COMPUTERS, CHANCE AND CHOLINERGIA
by Henry K. Puharich, Jeffery Smith and A. L. Kitselman
MODERN primitives (1) believe that their intuitive capacity is increased by eating certain species of mushrooms(2). The present experiments were designed with a view to testing such beliefs. The muscarinic mushrooms were used in these experiments because of their availability in the United States. These produce a well-known cholinergic effect, and can lead to hallucinations(3).
Intuitive capacity was tested with a manual matching game made up of a fundamental probability set of ten, consisting of two sets often cards each. The blindfolded subjects were asked to try to correctly match the two sets of randomized cards with their hands, while an observer watched their attempts and scored the results. Twenty-six normal human subjects were used. A control test was given before the mushroom was eaten, and testing was continued after the mushroom was eaten.
There were 1140 trials of matching skill in the control series resulting in 106 correct matches. This gave a critical ratio (C.R.) of - 0.71, and this a chance-expected score. Chance-expectation in this series is 114 correct matches.
Upon the completion of the control test, each subject drank a water extract prepared Amanita Muscaria(4). The matching test was then repeated. There were 1140 trials of matching skill in the test series resulting in 141 correct matches. The C.R. is +2.39, and is considered significant at the 1 p.c. level. The subjects almost uniformly reported that for the two hours or so following the ingestion of the mushroom extract they experienced a sense of increased intuitive awareness. Once the hallucinations set in, they still felt an increased sense of intuitive awareness, but the results of the matching scores did not support this opinion. As a rule, the presence of hallucinations tended to be accompanied by a loss of motivation to continue the test procedure.
On the basis of indications that intuitive capacity is increased in the presence of a mild degree of cholinergia, it was decided to put the question to a critical test. In order to neutralize psychological bias in favor of the thesis, subjects were obtained who were either skeptical or hostile to the idea that drugs could inﬂuence intuitive capacity either positively or negatively. These subjects were four newspaper reporters from the Los Angeles area(5). In order to minimize bias and error in the test procedure, the matching game was replaced by a computer(6)programmed to generate numbers from 1 to 9 (inclusive) in random order. The number generated by the computer displayed on a typewritten sheet, and the subject had to guess the number by punching a keyboard in front of him. The subject's guess was then printed alongside of the target number already displayed. At the end of each such nine trials of guessing skill, the computer automatically calculated the statistics cumulatively up to this point. Various observers witnessed the typewriter sheet containing the record of the random target number, and its accompanying call by the subject. The computer was programmed by A. L. Kitselman, and the technicians of the Clary Corporation. The subjects were tested before taking the mushroom for the control series, and in two test series after taking the mushroom.
Of the four subjects, one did not participate in the control series due to the pressure of time. The three subjects made a total of 35 correct guesses in 297 trials for the control series. The chance-expected score is 33 hits in 297 trials. The C. R. was +036, P=0.36, and odds against chance 2.7 to 1. It was concluded that the subjects in the normal state could not out-guess chance-expectation.
All four subjects were then given 2 mushrooms of the species Amanita Muscaria. The subjects ate their mushrooms at ﬁfteen minute intervals from each other. This allowed the subjects to be tested on the computer in staggered order. In the test series the subject had his turn at the computer at an average interval of 41 minutes after eating his mushrooms. The combined score of these four subjects in Test 1 was 65 correct guesses out of 432 trials. The chance-expected score is 48 hits in 432 trials. The actual deviation was 17 hits, the Standard Deviation (S.D.) is 6.52, yielding a critical ratio of +2.60, probability, P=0.00467, and odds against chance occurrence 214 to l. This score exceeds the 1 p.c. level of signiﬁcance, and it was concluded that the subjects' intuitive capacity had increased as a result of the mushroom-induced cholinergia.
Test ll was repeated 2 hrs. and 26 min (average) after the mushroom had been eaten. At this time all of the subjects had achieved mild inebriation, had mild hallucinations, but still subjectively felt that their intuitive capacity was heightened. The four subjects made a total of 41 correct guesses in 351 trials in Test 11. The chance-expected score is 39 hits in 351 trials. The actual deviation was 2 hits, the C. R. 0.34, and P=0.36. This is a chance-expected score. It was apparent that the period of cholinergia-induced intuitive capacity had passed.
When we compare the control test results, and the Test 1 results, we ﬁnd that the critical ratio of difference between the means, respectively 3.5/297 and 65/432, exceeds the 1 p.c. level, and hence is considered statistically significant. This conclusion is fortiﬁed by a total series of 3360 trials of guessing skill. These ﬁndings, if applied in the context of parapsychology, can be used to clarify problems surrounding extrasensory perception.
The test reported is essentially simple in design and technique, and it is believed that it is readily repeatable. As is well-known a mild state of cholinergia is associated with a sense of well-being and relaxation in humans. The use of muscarinic mushroom produces in addition a very mild state of inebriation in the early stages, and in the later stages can produce heavy inebriation and hallucinations, depending on the dosage. It is suggested that mild cholinergia, artiﬁcially induced, may be a useful tool for the investigation of the intuitive capacity in humans.
1. These include tribes of Southern Mexico such as the Mixes, the Zapotecs and the Chatinos; and tribes of North-eastern Siberia such as the Korjaks, the Chuckchees and the Tungus. The authors became interested in this problem while studying the Chatino Indians.
2. These are species of psilocybe. stropharia, paneolus, and amanita. R. Heim and R. G. Wasson, LES CHAMPIGNONS HALLUCINOGENES DU MEXIQUE, Edition Du Museum National d' Histoire Naturelle, Paris, 1958.
3. V.P..and R. G. Wasson, MUSHROOMS, RUSSIA AND HISTORY. Pantheon, N. Y. 1957
4. The extract was prepared by using one gram of dried mushrooms to 20 c.c. of distilled water. Extraction was carried out by soaking the mushrooms for thirty minutes in water at 180° F. The dosage was 2 c. c. of such extract per kilogram of body weight. The potency of the mushrooms varied depending on where they were picked and during which part of the season. The specimens came from the state of Maine, Vermont, Washington and California.
5. The four subjects were chosen by the staff of The Advance Public Relations Corporation of Los Angeles; acting in behalf of One Step Beyond Productions, Inc. for their sponsor the Aluminum Company of America. The subjects were unknown to the investigating team before the day of the experiment December 2, 1960
6. The computer was the Clary DE-60 made by The Clary Corporation. The authors wish to thank the officers and staff of this corporation for their generosity and cooperation in this experiment. The experiment was carried at the Riker Laboratories, Northridge, California, and we wish to thank Dr Edwin Hays, the Director of Research, for his cooperation in this experiment. We wish to thank Dr Kurt Fantl and Dr Margaret Paul for assisting in the psychiatric supervision of the subjects.