Disquieting Features of Two ‘Confirmatory’ Psi Studies by Patrizio Tressoldi

In a previous post I reviewed the current status of psychical research in reference to so-called ‘confirmatory studies’ of laboratory psi. I concluded that the body of recent evidence suggests that the non-existence of laboratory psi is looking ever more certain.

The case for the existence of laboratory psi appears to rely almost entirely on studies led by a single, notable researcher, Dr. Patrizio Tressoldi at the University of Padua in Italy. Tressoldi’s collaborators include John Kruth, Executive Director of the Rhine Research Center, Durham, North Carolina, USA, Rupert Sheldrake and other notable figures in Parapsychology.

In total Tressoldi has registered 11 studies that are claimed to be confirmatory at the Koestler Parapsychology Unit. Nine of these preregistered studies have already published findings and findings for two of the studies are yet to be announced.

An ongoing investigation is examining the documentation of Tressoldi’s extraordinary claims. I say ‘extraordinary’ not only because of the nature of the claims, which fly in the face of accepted Science, but because they are the outliers of the majority of confirmatory studies, which are pointing to the non-existence of psi. Thus Tressoldi’s findings are exceptional.

As noted in my previous post, all of the studies claimed as fully confirmatory come from Patrizio Tressoldi’s laboratory. This preliminary report considers the status of two of Tressoldi’s confirmatory studies that are claimed to have found evidence of psi. An analysis is ongoing but is already revealing some disquieting features.

There is a case for voiding two studies with IDs 1002 and 1013 registered at the Koestler Parapsychology Unit for the reasons outlined below.

Reasons for Voiding Study 1002

According to the registration document, this study tests a single confirmatory hypothesis, namely that pupil dilation can predict and avoid potential negative stimulation. The report of the study is published in the journal EXPLORE with the title: “Does Psychophysiological Predictive Anticipatory Activity Predict Real or Future Probable Events?”

The paper states:

Experiments 1 and 2:The first two experiments are conceptual replications of studies by Tressoldi et al.,2, 3 using heart rate (HR) as PAA, instead of PD. 

Experiments 3 and 4:The following two experiments are a variant of the experiments of Tressoldi et al.3 The only difference being that the negative event predicted in the anticipatory phase was skipped instead of presented. Comparing the results with the previous experiments and the following ones, it is possible to test further the “bilking paradox,” that is, whether it is possible to avoid predicted future negative events, giving more support to the results observed in the experiment 2.

Experiment 4 This is an exact replication of the experiments by Tressoldi et al.,3 aimed at testing if the observed prediction accuracy holds even when the alerting stimuli get skipped when predicted from the measurement of the PD before their presentation.  

Note that reference 3 is to a paper in F1000: Tressoldi PE, Martinelli M, Semenzato L. “Pupil dilation prediction of random events [v2; ref status: approved with…]” which is disconfirmed study ID 1001.

A study (1002) cannot be called “confirmatory” if the study it is supposed to be replicating (1001): 1) did not itself find any significant outcomes and 2) was not fully approved for publication by its two peer reviewers.  

Reasons for Voiding Study 1013

In study 1013, the investigators changed the hypothesis for the study after the data had been collected. This invalidates the study as a pre-registered confirmatory study.

In addition, a post-publication re-analysis by an independent reviewer indicates that an incorrect statistical analysis was carried out for the original report of the findings.

Revision of Table of Confirmatory Findings

The voiding of two studies by Tressoldi for the reasons given above leads to a revised distribution of outcomes as shown in the table below.

INVESTIGATORCONFIRMATIONDISCONFIRMATIONTOTALS  
TRESSOLDI  437
OTHERS  1(partial)1718
TOTALS  52025
The outcomes of pre-reregistered confirmatory studies with published findings at the Koestler Parapsychology Unit’s Register
after voiding of studies 1002 and 1013

The above figures give an Exact Fisher Test statistic value of 0.0123 (p<.01). The percentage of claimed confirmatory psi studies is 20.0%, four of which are Tressoldi’s.

Conclusions

Owing to voiding of two studies, the number of genuine preregistered, confirmatory studies by Tressoldi has been reduced from 9 to 7. Of these seven, only four have reported positively confirmatory findings. These four studies remain as outliers beside the 20 disconfirming studies in the total of 25.

