Thursday, January 29, 2009

Super Bowl XLIII Field RNG Demonstration (Part One)

Super Bowl XLIII Field RNG Demonstration (Part One)

by, Bryan Williams

Based on the widespread interest and attention annually given to the NFL Super Bowl, I wish to take the opportunity to present on Public Parapsychology a demonstration of a field Random Number Generator (RNG) analysis of the upcoming Super Bowl XLIII on February 1, 2009, which I hope will be both interesting and informative for our readers. In this first post of three, I offer a brief background on field RNG studies of sporting events that provides the foundation for this planned demonstration.


Many Americans would probably agree that Super Bowl Sunday is an event they look forward to every year with anxious anticipation. The big football parties with family and friends, the amusing TV commercials and halftime concerts, and the general excitement of the football game itself are all things that tend to make this particular Sunday stand out from all the rest in terms of enjoyment. Given that the Super Bowl is such a social sporting event in the United States, with the excitement stirring the attention and emotions of millions of football fans across the country, it might seem reasonable to think that it could be conducive to short-lived psi effects, particularly psychokinesis (PK, or “mind over matter”). If millions of fans are cheering in unison – not only those in the crowd at the stadium, but also those sitting at home watching the live TV broadcast – then one might be able to metaphorically envision a unified cheer, a mass chorus of raised voices that at times may be as rhythmic as an orchestra. Another metaphor may be that as a large group of fans watch the game together and share the same emotional reactions, they can be seen as sharing the same frame of mind. Focusing their collective attention on the game, cheering along with family, friends, and other spectators – they are not acting like individual minds. Rather, they are acting, in a sense, like a single mass “group mind” that is being moved by the excitement. And if such a mass group mind is moved during the game, then perhaps it might subtly move the matter in the surrounding physical environment along with it.

During the 1990s, as part of an effort to extend and apply their extensive laboratory findings on PK to more natural settings [1], researchers at the Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research (PEAR) Laboratory began deploying portable random number generators (RNGs)[2] at various group events to explore the plausibility of such a mass “group mind” effect on matter. These events included ceremonial rituals, stage performances, parties, and healing workshops. Rather than being purely random as expected, the combined streams of data from the RNGs during these events tended to show a steady non-random pattern that was significantly different from chance by statistical standards (Nelson et al., 1996, 1998), hinting that there could be something to the notion of a mass “group mind.” From these experiments, one may wonder: Could sporting events like the Super Bowl be conducive to a mass “group mind” effect on matter?

Field RNG Studies of Sporting Events

When they began these “field RNG” studies [3], the PEAR researchers did examine a small number of sporting events, including several Princeton University football games. The RNG data showed little indication of a group mind effect, although the researchers noticed that most of the games were rather lacking in crowd enthusiasm (Nelson et al., 1998, pp. 442 – 443).

Despite the null results of the PEAR group, other researchers tried looking at other sports in their own field RNG studies. Dick Bierman (1996) of the University of Amsterdam had set up a field RNG in the home of a Dutch family for a study that coincided with the 1995 European soccer final. While the family (and presumably many other people throughout the Netherlands) watched the soccer match on TV and cheered the Dutch team to victory, the RNG ran silently in the background. The RNG data during the 90-minute game showed a steadily increasing non-random pattern that was significantly beyond chance, while the control data collected 90 minutes before the start of the game for comparison were purely random as expected.

In a similar study, German researchers Johannes Hagel and Margot Tschapke (2004) of the Institut für Psycho-Physik in Köhn had collected streams of data from three field RNGs during a highly charged home soccer game won by the local Köhn team. Analysis revealed increasing non-random patterns in the data from two of the RNGs that persisted for several hours following the game, when the people of Köhn had walked through the streets in celebration.

At least two field RNG studies have previously looked at the Super Bowl directly. As part of their examination of sporting events, the PEAR researchers had run two separate field RNGs during Super Bowl XXX in January of 1996. Although the data from each of the RNGs showed modest increases away from expected randomness, their overall results were insignificant (Nelson et al., 1998, pp. 440, 443). While at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, Dean Radin (1997, pp. 167 – 168) had made his own independent examination of Super Bowl XXX using six field RNGs. To see how the RNG data might correlate with audience attention, Radin split the six data streams into periods of “high” and “low” interest, based on ratings given to each period by one or more experimenters watching the broadcast. Periods of “high” interest might include the game itself and the halftime concert, while periods of “low” interest might include pre-game broadcast commentary and the commercial periods (of course the latter is debatable now, since the commercials tend to be quite amusing, and the interest they draw often competes with the game itself). While not notable by statistical standards, there were slight indications that the RNG data during the “high” interest periods were gradually moving away from expected randomness, while the data from “low” interest periods remained random.

Inspired in part by the field RNG studies, the Global Consciousness Project (GCP) was founded in 1998 to further explore “group mind” effects on global scale when major world events occur. To do this, the GCP set up and monitors an Internet-based global network of RNGs that continually run 24/7, sending their data to a server in Princeton, NJ, for archiving and analysis (Bancel & Nelson, 2008; Nelson, 2001). In addition to examining formally defined global events, the GCP informally explores local events of interest on occasion. One such event was Super Bowl XXXVII in January of 2003 [4]. Although not statistically significant overall, the data from the 50 active RNGs in the GCP network at that time seemed to show a strong non-random trend during the start of the game that was consistent with the predicted effect. Despite interesting internal trends in some cases, GCP examinations of other sporting events, including the 2002 World Cup (Event #112) and two World Series games (2001 & 2008; Event #89 & #279, respectively), have produced insignificant outcomes for reasons that remain unclear.

