The influence of latent inhibition on performance at a non-intentional precognition task

Glenn A Hitchman, Chris A Roe, Simon J Sherwood

Research output: Contribution to ConferenceAbstractpeer-review


A property of spontaneous cases of extra-sensory perception, as opposed to those manually instigated, is the lack of conscious intention of the experient or exhibitant to manifest any kind of anomalous phenomena. Despite the wealth of spontaneous case report of ESP phenomena which have been collected by parapsychological researchers, experimental research has often involved asking participants to wilfully manifest anomalous cognition. However, some theories of ESP, such as Stanford‘s psi-mediated instrumental response (PMIR) model predict that such conscious behaviours and cognitions may be counterproductive to the psi process. As a result, recent research, including most notably studies by Luke and colleagues, have included tacit precognition tasks in which psi component of the study is disguised as a conventional psychological test. The paradigm developed by Luke and colleagues involves an image preference task, in which participants are asked to select their preferred images from a series of options. Participants are unaware that this actually constitutes a tacit, forced choice precognition task, with the computer making a random selection of a target image from the response options, which participants‘ selections being scored as a hit or a miss on the basis of whether they match with the computer‘s selections. Stanford‘s model also suggests that psi is goal oriented, helping individuals to achieve rewards and/or avoid punishments. In the Luke studies, participants are consequently either 'punished‘ or 'rewarded‘ based on their precognitive performance in relation to the mean chance expectation. The studies carried out by Luke and colleagues produced highly significant evidence of a non-intentional precognition effect. An attempted replication by Hitchman, Roe and Sherwood was encouraging but inconclusive in relation to the main psi hypothesis and a number of individual difference covariates predicted with Stanford‘s writings. The present study incorporated a number of methodological refinements, whilst focusing on the relationship between performance at the non-intentional psi task and latent inhibition, a factor predicted to influence an individual‘s sensitivity to psi stimuli. Latent inhibition reflects an organism‘s tendency to filter out information from the cognitive system that it has learned is irrelevant to its on-going concerns. However, it is relatively time consuming to measure experimentally, and previous studies had assessed the construct indirectly via a proxy questionnaire measure of Openness to Experience. Encouraged by the suggestive results using such indirect measures, the present study employed a more direct performance measure of latent inhibition in conjunction with a 15-trial non-intentional precognition task. 50 participants completed a two-part auditory discrimination task which gave an measure of their latent inhibition, before proceeding to complete a battery of questionnaires and a binary, forced choice, tacit psi task. They were subsequently either positively or negatively rewarded via images from subsets which participants has pre-rated, with more images from their preferred subsets being shown the better they performed and vice-versa. The results were suggestive of a non-intentional recognition effect, with participants scoring a mean hit rate of 7.96, where 7.5 would be expected by chance, although their outperformance just failed to reach a statistically significant level, t(48) = 1.62, p = .06, one-tailed. However, no evidence was found in support of the predicted internal effects, with both latent inhibition and Openness to Experience found to be unrelated to participants‘ precognitive performance. These findings are interpreted within the context of previous research and Stanford‘s PMIR model.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2012
Event55th Annual Parapsychological Association Convention - Millennium Hotel, Durham, United States
Duration: 9 Aug 201212 Aug 2012


Conference55th Annual Parapsychological Association Convention
Country/TerritoryUnited States


  • Latent inhibition
  • Performance
  • Non-intentional precognition
  • Psychology


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