A Proposal and Challenge for Proponents and Skeptics of PSI – 2004

Research Item – J.E. Kennedy

ABSTRACT: Pharmaceutical research provides a useful model for doing convincing research in situations with intense, critical scrutiny of studies. The protocol for a “pivotal” study that is used for decision-making is reviewed by the FDA before the study is begun. The protocol is expected to include a power analysis demonstrating that the study has at least a .8 probability of obtaining significant results with the anticipated effect size, and to specify the statistical analysis that will determine the success of the experiment, including correction for multiple analyses. FDA inspectors often perform audits of the sites where data are collected and/or processed to verify the raw data and experimental procedures. If parapsychological experiments are to provide convincing evidence, power analyses should be done at the planning stage. A committee of experienced parapsychologists, moderate skeptics, and a statistician could review and comment on protocols for proposed “pivotal” studies in an effort to address methodological issues before rather than after the data are collected. The evidence that increasing sample size does not increase the probability of significant results in psi research may prevent the application of these methods and raises questions about the experimental approach for psi research.

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