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On this episode of Skeptiko author Lynne Kelly offers a skeptical view of psychic medium communication:
“What I’m saying with a lot of psychics is not that they’re frauds. Far from it. Most of the astrology and tarot readers that I see are absolutely genuine people who have a faith in the system and therefore giving credit to the system when it’s actually their own intuition and it’s already built into the system that’s working. I think the same is probably true of most mediums.” – Lynne Kelly
Alex: Welcome to Skeptiko where we explore controversial science with leading researchers, thinkers, and their critics. I’m your host, Alex Tsakiris, and you may recall on the last episode of Skeptiko we interviewed Dr. Julie Beischel and discussed her experiments into psychic medium readings. That is, she’s exploring a purely scientific way whether or not a person who goes in, meets with a psychic or a medium to try and connect with a deceased person, whether there’s anything real going on or whether there’s anything scientific. I think we had a very interesting discussion with her along those lines and specifically about her protocol and about how we are going to use that protocol to try and replicate a demonstration of that very research. So this time out what I thought would be interesting is to try and look at the primary explanation that skeptics and many other folks have for what may be going on in a psychic reading and that is, of course, cold reading. So the typical line from skeptics is that if you think there’s anything real that’s going on in a psychic reading, that is, if it seems like there’s real information coming through from someone’s who deceased, someone who’s passed away, that’s just the psychic using these tricks of picking up information that you’re giving off unknowingly or just fishing for information out of you. I was very fortunate to find Lynne Kelly, who is the author of The Skeptics Guide to the Paranormal and is a science educator and a skeptic based in Melbourne, Australia, who’s very, very familiar with this phenomenon. As a matter of fact, Lynne has become somewhat of an expert in cold readings and has even developed her own cold reading system which is quite interesting in its own right and she’s very, very successful at it. As a matter of fact, on our website she has many interesting pictures of her doing cold reading demonstrations which she’s done hundred of times and has achieved very amazing results in terms of establishing a belief of the person that she’s reading for that she really was connecting with someone who is deceased and yet, of course, she then later admits that she’s not and that she’s just using these mentalists tricks, these psychological tricks to convince someone that she really is connecting with the great beyond and she’s not. So, I thought she would be a perfect person to talk to, to discuss the research protocol that we’re trying to develop for this demonstration that we’re doing along the same lines of the research that’s been done by Dr. Julie Beischel. Stay tuned – very interesting interview with Lynne Kelly on cold readings coming up on Skeptiko.
So, where I thought we might start as I described in my email was talking about a little bit about your bio, your background of course, and then also what events in particular influenced your interest in skepticism.
Lynne: You want my entire life story. Basically, I am a natural, gullible, vulnerable trusting, whatever you want to say, Basically, I trust people therefore, if you’re very trusting you’ll vulnerable and gullible and I don’t see any big difference nor likely that that’s a necessary negative but that meant that I was taken in constantly, especially by my big brother. My mother was a skeptic, very scientific, so from a young age she must have either taught me to question and not trust everybody quite so much and so I see skepticism as my protection against being exploited by all sorts of kinds and particular kinds of the paranormal. Exploit it, not necessarily financially or like it that’s important, more importantly emotionally and that’s my concern and why I have a particular interest in the psychic system. I believe a lot of them exploit people emotionally and I can’t take that.
Alex: Well, that’s certainly an interest that I share and I think that exploiting people by using a little bit of knowledge being a dangerous kind of theory is something you have to guard against. As you may be aware of on this Skeptiko show, what we’ve really tried to do is find the intersection between skepticism and science that isn’t always as clear cut as some of the cases that you’ve explored and you’ve described that are clearly debunking or were real serious dose skepticism is probably very healthy for a consumer.
Lynne: I would agree wholeheartedly. I think the skeptical community includes lots of cynics and that doesn’t cause any good at all. I think there’s a lot of room for investigation and that’s exactly what we should be doing.
Alex: Great, and that’s really the tact that we’ve tried to take and tried to promote on this show and with experts and guests like yourself that we’ve had on. One of the topics that interested me in what you’ve done is your work on cold readings and in particular, you can tell us a little bit about the system that you’ve developed which sounds very creative and very interesting and I understand that you demonstrate that quite a bit. So, maybe we could start and you could explain the basics of what is a cold reading and then tell us a little bit about the system that you’ve used and some of the experiences you’ve had using it.
