The Great Australian Psychic Prediction Project finds ‘psychics’ perform worse than random chance,Richard Saunders,The Skeptic

This article is gratefully reprinted with permission from The Skeptic (Australia), Volume 41, No 4, December 2021.

The Great Australian Psychic Prediction Project is an analysis of over 3800 psychic or otherwise paranormal predictions, made by 207 people in Australia claiming to have knowledge of future events. All were published in Australian media (magazines, newspapers, radio and TV, or via websites, YouTube and other sources), covering a 21-year period (2000 to 2020). For the purposes of this report, those who made the predictions will be known as “psychics” although some lay claim to using other kinds of force or abilities such as reading the future in the stars and planets.

The purpose of the project was to gather and review enough data to be able to draw a valid conclusion to the question of whether certain individuals in our society really do possess the ability or power, by psychic or otherwise paranormal means, to be able to reliably predict or foresee events in the future. It is not, nor has it ever been, an exercise in so-called debunking of paranormal claims. The project was undertaken with an open mind with the goal of seeking to get at the truth of the issue.

The mechanism employed by any individual psychic is of passing interest. The project is really only interested in the final results of any prediction. It is a case of invoking ‘Hyman’s Maxim’, which states, “Don’t try to explain HOW something works until you find out THAT it works.”

And the result of that scientific analysis indicates that psychics are appallingly bad at predicting future events. In summary:

Only 11% of predictions are “correct”.The profession’s journal, the International Psychics Directory, has only 8.5% correct.Most predictions were too vague, expected, or simply wrong.Most of what happens is not predicted, and most of what is predicted does not happen.

It is anticipated that this report will be used by other groups and the media as a reference.

History of prophecies

The claimed phenomenon of being able to foretell events by paranormal, supernatural, divine or spiritual means, is probably as old as human society. There are many examples from various religions, such as can be found in the Book of Revelation from the New Testament, dealing with the so-called ‘end times’.

Over millennia, there are individuals, sometimes associated with religion, sometimes not, who claim to possess the power of divination or who are looked upon by society as having such powers. Many superstitions and rituals developed around the uncertainty of existence for individuals and societies, such as the next season’s crops or other activities. What might happen in the future was vital knowledge and any possible insights were of great importance.

Possibly the best-known seer or predictor of future events in popular culture is Michel de Nostredame, usually referred to as ‘Nostradamus’, who in 1555 published the book Les Prophéties, a collection of 942 poetic quatrains. Most are intentionally vague and open to interpretation, with some reused or recycled over the centuries to ‘shoehorn’ (see later in this report about this practice) in order to fit more recent events or people.

An example of this reuse comes from the works of John Hogue who in the first edition of his book Nostradamus and the Millennium determined that Ayatollah Khomeini was the anti-Christ referred to by Nostradamus. When the Ayatollah died, the next edition of the book replaced the Ayatollah with Saddam Hussein. It may well be the case that every generation will find some sort of anti-Christ they can credit to Nostradamus, which renders the original prediction as worthless.

The extent of this fascination with Nostradamus, especially in the latter part of the 20th century, can be seen in an issue of New Idea magazine from Australia, published shortly after the 9/11 attacks of 2001. It carried these words on the back cover:

In the City of God there will be a great thunder,
Two brothers torn apart by Chaos,
while the fortress endures, the great leader will succumb.
The third big war will begin when the big city is burning.
Nostradamus 1654

The quatrain was actually written by Neil Marshall, a student from Canada, in a paper entitled “A Critical Analysis of Nostradamus.” Marshall invented the quatrain to illustrate how a vague prediction can be cited to fit events. But it was far more important for New Idea to include something mystical to appeal to its readers than it was for the editors to verify the authenticity of the quote. This practice is widespread and will be covered later in this report. A short search on the Internet would have revealed that Nostradamus died in 1566, 88 years before the date of the quatrain.

The fad for referring to Nostradamus has noticeably declined over the past 20 years, possibly due to the increasing number of failed predictions such as this one concerning the year 1999:

The year one thousand nine ninety-nine seven month
From the sky shall come a great King of terror,
[Shall be] revived the great King of Angoulmois.
Before and after, Mars [shall] reign as chance will have it.

As history records, nothing resembling the prediction happened in July 1999. It should be noted that this quatrain is rare for Nostradamus as it gives an actual date. James Randi remarked that every time Nostradamus mentioned a date, the prediction has failed to come true.

