Rupert Sheldrake and the Staring Effect
Fontana (David)
Source: Journal of Consciousness Studies, Volume 12, Number 6, 2005 , pp. 88-92(4)
Paper - Abstract

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  1. The Reality of the Staring Effect: In the absence of sensory clues, can we really be aware that someone is staring at us? The evidence, as reviewed by Rupert Sheldrake, suggests quite strongly that we can, yet many refuse to accept this evidence despite the fact that other human abilities have sometimes been acknowledged on the strength of rather less support. The problem that prevents the general acceptance of the staring effect is the absence of any known mechanism to explain how, without suitable sensory input, it can possibly occur. The absence of such a mechanism means that if we accept that it does happen we have necessarily to recognise the limitations of our known laws of science, and this we are reluctant to do. These laws stand us in good stead elsewhere and prompt many to insist that the existence of phenomena that contradicts them must be demonstrated to the satisfaction of even the sternest critic on the basis that exceptional claims require exceptional levels of proof. In spite of the fact that the staring effect has been demonstrated significantly in a number of well-controlled experiments, failure consistently to replicate these results is therefore readily accepted as convincing evidence that the former are flawed in some way, and that the staring effect is not to be taken seriously.
  2. The Implications of the Staring Effect
  3. Conclusion: Whichever way we look at it, the staring effect is not one we can ignore. We should not be dissuaded from further research by a priori convictions that the effect cannot happen. It might be too much to hope that research into it is ever likely to attract large grants. Research institutions (or rather those responsible for decision-making within them) are far too cautious for that. But if large-scale studies could be mounted there should be little difficulty in establishing once and for all whether the effect is genuine or not. And if it is genuine, we can then move on to investigate what light it throws upon our understanding of our own nature.


Part of Open Peer Commentary on ‘The Sense of Being Stared At’ Parts 1 & 2

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