Lynne: With pleasure. Cold reading is basically telling people things about themselves that seem absolutely amazing that you couldn’t possibly know but in fact are not using psychic methods. It’s easiest if I give you an example of one that I use quite a lot and that’s endometriosis. Have you heard of endometriosis?
Alex: No, that’s not ringing a bell.
Lynne: Great. If I have somebody in the audience, a woman between the ages of about 25 and 40, I will say, “I’m getting endometriosis. What you with endometriosis?” If she reacts quickly, then I know the issue is with her. If not, then with somebody she knows and I can go straight to who is around you. Now, I will get a hit or 90 percent of the time with that and it sounds amazing, but it’s not. Endometriosis is a woman’s problem and it’s only being diagnosed well in the last 15, 20 years or so and it’s to do with painful periods and problems with conception and so on. Consequently, many, many women are now checked for it, diagnosed with it. It’s not fatal and you will get a reaction either, “I’ve been tested for it or whatever,” or they will know somebody in their age group who has it. It sounds amazing, but it’s not. In that particular demographic, I can get a hit most of the time. That’s what cold reading is doing, using statistics of making things sound much more effective than they actually are. What I couldn’t understand was how the skeptics were saying anybody who falls for psychic readings are stupid and here I was seeing many very intelligent people not falling for them, believing in them, and I found that I just could not explain what was happening in a reading, a psychic reading – astrology, tarot, any of them. So, I started doing them myself because I really believed that there was something absolutely definitely going on here. The more I did them, the more I found that they use intuition by relaxing, by going with it. I was actually getting a lot of hits off of ones that I couldn’t explain myself. That was using astrology and tarot, so I decided to create an entire system myself, a divination system myself which I call “Tauromancy” based entirely on cold reading theory with no basis, because no one else in the world uses Tauromancy except myself. I used chopsticks as rods and staves I call them. I used little gold masks, Chinese masks, and I say that it’s an ancient Chinese system. I used Ian Rowland’s book, Full Facts Book of Cold Reading. I did the whole setup, the lot and I slowly developed this over a couple of years and whatever worked I kept it. What didn’t, I put aside which is exactly how tarot and astrology would have evolved. And I started getting hit after hit after hit, often in ways that I couldn’t explain until I went back and analyzed. Basically, I was relying on intuition, feeling that warmth effect that I really like people so if you’re going to say psychic readings are sort of attuned intuition and empathy and so on, then I’m not going to have the slightest argument with it. If you’re going to saying that there’s some kind of other sense, then I need evidence.
Alex: Right, and I think the other thing that was interesting in the chapter of your book,The Skeptics Guide to the Paranormal, where you really do a nice job of kind of breaking down the different aspects that can come into play when somebody’s play using cold reading techniques. One, the kind of vague questions that then lead to more specific questioning which I think you do a really nice job of describing how little bits of information can be stitched together to get at larger bits of information that kind of can create some pretty amazing findings. I think the example you just gave is one of those. So, I found all that very interesting. Then the one other part that you mentioned that I thought we might go over is there’s also some aspects to what you do that get into what some people call the “hot reading,” that is, I think it was quite clever in the way that you said you developed your system and you started noticing that certain people, when they arranged the chopsticks which aren’t really chopsticks by the time you get done with them, you’ve kind of painted them over and made them look very mysterious, but I think maybe you want to describe to folks how some people put them down right away in a very orderly fashion and other people don’t and that you’ve even developed some ability to kind of gain some insight into the personality from those kind of actions.
Lynne: Exactly. There are two stages in the reading. One they take the masks and put them on the map. There’s a special little round map. Where the masks … some people arrange them meticulously. Others just plunk them down. Some will put them over the edges. Some, because as I said, on the map will be very, very careful not to take any off the map. If they are slightly off, I talk about breaking boundaries and all that sort of thing. So, that tells you a lot about the personality and the willingness to break rules, wanting to conform. I also initially used to have people just put the rods and staves, the chopsticks, down at the same time. When Ian Rowland came over and I did a reading of him and then he watched for a day, he got me to separate those two stages. Once I’ve been through the first stage and talked to people and gained their confidence, while they’re building a picture of their world which is the expression I use with the rods and staves, they will chatter and I’ll make comments like, “Oh, that’s very interesting. Oh, what an interesting arrangement,” and they’ll chatter away to me which gives me a lot. They will be unaware of a lot of what they’ve said the significance I can build from. So, then they make some kind of pattern with these rods and staves. For example, there are two that are similar but not the same which I label “Ego and Alter-Ego,” and I do use the same thing for all of them all the time because I need those prompts to work very fast. Usually the ego and alter-ego are put together at some stage into something like a cross. Depending on where I’m going, who they are and who they want to be which is what I play around with those words, I can either say that they’re coming into alignment or I can say they are cross purposes. The same arrangement I can twist using the language to whatever I want it to be and whatever I’m getting the best reaction to. Does that all make sense?