A more recent example of religious prophecy comes from 2011 when billboards sponsored by Harold Camping of Family Radio based in the United States, appeared in many cities around the world, including Sydney, Australia, proclaiming that “the Rapture” would take place on May 21, 2011. Needless to say, this prediction failed to materialise.

James Randi, writing in his 1995 book An Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural, lists 44 failed end-of-the-world predictions dating from biblical to modern times although the full number of such predictions is much higher. Skeptical groups note that such predictions occur every year, with 2021 being no exception.

The project

The genesis of the Great Australian Pcychic Prediction Project came from a talk given by the author in the year 2010 at “The Amazing Meeting Australia”, in Sydney, a joint James Randi Educational Foundation and Australian Skeptics event, where he reviewed the predictions for that year made in the pages of the Australian Psychics Directory magazine.

Many TV and radio shows will feature people who claim to have paranormal powers, giving their predictions in December and January for the year ahead, but rarely, if ever, will the same shows make an analysis of the predictions at the end of the year. If they do, it will be to mention the predictions that came true, picking those that were uncontentious or those that in the opinion of the psychic came true. Incorrect predictions are generally ignored.

This situation is expected, as the TV and radio shows are not in the business of downplaying or degrading claimed psychic abilities. The segments are usually short, enjoyed by the viewers on the day and soon forgotten. The same can be said for magazines that print predictions – their readers will enjoy the column, based largely on celebrity gossip, and soon forget it. It would be counter-productive for the producers or editors to cast doubt on these people who are paid, or receive exposure, and are helping to generate income for the media outlet involved. It is, after all, a business.

The word of the psychic, that they are amazingly accurate – complete with a few examples – is often enough to meet the editors’ or producers’ requirements. It is more important for the psychic to produce column inches or present well on TV. Whether the predictions made ‘on the day’ later turn out to be wrong is of no particular importance.

Predictions concerning celebrities – the lives, loves and careers of famous in our database. Of those, around 7% concern actress Nicole Kidman; as the subject of predictions, she appears more than any other individual in the database.

This prevalence of predictions concerning celebrities may well reflect the human fascination with gossip and rumours. Predictions concerning celebrities can be seen as satisfying a need of gaining some sort of inside information about prominent people. It is also a relatively easy task for the one making the prediction, as ultimately the predictions don’t need to be based on truth as they are usually soon forgotten and can be categorised as just an opinion of what might happen.

Methodology

Collecting and archiving predictions from original sources was no small undertaking and meant many hundreds of hours of research and investigation over a 12-year period. This included looking at every page of magazines such as New Idea and Woman’s Day. While not all issues were available, most were accessible at the State Libraries of NSW and Victoria.

Other predictions were collected by searches of online newspaper archives and from archived video segments from popular TV chat and morning shows, radio interviews etc.

Yet more predictions were collected from the web pages and YouTube videos of psychics. Some of these predictions, especially from somewhat long and rambling videos, have been distilled and paraphrased for the sake of brevity.

The structure of the database is in the form of a spreadsheet, as follows.

Column #1 – the year for which the prediction was madeColumn #2 – the name of the person who made the predictionColumn #3 – where and when the prediction was publishedColumn #4 – the generic topic of the predictionColumn #5 – the main subject of the predictionColumn #6 – the text of the predictionColumn #7 – verdict (correct, wrong, too vague, expected, or unknown)Column #8 – explanatory notes if needed

The list of 207 psychics recorded in the database is extensive, with many well-known names and many that are obscure. Georgina Walker heads the list with the most entries – 277, or about 7% of the entire database. Of her predictions, about 88% concern celebrities.

While it may never be known whether individual psychics in the database truly believe they have a paranormal ability to see future events, they at least claim to do so. As such, any prediction published over the 21- year period covered by the project from a psychic via whatever means including messages from spirits, dreams, feelings, tarot cards, astrology and so on, is deemed to be a psychic or otherwise paranormal prediction, and thus qualified for inclusion.

It has to be acknowledged that gathering all psychic or otherwise paranormal predictions published in Australia over the period of the project was not possible. Not every prediction is kept in an archive, some that are archived are not accessible, and some are simply lost. We expect that some criticism will arise that the database is incomplete. This and other expected criticisms are addressed elsewhere in this report. However, it is felt by the author that with over 3800 catalogued predictions, the conclusions drawn are reasonable and valid and a fair representation of predictions in general. It is reasonably expected that even if every prediction could be collected, the results in general would not vary to any significant degree.

