Daryl J. Bem (born June 10, 1938) is a social psychologist and professor emeritus at Cornell University. He is the originator of the self-perception theory of attitude change, and has carried out research on psi phenomena (a technical term for extra-sensory perception), group decision making, handwriting analysis, sexual orientation and personality theory and assessment.
Bem received a B.A. in physics from Reed College in 1960, and began graduate work in physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The civil rights movement had just begun, and he became so intrigued with the changing attitudes toward desegregation in the American South that he decided to switch fields and pursue a career as a social psychologist specializing in attitudes and public opinion. He obtained his Ph.D. in social psychology from the University of Michigan in 1964, and has since taught at Carnegie-Mellon University, Stanford, Harvard, and Cornell University. He started at Cornell in 1978 and retired from there in 2007, becoming a professor emeritus. He married Sandra Lipsitz, also a psychology professor.
Bem is coauthor of an introductory textbook in psychology and the author of Beliefs, Attitudes, and Human Affairs (1970). He testified before a subcommittee of the United States Senate on the psychological effects of police interrogation, and has served as an expert witness in court cases involving sex discrimination.
Bem is perhaps best known for his theory of "self-perception", the most oft-cited competitor to Leon Festinger's cognitive dissonance theory. According to the self-perception theory, people infer their attitudes from their own behavior much as an outside observer might. For example, a person asked to give a pro-Fidel Castro speech would consequently view him or herself as more in favor of Castro.
In parapsychology, Bem is known for his defense of the ganzfeld experiment as empirical evidence of psi, more commonly known as extra-sensory perception or psychic phenomena. Bem also supports the idea of a connection between psi and quantum phenomena. More recently, Bem has investigated backward causation.
Exotic Becomes Erotic theory
Bem's Exotic Becomes Erotic theory (EBE) presents one possible explanation as to what differentiates the etiology of homosexuality from heterosexuality. Bem theorized that the influence of biological factors on sexual orientation may be mediated by experiences in childhood, that the child's temperament predisposes the child to prefer certain activities over others. Bem noted that, because of their temperament, which is influenced by biological variables such as genetic factors, some children will be attracted to activities that are commonly enjoyed by other children of the same gender, while others will prefer activities that are typical of the other gender. Bem theorized that this makes a gender-conforming child feel different from opposite-gender children, while gender-nonconforming children will feel different from children of their own gender. Bem believes that this feeling of difference evokes physiological arousal when the child is near members of the gender which the child considers as being "different". Bem theorizes that this physiological arousal is later transformed into sexual arousal: that, as adults, these people become sexually attracted to the gender which they see as different, or "exotic".
Bem based this theory in part on the finding that a majority of gay men and lesbians report being gender-nonconforming during their childhood years. A meta-analysis of 48 studies showed childhood gender nonconformity to be the strongest predictor of a homosexual orientation for both men and women. Bem also noted that, in a study by the Kinsey Institute of approximately 1000 gay men and lesbians (and a control group of 500 heterosexual men and women), 63% of both gay men and lesbians reported that they were gender nonconforming in childhood (i.e., did not like activities typical of their sex), compared with only 10-15% of heterosexual men and women. Bem also drew from six prospective studies, longitudinal studies that began with gender-nonconforming boys around age 7 and followed them into adolescence and adulthood; a majority (63%) of the gender nonconforming boys become gay or bisexual as adults.
"Feeling the Future" and the resulting controversy
In 2011, Bem published the article "Feeling the Future: Experimental Evidence for Anomalous Retroactive Influences on Cognition and Affect" in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology that offered statistical evidence for psi. If "Feeling the Future" is correct, it would provide evidence for psi, significantly altering the assumption of the linear nature of time, challenging the very core of modern scientific thought on the matter. Both the presentation of this article by a highly respected researcher, and the decision of an upper tier journal to publish it has engendered much controversy. Not only has the paper's publication led to a criticism of the paper itself, but it also prompted a wider debate on the validity of peer review process for allowing such a paper to be published. Bem has appeared on MSNBC and The Colbert Report discussing the experiment.
The methods that Bem uses in his experimentation itself has been viewed as controversial as well. According to understood statistical methodology, Bem incorrectly provides one-sided p values when he should have used a two-sided p values. This could possibly account for the marginally significant results that he produced in his experiment. A rebuttal to the Wagenmakers et al. critique by Bem and two statisticians was subsequently published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
Professor of Psychology, member of CSI and Skeptical Inquirer Magazine, James Alcock after evaluating Bem's nine experiments claimed to have found metaphorical "dirty test tubes", serious methodological flaws such as changing the procedures partway through the experiments and combining results of tests with different chances of significance. The amount of actual tests done is unknown and no explanation of how it was determined that participants had "settled down" after seeing erotic images was given. Alcock concludes that almost everything that could go wrong with these nine separate experiments did go wrong. Bem's response to Alcock's critique appeared online at the Skeptical Inquirer website and Alcock replied to these comments in a third article at the same website.
