Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research Laboratory

The Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research (PEAR) was a research program at Princeton University that studied parapsychology.[1] Established in 1979 by then Dean of Engineering Robert G. Jahn, PEAR closed in February 2007.[2] The program was controversial.[3]

PEAR's primary purpose was to engage in parapsychological exercises on topics such as psychokenesis (PK) and remote viewing.[4][5] The program had a strained relationship with Princeton University, and was an embarrassment to Princeton[6][7] and characterized as "an embarrassment to science" by Robert L. Park.[2][8][9] PEAR's work has been rejected by the scientific community and is considered pseudoscience.[9][10][11][12][13]

Parapsychological experiments with random numbers

PEAR employed electronic random event generators (REGs) to explore the ability of test subjects to use telekinesis to influence the random output distribution of these devices to conform to their pre-recorded intentions to produce higher numbers, lower numbers, or nominal baselines.[14] Most of these experiments utilized a microelectronic REG, but experiments were also conducted with "a giant, wall-mounted pachinko-like machine with a cascade of bouncing balls".[2] PEAR's activities have been criticized for their lack of scientific rigor, poor methodology, and misuse of statistics.[15]

In 1984, the United States National Academy of Sciences, at the request of the US Army Research Institute, formed a scientific panel to assess the best evidence from 130 years of parapsychology. Part of its purpose was to investigate military applications of PK, for example to remotely jam or disrupt enemy weaponry. The panel heard from a variety of military staff who believed in PK and made visits to the PEAR laboratory and two other laboratories that had claimed positive results from micro-PK experiments. The panel criticized macro-PK experiments for being open to deception by conjurors, and said that virtually all micro-PK experiments "depart from good scientific practice in a variety of ways". Their conclusion, published in a 1987 report, was that there was no scientific evidence for the existence of psychokinesis.[16] The psychologist C. E. M. Hansel who evaluated Jahn's early psychokinesis experiments at the PEAR laboratory wrote that a satisfactory control series had not been employed, they had not been independently replicated and the reports contained lack of detail. Hansel noted that "very little information is provided about the design of the experiment, the subjects, or the procedure adopted. Details are not given about the subjects, the times they were tested, or the precise conditions under which they were tested."[17]

In all cases, the observed effects were very small (about one tenth of one percent), but over extensive databases they compounded to statistically significant deviations from chance behavior.[15] The baseline for chance behavior used did not vary as statistically appropriate (baseline bind). Two PEAR researchers attributed this baseline bind to the motivation of the operators to achieve a good baseline.[18] It has been noted that a single test subject (presumed to be a member of PEAR's staff) participated in 15% of PEAR's trials, and was responsible for half of the total observed effect.[15] PEAR's results have been criticized for deficient reproducibility. In one instance two German organizations failed to reproduce PEAR's results, while PEAR similarly failed to reproduce their own results.[18] An attempt by York University's Stan Jeffers also failed to replicate PEAR's results.[15]


  1. ^ Pigliucci, Massimo (2010-05-15). Nonsense on Stilts: How to Tell Science from Bunk. University of Chicago Press. p. 77. ISBN . 
  2. ^ a b c Carey, Benedict (2007-02-10). "A Princeton lab on ESP plans to close its doors". The New York Times. 
  3. ^ *Burnett, D. Graham (Summer 2009). "Games of chance". Cabinet (34 Testing). 
  4. ^ Hopkins, Peter L. (2002-04-11). "Princeton studies mind reading - or did you already know that?". The Harvard Crimson. Retrieved 2014-12-03. 
  5. ^ "Experiments". Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research. 
  6. ^ Shallit, Jeffrey (2006-11-19). "The PEAR has finally rotted". Recursivity. Blogger. Retrieved 2014-12-05. 
  7. ^ "Princeton to close ESP lab". USA Today. Associated Press. 2007-02-11. Retrieved 2014-12-05. 
  8. ^ Siegel, Robert (host); Norris, Michele (host); Dunne, Brenda (guest) (2007-02-12). "ESP research lab closes after 28 years". All Things Considered. National Public Radio. Retrieved 2014-12-03.
  9. ^ a b Reed, J.D. (2003-03-09). "Mind over matter". The New York Times. 
  10. ^ Merolla, Lisa (2007-02-23). "‘Pseudoscience’ lab closes at Princeton". The Daily Free Press (Boston). 
  11. ^ Marek, Anthony (2007-02-28). "When is 'research' not really research?". Washington Square News (New York). UWIRE. 
  12. ^ Oling-Smee, L (2007-03-01). "The lab that asked the wrong questions". Nature 446 (7131): 10–1. PMID 17330012. doi:10.1038/446010a. 
  13. ^ Alcock, JE (2003). "Give the null hypothesis a chance: Reasons to remain doubtful about the existence of Psi". Journal of Consciousness Studies 10 (6-7): 29–50. 
  14. ^ Jahn, RG; Dunne, BJ; Nelson, RD; Dobyns, YH et al. (1997). "Correlations of random binary sequences with pre-stated operator intention: A review of a 12-year program". Journal of Scientific Exploration 11 (3): 345–67. 
  15. ^ a b c d Carroll, Robert Todd (2013-04-16). "The Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research (PEAR)". The Skeptic's Dictionary (online ed.). 
  16. ^ Frazier, Kendrick (1990-12-31). "Improving Human Performance: What About Parapsychology?". The Hundredth Monkey and Other Paradigms of the Paranormal. Prometheus Books. pp. 149–61. ISBN . 
  17. ^ Hansel, C.E.M. (1989). The Search for Psychic Power. Prometheus Books. pp. 187–95. ISBN . 
  18. ^ a b Jeffers, Stanley (May–June 2006). "The PEAR proposition: Fact or fallacy?". Skeptical Inquirer (Committee for Skeptical Inquiry) 30.3. Retrieved 2014-01-24. 

External links

  • Official website
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