photoA few weeks ago I teamed up with Chris French and the good folk from Goldsmith’s APRU to test medium Patricia Putt (details here). We were carrying out an initial test for the James Randi 1 million dollar challenge, and Patricia was asked to write down readings for ten women. These ten participants were then given copies of the readings and asked to choose the one that best described them. None of them chose the correct reading.

At the time I was really impressed that Patricia didn’t make any excuses, and said that she thought it had been a fair test. However, yesterday she appears to have changed her mind and left a long comment on the blog. You can read the whole thing under the comments section of the above link (and look at Phil Plait’s comments about it here), but I just wanted to pick up on a couple of points…

Patricia: After my initial shock at the results when Professor French was showing them to me….

Actually, I went through the results with Patricia, not Chris.

Patricia: …he [Wiseman] remembered on seeing me that we had met in May 2000 at Hampton Court ..

Actually, I explicitly told Patricia that I didn’t remember that.

Patricia: I also got the meet Professor French a man I had seen on TV and have great respect for, I also renewed my meeting with Professor Wiseman.

Fair point.

Patricia: …with hindsight I realised that every girl had accepted each and every message that I had written down not one had been discarded, not one thrown away each and every one of the ten girls had gone away with something to me this makes a total of 10 out of 10.

This is very silly. The participants were asked to choose the reading that best applied to them, so that fact that they each chose one is meaningless. The important point is that they did not choose the reading that was intended for them.

Patricia: I am very well aware that scientists and Mediums are diametrically opposed but perhaps one day scientists will open up their field of vision a bit more and be prepared to work with people such as myself.

We just did.

Patricia ends by challenging Chris French and I to another test that involves her being taken to a location she has never been to before. If Patricia has this new claim accepted by James Randi then I am sure that Chris and I can sort something out.

I was impressed that Patricia went through with the test and took the results so well on the day. It was a good natured investigation, we all parted on good terms and I wish her well in the future.

Update: A few people have emailed me asking whether Patricia’s comments mean that each participant chose a different reading (i.e., no two participant chose the same reading as theirs).  This is not the case.  The list of participants, and the readings they chose, was as follows….

Participant  number                    Chose of the reading of participant number

11                                                      9

1                                                       7

14                                                     7

13                                                     8

9                                                      11

8                                                      2

7                                                      1

6                                                      13

3                                                      13

2                                                     6

(note: although we had 10 participants, they were chosen from a pool of 15 people, thus having participant numbers higher than 10).


  1. ”Patricia ends by challenging Chris French and I to another test that involves her being taken to a location she has never been to before.”

    You could just take her there, leave her and never turn back 😉

  2. There are two types of psychics in the world: charlatans, and those who honestly believe in what they’re doing. One simple way to tell the difference (most of the time) is to offer to test them. If they accept, they’re the honest kind.

    I’d like to thank Ms. Putt for doing this. It’s good to see claims of the paranormal scientifically tested, and I look forward to the next test.

  3. I predicted this very eventuality in the JREF blog.

    Vis: that Ms. Putt would morph from a cheerful, eloquent, intelligent and co-operative ‘good egg’, into a pleading and pathetic whinger**, and that her clear, abject and total failure MUST be blamed on anyone or anything but herself, or that she by malign fiat change the definition of success so that it accords with her profoundly wishful thinking.
    (And that said metamorphosis would be rapid, as is the case with every dowser, doodlebugger or water-witcher to date.)

    The mindset that ‘allows’ one to ignore the reality of one’s prior written contractual agreements in favour of a transparently juvenile but bizarrely creative re-interpretation of plain English, is the same mind-set that engenders the delusion that physical reality exclusively does not apply to one’s-self, and hence the ignorant ‘magical’ approach to life, and the semi-infantile special pleading that occurs as a post hoc excuse.

    Colour me ‘unsurprised’.

    ** This is being as charitable as I am able, given that I care passionately about truth and reality.

  4. I think the levels of self-justification and rationalisation must have been rising steadily over the past three weeks, to the point where she now seems to think that she’s still waiting for anyone to take her seriously enough to give her a chance and actually do some kind of test of her abilities. Or maybe her memory’s just going.

    I’ve blathered irately about this on my blog, but I suppose you need to be able to shrug it off with a more philosophical “ho-hum” if you’re going to be in the business of doing these kinds of tests regularly, and don’t want to drive yourself insane.

  5. To be clear, the participants HAD to choose a reading, right? They couldn’t pass on them all and not choose any of them?
    In which case she (by her own logic) couldn’t help but get “10 out of 10”.

    Hell, I would have got 10 out of 10 under those conditions. So would my dog.

  6. Brilliant. By Ms. Putt’s logic, any time you enter a multiple-choice exam, as long as you select an answer for each question, you can claim a 100% result in that exam.

  7. I defer to my earlier comments on this subject on which I said:

    “I predicted on Twitter that she would perform no better than chance. Does this mean that I am psychic?

    I have also predicted that Man U will win the Premiership and that Southend would finish outside the play offs in League One. The latter has already come true.

    If Man U win the prem am I eligible for testing?”

    Man U have since won the premiership. Surely now I am eligible for testing? I will make one more prediction that they will go on to win the champions league tonight. Should this happen why not just forgo the embarrasing drawn out process of testing me and just give me the cool one million dollars. (Every time I see that I think of Dr Evil)

    Let me make it clear now that should Manchester United not win this evening then clearly the ref diversly effected the result thus the true result did not occur and my initial prediction stands correct, see Hiddink et al.

  8. To me it sounds like for Ms. Putt the relevant point isn’t whether her readings are accurate / true, or whether she passed a scientific test, but whether she can do something good to her clients (= the participants). She probably missed (didn’t understand / conveniently forgot) the point that each participant HAD to choose a reading, but even if she understood it, the important question to her would probably still be: Did my readings do something good to the participants?

  9. You know, I had predicted on my blog that she was going to do this right after she took and failed the test..and she did not disappoint. Don’t they all act the same? Take the challenge, fall flat on their face, rationalize it away and keep doing whatever they were doing before the test. I understand now why the JREF has decided to discontinue the Challenge. It’s great to see these poor disillusioned people squirm, but at the end of the day the results don’t matter to them or the public, what matters is what they want to believe.

  10. Typical for these Psychics to try and justify themselves when they have so obviously been caught out for….ummm…..being a fake? Not that i’m a sceptic or anything. I am pretty open-minded. It’s just that her comments seem so laughable.
    Maybe she thought if she generalised enough, someone would pick up something good from her readings!

  11. An interesting test would have been to have the subjects order the results from “most likely me” to “most likely not me”. Or, alternatively have them select the 5 that were most likely them. Then compare those results with chance as well.

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