The wording of each prediction in the database is copied from the original source with a digital copy of the source kept for reference. These files consist mainly of scans or photographs of magazine pages, PDF copies from online newspaper archives, video files of TV shows, and audio files from radio. Also included in the reference files are copies of various web pages with timestamps to show that predictions were made before the events being predicted. The purpose of retaining these files is to validate the information in the database as true and accurate. Websites that boasted the success of predictions but were published after the events mentioned were not included unless the original predictions could be verified.

Assessing the predictions

Much of the early work on the project was conducted by the author, but it became apparent as the project continued for year after year that more help was needed in not only collecting but also in assessing predictions. For several weekends in 2016, a small team from Australian Skeptics Inc met to pore over the predictions and research them to draw conclusions. This was invaluable to the project and those involved are thanked in the credits.

At other periods over the years predictions were sent via email or text messages to people who would spend time researching the outcomes. These results would be reviewed by the author for inclusion into the database.

In June 2020, and with the database growing to thousands of entries, a new group was formed via Zoom video meetings. The group met each week for over a year and varied in size from five to ten people, mostly from Australia, Canada, and USA. Each meeting lasted two hours but sometimes longer. These meetings consisted of the author supplying a prediction from the database and then the group researching the outcome of the prediction. This was done with each prediction being discussed and online searches used to discover the result. At times this was a quick task with the answer found easily as either a predicted event happened, or it did not. At other times it took great effort and much searching to discover the answer. Stock market charts, interest rates over the years, housing markets, exchange rates and so on all took a great deal of time to research. Even the plight of any particular sporting team took time and effort to research. If the conclusion was debated, the author made the final call. Many of these uncertain predictions ended up being catalogued as “Too Vague”. Having many eyes looking over the same prediction proved to be a great asset to the project.

Cloaking a prediction in vague terms will be discussed later in this report, however it is worth noting that around 19% of all the predictions catalogued in the database are of a vague nature and thus open to interpretation, especially in hindsight. Not all predictions are clear with a definitive “Correct” or “Wrong” result.

Each prediction was listed under two categories, those being “Topic” and “Main Subject”. For example, this prediction from Milton Black in 2004: “Melbourne Cup: Winning horse is dark brown.” is designated “Sport” as the topic and “Melbourne Cup’’ as the main subject. Other topics include members of the UK royal family, natural disasters, science, celebrities, and terrorism. It was not always possible to find obvious categories and some predictions are placed under what could more-or-less be called the topic and main subject.

Correct or Wrong

Assessing the predictions proved to be much more involved and time consuming than was anticipated. Many of the predictions could be assessed relatively easily as being correct, in other words, it was judged that any reasonable person would agree the event predicted did indeed come to pass, or wrong with the same reasoning. A great deal of these events are simply part of the historical record. For example, either someone had two children or they did not, a political party won the election or it did not. However, other predictions were not so clear cut.

Marking a prediction as “Correct” did at times present one of the many interesting aspects of this project. Does a mundane prediction coming true carry the same weight as a longshot or an unlikely prediction coming true? For example, in 2013 Kerry Sees writing in The Advertiser (Adelaide) on the 5 October, predicted that Australia would win the upcoming Ashes test cricket series against England. Australia won and so the prediction is marked as “Correct”. However, there was more or less a 50/50 chance of this occurring, as with many other predictions that look at the outcome of sporting matches between two teams, although this at times can vary if one team is favoured owing to recent strong performances.

Then we have this prediction from Maria Campbell who was quoted in The Area News (Griffith) on the 9 January, 2015:

She said she was deeply concerned about future terrorist attacks. ‘The Canberra shopping centre will be a target – I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s a suicide bomber – and there will be one in Parramatta too.’

Although the first part of this prediction is wrong, Parramatta did suffer a terrorist-related attack in October 2015 when a 15-year-old boy shot police civilian finance worker. It would be reasonable to consider this event as a longshot even though it was not a suicide bomber as predicted.

Overall what might be called longshot or amazing predictions (which predictions fall under this category is sometimes open to debate) coming true are extremely rare in the database, with the vast majority being of a more mundane nature. Thus these are not singled out in the database, but catalogued as simply being “Correct”.