One of the nine experiments in Bem's study ('Retroactive Facilitation of Recall') has since been replicated by scientists Stuart Ritchie, Chris French, and Richard Wiseman. Their replication was published in PLoS ONE, and found no evidence of precognition. Several failed attempts by the authors to have their replication study published highlighted difficulties in publishing replications and attracted media attention over concerns of publication bias. The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Science Brevia and Psychological Science each rejected the paper on the grounds that it was a replication. A fourth journal, the British Journal of Psychology refused the paper after reservations from one referee, later confirmed to be Daryl Bem. Richard Wiseman has set up a register to keep track of other replicating efforts to avoid problems with publication bias and plans to conduct a meta-analysis on registered replication efforts, beginning Dec, 1st 2011.
An analysis by Gregory Francis in Psychonomic Bulletin & Review found statistical evidence of publication bias in the set of nine experiments reported by Bem. His analysis suggests that the number of rejections of the null hypothesis reported by Bem (eight out of nine experiments) is abnormally high given the properties of the experiments and reported effect sizes, with the probability of Bem obtaining such results (0.058) significantly less than the standard criterion used in tests of publication bias (0.1). According to Francis this suggests that Bem's experiments cannot be taken as a proper scientific study, as critical data is likely unavailable. Francis also noted that perhaps the most striking characteristic of Bem's experiments is that they meet current standards of experimental psychology. Drawing on his own analysis and studies suggesting a discrepancy between the observed and expected null hypothesis rejection rates across the field of experimental psychology, he suggests that the standards and practices of the field are not functioning properly.
The publication of Bem's article and the resulting controversy prompted a wide-ranging commentary by Etienne LeBel and Kurt Peters. Using Bem's article as a case study they discussed deficiencies in modal research practice, the methodology most commonly used in experimental psychology. LeBel and Peters suggest that experimental psychology is systemically biased toward interpretations of data that favor the researcher's theory.
- Bem DJ (1972). Self-Perception Theory. In L. Berkowitz (Ed.), Advances in Experimental Social Psychology (Vol. 6, pp. 1–62). New York: Academic Press, ISBN 978-0-12-015206-3
- Bem DJ (1970). Beliefs, Attitudes, and Human Affairs - Wadsworth Pub Co, ISBN 978-0-8185-8906-5
- RL Atkinson, RC Atkinson, EE Smith, DJ Bem, Introduction to Psychology 1990 - Harcourt Brace Jovanovich
- Bem DJ . An experimental analysis of self-persuasion. Attitude change: the competing views, 1971
- A Caspi, GH Elder, DJ Bem Moving against the world: Life-course patterns of explosive children. Developmental Psychology, 1987
- A Caspi, GH Elder, DJ Bem Moving away from the world: Life-course patterns of shy children. Developmental Psychology, 1988
- DJ Bem, C Honorton Does psi exist? Replicable evidence for an anomalous process of information transfer. Psychological Bulletin, 1994
- DJ Bem, HK McConnell Testing the self-perception explanation of dissonance phenomena: On the salience of premanipulation attitudes. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1970
- Bem, DJ (December 2000). "Exotic becomes erotic: interpreting the biological correlates of sexual orientation". Arch Sex Behav 29 (6): 531–48. doi:10.1023/A:1002050303320. PMID 11100261.
- Bem, DJ (April 1998). "Is EBE theory supported by the evidence? Is it androcentric? A reply to Peplau et al. (1998)". Psychol Rev 105 (2): 395–8. doi:10.1037/0033-295X.105.2.395. PMID 9577244.
- Caspi, A; Bem, DJ; Elder Jr, GH (June 1989). "Continuities and consequences of interactional styles across the life course". J Pers 57 (2): 375–406. doi:10.1111/j.1467-6494.1989.tb00487.x. PMID 2769561.
- SL Bem, DJ Bem Does Sex-biased Job Advertising" Aid and Abet" Sex Discrimination? Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 1973
- Bem, DJ (1983). "Toward a response style theory of persons in situations". Nebr Symp Motiv: 201–31. PMID 6843717.
- Bem, DJ (September 1977). "Predicting more of the people more of the time: some thoughts on the Allen-Potkay studies of intraindividual variability". J Pers 45 (3): 327–33. doi:10.1111/j.1467-6494.1977.tb00155.x. PMID 894467.
- Bem, DJ (March 1972). "Constructing cross-situational consistencies in behavior: some thoughts on Alker's critique of Mischel". J Pers 40 (1): 17–26. doi:10.1111/j.1467-6494.1972.tb00645.x. PMID 5013145.
- Bem, DJ; McConnell, HK (January 1970). "Testing the self-perception explanation of dissonance phenomena: on the salience of premanipulation attitudes". J Pers Soc Psychol 14 (1): 23–31. doi:10.1037/h0020916. PMID 5435536.
- Bem, DJ (May 1967). "Self-perception: An alternative interpretation of cognitive dissonance phenomena". Psychol Rev 74 (3): 183–200. doi:10.1037/h0024835. PMID 5342882.
- Bem, DJ (June 1966). "Inducing belief in false confessions". J Pers Soc Psychol 3 (6): 707–10. doi:10.1037/h0023226. PMID 5939010.
