inkwell.vue.318 : Richard Wiseman, "Quirkology"
permalink #26 of 89: (martyb) Fri 11 Jan 08 21:19
Richard, I haven't read your book but I enjoyed watching the videos on your
website.My favorite was the color-changing card trick video. I also took the
pet quiz.

Linda mentioned that your book covers seances, ghosts, and the psychology of
haunting. I hope at some point you can talk about these subjects; I'm
wondering what your approach is to the idea of ghosts.
inkwell.vue.318 : Richard Wiseman, "Quirkology"
permalink #27 of 89: Richard Wiseman (r-wiseman) Sat 12 Jan 08 04:25
Thanks for all that.  I know Derren reasonably well and am a big fan
of what he does.  He is very entertaining and a great showman.  Also,
from a magic perspective, his methods are genuinely innovative. 
Obviously, as with all magic, there is a fair amount of deception
involved, so it would be wise to not believe everything you see!  
Re the comments on the Oz show, in fact, both stories are true.  My
grandfather got me into magic, but it was the magician visiting the
school that then got me formally into various magic organisations.  The
magicians name was Rex Cooper and I dedicated my book, 'Guidelines for
testing psychic ability' to him.
Re ghosts and the like, much of my research is covered here and the
surrounding pages:
Great that you took out a subscription to The Skeptic - is a great
Talking of skeptical matters, I have just finished helping out with
the filming of various You Tube promos for Nick Cave and the Badseeds
new album 'Dig Lazarus Dig" - they are all seance based and you can see
the type of thing we created at:
A group of us are meeting up today to get the new quirkology
experiment into the perception of dance up and running.  I will post
the link when it exists.
Glad you liked the colour change video - it has now had about 1.8
million hits and appeared on quite a few TV shows.  I have created
quite a bit of content for you tube - some of it for the quirkology
channel and some for other users - and love the instant feedback!
Have a good day
inkwell.vue.318 : Richard Wiseman, "Quirkology"
permalink #28 of 89: Lisa Harris (lrph) Sat 12 Jan 08 05:53
The video on your website just proves that people don't really pay
attention to details. Which would, in my mind, also mean that a good
liar could fool them for just the same reason.  

Is there any reason in your research that leads us to answer the
question, "Why don't we really pay attention?"  It's clear that we
don't, but why don't we?
inkwell.vue.318 : Richard Wiseman, "Quirkology"
permalink #29 of 89: Rick Brown (danwest) Sat 12 Jan 08 07:29
I wonder how much of this visual inattention to detail has to do with
how our brains process what the eye receives, how it fills in the
blanks to meet expectations -- and how our actual "focus" is in fact a
small limited part of our field of vision.  

All of which is filtered through our perceptual system. It is almost
as if we have processing system that is faster then the sensors we
experience the world with, and it works to keep ahead of us by limiting
the data stream and anticipating reality.
inkwell.vue.318 : Richard Wiseman, "Quirkology"
permalink #30 of 89: Rick Brown (danwest) Sat 12 Jan 08 07:33
And also "Nick Cave and the Badseeds" !

I have not bought a Nick Cave album for years, did not know that new
ones are still being produced. Thanks for that link!
inkwell.vue.318 : Richard Wiseman, "Quirkology"
permalink #31 of 89: John Payne (satyr) Sat 12 Jan 08 13:25
How much lying is simply due to lack of the vocabulary for expressing
degrees of uncertainty?

I've overheard people say "everything he says is true" and guessed they
were referring to me in saying it.  If so, they give me too much credit,
but I do habitually make some effort not to present myself as being certain
when I'm not.
inkwell.vue.318 : Richard Wiseman, "Quirkology"
permalink #32 of 89: Richard Wiseman (r-wiseman) Sat 12 Jan 08 15:35
Thanks for the comments.  The new dance and emotion experiment is now
up and running at
We actually see very little of our surroundings because otherwise we
would be swamped with information every second.  Instead, we assume
that things like shirts and tablecloths don't change, and rarely check
those assumptions.  The colour change card trick took about 60 takes to
get it all in one edit.  The timing has to be just right, and
sometimes we are only about an inch out of the tight shot.
Re certainty, this is a real problem with juries.  There is no link
between eyewitness certainty and accuracy, but juries are swayed by
witnesses that appear certain.  Thus they believe people when they
inkwell.vue.318 : Richard Wiseman, "Quirkology"
permalink #33 of 89: Linda Castellani (castle) Sat 12 Jan 08 18:14

Thanks for posting the link where the tests are to be found.  I now see 
what someone was saying earlier about how the UK sites are different.

