Effects before causes in the lab?

This is very exciting:


Daryl Bem has taken the unusual, yet elegantly simple, approach of testing a raft of classic psychological phenomena, backwards.

Take priming - the effect whereby a subliminal (i.e. too fast for conscious detection) presentation of a word or concept speeds subsequent reaction times for recognition of a related stimulus. Bem turned this around by having participants categorise pictures as negative or positive and then presenting them subliminally with a negative or positive word. That is, the primes came afterwards. Students were quicker, by an average of 16.5ms, to categorise negative pictures as negative when they were followed by a negative subliminal word (e.g. 'threatening'), almost as if that word were acting as a prime working backwards in time.

Got that? The experimenters have used the same techniques usually employed to see how various events affect people's behaviour, but reversed the order of the stimulus and the measurement of the response, and found that the stimulus has the same effect, even if it hasn't happened yet.

If the experiment has been done correctly, then it confirms what I have long believed. No, not that the structure of space-time is fundamentally different to what we are told. Rather, that the normal scientific techniques used to measure effects and evaluate their significance are no bloody good.

Nobody seems to have picked up on that possibility just yet, but I think the idea will gradually get around.