Warning to bogus psychics: avoid Swarthmore!

If you’re young, you are not very rock and roll if you don’t realize older people hold some pretty bogus ideas.  Maybe we forget that as we age.  If you have forgotten that, you might be happier here.[1]   

The July/August 2008 issue of Skeptical Inquirer (these folks are even skeptical about updating their web page) contains a great story about a college student who duped a bunch of psychics. 

Katharine Merow told the psychics that she wanted to know about a sibling who died because her parents wouldn’t talk about it.  The psychics gave her varying details about her sibling, but none of them discerned the truth: there was no sibling! 

You might think she proved what we already know: psychics are frauds.  Nope!  Ms. Merow showed that these five psychics were full of it, but she was careful to point out that her sample size was too small for statistical analysis. The reader realizes that we cannot draw any conclusions from her study.

The remainder of her article addresses deception in psychological research.  It’s one thing to dupe people who are out to dupe you, but it’s another thing altogether to deceive people who trust that you are an honorable researcher.  Social scientists’ problem is that sometimes they can’t study whatever it is they want to study if the subjects know what the study is about.  Merow’s survey of this is as good as my memory of my social psych textbook way back when. 

This article is not available online, so you will have to check your library or independent book store.

We are going to give Katharine Merow four Lemmys (out of five).  She would have gotten five, but she didn’t out the fake psychics.  She had a good reason, but sometimes you have to do something for the wrong reason to truly rock. 


[1] I am The King of the Cheap Shot


One Response

  1. […] photo is cooler.) Please be patient with a brief digression. Let’s call it a drum solo. A recent post referred to a Skeptical Inquirer that wasn’t available at all on line. I guess some […]

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