What's the story behind the chicken, and is he related to The Subservient 

Here is the direct link to the emotion and dance experiment:

And here is the direct link to the 2008 New Years Resolution experiment:

Here's the link to the results of the New Years Resolution experiment for 
inkwell.vue.318 : Richard Wiseman, "Quirkology"
permalink #34 of 89: Linda Castellani (castle) Sat 12 Jan 08 18:17

Earlier, <martyb> posted a question asking about your approach to the idea
of ghosts.  Would you respond to her question and also tell us about the
experiments you did on the subject and what the conclusions were?
inkwell.vue.318 : Richard Wiseman, "Quirkology"
permalink #35 of 89: Richard Wiseman (r-wiseman) Sun 13 Jan 08 02:07
yes i did respond to the ghosts question - the material is at:
inkwell.vue.318 : Richard Wiseman, "Quirkology"
permalink #36 of 89: What is going to amuse our bouches now? (bumbaugh) Sun 13 Jan 08 08:30
Could you expand on that in band, do you think? There's lot to talk about
concerning your research, and you've said much in print andd online
elsewhere. Right now, people are *here* to talk with you about it.
inkwell.vue.318 : Richard Wiseman, "Quirkology"
permalink #37 of 89: (martyb) Sun 13 Jan 08 08:36
That's a fascinating list of references on that page. I'll try to read
some of the parapsychology references. I wonder what it was like to
collaborate with people who were proponents of parapsychology,
eespecially when your results did not agree.

As an aside, one thing that has puzzled me in the past was seeing materials
supporting the existence of psychic forces coming from the Samueli
Institute with apparent ties to the US Uniformed Services Center in
Bethesda MD.
inkwell.vue.318 : Richard Wiseman, "Quirkology"
permalink #38 of 89: (martyb) Sun 13 Jan 08 09:39
I read the article in which you collaborated with Marilyn Schlitz on the
sensing of staring. If it's appropriate to ask, are you still involved in
collaborative studies with any proponents of psychic phenomena?

I asked about ghosts because for a long time my daughter has been interested
in reports of ghosts and has collected many books describing haunted places.
But recently she is starting to choose more skeptical books, such as books
by Michael Shermer. I'm thinking the Quirkology book might be a good gift
for her.
inkwell.vue.318 : Richard Wiseman, "Quirkology"
permalink #39 of 89: Richard Wiseman (r-wiseman) Sun 13 Jan 08 15:21
Working with Marilyn was fun - she is a good friend and we agree on a
great deal.  It was also nice to spend time up in Petaluma - very
different from London.  We would spend lots of time talking about the
design of the experiment, and then each study took about 3 or 4 visits.
 I am not involved in any collaborative projects at the moment because
they are v time consuming, and I am still working on quirkology
related projects.  I have, however, just written some of my thoughts
about the psychic dog experiments of Rupert Sheldrake - there is loads
of info about the studies on the internet, and my piece is at:
The ghost studies were also fun, but then lots of bad TV programmes
have rather muddied the water, so I don't tend to do that stuff
anymore.  Great that your daughter is reading some of Michael's books. 
They are great and he is a good friend.  For those of a skeptical
nature, I can confirm that I will be speaking at TAM again this year in
No idea that the Samueli Institute had military links - I wonder if
this was linked to all of the Remote Viewing that they did.
inkwell.vue.318 : Richard Wiseman, "Quirkology"
permalink #40 of 89: Linda Castellani (castle) Sun 13 Jan 08 17:23

