Can I read your mind?


Here is a little video of an ESP stunt that we created on the London Underground….

Which symbol did you choose?


96 comments on “Can I read your mind?

  1. PissedBastard says:

    I chose the wavy lines. I think they just stood out more.

  2. I chose the wavy lines but I think I might have been influenced by seeing the star on the video screenshot before I pressed play. It was still symbol #3 so I guess the theory’s still close, but I like to think I would have chosen it even if I hadn’t seen that one in advance. I still didn’t know what the trick would be or if the star was the actual prediction, but I’m kind of disappointed at the prospect that I might have been subconciously biased the wrong way.

  3. anaglyph says:

    The square. I dunno, it was my first choice and I don’t think I was influenced by anything…

  4. Paula says:

    I choose the wavy lines but was nearly swayed by the star.

  5. Leandro says:

    I chose the cross at first, but then my atheistic side made me change to the wavy lines too…

  6. Cassie says:

    Sorry, but I chose the wavy lines (3rd position). My 2nd choice was the plus (1st position) but I stuck with my 1st choice.

  7. NovaNero says:

    I went with the square.

  8. Kya-chan says:

    I almost chose the wavy lines, but changed my mind to the star at the last minute.

  9. Charles Sullivan says:

    The star is the closest thing to a circle. That’s why I picked it.

  10. MasterZap says:

    I’m a wavy line kind of guy, but that’s from Ghostbusters, so you would zap me with some electricity now. 🙂

    Otherwise, I would two frogs on a bench. (Yes, another movie reference, guess which one) ?

  11. slw says:

    I chose the bacon. It is good life advice in general, if given a choice of anything, always choose the bacon.

    • Chris says:

      I also did this.

      For me, I think the bacon has more positive connotations than the star.

    • PissedBastard says:

      Maybe I was subliminally influenced to choose the wavy lines because of the bacon resemblance. I was feeling peckish at the time!

  12. Penny says:

    I chose the wavy lines too, then nearly changed to the square but thought I better go with my first choice.

  13. PuckstownLane says:

    Years ago I was given a “business card” with the numbers 1-2-3-4 printed in large type on one side and a request to choose a number. The other side had the words “Sex maniacs choose number 3”. Apparently a large majority of people, when required to choose within a very limited time period, choose number 3.

  14. c. says:

    I went bacon also.

    I’d heard before that ends were less popular. This was a tip I was given on how to choose a bathroom stall. The assumption is that a less-used one will be less dirty, I suppose.

  15. FlorayG says:

    the vertical wavy lines, Possibly because I had just been looking at an escalator?

  16. Gareth says:

    I chose the “+”, because I knew about the whole “don’t go for the extremes” thing… ;o)

  17. Dave says:

    Interesting informal experiment, but what percentage of people chose the star compared to wavy lines?

    Many people on this message board chose wavy lines. Some video edits of people saying “star” doesn’t tell us very much!

    Also, there was a poll on Richard’s ‘Paranormality’ book promotional website not long ago with the same test. Interestingly, the poll had the wavy lines in first place above the star when I voted. The poll is no longer on the web site. What was the final result?

    If the results of this kind of experiment are to be believed, they may have something to say about how to conduct real tests of ESP. For example, if these spatial and cognitive biases are quite strong, they could easily override any weaker ESP effect. This would be especially true if you use a majority vote technique over a few number of trials, which was the case in the twitter RV experiment a while back.

    • Kwitelle says:

      It is just promotion for his book that’s all. I must say, it’s not bad. Being a graphic designer myself end making some self promotion, here :))

  18. Al says:

    I chose the cross or plus sign. Does that make me extreme?

  19. Martha says:

    Hardly anyone chose the cross. Is that because we’re all atheists?

    • Jenny says:

      I chose it but the possible religious connotations never occurred to me. It just looked all mathematical to me.

  20. Sandra says:

    I chose the cross as well!

  21. Helen says:

    I chose the wavy lines too, my eye was immediately drawn to it, I barely noticed the others.