Alex: Yes. In a general sense it sounds like you’ve developed really quite a talent and quite a skill yourself in applying these techniques which is part of the whole cold reading, gaining confidence and forming relationships with people. I think all that is very interesting and provides a lot of insight into the processes of what we have to look out for when we’re considering psychic readings or medium communication. But here I guess is my frustration, of course. I sent you in the email before some references to some of the literature on folks who have done more scientific medium research, and I guess my frustrations it seems like skeptics are drawn to sort of the consumer protection aspect of this which is, and there was the Sylvia Browne fooling. Are you wasting your money on a psychic? There’s certainly a usefulness for that and people need to be protected from frauds and charlatans who are trying to rip off their money. But isn’t the bigger scientific question really is any of this stuff real?
Lynne: Absolutely, the most interesting question of all.
Alex: Right and clearly demonstrating the cold reading techniques can simulate this kind of experience gets us, I guess, maybe part of the way it uncovers some of the psychological factors that are going on but it doesn’t really address the underlying question: Is any of this stuff real?
Lynne: No, but in order to test a psychic to see if they’re real you need a control. If they are performing bait and then chance, that’s not better than a cold reader and so that’s my concern with any testing is you need a cold reader in there doing the same test so that you can identify what is unique to psychics and what isn’t. As long as you’ve got tests on your psychics and mediums with no control as in, I don’t mean no control of the tests, no control group then I’m not sure what’s showing.
Alex: Are you really familiar with any of the research that’s out there? Did you have a chance to look at the paper by Julie Beischel?
Lynne: I looked at it briefly. I have been contacted by a parapsychology testing universities and raised this point and that’s been taken on board but yeah, until I can get cold readings they’re not really showing anything because what I’m saying with a lot of psychics is not they’re frauds. Far from it. The vast majority, the big names that are stage and making a lot of noise, I think know exactly what they’re doing. But I think most of the astrology and tarot readers that I see are absolutely genuine people who have a face in the system and therefore credit to the system when it’s actually their own tuition and the cold reading build into the system that’s working. So, I think it’s more a misinterpretation of what’s going on inside them and they are absolutely genuine about what they’re doing. I think the same is probably true of most mediums and therefore, the fact that they are attributing what they are getting in their head just as I do, get in my head, to voices from the other world and that does not mean they are. Until we’ve got some way of testing them against somebody who is using the systems that I use, how do we know that they’re not exactly like I was every time I was doing readings?
Alex: Well, I think there’s a couple of ways and I think the research clearly points to the answer, number one, the previous research that was done by Gary Schwartz at the University of Arizona and Julie Beischel. I sent you the research, the report on it. Their previous protocol, I think, counts for almost everything that you could possibly be worried about in terms of cold reading. And of course, these people are very competent researchers and the first thing that they both did before getting into this research was educate themselves and take classes in cold readings. But I think the final research, the most current research that they’ve done, I fail to see how anyone could introduce any cold reading aspects into it. I mean, number one, the person who is the sitter, if you will, the person who comes in for the reading never talks to the medium. There is no …
Lynne: In cold reading, you are much better off if they don’t talk to you, certainly initially.
Alex: But hold on … One aspect, of course, is they worry that there’s going to be some communication talking back and forth. Second is it’s a very directed question and answer period with a researcher who is the only one who is talking to the medium, is asking specific questions. They only asks questions in very narrow categories: the age of the person that’s passed, what they look like, the personality, their hobbies, cause of death. Those are the only things that they ask and they have specific …
Lynne: Right, but I didn’t see any transcripts. So in the paper there was nothing about the exact questions and what was coming out.
Alex: Well, I think there is the protocol in there that they use.
Lynne: The protocol but not the actual questions and therefore, they could have been anything.
Alex: How would a cold reading come into play, and just so you know in case you didn’t have …
Lynne: If they’re asking very specific questions so the sitter, the person is asked what age were you when you died and the answer is exactly right, then you’ve got amazing evidence.
