Experimenter effects and the remote detection of staring
Each author recently attempted to replicate studies in which participants were asked to psychically detect an unseen gaze. RW’s studies failed to find any significant effects whilst MS’s study obtained positive findings. The authors then agreed to carry out the joint study described in this paper, in the hope of determining why they had originally obtained such different results. This joint study involved both MS and RW carrying out separate experiments, but running them in the same location, using the same equipment/procedures and drawing participants from the same subject pool. The studies involved placing experimenter and participant in separate rooms linked by a one way closed circuit television system. This allowed the experimenter to see the participant, but not vice versa. The experimental sessions were divided into two sets of randomly ordered trials. During ‘stare’ trials the experimenter directed his/her attention towards the participant; during ‘non-stare’ trials the experimenter directed this attention away from the participant. The participants' electrodermal activity (EDA) was continuously recorded throughout each session. Results revealed that the EDA of RW’s participants was not significantly different during ‘stare’ and ‘non-stare’ trials. In contrast, the EDA of MS’s participants was significantly higher in ‘stare’ than ‘non-stare’ trials. The paper discusses the likelihood of different interpretations of this effect and urges other psi proponents and skeptics to run similar joint studies.