Skepticism: California 1980

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Arjuna
 
Reply Sun 11 Apr, 2010 04:53 pm
In 1980, Victor Benassi and Barry Singer of the psychology department of California State University at Long Beach did a little research:

They had a performer (Craig Reynolds) appear before two freshmen psychology classes. Dressed exotically, Mr. Reynolds did a magic presentation designed to make himself appear psychic.

In one class, the students were told that Mr. Reynolds believed himself to be psychic. The second class was told that he was performing amateur tricks that have been known for centuries.

In both classes, 2/3 of the students believed Reynolds was psychic.

Apparently the effectiveness of the tricks has to do with the way we process "events" versus "non-events." If a proposed psychic asks a question and it elicits an emotional response.. like "yes! how did you know that?" ... that's an event. If the performer asks ten questions and only one of them is an event, the event will loom large in consciousness and boot the nine tiny non-events out of awareness. One event out of ten makes the performer 100% psychic.

I wonder, though... in was California. I wonder what results would be had now, and in other areas. Also it turned out that in efforts to convince the students of the truth... that it was just tricks, what worked best was to actually explain the trick. Just condemning gullibility didn't work.
 
Pyrrho
 
Reply Mon 12 Apr, 2010 08:12 am
@Arjuna,
One of my teachers was also a third rate amateur magician. He would go into classes and perform tricks, pretending to have supernatural abilities. He would invariably get over half believing that at least some of what he did was supernatural, and when he did his act well (which greatly involved the nonsense stated to support the tricks, not simply how well the tricks went) he got more than 90% believing he did supernatural things. Afterwards, he would reveal that it was all tricks, and that nothing was supernatural. Students wanted to know how the tricks were done, but he refused to explain most of them, but would explain one or two of them.

This was not in California, nor even within a 1000 miles of California.

I am convinced that, if done properly, one would typically get over half of a class believing such nonsense, as most people have minds filled with rubbish and are not good at distinguishing between good evidence and foolishness. Indeed, most people seem to reject, on principle, the idea that one should believe things only when they actually have good or real evidence for the belief.


If your story is right, it is exceedingly depressing that telling the students the truth beforehand did not prevent most of them from believing stupidly. That is enough to drive one to despair of most people.

This is also quite depressing:

Arjuna;150622 wrote:
... Also it turned out that in efforts to convince the students of the truth... that it was just tricks, what worked best was to actually explain the trick. Just condemning gullibility didn't work.


In the real world, there are always going to be some more tricks to be explained, so that if one needs each and every trick explained in order to not believe like a damned fool, one will believe like a damned fool.
 
sometime sun
 
Reply Wed 14 Apr, 2010 08:53 am
@Pyrrho,
Sounds like this guy, i cant remember what programe he did, but he went to America and went to some 'churches' who used some of his 'tricks' and showed them his 'powers' and they all wanted to recriut him but he then exposed them as the frauds he knew they were.
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