PHIL102: Causation

The following passage is an extract from a report by Arizona Daily Wildcat (June 16, 1999) concerning a study to show that certain people can communicate with the dead. Using what you have learned about causation, correlation, and causal fallacies, consider the potential flaws with the experiment. Assume that the report is mostly correct.

Gary Schwartz, psychology professor and co-founder of the University of Arizona Human Energy Systems Lab speaks about his work at the University of Arizona (UA). A team of UA scientists and students conducted a unique experiment this weekend, probing the possibility of an afterlife by studying how mediums commune with the dead.

Researchers invited a panel of mediums to meet with 10 people whose loved ones recently died. The mediums tried to receive information from the deceased without prior knowledge about the deceased and while under observation. Schwartz invited four mediums to participate in the study, including famous “superstars” of the psychic world, such as author John Edwards, and unknowns, such as California housewife Laurie Campbell. The medium sat facing a wall while a researcher looked on. A “sitter,” who had recently lost a relative or friend, would then enter the room and sit six feet behind the medium. Schwartz acknowledged that a few of the sitters were acquaintances of the mediums.

For up to 10 minutes, the medium and the sitter would sit in silence. The medium, who could not see the sitter, would concentrate on receiving psychic impressions. A question and answer session followed, in which the sitter was allowed only to answer “yes” or “no.” Schwartz said that the study was set up to minimize communication between the medium and the sitter, avoiding conscious or subconscious prompting between the two. While the final results have not been written up,

Schwartz said he was impressed with the mediums’ performance. On several occasions the mediums were able to pick out the names and personal information of the deceased, he said.


I believe that their are medium or psychics alive and they can talk to the dead so it doesnt surprise me that they were able to pick out the peoples names . i believe that at the same time there are alot of fackers out there and the mediums could have gotten there infomation from someone else who knows the sitters. so that is a trickey question wether or not that the mediums were real or not. just because the mediums knew things about the dead did not mean that they were nalking to the dead. there are tons of questions that apply to everyone that are apen end and apply to most everybody.


Relationship isn’t causation. Relationship isn’t causation. Relationship isn’t causation … " At times during my insights considers I felt like Jack Nicholson in the film The Shining, wherein we witness his plummet into frenzy as he types a similar sentence again and again, "All work and no play makes Jack a dull kid. All work and no play makes Jack a dull kid … "

“Relationship isn’t causation” is an insights mantra. It is penetrated, military school-style, into each maturing analyst. In any case, what does it really mean? Indeed, relationship is a proportion of how firmly related two things are. Consider it a number depicting the relative change in one thing when there is an adjustment in the other, with 1 being a solid positive connection between two arrangements of numbers, – 1 being a solid negative relationship and 0 being no relationship at all.


“Connection isn’t causation” implies that since two things associate doesn’t really imply that one causes the other. As an occasional model, since individuals in the UK will in general spend more in the shops when it’s cold and less when it’s sweltering doesn’t mean chilly climate causes excited high-road spending. An increasingly conceivable clarification would be that chilly climate will in general agree with Christmas and the new year deals.

In spite of encapsulating a significant truth, the expression has not gotten on in the more extensive world. It’s anything but difficult to perceive any reason why. Our predispositions and doubts about the manner in which things work entice us to make the jump from relationship to causation with no hard proof.

Relationships between’s two things can be brought about by a third factor that influences them two. This tricky, shrouded unnecessary extra person wheel is known as a confounder.

Ostensibly the most notable and significant case of a connection being clear yet caustion being in question concerned smoking and lung malignancy during the 1950s. There had been a sixfold increment in the pace of lung malignancy in the previous two decades. No one contested that there was a connection between’s lung malignant growth and smoking, however to demonstrate that one caused the other would be no mean accomplishment.

There may be a confounder that was answerable for the relationship among’s smoking and lung disease. The expanded rate could have been the consequence of better determination, increasingly modern contamination or more vehicles on the streets burping toxic exhaust. Maybe individuals who were all the more hereditarily inclined to need to smoke were additionally progressively vulnerable to getting malignancy?


Good example


It’s difficult to assess the plausability of the report without having a lot more information about the questions asked and the supposed impressive performance of the mediums. It does seem strange however to include sitters who were acquaintances of the mediums.


The report isnt much plausible in tht we are not aware of type of questions asked. And the fact that some sitters and mediums were acquinted brings might led one to the conclusion that during one of their “acquaintance meeting” they might have shared details of a sick relative or friend who was in terminal state(whose death was inevitable). Since its easy to pin point people’s voices it no biggie even if the medium is seated facing the other way he could know the person and relate to the info he gathered on one of the acquaintance gatherings


This research missed some important information such as, how accurately the medium guesses are. If some of the sitters were acquaintances of the medium, then the medium may have some clue about who they are talking to. It could be just coincidence because people have a lot in common. Giving information about a dead person does not mean talking to that person.


I agree with your statement as well.

1 Like

Agree with the statement

1 Like

One of the few potential flaws that I noticed was “few of the sitters were acquaintances of the mediums”. This questions the validity of the experiment.

There’s a lot that could be wrong with the experiment but it’s hard to identify things without having the whole study.
Some test subjects knew the people. They could already know who died.
They could have been common names like James, John, and Mary or names with lots of nick names such as Robert (Rob, Robby, Bob) or Richard (Rich, Rick, Ricky, Dick, etc).
The small sample size also reduces the viability of the study.
There is no sample group to compare to. Were they better than people who were not psychics? It might be that most people can guess their way through it.

But without more info we just don’t know.