Super Bowl XLIII Field RNG Exploration (Part Four)
by, Bryan Williams
Results: Super Bowl XLIII – Feb. 1, 2009
Super Bowl XLIII was marked by several notable moments, including the longest yard run in Super Bowl history, a valiant comeback effort by the Arizona Cardinals, and the Pittsburgh Steelers becoming the most winning Super Bowl team. It might be reasonable to think that the attention and emotional response to these and other moments might be conducive to a mass “group mind” effect, and to explore that idea, we tested two basic predictions for this field RNG demonstration (Part Two): one for the football game itself, and one for halftime.
First Prediction: Football GameFigure 1 shows the graphical representation of the resulting field RNG output throughout the duration of the football game.
Figure 1. Graphical representation of the field RNG data collected during Super Bowl XLIII, 4:31 – 8:39 PM Mountain Time (+2 Eastern), February 1, 2009. The level of statistical significance at p = .05 (i.e., odds of 20 to 1 against chance) as time passes is indicated by the smoothly curved red arc.
Similar to the previous four Super Bowls (Part 3), the data from this year’s Super Bowl are mostly random, with no clear signs of a directional trend. The statistical outcome further confirms its random nature overall (Chi-Square = 14888.75, 14880 df, p = .478). It is perhaps of interest, however, that the data show a deep “valley” around halftime, marked by a rather steady decreasing trend, followed by a counterbalancing steady positive trend. Falling within the range of halftime, this was explored further in the second prediction test.
Second Prediction: Halftime Show
The “valley”-shaped trend can be seen in more detail in Figure 2, which displays the RNG data output during halftime.
Figure 2. Graphical representation of the RNG data from the Super Bowl XLIII halftime show, 5:55 – 6:28 PM Mountain Time (+2 Eastern), February 1, 2009.
The data begin to rather steadily decrease around 6:00 PM Mountain Time (+2 Eastern), lasting until about three minutes before the end of the concert given by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. This trend extends so far below expectation that it begins to approach statistical significance, indicated by the bottom red curved arc. A counterbalancing positive trend then brings the data level again with chance expectation overall (Chi-Square = 1979.18, 1980 df, p = .501). While it looks interesting on the surface, it must be kept in mind that such trends are expected to occur in random data from time to time, so there is no clear indication that it is “group mind” related.
Combined Results: Five Consecutive Super Bowls
With Super Bowl XLIII, I (B.W.) have collected field RNG data from five consecutive Super Bowls from 2005 to 2009. Given the weak and subtle nature of the effects involved in RNG-based PK and field RNG studies, it might be instructive to examine a combined result across all five games to see what it might have to say about the mass “group mind” effect. Figure 3 shows such a combined result across all five Super Bowls, with the data combined by way of a Stouffer’s Z-score taken across the five RNG outputs for each second (Part Two), covering the period from the moment of kickoff to the end of the game and the trophy presentation. On average, halftime began about 88.4 minutes into the game and lasted 29.4 minutes. The game lasted about 215.4 minutes on average. The approximate moments of these events are indicated in the graph.
Figure 3. Graphical representation of the field RNG data combined across five consecutive Super Bowls (XXXIX – XLIII) by way of a Stouffer’s Z-score. The approximate times for halftime and the game end, averaged across all five Super Bowls, are indicated by black tickmarks along the pink line of expectation.
The data across all five games are clearly within the range of chance (Chi-Square = 15011.38, 14880 df, p = .223), although they are in the predicted direction overall and some degree of structure seems to be visible. Keeping in mind that these visible trends may be random artifacts (and thus we should be cautious about attributing too much meaning to them), it is rather interesting that a strong positive trend occurs about 45 minutes into the game, along with a sharp “valley” following halftime (120 minutes). Visually, the strong positive trend occurring toward the end of the game seems consistent with the kind of trend posited in the first prediction, and seems subjectively consistent with the idea that as the game comes down to its exciting conclusion and a winning team is determined, peoples’ attention becomes focused and their emotions strong. But again, we cannot say with certainty that this trend reflects a mass focused “group mind” effect, since such a trend occurs by chance every once in a while in the fluctuations of random data.
Figure 4. Graphical representation of the field RNG data combined across five consecutive Super Bowl halftimes by way of a Stouffer’s Z-score.