- Chandler, David L. (February 15, 1993). Study finds evidence of ESP phenomenon. Boston Globe
- "Daryl Bem: a brief professional bio". dbem.ws. Retrieved January 8, 2011.
- "Daryl Bem's home page". dbem.ws. September 9, 2010. Retrieved January 8, 2011.
- Nussbaum, Emily (May/June 1998). "Does the exotic become erotic?". Lingua Franca. Retrieved January 8, 2011.
- Staff report (July 21, 1966). Senators Hear an Interrogation In Study of Confession Ruling New York Times
- Bem, Daryl J.; Honorton, Charles (January 1994). "Does psi exist? Replicable evidence for an anomalous process of information transfer". Psychological Bulletin 115 (1): 4–18. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.115.1.4. Retrieved 2007-07-31.
- Bem, Daryl J. (January 1996). "Exotic becomes erotic: A developmental theory of sexual orientation.". Psychological Review 103 (2): 320–335. doi:10.1037/0033-295X.103.2.320.
- Bancroft, John (ed.) (2000). The role of theory in sex research. Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press. pp. 67–81. ISBN 978-0-253-33706-1.
- Simpson, Kevin; Gorski, Eric (12 November 2006). "Pastor's case stirs debate". Denver Post. Retrieved 1 February 2012.
- Bailey, JM; Zucker, KJ (January 1995). "Childhood sex-typed behavior and sexual orientation: A conceptual analysis and quantitative review.". Developmental Psychology 31 (1): 43–55. doi:10.1037/0012-16184.108.40.206.
- Zucker, KJ (1990). "Gender identity disorders in children: Clinical descriptions and natural history". In R. Blanchard & B. W. Steiner (Eds.), Clinical management of gender identity disorders in children and adults (pp. 1-23 ). Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Press.
- Bem, DJ (March 2011). "Feeling the future: experimental evidence for anomalous retroactive influences on cognition and affect.". Journal of personality and social psychology 100 (3): 407–25. doi:10.1037/a0021524. PMID 21280961.
- James Alcock, Back from the Future: Parapsychology and the Bem Affair, March/April 2011 Skeptical Inquirer, January 6, 2011.
- "Room for Debate: When Peer Review Falters". The New York Times. January 7, 2011.
- "Professor: Strong evidence ESP is real". MSNBC. 2008-01-23. Retrieved Jan 30, 2011.
- "The Colbert Report: January 27, 2011 - Brian Greene". Comedy Central. 2008-01-23. Retrieved Jan 30, 2011.
- Wagenmakers, EJ; Wetzels, R, Borsboom, D, van der Maas, HL (March 2011). "Why psychologists must change the way they analyze their data: the case of psi: comment on Bem (2011).". Journal of personality and social psychology 100 (3): 426–32. doi:10.1037/a0022790. PMID 21280965.
- Bem DJ, Utts J, Johnson WO (October 2011). "Must psychologists change the way they analyze their data?". Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 101 (4): 716–719. doi:10.1037/a0024777. PMID 21928916.
- Bem, Daryl (6 January 2011). "Response to Alcock’s "Back from the Future: Comments on Bem"". Retrieved 31 January 2012.
- Alcock, James (6 January 2011). "Response to Bem’s Comments". Retrieved 31 January 2012.
- Ritchie, Stuart J.; Wiseman, Richard, French, Christopher C., Gilbert, Sam (March 2012). "Failing the Future: Three Unsuccessful Attempts to Replicate Bem's 'Retroactive Facilitation of Recall' Effect". In Gilbert, Sam. PLoS ONE 7 (3): e33423. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0033423. PMC 3303812. PMID 22432019.
- Goldacre, Ben (23 April 2011). "Backwards step on looking into the future". The Guardian. Retrieved 17 March 2012.
- Aldhous, Peter (5 May 2011). "Journal rejects studies contradicting precognition". New Scientist. Retrieved 17 March 2012.
- Jarrett, Christian (11 May 2011). "Psi study highlights replication problems". The Psychologist. Retrieved 17 March 2012.
- French, Chris (15 March 2012). "Precognition studies and the curse of the failed replications". The Guardian. Retrieved 17 March 2012.
- Goldacre, Ben (23 April 2011). "Backwards step on looking into the future". The Guardian. Retrieved 1 February 2012.
- Wiseman, Richard. "Replication Registry: Are you conducting a replication of Daryl Bem's 'Feeling the Future' experiments?". Retrieved 1 February 2012.
- Francis, G (February 2012). "Too good to be true: Publication bias in two prominent studies from experimental psychology". Psychonomic Bulletin & Review 19 (2): 151–156. doi:10.3758/s13423-012-0227-9. PMID 22351589.
- LeBel, Etienne P.; Peters, Kurt R. (January 2011). "Fearing the future of empirical psychology: Bem's (2011) evidence of psi as a case study of deficiencies in modal research practice". Review of General Psychology 15 (4): 371–379. doi:10.1037/a0025172.
- "Failure to Replicate Results of Bem Parapsychology Experiments Published by Same Journal", by Kendrick Frazier, Skeptical Inquirer, 2013, vol 37, #2, pp. 5-6.
- Official Page, Site of Cornell University
- Personal Home Page
- Publications online at Personal Home Page