Alex: Okay, and just so you know, finally what they do is on the scoring which is another place that skeptics have kind of pointed to and really if you look at the criticism that’s been leveled against the research over the years, it’s way out of proportion with what would normally be acceptable criticism for this kind of research. But just so we’re talking the same language in terms of how they’ve done it now, even in terms of scoring the final results the person who is the sitter, the person who comes in for the reading is then presented with two readings. One is their reading and the one is the reading from another person who independently without them knowing it has had the reading and then they’re to score which one most closely matches the person they were trying to connect with. So there isn’t even a chance that they could score this with some kind of bias toward one reading or another. All that has completely been taken out of the equation and they still get very statistically significant results.
Lynne: So, how does the medium know who they’re reading?
Alex: The medium is given one name, a first name of the person, the deceased person who they want to connect with. And they even go so far as to make sure that the names don’t carry any message in terms of ethnicity or religious background. They actually pair the names so that they can do it. The other thing that they do that I think is very interesting is in the questionnaire beforehand they try and get pairs of people who have the biggest disparity in terms of those characteristics, in terms of the ages of when they’ve passed, what they look like, so that there isn’t a lot of similarity – one person that passed early in life, one person that passed later; one that looks one way, one that looks another – so that there’s a lot of difference so if there is any real information coming through in this sense then it will be as different as possible to draw out that difference when the sitter is actually choosing.
Lynne: If it is as you described it, it should be front page news all over the world.
Alex: It’s right there. That’s right. You’re absolutely right, Lynne. Why isn’t it?
Lynne: I could not agree more. I would be delighted if they were right. My father, I was extraordinary close to, passed away much too young and my mother passed only a few months ago. If there is any way of contacting them, especially at the moment, my mother passed just before I went to the British Museum, her favorite place on earth and I could never tell her the impact it had on me. If I could think that she knew that it would be fantastic. It would advance …. It’s Nobel Prize winning stuff!
Alex: But wait, wait…
Lynne: Why isn’t it up for Nobel prizes?
Alex: Well, don’t you think that perhaps you and the skeptical community and the way that you’ve approached the issue are somewhat a little bit responsibly for creating an environment that makes this kind of research very, very difficult to get funded, number one, but number two, very, very difficult to get accepted inside of a scientific community that is by all measures hostile to you?
Lynne: No, no, no, no. Science … skepticism is part of scientific method. That’s all it is. The same is approached to every scientist. Their research has to be able to be replicated by others and it has to stand up to the challenge.
Alex: Right, of course but Lynne, hold on. Now wait a minute. I don’t want to get too personal, but how can you not be more familiar with this research? This research has been published more than two years ago, published in a well-accepted journal by a university, University of Arizona that is a very, very well-established, highly thought of university and in terms of this making front page news, well it did. Dr. Schwartz and Dr. Beischel have been on many TV programs and radio programs talking about what their findings were, so it’s not like it’s completely flown under the radar. What flies in the face of it is folks who have debunked psychic readings and the way the media always plays it is that there is this versus this. Who are you going to believe?
Lynne: It certainly hasn’t hit the news in Australia. I don’t get the American news. But why hasn’t the psychological community picked up on it then and they’re not as skeptical as we are?
Alex: That’s a separate question, isn’t it? I mean, you’re an expert.
Lynne: No, because it’s anyone other than a very narrow group. Who has replicated these findings?
Alex: You know, we are right now working with a skeptical group in the United States to do a demonstration that replicates these findings and I’m sure there will be future folks who replicate these findings. But I have to tell you and if you’re interested, you can listen to the interview with Dr. Beischel and she’ll tell you. Here is a PhD in pharmacology from University of Arizona, very, very smart person on the path towards being a researcher in her trained field and gets interested in this research of Dr. Gary Schwartz and really kind of shifts her career path. The subtext of her story really flies in the face of what you’re saying. The career opportunities that she has now that she’s chosen to go into this field are severely limited. The amount of funding that she can get for this research is virtually non-existent. Universities don’t want to touch this and that’s just the reality of it. I don’t know what the situation is like in Australia, but I can tell you if you ask … universities are very, very hostile to those kind of research because it doesn’t do them any good. It can only cause them problems and that’s been the history of every American university that’s delved into parapsychology research. It only causes problems.
Lynne: Could that be because there have been so many years, thirty, forty, fifty years of it and nothing has turned up that’s concrete?