Figure 4 shows the combined result across all five Super Bowl halftimes. Rather than showing a steady positive trend as predicted, these data show a somewhat steady decreasing trend, opposite to the second prediction, that approaches statistical significance. Overall, these data begin to level out, bringing them well within chance (Chi-Square = 2122.8, 2170 df, p = .762).
What Can We Say About the Super Bowl So Far?
In a manner very similar to other sporting events (Part One), it seems so far that the Super Bowl does not clearly produce persuasive field RNG results for a mass “group mind” effect as predicted. Yet, keeping in mind the possibility of statistical artifacts, it also seems that some degree of structure may occasionally be seen in the field RNG data that is at least in line with the proposed effect.
So why doesn’t the Super Bowl clearly show a mass “group mind” effect, if it regularly draws the mass attention and emotion of millions of Americans each year? It’s a good question, but not an easy one to answer. Let’s take a brief look at some of the possible answers.
The answer that most skeptics would probably rush to is that the mass “group mind” effect simply does not exist. However, considering the significant field RNG results obtained by other researchers for various kinds of events aside from sports (e.g., Bancel & Nelson, 2008; Hirukawa & Ishikawa, 2004; Nelson, 2001; Nelson et al., 1996, 1998; Radin, 1997, Ch. 10; Rowe, 1998), this answer does not seem to be the most plausible one.
Considering the weak and subtle nature of the effects seen in RNG-PK and field RNG studies, another possible answer could be that the effect is there somewhere in the random noise, but it is so weak that it is simply “drowned out” by the noise. To get an idea of this, we might take a football analogy: Finding such a weak and subtle effect would be analogous to trying to hear what the person sitting next to you in the stadium is whispering while you’re sitting in the midst of a roaring crowd of football fans. And to explore this, the combined result across all five Super Bowls was examined. Assuming for the moment that it is not due to noise or statistical artifacts, some structure began to become visible in the data (Figures 3 & 4), at least hinting at the plausibility of this answer. Additional explorations could perhaps shed better light on this issue.
Yet another possible answer may be found in consideration of the venue and how it might relate subjectively to the generation of a mass “group mind.” While the Super Bowl draws mass attention and emotion, the possibility that these are shared is not always clear-cut. While one part of the crowd gets excited and focused as their team is winning, the other part of the crowd may be discouraged and lose interest as their team unfortunately loses. In such a case, we might think of the subjective situation as being rather “unfocused” or even counterbalanced. The venues where group mind effects tend to be found have been ones where there appears to be great attentional focus, strong rapport, and shared emotions across all involved. Coming from the above perspective, the Super Bowl and other sporting events may be somewhat counter to that situation, and thus may not be fully conducive to a mass group mind.
Lastly, there might be an “experimenter effect” at work in the data, wherein the experimenter (unconsciously) affects his own data by way of method, perspective, or even psi ability (Kennedy & Taddonio, 1976; White, 1976). In my case, such an effect would appear to be a suppressive one, such that the group mind effect is somehow prevented from showing up in the data. The likelihood of this answer may be somewhat lessened by the observation that the overall RNG outcomes over the five Super Bowls have not conformed to my predictions, and are thus not in line with my intentions. However, the experimenter effect remains to be a complicated and persistent issue within parapsychology, so this answer must still be considered.
Thus, we are faced with a range of possible answers, all equally applicable in this case and worthy of further study. Perhaps the best thing to come out of this Super Bowl exploration is that it allowed us to look at what kinds of events might be more conducive to the group mind effect, and what kinds might not be. Though it is counter to what we might intuitively expect, the current field RNG evidence from the Super Bowl and other sporting events suggests that these events mostly fall within the latter category. Examining events in this manner could have the advantage of allowing us to better determine which events we might focus on for further replication and closer study of the mass group mind effect. It was with this aim that the previous Super Bowl explorations, as well as the current demonstration, were carried out. It is hoped that the other, more primary aim for the current demonstration – that it would be interesting and instructive for readers of Public Parapsychology – was also met over the course of the Super Bowl weekend.
The rest of the series can be found in Parts One, Two, and Three.
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.
This long-term field RNG exploration of the Super Bowl by B.W. was made possible in part by support from the Parapsychology Foundation in New York. Appreciation must be extended to Dean Radin of the Institute of Noetic Sciences for making available software for data collection, and to Roger Nelson of the Global Consciousness Project and PEAR for helpful suggestions and advice on field RNG methodology.
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