ForumsWEPRSylvia Browne Dead at 77 (She predicted she would live to 88)

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MageGrayWolf
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Since I'm a bit fired up from getting my views on this woman censors elsewhere, I'm making a post of it here.

Celebrated Psychic Sylvia Browne Dies

My views was that she was a fraud, was hardly ever right and was often actually harmful in her predictions.
The Randi Show - Sylvia Browne: Wrong Again

This quote from the JREF pretty well sums up my views. You could just as easily replace JREF with my name and it would be word for word accurate.

"The JREF sends our condolences to Sylvia's family and loved ones. No one celebrates her death, but skeptics do criticize how she lived. Her dismal track record at predictions -- she confidently predicted she would die at 88, not 77, for instance -- would merely be laughable if they did not hurt so many people. Remember Shawn Hornbeck. Or Amanda Berry. The number of people she hurt with her pretend supernatural abilities is nearly as high as the number of her failed predictions. It is sad that it took death to stop Sylvia Browne."

To spark some conversation, what are your thoughts on this woman and in psychics in general?

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nichodemus
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Despicable fraud sums it up.

SSTG
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She's done deceiving, that's my prediction!

Nurvana
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I've always held that "psychics" are just scammers who emotionally exploit people. That's just my two cents.

Salvidian
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Psychology hasn't a tidbit of empirical evidence supporting psychics, and in fact has quite a bit against it. So, until there is substantial proof found, I'm going to laugh at anyone who claims to have powers such as the ones this Sylvia Browne claimed to have had.

Does anyone remember B. F. Skinner's wonderful experiment with pidgeons? Yeah, same concept.

NoNameC68
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Honestly, what you quoted from the JREF sums up my feelings on the situation as well.

It amazes me how psychics are still out there conning innocent people. I'm sure many of you are already aware of a certain website in which psychics charge money for private, online, readings. What's most interesting is the website's terms and conditions, in which psychics are not allowed to perform free readings. I created an account and attended their free services, which essentially exist to draw people in. It's sort of like strip teases in which you're taken to a private room for "full access". I didn't call any of the frauds out, since they moderate their own rooms and exposing myself wouldn't have benefited anyone.

I tried to ask questions, acting like a skeptic coming to terms with "magic". Asked them if they thought other people on the site were frauds or how you can tell if someone is faking their readings.

That all happened years ago so I forgot most of what I've heard. The experience wasn't very memorable since their answers were always vague and quite dull.

Salvidian
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It's hard to type more than a paragraph on my phone, unfortunately. It also doesn't have a functioning autocorrect feature which explains my embarrassing typo with "pigeon". Anywho, I can delve a bit deeper now.

As I previously mentioned, B. F. Skinner (BFS) conducted an experiment to test whether or not an incorrect methodological use of operant conditioning could take place in said species. Basically he was testing to see if pigeons could be superstitions. This should be helpful..

To conduct the experiment, he took 8 pigeons, starved them (to give them motivation to get rewards), placed them in cages called Skinner Boxes, and gave the pigeons food pellets at a fixed interval of time. Within the Skinner Boxes, there was a non-functioning button. So BFS did this just to see what would happen, essentially.

Operant conditioning is a type of learning that focuses on a repetitive sequence called stimulus-response. It was coined by BFS and was based off Thorndike's Law of Effect. This type of conditioning (learning) includes reinforcement and punishment. The concept of punishment doesn't relate to this experiment, but reinforcement does. In the experiment, the pellets were positive reinforcers. In other words, when the birds received the pigeons, they tried their best to manipulate their actions to get the pellets faster next time (keep in mind, these things were starved). This process of streamlining actions to receive the positive reinforcer is called shaping.

Now, remember that inside the Skinner Boxes were the pointless buttons. BFS, being a behavioral psychologist, desired to see how these birds shaped themselves. The pellets, coming in at a fixed interval, were not influence by what the birds did. Incredibly enough, through shaping, 6 out of the 8 birds created superstitions that they believed would help get them their reinforcers.

Did they really do anything? No.

Should we take superstitions as truth? No.