Alex: But we’re just saying, Lynne, this is concrete. This is concrete, right?
Lynne: Yeah, but the university must look at the last thirty or forty years when all of the research led to nothing. If this really is as you say it is, which sounds fascinating, then I can’t see why there wouldn’t be scientists jumping on board by the thousands because this is, as I say, Nobel Prize winning work. You are changing a complete understanding of the way the world works and humans work. But unless it’s replicated, then I expect you would get exactly that reaction. But every scientist struggles to get funding. That’s just part of science.
Alex: You know that’s what I thought before I really got into this whole field and really analyzed and interviewed the players and just how lop-sided the environment has become. The arguments of the thirty or forty years of nothing, I mean, it’s just not true. You look at the pre-sentiment experiments which is outside of the scope of what we’re talking about, but replicated seven times, maybe nine times, I might be low on my number there, at research universities on three different continents. I think where I really want to bring this back to is to see if you had any special insight into how cold reading aspects could come into play for this kind of research? And I think just from a common sense approach, which you’ve taken, there really isn’t. If you take this protocol that we’ve just spoken about here, there isn’t any area for cold reading techniques to enter into it, right?
Lynne: If it is exactly as you say that the medium was asked, “What was his age?” and they came back with “47.”
Alex: No, it doesn’t have to be that. You just ask the medium tell me about the age of passing and they say anything. They can say, “I think he was young. I see he was old.”
Lynne: Ah, now that’s a very, very different kettle of fish.
Alex: No it’s not, because the scoring of it ultimately, there’s no feedback from the sitter so whatever …
Lynne: But how is young scored? Is that for a 47 year old? Is young right, wrong?
Alex: It doesn’t have to be right or wrong. What the sitter eventually has to do is decide which reading best fits.
Lynne: Ah, now you’re way, way away from science.
Alex: Oh, my gosh!
Lynne: Now you’re well into cold reading and the figures are an interpretation.
Alex: But wait, how else would you evaluate that information? If I collect fifty or sixty data points and you as the person who I’m reading for is asked to compare these fifty data points versus another set of fifty data points and evaluate which one comes closer to the person you’re trying to connect with, what is unscientific about that in your opinion?
Lynne: The paper you sent me said they had eight sitters.
Alex: Right, okay.
Lynne: You can’t get statistically meaningful … if six of those, I mean did eight out of eight pick the correct one?
Alex: Well, I think we would have to go back and look at the statistics then, right? But we’re kind of switching into another category. If we’re talking about the methodology, because one is the statistical significance and the number of readings that you would have to do to get a statistically significant result and that certainly is one question we can put that aside. But a minute ago, you said that you were a little bit doubtful, skeptical that you could achieve a true scientific result by using the protocol if you had fifty data points and fifty data points from another and the sitter was to choose which reading best matched the person they were trying to connect with. I don’t see any problem with that. I guess I want to know if you.
Lynne: Yeah, I do.
Lynne: But I need to see what you’re interpreting because if it’s the system of eight people that’s shown two readings and asked which is more accurate, this one or two, I obey. Then it really struggles to be statistically accurate to be able to do any statistics. It’s the sort of thing where you start doing statistics galore on data that’s insufficient to do statistics.
Alex: I don’t think you understand it correctly. There’s pairs so each person who sits is paired with someone else and then there are two readings that done and they’re asked to pick which reading, they’re asked to score each one of those sections in terms of …
Lynne: They’re asked to score each of the fifty points, choose. Is that what you’re saying?
Alex: Yes, they’re asked to score each of the points. They’re asked to score each of the overall categories: the look, the personality, the hobbies, the cause of death in terms of accuracy. Then they’re asked to rate the overall accuracy of the reading and then they’re asked to pick which reading most closely matches the person they were trying to connect with.
Lynne: Okay, I need to see the actual data because then there’s so much room for playing with statistics especially with only eight readings and fifty points. Yeah, I’d have a lot of problem with that.
Alex: I’d like to hear an example of how you think there’s any problem with that. I don’t get it.
Lynne: Well, you’ve got Reading A and Reading B and the two sitters assisting. Point one says that the person was young. We’ve got a young and an old. Is the sitter saying right or wrong or are they saying, “Ah, six out of ten.” There’s a big difference.
Alex: But doesn’t all that take care of itself when either sitter…
Lynne: Absolutely not.
