waking life crossword experiment

waking-life-4.jpgIn Richard Linklater’s Waking Life (2001) two of the characters discuss the idea synchronicity. They mention an experiment where people were isolated and given daily crosswords. If the crossword puzzles were a day old, meaning that thousands of people had already completed them, then people found it easier to get the answers – because the answers were already ‘out there’ in the collective memory of course.

The question is: did anyone ever really do this experiment, or anything like it, and what are the references? I’m not expecting that it would really produce a significant effect, but I’d still love to know if anyone has tried it.

Answers in the comments please

Link: Article on The Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon from damninteresting.com

I’ve put the relevant except from the script below the fold…


I like that. It’s like there’s this whole telepathic thing going on that we’re all a part of, whether we’re conscious of it or not. That would explain why there are all these seemingly spontaneous worldwide innovative leaps in science and the arts, you know, like the same results popping up everywhere independent of each other. Some guy on a computer figures something out, and then almost simultaneously a bunch of other people all over the world figure out the same thing. They did this study where they isolated a group of people over time, you know, and monitored their abilities at crossword puzzles in relation to the general population, and they secretly gave them a day-old crossword, one that had already been answered by thousands of other people, and their scores went up dramatically. Like 20%. So it’s like once the answers are out there, people can pick up on them. Like we’re all telepathically sharing our experiences.

14 Comments

  1. Posted January 16, 2007 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

    Wierdly, I had just posted this question to the blog when I decided to get a drink from the departmental coffee room. I was walking through the department thinking about the crossword experiment and I as I entered the coffee room our coffee lady, June, was sitting with a group of the secretaries and she said “Speak of the devil! Hello Tom, we were just talking about you – can you help us with this crossword?”
    I swear I’m not making this up!

  2. Posted January 16, 2007 at 5:52 pm | Permalink

    I definitely remember an experiment on Tomorrow’s World to test this over a decade ago, in which one of those spot patterns which are actually a picture was revealed to the audience, and then it was shown what the picture really was. The picture puzzle would then be given to a set of students in another country (I seem to remember Denmark for some reason, but I’m probably wrong) a week later. I have no idea how it turned out, though.

  3. lanier
    Posted January 16, 2007 at 6:14 pm | Permalink

    Here’s some info, though I can’t attest to its authority.
    http://cfpm.org/~majordom/memetics/2000/6425.html

  4. