Mission Continued

There are many reported anomalies in the literature: experiments, in which participants are able to guess above chance level what stimulus another participant is thinking of; or in which participants show a response to a stimulus that has not yet been presented or even chosen. The main problem with these reports, though, is that they are difficult to replicate, and that replication success seems to be contingent on the experimenter's beliefs in the outcome. Moreover, according to many skeptics, the anomalies in the literature primarily reflect an enormous publication bias: positive effects are reported and published, whereas null effects are not reported and filed in the notorious file drawer.

So, what to make of this? Compare the many reports of anomalies to spotting smoke from a watchtower during a rainstorm. Are we seeing fog (i.e. random noise), a smokescreen (a deliberate attempt to mislead) or an actual fire (a real effect - even though it's very unlikely)?

We believe it is worthwhile to further investigate what is going on. Given the controversy surrounding the study of anomalous phenomena, we feel it's clear the debate has not yet been resolved. Regardless of whether anomalous reports in the literature represent publication bias, fraud, bad methods, or a real effect, a better understanding of such exceptional phenomena will lead to better science, either because we will have better research methods, or because we will find out that something unexpected is going on.

The primary mission of the group is to establish and conduct a research programme into anomalous phenomena in order to discover whether such phenomena can be reliably replicated in laboratory studies. We feel it is important for this mission to take a collaborative and long-term approach. The debate on psi will not be resolved by individual experiments, labs, or even meta-analyses. What is needed, is a replicable paradigm confirmed by a multi-site study. To date, such a paradigm does not exist. In particular, we will try establish whether there is a paradigm that will yield an 80% power for finding an anomalous effect.

Core values within this programme are transparency, openness, and adversarial collaboration:

Transparency will be achieved by pre-registering all confirmatory experiments, including a full data-analysis plan. Deviations from this plan will be explicitly documented. 
All experimental protocols (including software and code, and if possible videos of experiments), analysis protocols (e.g. R and Matlab scripts), and data (including pilot data) produced during this project will be archived, and, if possible, directly uploaded to a dedicated, encrypted server

All materials and data will be available to other researchers without restriction. 
Design of experiments, analysis protocols, and data analysis will be done by adversarial collaboration, and ideally, experiments will be carried out at several sites in parallel.

Given that the group is presently based at the Heymans Institute for Psychological Research in Groningen, we have named our group the "Heymans Anomalous Cognition Group", in honour of Gerard Heymans. Heymans was the founder of the first experimental psychology laboratory in the Netherlands, right here in Groningen, but also the first president of the Dutch Society for Psychical Research. He was a keen experimentalist, who also studied anomalous phenomena in a very systematic matter. As such, he was an inspiration for generations of experimental psychologists and parapsychologists to come.