TABLE OF STUDIES IN THE ONGOING INVESTIGATION

No.  Study Title

Lead AuthorDate SubmittedStudy IDLink to Registered Information  Post-publication review of findings
PT11PsyPhotos (C)Patrizio Tressoldi & Luciano Pederzoli3rd Oct 20191054KPU Registry 1054NO PAPER YET PUBLISHED.  
PT10Mind-matter interaction at distance on a standalone device (C)Patrizio Tressoldi & Luciano Pederzoli21st Feb 20191049KPU Registry 1049   Published Results DISCONFIRMEDNO CHANGE TO DISCONFIRMATION DECISION.
PT9Telephone telepathy, an Italian independent exact replication (C)Patrizio Tressoldi & Rupert Sheldrake3rd Nov 20181048KPU Registry 1048  NO PAPER YET PUBLISHED.    
PT8Can our mind emit light? A confirmatory experiment of mental interaction at distance on a photomultiplier (C) STUDY SHOULD BE VOIDED.Patrizio Tressoldi & John Kruth6th Jul 20151013KPU Registry 1013
Errata
Published Results CONFIRMATION CLAIM VOIDED
NOTE: ON AUGUST 15, 2015,THE INVESTIGATORS CHANGED THE PREDICTION FOR THE CONFIRMATION STUDY 1013 AFTER THE DATA HAD BEEN COLLECTED. THIS INVALIDATES THE STUDY.   IN ADDITION, A RE-ANALYSIS BY A POST-PUBLICATION PEER REVIEWER INDICATES THAT AN INCORRECT STATISTICAL ANALYSIS WAS CARRIED OUT.   SSRN
Re-analysis by Grote (2017; https://www.neuroquantology.com/article.php?id=1699) questions the finding claiming an incorrect statistical assumption by the authors.
PT7Biophotons as physical correlates of mental interaction at distance: a new confirmatory study (C)Patrizio Tressoldi & John Kruth29th Apr 20151012KPU Registry 1012
Published Results CONFIRMATION CLAIMED
Confirmatory hypotheses: The number of photons detected by the PMT in the 30 minutes after the MI will outperform those detected in the 30 minutes before the MI. These differences will hold subtracting the number of photons in the corresponding 60 minutes of the control sessions. SSRN: Same as 1013 above. Can Our Minds Emit Light at 7300 km Distance? A Pre-Registered Confirmatory Experiment of Mental Entanglement with a Photomultiplier. ANALYSIS ONGOING  
PT6CardioAlert: A portable assistant for the choice between negative or positive random events (C)Patrizio Tressoldi17th Mar 20151011KPU_Registry_1011
Published Results CONFIRMATION CLAIMED
SSRN: CardioAlert: A Heart Rate Based Decision Support System for Improving Choices Related to Negative or Positive Future Events. ANALYSIS ONGOING    
PT5Biophotons as physical correlates of mental interaction at distance: a confirmatory study (C)Patrizio Tressoldi & John Kruth8th Oct 20141010KPU_Registry_1010
Published Results DISCONFIRMATION
SSRN: Can our Mind Emit Light? Mental Entanglement at Distance with a Photomultiplier.   ANALYSIS ONGOING    
PT4Mind-matter interaction at distance on a random events generator (REG): a confirmatory study (C)Patrizio Tressoldi15th May 20141009KPU_Registry_1009
Published Results CONFIRMATION CLAIMED
NeuroQuantology: Mind-Matter Interaction at a Distance of 190 km: Effects on a Random Event Generator Using a Cutoff Method.   ANALYSIS ONGOING    
PT3Brain-to-brain (mind-to-mind) interaction at distance: a proof of concept of mental telecommunication (C)Patrizio Tressoldi23rd Apr 20141008KPU_Registry_1008
Published Results CONFIRMATION CLAIMED
SSRN: Brain-to-Brain (Mind-to-Mind) Interaction at Distance: A Confirmatory Study   ANALYSIS ONGOING  
PT2Pupil dilation prediction of random negative events. Can they be avoided? (C)   THIS STUDY WAS EXPLORATORY NOT CONFIRMATORY.   STUDY SHOULD BE VOIDED.Patrizio Tressoldi1st Feb 20131002KPU_Registry_1002
Published Results CONFIRMATION CLAIM
VOIDED
According to the registration document, this study tests a single confirmatory hypothesis, namely that pupil dilation can predict and avoid potential negative stimulation. SSRN: Does Psychophysiological Predictive Anticipatory Activity Predict Real or Future Probable Events? This paper is published in EXPLORE. It states: “Experiments 1 and 2:The first two experiments are conceptual replications of studies by Tressoldi et al.,2, 3 using heart rate (HR) as PAA, instead of PD.  “Experiments 3 and 4:The following two experiments are a variant of the experiments of Tressoldi et al.3 The only difference being that the negative event predicted in the anticipatory phase was skipped instead of presented. Comparing the results with the previous experiments and the following ones, it is possible to test further the “bilking paradox,” that is, whether it is possible to avoid predicted future negative events, giving more support to the results observed in the experiment 2.” “Experiment 4 This is an exact replication of the experiments by Tressoldi et al.,3 aimed at testing if the observed prediction accuracy holds even when the alerting stimuli get skipped when predicted from the measurement of the PD before their presentation.”   Note that reference 3 is from F1000: Tressoldi PE, Martinelli M, Semenzato L. Pupil dilation prediction of random events [v2; ref status: approved with…] the disconfirmed study 1001. A study cannot be confirmatory when the study being replicated did not itself find any significant outcomes and was not fully approved for publication by the reviewers at F1000 (see below).  
PT1Pupil dilation accuracy in the prediction of random events (C)Patrizio Tressoldi26th Nov 20121001KPU_Registry_1001
Published Results
(1 of 2)
Published Results
(2 of 2) DISCONFIRMATION
Publication 1 of 2: F1000 Version 1: peer review 1 approved 1 approved with reservations Version 2 peer review: 2 approved with reservations. Thus, the peer reviewers gave a lower level of approval to Version 2 than Version 1 because they remained highly concerned about the statistical analysis, which one claimed was circular.   Publication 2 of 2: SSRN Results at chance level. Thus, the experimental hypothesis was disconfirmed.    

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