In all, field RNG studies of the Super Bowl and other sporting events have produced a “mixed bag” of results, making it unclear as to whether such events are conducive to a mass “group mind.” In the next post, I will provide a summary of additional field RNG explorations of the Super Bowl carried out by myself, which have further motivated Public Parapsychology’s planned field RNG demonstration, and I will provide an overview of the planned procedures, analysis, and predictions for the demonstration.

The rest of the series can be read in Parts Two, Three, and Four.

Bryan Williams

Bryan Williams is a Native American student at the University of New Mexico, where his undergraduate studies have focused on physiological psychology and physics. He is a student affiliate of the Parapsychological Association, a student member of the Society for Scientific Exploration, and a co-moderator of the Psi Society, a Yahoo electronic discussion group for the general public that is devoted to parapsychology. He has been an active contributor to the Global Consciousness Project since 2001.


[1] The details of these findings can be found in a journal article describing the PEAR Lab’s 12-year research database on PK (Jahn et al., 1997). Electronic copies of this and other PEAR publications cited here have been made available for download at the PEAR Lab’s archival website.

[2] The PEAR Lab regularly uses the term “random event generator” (REG) as another name for RNG. For the most part, the two terms – RNG and REG – are synonymous, and we will use only one term (RNG) here for convenience.

[3] As first explained by Nelson et al. (1996, p. 112), the name “field RNG” can have a double meaning. Besides reflecting the fact that the RNGs have been taken out of the laboratory and into the field, the name can also provide a symbolic reference to a concept derived by Nelson et al. to think about the “group mind” effect. To affect the field RNG, the group mind effect might be thought of as an invisible PK-related “field” that extends out into the surrounding environment to affect matter, analogous to the way a magnetic field seems to extend out from the magnet to affect iron. It should be kept in mind that while this concept provides a useful way to think about how a group mind effect may work, it is purely metaphorical in nature and not currently supported by any clear evidence.

[4] This informal GCP exploration of Super Bowl XXXVII can be found at the GCP website. Links to GCP examinations of the other sporting events mentioned elsewhere in the text can be found on the GCP’s formal results page.


Bancel, P., & Nelson, R. (2008). The GCP event experiment: Design, analytical methods, results. Journal of Scientific Exploration, 22, 309 – 333.

Bierman, D. J. (1996). Exploring correlations between local emotional and global emotional events and the behavior of a random number generator. Journal of Scientific Exploration, 10, 363 – 373.

Hagel, J., & Tschapke, M. (2004). The local event detector (LED) – an experimental setup for an exploratory study of correlations between collective emotional events and random number sequences. Proceedings of Presented Papers: The Parapsychological Association 47th Annual Convention (pp. 379 – 388). Cary, NC: Parapsychological Association, Inc.

Jahn, R. G., Dunne, B. J., Nelson, R. D., Dobyns, Y. H., & Bradish, G. J. (1997). Correlations of random binary sequences with pre-stated operator intention: A review of a 12-year program. Journal of Scientific Exploration, 11, 345 – 367.

Nelson, R. D. (2001). Correlation of global events with REG data: An Internet-based, nonlocal anomalies experiment. Journal of Parapsychology, 65, 247 – 271.

Nelson, R. D., Bradish, G. J., Dobyns, Y. H., Dunne, B. J., & Jahn, R. G. (1996). FieldREG anomalies in group situations. Journal of Scientific Exploration, 10, 111 – 141.

Nelson, R. D., Jahn, R. G., Dunne, B. J., Dobyns, Y. H., & Bradish, G. J. (1998). FieldREG II: Consciousness field effects: Replications and explorations. Journal of Scientific Exploration, 12, 425 – 454.

Radin, D. I. (1997). The Conscious Universe: The Scientific Truth of Psychic Phenomena. San Francisco: HarperEdge.


Nelly said...

Dear Bryan,

can you make a clear cut prediction? Effect size, localisation of best reactions of RNG, anticipatory reaction of RNG for X hours before event, lasting of time period, hour of pick...

I will be happy to see the skills of the classical GCP model in not ad-hoc analyses.


Anonymous said...

"GCP examinations of other sporting events ... have produced insignificant outcomes for reasons that remain unclear."

Wouldn't those be termed "null results" and the reason be that the theory behind them is false?

Bryan Williams said...

Nelly suggests some variables of interest that could be included in a more in-depth prediction and tested in field RNG studies. However, in the case of the Super Bowl, I did not think it wise to make the test prediction any more complex than specifying the time period of testing, and predicting the directional trend of the data (a steady positive, or upward, trend) for three reasons:

1) To keep the demonstration as basic and accessible to general readers as possible,

2) To remain consistent with the prediction made for other Super Bowls, which has carried over from year to year (Post 2), and

3) Considering the less than persuasive results from previous Super Bowls.

In response to the comments of the anonymous poster, the GCP results for sporting events could indeed be labelled as "null results," and the possibility is there that the theory behind them could be false. However, that is only one possibility among several others, which include a small effect size (too small to be clear in every single event), psi experimenter effects, and unfavorable group dynamics (i.e., the psychological atmosphere, for some reason or another, is unfavorable to the generation of a group mind effect).

It should be recognized that other researchers have observed significant field RNG results for other events besides sports, so the fact that significant results have not been clearly seen during sporting events should not be reason to dismiss the effect as a whole.