A case worth examining in more detail is this prediction from 2001 by Kerry Kulkens:

Major American cities targeted for terrorist attacks a lot of carnage is indicated.

While this undeniably happened (New York and Washington DC, 9/11) and the prediction is marked “Correct”, we should also take into consideration the overall hit to miss ratio of Ms Kulkens. This turns out to be only 4.69% correct with the remainder being listed as “Wrong”, “Too Vague” or “Expected” collectively. This led to the conclusion that this particular prediction was more of a random chance success rather than a mystical insight. If someone makes many predictions – in the case of Kulkens, 213 listed in total – then we would expect some of them would come true regardless. With this in mind the general trend in the database was that the more predictions recorded for an individual or for a certain topic from many individuals, the more the percentage of correct predictions settled close to the 11% mark.

It is much harder to draw conclusions from those in the database with relatively few entries, as in the case of Patsy Bennett and Charmaine Wilson, both of whom have only six predictions listed with none being correct. It would be expected that if there were more entries from these people, some at least would be correct. Alternatively, we have a 50% success rate for Konnie Gold, however with only 4 catalogued predictions meaning only two are correct. While we cannot draw satisfactory conclusions for these individuals, their collective results do add to the overall results.

Too vague

Vague predictions often dealt with matters of the heart or were rambling and confusing or contradictory. These can be open to interpretation or even be impossible to falsify. An example comes from this prediction made in 2009, published in The Sunday Mail, (Adelaide, 27 December), by Sarina Damen: “A major Hollywood couple, with connections to Europe, will go their separate ways.”

What does “connections to Europe” mean exactly? Who determines who is “a major Hollywood couple” (or even a minor Hollywood couple, for that matter)? This prediction could well be placed in the “Expected” category.

More vagueness is found in predictions like this one from Simon Turnbull, writing in the Sun Herald (Sydney) in 2009:

Elle Macpherson: Love: A recent agreement with a man close to her will attract a breakthrough love-wise, but she is unsure whether the compatibility issue will wash.

Vagueness can also take the form in what we may call ‘New Age’ or spiritual predictions such as this one from Rose Armytage published in the International Psychics Directory for 2005:

2005 is a 7 year, so there will be a need for people to get more in touch with their inner being.

The term used by those working on this project for such predictions was ‘waffle’. Some criticism is expected at the way such predictions are interpreted and this point is addressed later in this report.

Psychics and others claiming paranormal abilities have in the past justified the vagueness of their predictions or readings by shifting the blame on to the indistinct messages (via visions, signs, voices, dreams or feelings) they receive from disembodied spirits, much as a faith healer may try to abdicate the claims of healing the sick that are implied, by stating it is not they who heal, it is the power of God working through them. Thus, in both cases if a prediction is vague or wrong or a healing does not take place, the responsibility can be shifted off the one making the claim. For the purposes of this project, those arguments are irrelevant and the person making the prediction is credited with and is responsible for that prediction.

Having vague predictions that can be open to interpretation may result in what is known as ‘shoehorning’, discussed later in this report.

Expected

There are predictions which could technically be categorised as “correct”, as they did come to pass, but which are so obvious that they need to be differentiated and have thus been listed as “expected”. Such predictions show no indication of any psychic ability, and may include such topics as health concerns for elderly people (such as Prince Phillip), the USA being involved in a foreign conflict, advancements in medical science, and even more vague examples such as “A well-known American comedian will pass away” – an actual prediction.

It is also common for predictions about natural disasters where we have examples such as this one from ‘Harry T’ writing in the International Psychics Directory in 2015:

I see large earthquakes happening in several parts of the world in particular California (USA), Mexico, China and Japan.

Other examples of “Expected” include predicting that a longshot event won’t happen. For example, a sporting team, one among many in a league, will not win a competition. In January of 2011 Donna Abraham is quoted in the Leader (Wyndham):

And in bad news for Western Bulldogs fans, she was negative about their chances of winning a premiership this year.

With 17 teams in the competition that year, this prediction is far more likely to come true.

When considering these predictions, researchers looked at historical trends, for example weather patterns, economic trends, history of certain natural disasters occurring in certain regions such as earthquakes and so on. If a prediction matched the normal or expected trend it was catalogued under “Expected”.