Salvidian
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received the pigeons


pellets*
pangtongshu
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I could go on about a few of the "techniques" that psychics use to make some of their predictions, but I'm sure most of you already know 'em, or at least a good chunk of them. Hell, the episode of South Park on the topic deals with it nicely.

Related

Salvidian
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Salvidian
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repetitive sequence called stimulus-response


called reinforcement-punishment*

Got it mixed up with classical conditioning. Sorry, it's been a while since my last psych class. Details escape me.
HahiHa
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I don't like psychics a lot, because they are nothing more than professional manipulators. I also agree that they can even be harmful at times; depending on how much they care about how strongly their words effect the persons. Saying whether a lost or kidnapped child lives or was killed, is cruel at best.

MageGrayWolf
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To conduct the experiment, he took 8 pigeons, starved them (to give them motivation to get rewards), placed them in cages called Skinner Boxes, and gave the pigeons food pellets at a fixed interval of time. Within the Skinner Boxes, there was a non-functioning button. So BFS did this just to see what would happen, essentially.


I've seen video of that experiment, rather interesting.

I don't like psychics a lot, because they are nothing more than professional manipulators.


I do think there are a number of "psychics" who are self delusional, believing they really do have some sort of ability. Sylvia Browne I don't think was one of them.

Since you guys seem to agree with me on this subject I will leave you with the comments I got where I had my posts deleted for calling her a fraud. maybe it will give some points to argue against.

"At least she was willing to admit when she was wrong... unlike so many others in that "field""

"She should have stayed out of the limelight. No psychic is 100% accurate all the time but she did have plenty of accurate readings. She was always in the limelight so she was torn to shreds at every turn."

"Mage you are wrong. if you were right then police departments would not have come back to her over and over and over again."

"There are clearly some people who have some sort of gift....she was helpig the police as far back as the 70's...."

The last on in particular might be of interest to look into.
pangtongshu
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"She should have stayed out of the limelight. No psychic is 100% accurate all the time but she did have plenty of accurate readings. She was always in the limelight so she was torn to shreds at every turn."


Walk throughout the street and ask every person you see if their father is dead. You won't get 100% right..but because you got a good number right does that make you a psychic?

"Mage you are wrong. if you were right then police departments would not have come back to her over and over and over again."

"There are clearly some people who have some sort of gift....she was helping the police as far back as the 70's...."


>Implying the police are always trustworthy sources
>Implying police have the final say in who and who shouldn't be trusted

So what if she was always helping the police? What does that tell us other than the police trusted her?
Plus..if they really believe people have such magical abilities, they should go collect that million dollar reward that one old guy is offering..
nichodemus
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Why would the police come back to her? An odd but potent mixture of helplessness, and urban myth tends to do the trick.

MageGrayWolf
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I was hoping to get you guys to do some home work.

"Browne's work as a psychic detective (as opposed to her ideas about "the afterlife," for example), spanning 35 cases. In 21, the details were too vague to be verified. Of the remaining 14, law-enforcement officials or family members involved in the investigations say that Browne had played no useful role." http://web.archive.org/web/20010124001100/http:/brillscontent.com/2000dec/notebook/psychic.shtml

"Among the things Browne failed to predict was the availability of those transcripts on the Internet through databases such as LexisNexis. The authors, as well as several members of the James Randi Educational Foundation forum and StopSylvia.com, closely examined each transcript to track Browneâs accuracy. According to Browne, âmy accuracy rate is somewhere between 87 and 90 percent, if Iâm recalling correctly.â This article disputes that statistic by examining the criminal cases for which Browne has performed readings. The research demonstrates that in 115 cases (all of the available readings), Browneâs confirmable accuracy was 0 percent." http://www.csicop.org/si/show/psychic_defective_sylvia_brownes_history_of_failure/

I have to admit a 0% success rate is pretty unbelievable, you would think with so many tries that she would at least hit on something by chance.

"So my psychic abilities are zero and I'm unlucky." -(Starship Troopers)

they should go collect that million dollar reward that one old guy is offering..


James Randi at the JREF. Sylvia had said she would go in and put her abilities to the test but never got back to them.
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