Scientists have long considered claims that people can manipulate the physical world with their minds. Yet numerous experiments conducted over the past 35 years, in which people try to influence the output of computers that generate random sequences of 1s and 0s, have overall failed to demonstrate the existence of so-called psychokinetic effects, according to a new analysis. Some individual experiments, however, have seemed to indicate an impact.
The random-number studies were inspired by controversial mid-20th century investigations in which volunteers attempted to affect how a rolled die would land. In a typical recent experiment, a participant mentally tries to influence a computer to produce, say, more 1s than 0s over a predefined sequence. The participant receives visual cues that give constant feedback on hits and misses.
Participants shift their focus from 1 to 0 on alternating runs to account for any tendency of the digit device to produce one number slightly mo