Unknown

It was discovered that some of the predictions were very difficult to analyse as they related to specific events that may not be in the public record. An example of this comes once more from Ann Ann who wrote in Woman’s Day magazine on the 6th of January, 2003 about Nicole Kidman:

She’ll also have some minor surgery.

While no reports were found, it is entirely possible that the prediction came true. However, unless we were to ask Ms Kidman, we may never know. Predictions of a very personal nature are easy to make but very hard to verify. These predictions were listed as “Unknown” in the database and may be reassessed once better information comes to hand. It is possible, however, that we may never know the true outcome of some of these predictions.

A very few predictions listed talk about events post 2020 and thus are out of the range of the project unless those could be examined in light of events in 2021.

Many predictions in one

Some predictions encountered were long and wordy with what turned out to be many facets or extra predictions woven into the overall outlook. With these it was necessary to separate and analyse the predictions within the prediction, as much as possible. An example of this was from 2001 with Georgina Walker writing in New Idea about the actress Cate Blanchett:

The next five years for Cate will be fantastic and will see her reach the pinnacle of her success. I keep thinking of an old movie called The Three Faces of Eve and feel that she will take on a role with multiple personalities. This movie will be to her what Gladiator was to Russell Crowe. I sense tension on the home front, and Cate may take time off to concentrate on her marriage to scriptwriter Andrew Upton.

This was finally broken down into four separate predictions that varied from “Correct” to “Wrong” to “Unknown”.

Easy to predict but difficult to analyse

Surprisingly many of the short predictions in the database proved to be difficult and time-consuming to analyse. These are often related to events in local councils that may or may not have been archived, or be of a vague nature. This example comes from Angelica Danton and was published in the Australian Psychics Directory for 2006:

A famous Aussie actor may decide to make a movie with a spiritual slant.

Analysing this prediction meant researching movies made at the time anywhere in the world, whether it could be said they had a ‘spiritual slant’, what that means, and if an Australian actor was involved and in what capacity.

This aspect of investigation even has its own term, that is “Brandolini’s law” which Wikipedia defines as:

Brandolini’s law, also known as the bullshit asymmetry principle, is an internet adage that emphasizes the difficulty of debunking false, facetious, or otherwise misleading information: ‘The amount of energy needed to refute bullshit is an order of magnitude larger than is needed to produce it.’

It should be noted that while Brandolini’s Law assumes the claim is bogus, for the purposes of this project every claim was judged on its merits.

Self-assessment, cherry-picking, and shoehorning

It is not uncommon for those making predictions to pore over their work and highlight successes either real or perceived. An example of psychics assessing their own predictions can be found in an archived web page from Sarah Kulkens and her mother Kerry Kulkens dated from 2006, where 176 predictions were listed going back to 2001. The predictions they considered to have come true are marked with a tick and those equate to about 75%. These include:

The start of major Earth changesStrange storms and torrential rains very severe weather patterns indicated we may have to learn to live withWild storms and bush fire dangerUsing antigravity to lift heavy objects will become a reality instead of a dream

These same predictions are marked as “Too Vague”, “Expected”, “Expected” and “Wrong” in the database.

There is also the tendency of psychics and/or their followers to ‘shoehorn’ vague, expected or even incorrect predictions, to make them fit events as they play out.

An example of a prediction that could be ‘shoehorned’ comes from 19 October, 2019, where Rose Smith is quoted on the website ‘startsat60. news’ where it says in part:

All of a sudden I could see the Statue of Liberty with all these blue stars rotating above the head. Here I was trying to do a horoscope, ‘This is for America’. It seemed to involve all the states because it reminded me of each state. It was like 10, 12 or 15 involved.

Next minute, Jesus was right in my face and a cross. That usually means sacrifice, so there may be a big sacrifice coming up in America – probably around October, because I was doing October horoscopes at the time.

There’s going to be something really bad happen, but I don’t know what it was because I couldn’t focus on it, as I was doing something different. I could tell it’s bad, it’s going to hurt a lot of people. It might be, and I’m guessing here, something like new legislation that puts large numbers of people out of work. Or it might be health care legislation. All I know is millions of people will be affected.