    • Simon H says:

      Yeah, wavy lines here too. I think Richard’s theory that we don’t choose the end ones holds up though.

  22. Timo Wieczorek says:

    I did not noticed the star. took first wavy lines, then square.

  23. Tom Ruffles says:

    I chose square on the grounds that it was on the end and I knew about the position effect – it’s first-year undergrad psychology. Hardly an unusual experiment, but a good way to promote your book.

  24. Johan Wibawa says:

    Oops… seems that professor had made something wrong in this test… why there are more people here didn’t choose the Star as professor predicted? is there any explanation?

    • Chris says:

      My guess would be that people who chose the star don’t have much reason to comment.

    • Tort says:

      that isn’t how science works. There could be selection bias as Chris says, people could be lying, I’m sure everyone likes to think they beat the experiment. People could also be lying to themselves, you need to ask people before you tell them the answer, they may convince themselves they chose a different symbol to feel like they won.

  25. Arno says:

    I picked the star.
    And seriously peeps, only 30 responses so far. Wait until you have 200 or so before it’s fit to make any comments about whether or not Richard is right.

  26. AMWhy says:

    I guess most people who chose the star aren’t commenting on it.
    For me, instead of choosing one randomly, I chose the one that I guessed would be the answer – the star.
    As people have said, the ends are usually not picked. It was then close between the star and the wavy lines but I guess the general public are more inclined to go with the star as it is a more familiar shape to them with a clear name. “star” as opposed to the wavy lines/ water/ wind/ squiggle.

  27. Berber Anna says:

    I noticed that the wavy lines were on their side, which I didn’t like so I didn’t pick them. I picked the cross, as it’s the neatest of the figures.

  28. Susqueda says:

    This is an excellent way to read the mind of the 25% of the world population. And this is a large number indeed.
    It reminds me of the guy who sent predictions of the winning horse . He sent his prediction to 10.000 people; then the next week he repeated the prediction to the 1000 who would have won. By the end on the fourth week he has 10 potential clients who may be very interested in buying his system, which I have offered here for free.

  29. Leandro says:

    I received an e-mail a few years ago, with a test in the end: “think in a color and a tool fast”, then it was said that the majority of the people would choose “red” and “hammer”, but it had no explanations of why. My choices at that time were “yellow” and “hammer”, but all my friends went with the answer of the e-mail. Despite the absence of multiple choices, I think both predictions go the same way, right?

  30. SimonP says:

    It would be interesting to re-run the experiment on several different escalators with the shapes ordered differently on each, to reveal any biases created by the ordering. Once position was controlled for, it would be interesting to run the experiment with 4 stars, each with a different number of points.

  31. JJ says:

    My experience as an amateur magician, and working a lot with ESP cards, is that most people will pick the star followed by the wavy lines. Not everyone, but most. And I have to say that there is some very clever marketing going on for Paranormality; I expect it will sell lots of copies and deservedly so.

  32. Patari says:

    I chose the wavy line too. It was the first thing that stood out for me, probably partially because it’s bigger than the other symbols.

    I wonder if seeing it from above (like in the video) makes any difference compared to seeing it from below (the way you’d see it if you’re coming up the escalator.

  33. The star stands out the rest, but I picked the lines.

  34. Zerrubbabel says:

    There are posters on the way up the escalator that say “The star”. Could that have had any influence on the results?

  35. adora says:

    I chose +.

  36. I’m a positive guy, so “+”

  37. fluffy says:

    I like the wavy lines, but I refer to them as “bacon.”

  38. Stu says:

    Star…..nailed me!

  39. lisa says:

    During the intro I kept saying to myself, “Not the start, not the star, don’t pick the star, everyone picks the star” and ended up zeroing in on the star.

  40. alisha says:

    i chose the bacon.

    wait, what do you mean its just some wavy lines..?

  41. alice says:

    i chose the star!!!

  42. […] Can I read your mind? Here is a little video of an ESP stunt that we created on the London Underground…. […]

  43. Just Mike says:

    Wavy lines

  44. David says:

    The square.

