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No. 117: May-June 1998

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Ability To Detect Covert Observation

In SF#115, experiments by R. Sheldrake seemed to show that people could somehow sense when they were being stared at. One particularly sensitive individual was able to do this 90% of the time. But other experiments say otherwise.

"A study was conducted to evaluate persons' purported ability to detect hidden observers. Anecdotally, most people (87%) report that covert observation can be detected. A total of 140 college students individually sat in a room with a two-way mirror and videomonitor camera. They were told that they might be observed for any or all of the subsequent 5 min. Participants noted whether they felt a hidden observer watched them during each minute of the 5-min. session. After the session, students reported if a possible hidden observer watched via a two-way mirror or video camera or if they were not watched. Students were unable to detect observation beyond chance."

(Rosenthal, Gary T., et al; "Ability to Detect Covert Observation," Perceptual and Motor Skills, 85:75, 1997.)

From Science Frontiers #117, MAY-JUN 1998. 1998-2000 William R. Corliss