Experimenter effect in parapsychological experiments?

Dean Radin, chief scientist of the Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS) has a remarkable succes rate in his experiments. Is this perhaps due to an experimenter effect? Let’s have a look into his double-slit experiments that showed that persons could influence the outcome of a double-slit experiment with their minds.

© The Truth about Forensic Science – The McShane Firm

The experimenter effect is that the experimenter’s expectation influences the outcome of the experiment in such a way that the outcome confirms his expectations. This effect seems to have played a role in Radin’s experiments. Not the best message for parapsychological research you would perhaps think at first glance. But at second glance, Radin’s experiment proves an excellent confirmation of my view that consciousness creates the experienced reality and its history.

Double-slit influenced by the mind

In Dean Radin’s experiment, subjects, sitting in an electromagnetically shielded room, are asked to concentrate on a double slit arrangement and to imagine then that the photons pass through a certain slit. It has gradually been confirmed experimentally and is now considered a fact accepted by most physicists, that gathering information about which slit the photon passes on its way to the screen causes the interference pattern to disappear. An often suggested explanation for this is that this information collapses the state wave already within the passed slit, which means that the photon manifests itself in the slit. Immediately afterwards, a new state wave starts from that manifested photon, that will arrive finally on the screen collapsing there into an observed point of light. Since there is no longer a twin synchronous state wave issuing from the other slit, no interference can take place. The light spot can now also appear in a location that otherwise would be dark if there was interference. The spot can now be observed outside the bright interference ‘bands’. There is no interference, because you need at least two waves for it to happen.

Double-slit experiment showing interference fringes on a screen.

Six series of experiments were conducted between 2011 and 2014, each with the same set-up. Subjects were asked to use their minds to try to influence the photon to pass through a specific slit. If they succeeded, then, according to accepted quantum physics theory, the interference would become less sharp because, as explained above, information about which slit the photon passes through makes the interference disappear.

Experimental set-up in experiments 1 to 4 as described in Radin’s publication. The test subject sits in the chair, T3 is the double-slit device including laser, double-slit and CCD for registration of the interference pattern. The PC is used for showing the fringe effect.

The decrease in interference was recorded by measuring the brightness difference between a maximum and a minimum fringe, the fringe index. The actual procedure was somewhat more complicated, but the experiment comes basically down to measuring the fringe index and comparing it with the subject’s instructed activity. The experiments were conducted in seven series, the seventh one online in 2013 and 2014, i.e. with subjects participating via an internet connection at a physical distance from the experiment. The total number of sessions in the first six series of experiments (not online) was 250 with 153 participants, in the online experiment there were 5738 sessions with 1479 participants.

The overall outcome was that there was indeed a significant effect with a probability of less than 1:166,000 for chance. The subjects were explained what the experiment entailed in advance. To help them focus their attention on the double slit, they were given feedback by showing the change in the fringe index on a screen in the form of a line moving up (deteriorating) or moving down (improving). So they could immediately observe the results of their mind activity and that feature turns out to be an important aspect of the experiment.

A programming error and the end of an interesting hypothesis

The computer program that showed the changes in the fringe index to the subjects was found to contain a programming error in the improved 2014 version. The sign of the fringe index was consistently reversed. A deterioration, because of that programming error, was shown as an improvement and vice versa. What was interpreted by the subject in those 2014 sessions as a deterioration of the fringe index turned out to be an improvement, in other words the opposite of the expectation of the experimenters. The actual outcome of the 2014 study was therefore that a significant improvement in the fringe index was observed. Suddenly the experiment showed results contrary to the expectations of the experimenters.

A more logical interpretation of the experiment

So how do we interpretate this reverse result? What can’t be denied is that the subjects managed to influence the interference fringes significantly with their minds. Not by thinking of photons passing through slits, but simply by trying to ‘think’ a line moving up. Compare this with Helmut Schmidt’s test subjects who were instructed to try to get more green than red flashes. The fact that those light flashes were controlled by a QRNG that produced random zeros and ones that controlled the lights is a technicity, but the test subjects were not given the task to influence the QRNG in producing more zero’s than ones. On top of that, realise that those zeros and ones are mere interpretations of electrical voltages.

In any case, people appear to be able to influence the material reality they observe. But their minds have to be helped apparently by a providing an immediate observable feedback, such as a light or a line of dots on a screen. In my view that is even more remarkable than affecting photons directly. It involves influencing the underlying mechanisms of the observed reality without consciously thinking about these. Processes ‘running under the hood’ of reality are thus influenced in such a way that what we perceive ‘moves’ with what our mind expects. It’s like driving your car by entering a different destination on your route planner without touching the steering wheel.

In order for the line on the screen to move upwards, in the 2014 computer program version, the interference had to sharpen instead of to blur. Interference is the outcome of a wavelike immaterial quantum physics probability distribution. The subjects’ intention to move the line up on their screen thus influenced that probability distribution in such a way that the perceived reality, the manifestation of those probabilities, came to meet their expectations more closely.

In any case, it seems unlikely to me that the subjects were able to directly influence the line on the screen with their minds and that the line movement in turn had a retrocausal effect on the interference. That is reverse causality. The interference fringe change happened in time before, if only a microsecond, than the image movement on the screen. After all, there were computer and internet communication processes that took time between the interference fringe changes and the image of the line moving on the screen before the subjects.

We create the observed reality.

Indeed, we create the observed reality, and backwards in time. But we do that obviously with a part of our mind not directly under our conscious control.

Paul J. van Leeuwen graduated in applied physics in Delft TU in 1974. There was little attention to the significance of quantum physics for the view on reality at that time. However, much later in his life he discovered that there is an important and clear connection between quantum physics and consciousness. What he learned between then and today resulted in a post academic course in quantum physics for non-physicists. A little bit later he decided to put the contents of that course, and more, in a book published in Dutch: Kwantumfysica, Informatie en Bewustzijn - and started a website on the subject. He translated the Dutch version of his book in English, titled: 'Quantum Physics is NOT Weird'.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.