I blogged about this paper [1], last week, and alex had some very sensible things to say about it too, but basically my fear was that it would be that once outside the realm of academic discussion it would be seized as good evidence for a sixth sense. In fact the deeper story is that in the more tightly controlled studies the effect wasn’t present – a classic pattern for investigations of the paranormal and one that suggests to me that, if anything, the evidence is against the effect being a true one.

And how is the research reported in the Sunday Times [2] today? “There is a sixth sense…science has found evidence that people know when they are being observed”. The text of the article is a more balanced than the headlines, but it leaves me gritting my teeth as the hare of credulity outruns the tortoise of skepticism, again.

Refs:
1. Schmidt, S., Schneider, R., Utts, J. & Walach, H. (2004). Distant intentionality and the feeling of being stared at: two meta-analyses. British Journal of Psychology, 95, 235-247

2. The Sunday Times, 27th of April 2004, p9, “Didn’t you know it: there is a sixth sense”, John Elliott and Sarah Keenlyside