Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research Lab
The Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research (PEAR) was a research program at Princeton University that studied parapsychology. Established in 1979 by then Dean of Engineering Robert G. Jahn, PEAR closed in February 2007. The program was controversial.
PEAR's primary purpose was to engage in parapsychological exercises on topics such as psychokenesis (PK) and remote viewing. The program had a strained relationship with Princeton University, and was an embarrassment to Princeton and characterized as "an embarrassment to science" by Robert L. Park. PEAR's work has been rejected by the scientific community and is considered pseudoscience.
Parapsychological experiments with random numbers
PEAR employed electronic random event generators (REGs) to explore the ability of test subjects to use telekinesis to influence the random output distribution of these devices to conform to their pre-recorded intentions to produce higher numbers, lower numbers, or nominal baselines.[non-primary source needed] Most of these experiments utilized a microelectronic REG, but experiments were also conducted with "a giant, wall-mounted pachinko-like machine with a cascade of bouncing balls". PEAR's activities have been criticized for their lack of scientific rigor, poor methodology, and misuse of statistics.
In 1984, the United States National Academy of Sciences, at the request of the US Army Research Institute, formed a scientific panel to assess the best evidence from 130 years of parapsychology. Part of its purpose was to investigate military applications of PK, for example to remotely jam or disrupt enemy weaponry. The panel heard from a variety of military staff who believed in PK and made visits to the PEAR laboratory and two other laboratories that had claimed positive results from micro-PK experiments. The panel criticized macro-PK experiments for being open to deception by conjurors, and said that virtually all micro-PK experiments "depart from good scientific practice in a variety of ways". Their conclusion, published in a 1987 report, was that there was no scientific evidence for the existence of psychokinesis. The psychologist C. E. M. Hansel who evaluated Jahn's early psychokinesis experiments at the PEAR laboratory wrote that a satisfactory control series had not been employed, they had not been independently replicated and the reports contained lack of detail. Hansel noted that "very little information is provided about the design of the experiment, the subjects, or the procedure adopted. Details are not given about the subjects, the times they were tested, or the precise conditions under which they were tested."
In all cases, the observed effects were very small (about one tenth of one percent), but over extensive databases they compounded to statistically significant deviations from chance behavior. The baseline for chance behavior used did not vary as statistically appropriate (baseline bind). Two PEAR researchers attributed this baseline bind to the motivation of the operators to achieve a good baseline. It has been noted that a single test subject (presumed to be a member of PEAR's staff) participated in 15% of PEAR's trials, and was responsible for half of the total observed effect. PEAR's results have been criticized for deficient reproducibility. In one instance two German organizations failed to reproduce PEAR's results, while PEAR similarly failed to reproduce their own results. An attempt by York University's Stan Jeffers also failed to replicate PEAR's results.
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