Can we help just by good intentions? A meta-analysis of experiments on distant intention effects

Journal Article

By: Stefan Schmidt
Publication Name: J Altern Complement Med
Year: 2012

OBJECTIVES: In recent years, several clinical trials have assessed effects of distant healing. The basic question raised by these studies is whether a positive distant intention can be related to some outcome in a target person. There is a specific simple experimental setup that tests such a basic assumption. The task is to focus attention and to indicate unwanted mind wandering by a button press while at the same time a second remote person is either supporting this performance or not according to a randomized schedule. A meta-analysis was conducted to assess the overall effect of this experimental approach. METHODS: A systematic literature search yielded 11 eligible studies, with 576 single sessions and almost identical design, that were conducted on three different continents. Study parameters were extracted and combined with a random-effects model. RESULTS: The model yielded an overall effect size of d=0.11 (p=0.03). Furthermore, there was a significant difference of the frequency of button presses between studies conducted in Indonesia and the Western hemisphere (p<0.001). Two (2) similar experimental setups applying electrodermal activity as dependent variable meta-analyzed earlier showed almost identical effect sizes. This can be considered as mutual validation of the three data sets. CONCLUSIONS: The hypothesis of the positive effect of benevolent intentions is supported by the data presented. It is concluded that especially the intentional aspect common to all three different tasks may be responsible for these unorthodox findings. These finding may have implications for distant healing research and health care as well as for meditation performance.

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