Parapsychology: The Science of Unusual Experience by Ron Roberts, David Groome

By Ron Roberts, David Groome

This fascinating new booklet provides an exploration of the novel part of psychology: parapsychology. Assuming no previous wisdom of psychology, Roberts explores a big selection of surprising phenomena (dream telepathy, close to dying reviews, alien abductions, astrology, the placebo impact, and expertise in the course of anesthesia and in comas), addressing the myths surrounding paranormal event and putting them in the context of medical learn.

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Sample text

Thus it is almost as likely as not that in a group of four people, two of them will share a star sign. If we consider birthdays, we obtain an even more surprising result. We need only 23 people in a group in order for there to be a 50% likelihood that two of those people will share a birthday. The reason for this low figure is that 23 people can actually be paired off for comparison in no less than 253 different ways. With 30 people, as may be found on the average rugby pitch, the likelihood is in fact 70% that two people will share a birthday.

In addition, people have a tendency to base their judgements on a small sample of information and to be unduly impressed by the occurrence of unremarkable coincidences. Finally, individuals have a very distorted notion of risk, often being terribly worried about safe activities but unconcerned about very unsafe ones, such as smoking. For all of these reasons the average person tends to make highly inaccurate estimations of probability, and in most cases this takes the form of a considerable underestimation of the probability of an event occurring by chance.

Subjective estimates of this type underlie much intuitive decision-making. Although subjective probability estimation may be the greyest area of probability, there do exist ways of making the estimates more reliable by modifying them in the light of the available data. The statistician Bayes called the subjective estimate the 'prior' odds, and showed how this could be modified to give the 'posterior' odds by reference to observed frequencies. e. , 1982). Whichever definition of probability we apply, one thing is clear - the events we are interested in can never be more frequent than the possible events, since they will only occur on some occasions and not on others.

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