Alex: How can there be any …
Lynne: In statistics you’ve got independent events. You’ve now got fifty independent events. You cannot average them out of data.
Alex: Of course you can. This is what statisticians do all the time. If you have fifty separate events, you calculate the statistics that someone would be right on whatever number of those fifty you want to.
Lynne: What you’re not telling me is whether … so you’re saying right. Were their assessment of each of the fifty points right or wrong? Or did they score them, give them a ranking, a mark out or something?
Alex: Either way if I score them on a scale of one to ten or score them on a scale right versus wrong, I still come out with some kind of score that is going to be statistically significant when it’s compared to another score and that’s all we have to go on. Let’s get back to what we’re talking about in terms of cold reading, in terms of all the techniques that you’ve used to extract information and play it back to people. All that has been taken out of the equation.
Lynne: No it hasn’t, most definitely.
Alex: How can there be…
Lynne: I can’t get an answer from you about exactly what these two are. Are they giving a mark out of ten? We’re just taking point number one on how old they were when they died. Are they giving a mark out of ten, a right/wrong, what are they giving?
Alex: Pick whichever one thinks makes your case and then tell me how it can create a problem.
Lynne: If you give a mark out of ten for A, person one gives it for A and B, person two gives it for A and B. Person 1 gives four for A and six for B. Person 2 gives seven for A and five for B. You can get a statistical significance out of that. With only eight readings it’s not enough. Look, I’m sorry … the statistics … if you’re doing it that way, I can see cold reading having a huge impact.
Alex: Okay, but I think we’re talking about two different things and I really want to push this a little bit further and see if we can pin it down.
Lynne: You’re asking me to analyze something that I’ve never seen and I’m not getting a clear image from you of. It’s not fair.
Alex: I understand your frustration. I’m frustrated, too, because it seems like we’re switching into two different things. On one hand you’re talking about the methodology and then you seem to be switching over to the statistics. Let’s leave the statistics out for right now and leave that to other people who have analyzed whether or not …
Lynne: Oh no, we can’t!
Alex: Let me finish for one second. Let’s leave out whether the results could achieve a statistically significant result and let’s ask the question, I’d like to ask the question: As a cold reader, where is the information leakage? Because that’s, I think, what’s interesting and what you point out in showing some novel ways how there can be information leakage, how the medium or the psychic, in your case it was the pseudo-psychic, can gain information that makes it appear that they know something that they really didn’t gain from any kind of mystical or metaphyscial means. How can that happen with inside of this protocol?
Lynne: There’s no information leakage. Cold reading does not depend on information leakage. As I said, too, with endometriosis I will throw that at any woman in that age crowd. She has not told me anything and I will get a hit a lot of the time. Now if I throw that at any … obviously in a medium one I wouldn’t use that. But because certain statements, if you make them they said specific but they’re in fact more general which is exactly what cold reading is, then you will get a hit rate without knowing anything. It’s nothing to do with information leakage. It’s to do with playing with language and statistics. I don’t mean the statistics analyzing that experiment. But you talk about they died due to something to do with their chest.
Lynne: Okay, that is going to get a high mark from a lot of people with no information leakage.
Alex: Right, but that’s going to be again considered in the pairing they’ve accounted for that in that they’ve chosen people that have died by very different means. If you’re the medium now and the pseudo-medium and you’re playing the odds, then you would answer, “Cause of death – chest” for both the people that you sat for. They would cancel each other out. Even the example that you said about the woman in the crowd, you did say that you received information leakage. It’s not a bad thing; it’s a good thing. You said you look for the person who squirmed or the first person who moved in any way.
Lynne: No I didn’t.
Alex: Well, I can play it back to you, but it doesn’t matter. Still my point is the same. If I answer chest, chest, chest for everyone then that’s going to lead to any kind of advantage that I have in this reading.
Lynne: No, but you wouldn’t do that. That’s what I’m saying. I’m trying to analyze statistics I haven’t seen and methods I haven’t seen.
Alex: But I described the method to you.
Lynne: I don’t know what they did say.
Alex: Let’s say I chose two people. Now the pairing again, I chose one person who died young of unnatural causes by a drunk driver hitting them, right? And I chose that person to die young to be in stark contrast to someone else who lived to eighty years old and died of lung cancer, let’s just say. So now, I’m failing to see how cold reading techniques are going to help you in doing that reading when you don’t have any interaction …
Lynne: I say in that case they died something to do with the chest. The young person with the car accident, what’s the chance that the injuries from which he dies that the heart stopped and that the person, because of the way it’s worded, the sitter will give a tick to that even though it was a car accident they appeared to be very, very different than not very different because in that car accident if the person died it’s almost certainly an injury either to head or chest. So you’ve still got a statistically good chance.