  45. maichari says:

    I chose the wavy lines, more interesting, I think.

  46. SimonH says:

    I chose the star, but my 9 year old son chose the square

  47. nina says:

    i chose the star too. but i saw the first few comments saying “wavy” so i possibly was influenced to choose something else.

    i don’t think commenters on this blog are a very representative group. if you aren’t a geek (and god knows we love bacon) you are at least someone who is interested in psychology and so would already be a bit sceptical while watching the video

  48. Sally says:

    I chose the wavy lines. But, as mentioned above, the video showed numerous posters of the “Star” on the wall up the escalator. Could it be repetition of an image that influenced the people being questioned?

  49. Janna says:

    I choose the wave, but I’m lefthanded (rightbrained) when I look at pictures I always look first to the right side. So the theory is correct although my answer is different.

  50. JamesV says:

    I chose the wavy lines. probably because i now associate them with bacon.

  51. I chose the star first. Then I changed my mind and took the waves.

  52. Simon H says:

    Reminds me of “Press button; receive bacon”

  53. Yaffle says:

    Wavy lines. I can certainly buy the theory about the marginal ones being “too extreme”

  54. Veli says:

    Hehe, it was probably meant to create a “smelly” association but the population of the interwebz interpreted it as “bacon” 😀

    I picked the plus sign.

  55. Tuiã says:

    I chose the wavy lines first, but changed to star in attempt to cheat the trick.

  56. Emma says:

    I was tempted for a split second to choose the star, then plumped for the wavy lines. I agree that there will be selection bias with readers of this blog consciously or unconsciously trying to avoid the ‘obvious’ first choice.

  57. Ivy says:

    At first I chose the star after a brief glance, but within seconds I thought perhaps it should be the wavy lines. I was surprise to see the result was the star. My first choice was not based on any thought associations, it’s just a “brief, strong feeling” that led me to the star picture. I suppose my “intuition” worked to influence my first choice before my rational thinking took over, all within the blink of my eyes. So probably this experiment means that intuition can be a strong basis for decision making.

  58. patrick says:

    after the announced result – briefly, in one shot of the escalator the frames on the wall have just the image of the star and the words “the star” –
    where did this fit into the experiment?

    and you have an edited selection of people saying “the star” rather a small group, suspicious I would say…
    – this could be like a Daily Mail poll – where they pick a group of pensioners in Kent and say, “What is the biggest threat to a calm community in an age of free migration?

    answer “Immigrants”
    and those who say different are not broadcast.

    I can see the logic for the star – but I do wonder if the real experiment is on those making comments here…?

  59. RevolutionHeart says:

    Might it not have something to do with the fact that they show several frames with the star in it along the escalator? I’m not sure if they show the other shapes, but it doesn’t look like it. If the star was shown repeatedly, then people are going to remember it over the other shapes.

  60. Anton says:

    Wavy line. To me water is a more positive idea than star.

  61. Rayne says:

    I chose the wavy lines, as would most people in America. It is along the same principals he described but usually here people won’t choose the first, last, or any even number (symbol). I have been doing this as a sort of party “trick” for many years. I had business cards printed with “Pick a number” and below that “1 2 3 4”. Then on the back of the card I had printed “All perverts pick 3”. Over 90% of the time (I didn’t keep an exact tally) people, men and women, had picked 3. Most of the times 3 wasn’t picked I did notice it was from people from Europe.

  62. Angela Wang says:

    Dear Richard,

    I’m a journalist from Oriental Sky (a Chinese media). I’m now writing a aritlce to introduce your book “Quirkology: The curious science of everyday lives. So if it’s possible you could send me some of your photos (2-3 pictures, size over 300 DPI) to me before end of this Thursday (March 31st, 2011)

    Thank you.

  63. JB says:

    I think I would’ve subconsciously chosen the star, but my conscious self wavered between the plus sign, star and bacon.

    I chose bacon, because bacon is good for me.

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