Twitter's psychic twits

Sunshine Coast Daily, Australia/June 10, 2009

A scientific study has used the internet messaging service Twitter to debunk the myth that people possesses the psychic ability to remotely see distant locations and events.

The study was conducted by New Scientist Magazine and psychologist Professor Richard Wiseman from the University of Hertfordshire.

Prof Wiseman enlisted more than 7,000 people in his four-day experiment. Many of the participants were believers with 38% professing faith in paranormal ability and 16% claiming that they had some form of psychic gift.

Each day of the experiment, Prof Wiseman travelled to a secret location and asked participants to Tweet (the term used to describe a Twitter message) their thoughts and impressions about the location.

Participants were then directed to a website where they could view photographs of five locations and choose which one they believed Wiseman was at.

They location selected by the majority of participants on all four days was incorrect.

"In the first trial I was looking at a striking modern building, but a majority 35% of the group thought that I was in some woods," said Prof Wiseman.

"On another trial I was sitting under an unusual looking canopy but only 15% of the group selected this option, with a majority 24% thinking that I was in a graveyard. The same pattern emerged on all four trials."

The professor believes he has uncovered why some people believe that they possess paranormal powers. Once the correct location was revealed, those who believe in the paranormal were more likely than non-believers to convince themselves their thoughts had been about the correct location.

"The difference between the groups was striking, with 31% of believers indicating a considerable correspondence between their thoughts and the target, compared to just 12% of sceptics," said Wiseman.

"This type of creative thinking might make people see illusory relationships in the real world, and could, for example, help convince them that there are uncanny matches between their dreams and subsequent events."

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