Alex: Well, great and then that’s going to come out in the end and the reading is not going to be successful in that the sitter is not going to be able to pick out their reading on a statistically, more significant basis and you’re going to wind up with chance results. I don’t see…
Alex: Yes, of course. That’s the logical conclusion of what you’re saying is that you would not get statistically significant results at the end of the day in terms of people always picking the medium who really was doing the reading. Because remember …
Lynne: And they always … see, this is what I can’t get from you. Did they always pick the right one, said that’s one right, that’s one wrong?
Alex: They did. If I remember off the top of my head, twelve out of fourteen times they picked the right person.
Lynne: The paper you sent me said eight.
Alex: I’d have to go back and look. I think that eight pairs so I think there were sixteen in all, sixteen readings – eight pairs if I’m remembering correctly but I may be wrong. I’m doing that off the top of my head.
Lynne: Sixteen readings. So twelve out of fourteen? Twelve out of sixteen?
Alex: Again, I’m doing this off of memory. I’ll go back and look it up, but again we’re talking about methodology versus results. If you’re saying, “Gee, the methodology is great,” and the methodology has no problems in terms of cold reading, which it … it’s just so clear that it does. I don’t know why we’re arguing it. That’s one argument. If the other argument you’re making is, “Gee, they didn’t run enough trials and there isn’t a statistically significant result in term of people choosing it,” that seems to be a completely different discussion.
Lynne: Fourteen out of sixteen would be significantly very strong. If they picked fourteen out sixteen times, picked the correct reading out of two then that’s statistically strong.
Alex: What if they didn’t? What if they didn’t achieve a statistically significant result? What if it was just chance results? What about the methodology? Doesn’t the methodology make sense in terms of controlling for control sake?
Lynne: No, because I haven’t got a clear image of the methodology from you. I haven’t seen the questions and I’m being asked to analyze a methodology that I haven’t seen.
Alex: Okay, I’ll send it to you. I’ll send it to you again.
Lynne: I really don’t have time. You wouldn’t believe what … I’ve got an academic paper that could be ground-breaking that I have at University of America in Australia waiting on it at the moment and I’ve got weeks of work.
Alex: Sure. Well, I appreciate that. There’s no rush. You can back to us at any time. I appreciate you taking the time today and I appreciate your interest in the subject. I would have to add that I would think that you would certainly make the incorporation of this research somewhat of a priority in terms of you going forward in spreading this information and obvious implications of it.
Lynne: If it’s as you describe, then I will be yelling loud and strong for money from the skeptical organizations to investigate it because true skeptics should be saying what we want is knowledge, not to prove or disprove anything. We want to know.
Alex: I couldn’t agree more and I think your openness is to be applauded and really the best way for it is for people like you and I who are open-minded but have come to a different position to try and put our heads together and try and figure out where the truth is because that’s really what everyone wants to know.
Lynne: Absolutely and it’s only the extremists at either end are not going to be a lot of use to us in this way forward. Absolutely.
Alex: I think you’re right and I think you’ve been very generous with your time this morning, Wednesday morning in Melbourne, and I appreciate your time and your interesting, interesting thoughts on this. I will follow up with you, take your time in terms of getting back to me, but we’ll just follow up down the road and see if there’s anything else we have to talk about on this, and I’m sure we will have stuff to talk about.
Lynne: I’ll tell you what. If the paper I’m working on works, you’re going to want to interview me on that, too.
Alex: Great! I’d love to.
Lynne: And I’ll talk to you again, because that’s going to upset a lot of skeptics.
Alex: Okay, okay. Sounds wonderful. Thanks again.
Alex: Bye. Well, thanks again to Lynne Kelly for joining me today. It was one of those more heated exchanges but I think it really came out well in the end and I really will be following up with her and hope that she’s sincere about staying connected with us while we do this research. I think she could add a lot to it and be a valuable contributor in that way. For more information on past episodes of Skeptiko, visit our website skeptiko.com. You’ll also find our email link. You can drop me a note, a link to our forms that you may want to check out and of course, information on how to subscribe to our Podcast. That’s going to do it for this episode. Until next time, bye for now.