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Published: Jun.10.2011

Similarities of Global and Individual Consciousness

Roger Nelson

When we categorize test events on scales ranging from estimated numbers of people involved to the nature of the emotions evoked, we expect to see differences in effect size if the hypothesis proposed by the Global Consciousness Project (GCP) is valid. A tentative but sensible prediction is that, as with our individual reactions to what happens to us, there will be distinct responses to well-defined types of events – some producing large effects on average, and others little or none. By asking what matters, some insight can be gained into the fundamental nature of the GCP effects. To the degree identifiable qualitative characteristics are associated with reliable correlations, we should be able to select future events to maximize effect size, leading to more powerful statistics and a better foundation for quantitative modeling.

We report on three structural categories; on four probes to assess the effect of emotions; on one distinction relating to the source or direction of attention; and on a categorization of events by type. We find that the number of people engaged by an event is a strong predictor of effect. On the other hand, being surprised by an event as opposed to knowing it is coming matters little. A purported “experimenter effect” is addressed by asking who chooses the events, but the definition of terms and interpretation of results are complicated.

Emotional content definitely matters, with the rated level or intensity of emotion being a powerful predictor. In contrast, while we might wish to see positive, uplifting events making a stronger impression, their effects look quantitatively very much like those of negative events. Because the database is large, with more than 350 formal events accumulated over 12 years, we can make sound effect size estimates in many categories, despite an average effect size (about 1/3 sigma) which is too small for individual events to be reliably interpreted. We can even look at particular emotions of special interest, for example, fear or compassion. While our category analysis isn’t a direct source of material needed for quantitative modeling, it yields subjective insights that provide a qualitative understanding of what “global consciousness” might be like.

Bio: Dr. Roger Nelson is the founder and director of the Global Consciousness Project (GCP), a long-running international collaboration of 100 researchers studying interactions of human consciousness and the environment. His professional training is in experimental psychology, perception, memory, and psychophysiology, and includes a background in physics and engineering. Nelson was Research Coordinator for the Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research (PEAR) laboratory at Princeton University from 1980 to 2002. He founded the Global Consciousness Project in 1997 to further expand our scientific understanding of mind in the physical world. His recent work integrates consciousness research and parapsychology, and looks to quantum physics with a focus on information fields and entanglement to help explain anomalous effects of human consciousness.