As part of the February,
1998 "Edgar Cayce Legacy Intuitive Training and Psychic
Development" conference, each participant received
readings from two psychics out of a group of 11. One of our
research goals was to explore the ways in which people
evaluate readings, as a step toward developing a system of
quality control in psychic training.
The evaluation of psychic
readings depends a lot on people's expectations. What did
the people at the conference expect from their readings? Our
questionnaire asked about 11 possible expectations, with a
5-point rating scale from "Not important at all"
to "Very important." The participants rated the
three most important items as, "The psychic perceives
aspects of your self that you are not consciously aware of,
but that make sense when you hear them," "The
psychic tunes into you personally," and "The
psychic is warm and empathetic." The emphasis, then,
was on the psychic making a personal connection with the
The expectations rated
least important were, "The psychic tunes into outside
events (world events, etc.)," "The psychic
provides specific and accurate information about present
events," and "The psychic tunes into other people
with whom you have relationships." We can conclude that
people had far less interest in outside events than they did
about their personal concerns. There was a concern about
relationships, but it was more in terms of the effect on the
client, not the other people.
These expectations are
consistent with the theme of Edgar Cayce's work. He
emphasized helping individuals. Although there are a very
small number of readings dealing with world affairs and
earth changes, the vast majority provided immediately
With these expectations,
what did people think of the readings they received? They
were generally quite pleased. On a 1-9 scale of overall
quality, the average score was about 8. They felt that their
psychics did best in the areas of "providing
advice," "inspirational tone," "valuable
insight," and "tuning into you personally."
These are very similar to the areas in which the people had
the highest expectations. They felt that the psychics did
worst in the areas of "providing information,"
"specificity," and "accuracy." These
areas were still rated relatively highly, however, averaging
about 7.5 on the 9-point scale.
We took a closer look at
specificity and accuracy by asking the participants to
estimate the number of "evidential" items in the
reading. These are statements so specific and accurate they
could only be the result of psychic perception. Edgar Cayce,
for example, commented at the beginning of reading 3904-1,
"What funny paintings!" This person later
confirmed that there were unusual wall decorations. It is
clear evidence of psychic functioning - Cayce had never seen
the person's house, yet gave an accurate description. Not
surprisingly, the number of evidential statements in our
project was not especially high; it ranged from 0 to 30,
with an average of 5.1. But the Cayce readings, too, often
have few evidential statements, and much wise advice. These
few statements are enough to convince people that there is a
true psychic connection. They were not the most important
factor in the rating of overall quality, but they played a
In the next Friends of
Research newsletter, we will look at other factors
influencing the evaluation of readings. Evaluating Psychic
Readings: Part II Douglas G. Richards, Ph.D.
As part of the February,
1998 "Intuitive Training and Psychic Development"
conference, each participant received readings from two
psychics out of a group of 11. One of our research goals was
to explore the ways in which people evaluate readings, as a
step toward developing a system of quality control in
psychic training. In the previous Friends of Research
newsletter, we looked at how people's expectations
influenced their evaluations of readings. Clearly the
conference participants considered their readings to be of
high quality, but how do we know that these evaluations were
not simply wishful thinking? After all, if a psychic tells
you, "You are a wonderful, intelligent person,"
you are likely to feel that the psychic is connecting
directly with you. The skeptical hypothesis is that psychics
simply provide a set of general positive statements that
could apply to anyone. Naturally, people would rate them
highly. This is called the "Barnum Effect," after
showman P. T. Barnum, who said, "A good circus has
something for everyone." Psychologists have studied the
Barnum effect by putting together a set of vague personality
statements that sound a little bit like a psychic reading.
One example is, "While you have some personality
weaknesses, you are generally able to compensate for
them." We used a personality questionnaire made up of
Barnum statements, and asked people to rate how closely each
statement applied to them.
We found that there was no
relationship at all between high ratings of these general
statements and high ratings of psychic readings. As we found
in earlier projects (see February/March, 1998, New
Millennium), people are generally quite critical of vague
statements in readings. This result is very encouraging for
our rating system for reading quality.
Another piece of
information that suggests that the participants were
objectively rating the psychics is that there was no
correlation between the ratings for the first and second
psychic readings, from two different psychics. That is, the
raters were not simply responding with their overall bias,
but considered their readings individually.
Perhaps the most important
question one might ask of a psychic reading is, "Did it
help change a person's life?" We had the people fill
out the "Purpose in Life Scale" at the beginning
and end of the week. This scale measures the degree to which
the person has found a meaningful purpose in life. On the
average, there was a 6.5 point improvement in the scale.
This is less than the 17-point improvement for the Fall,
1997 conference reported in the February/March 1998 New
Millennium. But the purpose of the two conferences was
different. The people in the fall conference came for life
guidance, and spent the week analyzing dreams and discussing
life purpose, in addition to receiving psychic readings.
They started with an average score of 99. This group, on the
other hand, came for the purpose of psychic development, and
started with a score of 113. They arrived at the conference
with a greater sense of meaningful purpose. Receiving
psychic readings increased this sense of purpose even more.
We have learned from this
research that people training in intuitive perception can
also evaluate psychic readings relatively objectively. This
will help in developing a system of quality control for