Category Archives: Psychology

The experimental evidence for psi


According to “The experimental evidence for parapsychological phenomena: A review.” by Etzel Cardeña in American Psychologist, May 24 , 2018.

This article presents a comprehensive integration of current experimental evidence and theories about so-called parapsychological (psi) phenomena. Throughout history, people have reported events that seem to violate the common sense view of space and time. Some psychologists have been at the forefront of investigating these phenomena with sophisticated research protocols and theory, while others have devoted much of their careers to criticizing the field. Both stances can be explained by psychologists’ expertise on relevant processes such as perception, memory, belief, and conscious and nonconscious processes. This article clarifies the domain of psi, summarizes recent theories from physics and psychology that present psi phenomena as at least plausible, and then provides an overview of recent/updated meta-analyses. The evidence provides cumulative support for the reality of psi, which cannot be readily explained away by the quality of the studies, fraud, selective reporting, experimental or analytical incompetence, or other frequent criticisms. The evidence for psi is comparable to that for established phenomena in psychology and other disciplines, although there is no consensual understanding of them. The article concludes with recommendations for further progress in the field including the use of project and data repositories, conducting multidisciplinary studies with enough power, developing further nonconscious measures of psi and falsifiable theories, analyzing the characteristics of successful sessions and participants, improving the ecological validity of studies, testing how to increase effect sizes, recruiting more researchers at least open to the possibility of psi, and situating psi phenomena within larger domains such as the study of consciousness. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2018 APA, all rights reserved)


Debunking “ego depletion”


According to Daniel Engber

An influential psychological theory, borne out in hundreds of experiments, may have just been debunked. How can so many scientists have been so wrong?


In 2011, Baumeister and John Tierney of the New York Times published a science-cum-self-help book based around this research. Their best-seller, Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength, advised readers on how the science of ego depletion could be put to use. A glass of lemonade that’s been sweetened with real sugar, they said, could help replenish someone’s inner store of self-control. And if willpower works like a muscle, then regular exercise could boost its strength. You could literally build character, Baumeister said in an interview with the Templeton Foundation, a religiously inclined science-funding organization that has given him about $1 million in grants. By that point, he told the Atlantic, the effects that he’d first begun to study in the late 1990s were established fact: “They’ve been replicated and extended in many different laboratories, so I am confident they are real,” he said.

But that story is about to change. A paper now in press, and due to publish next month in the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science, describes a massive effort to reproduce the main effect that underlies this work. Comprising more than 2,000 subjects tested at two-dozen different labs on several continents, the study found exactly nothing. A zero-effect for ego depletion: No sign that the human will works as it’s been described, or that these hundreds of studies amount to very much at all.

Parent licenses


According to Hank Pellissier

I’ve compiled below about twenty ways that IQ is impacted in its neonatal and natal delivery stages, plus two futuristic options that could further enhance the newborn’s cognition. Examine the factors carefully and you’ll discover multiple ways you can biggie-up the brains of the next generation.

Regarding “parent licenses”, he writes

If it’s illegal to smash a person’s head against a wall, subjecting them to brain damage, why isn’t it illegal to flood the noggin of a fetus with elements that cripple cognition?

Stupidity can be adaptive


Stupidity can be adaptive, and not just by encouraging overpopulation. According to James F. Welles, in Understanding Stupidity,

In terms of intellectual development, stupidity may justly be viewed as both adaptive and maladaptive. In the short run, it is adaptive in that it helps an individual adjust to his cultural group’s values by permitting him to accept any obvious contradictions between the real and ideal. As a means to short-term adaptation, stupidity is a classic example of the “Neurotic Paradox” in action. The neurotic paradox promotes behavioral patterns which are subject to immediate short-term reinforcement although the long-term results will be clearly negative. (A drug addiction would be a commonplace example of this basic psycho/physiological principle of learning and life.)

If stupidity is adaptive, in that it helps one fit into his immediate surroundings, it is maladaptive over the long run, as it inhibits innovations and constructive criticism of the social environment. Individuals adjust to the group, but the group loses its capacity to adjust to its surroundings as members sacrifice their individual integrity, insight and ideas and conform for the reward of social acceptance.

Of course, the bottom line, net effect of stupidity is negative, but its universal presence cannot be understood without recognition of its role in helping people adapt to their immediate situation. Thus, it becomes clear how there can be so much stupidity around although it is, in the long run, maladaptive. Survival within the system is promoted if one is so stupid as to accept the system’s stupidities. Also, short-term survival of the system (institution, group, whatever) is promoted through enhanced social cohesion and cooperation. However, these immediate gains are countered by the long-term loss of induced inefficiency of information processing. Our cultural life is really a very human trade-off between these two dependent features: 1.) objective, rational, logical processing of information, and 2.) group cooperation and cohesion.


Accordingly, what might be regarded as stupidity may in fact be a healthy, short-term compromise with group cohesion. Real stupidity comes when either factor (logical information processing or social cohesion) predominates to the disruption of the other.

See also “Survival of the stupidest“.

What motivates red state backwardness?


Following up to “Where in your solution does your opponent fit?“, “Self-in-control“, and “Popular religion and its roots in misery“.

The red states lag behind the blue states on every quality-of-life statistic. John Kozy asks

So what motivates the conservative nature of the people in the red states?

Kozy’s answer

What motivates these people even today, though most likely they don’t recognize it, is an unwillingness to accept the results of the Civil War and change the attitudes held before it. When a society inculcates beliefs over a long period of time, those beliefs cannot be changed by a forceful imposition of others. The beliefs once practiced overtly continue to be held covertly. Force is never an effective instrument of conversion. […] By the force of arms, you can compel outward conformity to political institutions and their laws, but you cannot change the antagonistic attitudes of people, that can remain unchanged for decades and longer waiting for opportunities to reassert themselves.

I suppose it’s possible that they still cling to their backward attitudes out of resentment for losing the Civil War. But where did they get these attitudes in the first place? And what would have been an effective instrument of conversion for such people? How much of the progress of the blue states can simply be attributed to the benefits of immigration, including the Great Migration of the descendants of Southern slaves?

And how does this theory explain states like Indiana, long a hotbed of KKK activity with lynchings as recently as 1930, that were not part of the Confederacy, but are as red-state as they come?