I've googled TAM, but I don't find anything that sounds logical in this 

What is it?
inkwell.vue.318 : Richard Wiseman, "Quirkology"
permalink #41 of 89: (martyb) Sun 13 Jan 08 17:55
I know what it is - it's an abbreviation for The Amazing Meeting, an annual
conference/get-together for people on the James Randi Educational Forum,
JREF, a skeptical association and website.
inkwell.vue.318 : Richard Wiseman, "Quirkology"
permalink #42 of 89: Linda Castellani (castle) Sun 13 Jan 08 19:26

Very cool!  Have you ever gone to that, martyb?
inkwell.vue.318 : Richard Wiseman, "Quirkology"
permalink #43 of 89: (martyb) Sun 13 Jan 08 19:32
No, I wish I had because in the past it was in Las Vegas which would have
been an easy trip for me.
I do visit the forum.
inkwell.vue.318 : Richard Wiseman, "Quirkology"
permalink #44 of 89: Rick Brown (danwest) Sun 13 Jan 08 20:08
For those who have never been...

Some very good stuff. I have been a randi fan for a long time. 
inkwell.vue.318 : Richard Wiseman, "Quirkology"
permalink #45 of 89: Richard Wiseman (r-wiseman) Mon 14 Jan 08 14:27
sorry, yes TAM is The Amazing Meeting and will be vegas again this
year.  It is well worth the trip.  If you are interested in skepticism
then it is also worth checking out the Forum on the Randi site - very
active and informative.
inkwell.vue.318 : Richard Wiseman, "Quirkology"
permalink #46 of 89: What is going to amuse our bouches now? (bumbaugh) Mon 14 Jan 08 15:00
Randi is fabulous.

There was a Nova episode, I think it was, called "Secrets of the Psychics"
that principally focused on him. It showed him on the Tonight Show with
Johnny Carson, duplicating the "psychic surgery" of a guy from the
Phillipines, and confronting Uri Geller. The Geller stuff is great
television -- with a pro watching closely, and allowed to use only materials
provided by the sow, Geller is suddenly "very tired" and just not feeling
it. Great, great TV.

But one of my favorite parts is a scene in a college classroom. Randi has
been brought in to talk to the students in maybe a psychology class. They've
previosuly all been asked to provide information on the exact date and time
of their birth so that he can do astrological readings for them. So, he
begins by distributing envelopes to each of them, by name. The students open
the envelopes and read the horoscopes he prepared, based on the information
they provided.

Then, Randi asks them if they believe the horoscope describes them pretty
well, is it accurate. And almost everyone in the class raises his or her
hand. So, wow! Looks like those horoscopes can be pretty much on the money.

The payoff: Randi asks them each to pass their horoscope to the person
behind them (in the back to bring it to the front) for someone else to
review. And . . . nervous laughter from the students . . . what is it,
what's funny? THEY'RE ALL THE SAME horoscope.

Just. Fabulous.
inkwell.vue.318 : Richard Wiseman, "Quirkology"
permalink #47 of 89: Linda Castellani (castle) Mon 14 Jan 08 16:10

Richard discusses a similar experiment in his book, attributed to Bertram 
Forer in the late 1940's.

The situation was exactly the same, only it took place in Forer's Intro to 
Psych class.  According to the book, he was curious about why people 
placed such great stock in astrologers and graphologists who claimed to be 
able to describe your personality by looking at your handwriting.

In this experiment, he gave his students a personality test, and then
after grading them, gave each student a personality evaluation based on
the test results.  He then asked his students to rate the accuracy of the
evaluation on a scale of 1 (poor) to 5 (perfect).  He then asked them to
raise their hands if they thought the evaluation had done a good job of
describing their personality, and most of them raised their hands.

He then told his students that they had all been given the same 
personality description, which he had culled from a book on astrology by 
take sentences at random from the book.

