A post by tkingdoll
Whenever the subject of psychic pets is brought up, someone will inevitably mention the studies done by Richard Wiseman and Rupert Sheldrake into whether or not a certain Yorkshire Terrier named Jaytee could tell when his owner was coming home. The owner claimed he could. Sheldrake agreed. Wiseman claimed there was no evidence, and Sheldrake disagreed, publicly, although neither party slapped the face of the other with a white glove or called anyone a bounder, as far as we know.
Fast forward several years, and both studies, plus the ensuingâ€¦erâ€¦dogfight have become an amusing, and occasionally useful, part of skeptical lore.
The first informal studies into Jayteeâ€™s alleged abilities were undertaken by Sheldrake in 1994, followed by several formal ones in the subsequent years. Poor doggy. All he wanted was a bowl of tripe and instead he got Rupert Sheldrake. Sheldrakeâ€™s seemingly positive results gained a lot of attention from the media. And where there is media attention, there is Richard Wiseman. Interested in the claim, and typically sceptical, Wiseman did four experiments in 1995, all of which showed no evidence of psychic ability in Jaytee. An impasse!
Sheldrake wrote a book about his findings, the snappily-titled Dogs That Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home: And Other Unexplained Powers of Animals. The book was published in 1999, a year before Sheldrake published his academic paper on the same research. Make a note of that: the same research, the data of which was used for both the book and the paper.
Why, then, do Sheldrake’s two sources show different versions of the data?
The dog was tested thusly: his owner, Pam, would go out, to return at either a random or pre-determined time, and the dog would be observed in her absence. Jaytee would go to the window, and the claim was that he went there because he knew Pam was coming home. In the book, the data shows one trial as having Pam return early, where in the paper it shows her as having returned late. This strange reversal occurs twice. And thatâ€™s not the only discrepancy. As Wiseman points out,
â€œsome of the data patterns appear different in the two sources. In the paper, the data from the trial on the 19/3/97 shows Jaytee spending very little time at the porch in the early part of the trial, whereas in the book he spends a considerable amount of time there. Likewise, in the paper, the trial on the 21/9/97 shows a spike in Jayteeâ€™s activity that appears to be missing from the corresponding graph in the book.â€
Read Wisemanâ€™s full commentary here http://www.richardwiseman.com/Jaytee.html
Now, I canâ€™t offer an explanation for the anomalies. I canâ€™t even speculate. I have no idea why Sheldrakeâ€™s book would show different data to his paper.
But I do know this. The trouble with testing animals for paranormal ability is that the concept is absurd to start with, because the animal itself has made no such claim (unless the owner believes himself to be telepathically communicating with his newts). So if weâ€™re testing something vague in the first place, is it not in our best interests to ensure the absolute integrity of our results, wherever theyâ€™re published? The idea of a psychic dog raises many questions. And after years of testing, we donâ€™t have a satisfactory answer to the question of whether or not Jaytee can tell if his owner is coming home. In fact, thanks to this discovery of Sheldrake’s errors, we have more questions than ever.