In hindsight it could be tempting to view this as a forewarning of COVID-19, but to do that would be to cherry pick the parts of the overall prediction that fit and ignore the rest, especially the reference to October 2019. The last line dealing with health care legislation could be seen as the continuing efforts of the Trump administration to dismantle Obama Care, but this was hardly an unknown situation. As it stands this prediction is catalogued under the “Too Vague” column in the database as there are just too many possible interpretations. It is conceivable that this conclusion would be open to criticism by Rose Smith or her supporters who may well view this prediction in a somewhat more forgiving light.

Another notable example comes from April 2020 when the Australian media, especially the 9 TV network, were reporting that ‘Harry T’, a regular TV psychic, had predicted COVID-19 years in advice.

Harry T relied on an email he sent in 2016 to the producers of The Today Show (Channel 9 TV). However, when he appeared on TV in 2020 to trumpet his success, we were not shown the original email, only the following points.

Saw China taking over AmericaSaw more people getting sick – almost like the flu and other diseasesEurope not the greatest feeling – stuff happening – re-organised – Europe will change as we know it.Australia is the safest place to be

From those points he was able, at least to the satisfaction of morning TV, to make them fit the COVID pandemic of 2020 and link what might be otherwise unconnected predictions. It is not known what if any other points were made in the email at the time and one could speculate any other points that did not seem to fit being left out, in other words cherry picking. The above predictions are not included in the database as they were not published at the time in 2016. If they were included, they would be categorised individually as being “Wrong”, “Expected”, “Too Vague” and “Expected”. For more on this, see the report in The Skeptic (Australia) (Vol 40 No 2, p10).

Vague predictions are always open to interpretation as events unfold. The media in April and May of 2020, especially TV, were happy to run with the story as if Harry T really did predict COVID-19.

Astrologer Milton Black states the following on his website:

Milton is renowned for his uncanny and accurate forecasts on world politics and economics. … His predictions are astoundingly accurate.

Nevertheless, an analysis of his predictions in the database shows a success rate of about 20% which is not far above the expected range of what could be considered educated guessing. The problems encountered with Black’s predictions are discussed in the Predictable Complaints sidebar.

They did not see that coming

Another aspect considered were major events in Australia and from around the world that, if people could truly glimpse the future, should have been predicted and published in the media.

To that end, a list of 210 events, 10 from each year of the project, were compiled and compared with the overall database. These events range from the 9/11 attacks (although it is noted that various people claim to have predicted this) to the rise of Donald Trump and the outbreak of COVID-19 (again we have claims of that being predicted). Although we do find many examples of earthquakes and other natural disasters being foretold, most of these are of a vague or expected nature. Most years Australia will have major flooding and/or bush fires, for example.

What was clear after this exercise and looking at the data in the project as a whole, is that most of what is predicted does not occur, and most of what occurs is not predicted.

Control group

This project also tried to have some sort of understanding as to a benchmark or guide for what success rate a ‘psychic’ would need to achieve before we might consider the real possibility of their having paranormal powers.

The flip side of this question is, what success rate would the average person in the street, with no claimed paranormal powers, have in predicting the coming year’s events by just guessing.

To that end, in late 2016 a group of seven volunteers, together with the author, made a list of 162 predictions for the year 2017 that was published online with a timestamp.

The results?

27.2% correct (more than two-and-ahalf times the average of professional psychics); 61.1% wrong, 1.2% vague, and 10.5% expected.

While these are relatively impressive, it has to be noted that Skeptics probably avoided having too many vague-style predictions which are common among professionals, and given the relatively smaller numbers of datapoints it should be viewed as more of a talking point. Nevertheless, higher than the success rate for those claiming paranormal abilities. This may be a result of more educated guess work.

If predictions worked as claimed

Skeptical groups sometimes pose the question, “What would the world be like if certain paranormal or supernatural claims, such as prophecy or divination, were actually true?”

With the Melbourne Cup horse race being the subject of 57 predictions, it is worth considering what it would mean to the horse racing industry if people really could foretell the results of races at a rate above what we would expect from the yearly statistics known from decades of betting. Like casinos, the win/loss ratio is a known quantity and falls within a bell curve of results. If there is an anomaly in favour of a punter, this can lead to suspicion of cheating by whatever means.

This is especially true with casinos where statistics are kept for each table. The house always knows what to expect.

Heavy or consistent betting being placed on winners via psychic predictions would result in a radical change to the operation of horse racing, casinos, lotteries and every other form of betting.

