them as “negative” if it was followed by a negative word… spoken after their response. From the NYT:

In a series of experiments, Cornell psychology professor Daryl Bem has demonstrated “numerous ‘retroactive’ psi effects – that is, phenomena that are inexplicable according to current scientific knowledge” among hundreds of Cornell students. As the BPS Research Digest summarizes: “Take priming, the effect whereby a subliminal (i.e. too fast for conscious detection) presentation of a word or concept speeds subsequent reaction times for recognition of a related stimulus. Bem turned this around by having participants categorize pictures as negative or positive and then presenting them subliminally with a negative or positive word. That is, the primes came afterwards. Students were quicker, by an average of 16.5ms, to categorize negative pictures as negative when they were followed by a negative subliminal word (e.g. ‘threatening’), almost as if that word were acting as a prime working backwards in time.”

Bern suggests the explanation may lie in quantum effects: “Those who follow contemporary developments in modern physics … will be aware that several features of quantum phenomena are themselves incompatible with our everyday conception of physical reality,” Bern writes. “Many psi researchers see sufficiently compelling parallels between these phenomena and characteristics of psi to warrant considering them as potential candidates for theories of psi.”

What do you think – are retroactive psi phenomenon suggestive of strange powers in the human brain… or just suggestive that our current model of time may, in fact, be wrong? Is there such a thing as linear time, after all?

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