Forer took the experiment a step further than Randi, though.  Three weeks 
later, under the guise of saying that he had inadvertently erased their 
names from the rating sheets, he asked them to jot down again, honestly, 
the ratings they had assigned the original description.  Because he had 
not lost the ratings, he was able to compare the original ratings to the 
second ratings.

Half the students who had originally indicated that they thought the 
description was pefect, subsequently claimed that they had given it a 
lower rating.

Not surprising, IMHO.

In the 1950's psychologist Paul Meehl, Wiseman writes, christened Forer's 
original finding The Barnum Effect, because PT Barnum had said that any 
good circus should have something for everyone.  Wiseman then goes on to 
say that subsequent research has shown that almost everyone is susceptible 
to the Barnum effect, men, women, young, old, astrology believesr, 
skeptics, etc.

Another follow-up study was done, Wiseman says, by the French researcher 
Michel Gauquelin.  He used the birth details of a nortorious French mass 
murderer to a firm that used computers to generate allegedly accurate 
horoscopes.  He then goes on to enumerate the ghastly details of the mass 
murderer's crimes, and the details of the horoscope that were, 
predictably, far off-base.

Gauquelin took the experiment even further by placing an ad in a French 
newspaper, offering free computer-generated horoscopes, and to the 150 
people who responded, sent them the same computer-generated horoscopes 
produced for the mass murderer.  He also asked them to rate the degree to 
which the horoscope accurately represented them.  The book does not tell 
us how many responded, but it does give details of feedback from those who 
were delighted.

Richard, these stories are fascinating.  What more have you learned about 
this subject, as well as about what psychics tell their customers and why 
they believe them?
inkwell.vue.318 : Richard Wiseman, "Quirkology"
permalink #48 of 89: What is going to amuse our bouches now? (bumbaugh) Tue 15 Jan 08 05:40
That's great, too, Linda.

I in't realize it was Meehl who coined the name "Barnum Effect" for that,
but it's just perfect, isn't it? "This way to the egress," and all that.

That reminds me of the "pseudodiagnosticity" research from about th 1980's.
Subjects were, unbeknownst to them, assigned to different treatment groups,
then presented with what were supposed to be some real and some made up
suicide notes. They were asked to say which were real, which contrived.

This one amuses me in part because it doesn't seem like a task anyone could
think they'd be good at. What would be the differences, really? (Or so I lik
to think I would think.)

So, depending which treatment group they were in, the subjects were either
reinforced by being told they were very good at detecting real suicide
notes, about average, or not very good at it. (The notes were, of course,
all made up.) Then, later, as per standard protocols, they were debriefed
and told what had really happened.

THEN, at a later time, they were asked to judge how good they'd be t this
sort of task. Anf the ones who had been told they did well (before being old
they hadn't done well and it was all dummied up) said they thought they'd be
good at it, and the ones told they were no good at it (before being told it
was all a sham) said they would not be good.

(thinking now, this may also be Paul Meehl's work! Is he still around? Think
he'd like to talk about it in Inkwell?)

It makes sense to ponder the consequences of this "perseverance of belief
after debriefing" for any psyc research that involves deceiving research
subjects. What are the effects on their self-perception and -image?

Is that something you've thought about, Richard? Or others reading?
inkwell.vue.318 : Richard Wiseman, "Quirkology"
permalink #49 of 89: It's all done with mirrors... (kafclown) Tue 15 Jan 08 06:04
Finding out about this interview relatively late in the process, and as a 
flea circus guy, a sideshow performer, and a Barnum impersonator and 
aficianado, I am of course very very interested.

Didn't know about the book, or t.a.m, and have just ordered the book from 
the library (sadly, only one copy in the Westchester Library System, I'm 

Do you discuss in the book what's currently known as "inattentional 
blindness"  as demonstrated via this video (sadly, not very high quality, 
but good enough to get the picture)

inkwell.vue.318 : Richard Wiseman, "Quirkology"
permalink #50 of 89: Rick Brown (danwest) Tue 15 Jan 08 06:30
Heh, love that video. The color changing card trick video mentioned
above is just as fascinating. 


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