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

Posted Nov 21, '13 at 3:44pm

MageGrayWolf

MageGrayWolf

9,776 posts

Knight

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?

 

Posted Nov 21, '13 at 8:03pm

nichodemus

nichodemus

13,240 posts

Knight

Despicable fraud sums it up.

 

Posted Nov 21, '13 at 8:10pm

SSTG

SSTG

11,365 posts

Knight

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

 

Posted Nov 21, '13 at 8:28pm

Nurvana

Nurvana

2,590 posts

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

 

Posted Nov 21, '13 at 8:32pm

Salvidian

Salvidian

4,299 posts

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.

 

Posted Nov 21, '13 at 8:49pm

NoNameC68

NoNameC68

5,296 posts

Knight

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.

 

Posted Nov 21, '13 at 9:14pm

Salvidian

Salvidian

4,299 posts

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.

 

Posted Nov 21, '13 at 9:15pm

Salvidian

Salvidian

4,299 posts

received the pigeons


pellets*
 

Posted Nov 21, '13 at 9:45pm

pangtongshu

pangtongshu

9,704 posts

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

 

Posted Nov 21, '13 at 9:52pm

Salvidian

Salvidian

4,299 posts

 
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