This has never been observed and any consistent anomalies have been the result of more mundane activities ranging from cheating or rigging the system or technical faults with equipment. If it were the case that psychics could correctly predict the outcomes, it could lead to the collapse of these industries. It is interesting to note that while around 20% of predictions concerning the Melbourne Cup are marked as “Correct” in the database, most of these are of a general nature with only 5 predictions naming the actual winner.

On a more serious issue, could psychics be held legally accountable for not passing on warnings of future negative events?

If prophecy or divination really did work as claimed, the entire history of our species would be drastically different, and we would be living in a world unrecognisable to the one we know.

Looking into the future

The Great Australian Psychic Prediction Project, like science itself, is a work in progress. It is open to the addition of new predictions published in Australia by Australian psychics from the time period (2000 – 2020) if found, and the correction of those predictions that are in error such as a “Correct” prediction that is later found out to be “Wrong” or “Too Vague” or indeed a “Wrong” or “Unknown” prediction that is later found out to be “Correct”. Other corrections would be made if people mentioned in the database are misquoted or predictions are misattributed.

Given the sheer number of catalogued predictions, it is not expected that any future corrections will significantly change the conclusions of this report. It is expected that some, or many, of the people listed in the database will come forth with a list of other predictions made by them that are correct or they deem as correct, in order to prove the conclusion wrong, at least in their case. These would be considered for inclusion as long as there was proof of the original publication date, they were not altered and were not cherry picked out of a range of predictions that include those that failed. It is not expected that enough of these possible corrections would be put forward to significantly change the conclusions of this project.

Australian Skeptics welcomes and encourages other groups or individuals anywhere in the world to repeat or create a similar project independently and we would be interested in the results.

Conclusions

Even with taking a margin of error into account, it is hard to see how the results of this project can point to any other conclusion than that those claiming to see into the future simply cannot do so with a success rate better than chance, educated guess work, or luck. There is no reason to come to the conclusion that mystical abilities exist and they can be used to see into the future.

Given the number of predictions – over 3800 – we expected to find many examples of those that came true to one degree or another. It is also noted that psychics and their supporters have at times ‘shoehorned’ predictions to make them fit events as they unfold, thus giving a false impression of success.

A small number of correct predictions can seem uncanny indeed, but again this is expected given we have over 3800 predictions to choose from. Even someone with no claimed mystical powers can score well when making random predictions as we can see with the control group from the year 2017.

It would be also expected that if the people listed in the database could indeed use mystical powers to foresee events, the number of correct predictions would be significantly higher than what was found. The author is confident, given the fact that a 11% correct rate remained more-orless consistent during the years of working on the project, that this rate represents the norm for those claiming psychic abilities.

While this project remains open to correction if errors are discovered, it is not expected that there would be enough errors found to cause a rethink of the conclusions.

In summary, what we find is that:

Psychics make many predictions – the scattergun effect.Many of these are vague and amenable to reinterpretation as events unfold.A few predictions will be more specific.Psychics point out the ones that come true or can be shoehorned, and ignore the rest.There is no need to worry about TV producers or magazine editors verifying the predictions, as they don’t care or need to.There is no need to worry about the viewers or readers verifying your predictions, as they will soon forget them.

Credits

The author would like to thank everyone who over the last 12 years or so has given their time and support to this project. In no particular order: Brian Eggo, Trish Hann, Lara Benham, Alethea Dean, Dr Steve Roberts, Tim Mendham, Sierra Joan, Michelle Franklin, Michelle Bijkersma, Leonard Tramiel, Rob Palmer, Pontus Bockman, Paula Lauterbach, Louis Hillman, Susan Gerbic, Adrienne Hill, Wendy Hughes, Ben Radford, Eric Trabandt, Stan West, Jim Newman, Brian Hart, Dr Angie Mattke, Kelly Burke, Ian Bryce, Percy Crisp, Peter Bowditch, Rebecca Jones, Tom Kelly, Kyle Polich, Mikey Robins, and others.

The post The Great Australian Psychic Prediction Project finds ‘psychics’ perform worse than random chance appeared first on The Skeptic.

Richard Saunders concludes a 12-year investigation by Australian and international researchers, covering over 3800 predictions from more than 200 self-professed psychics, and the results are not encouraging… for psychics.
The post The Great Australian Psychic Prediction Project finds ‘psychics’ perform worse than random chance appeared first on The Skeptic.

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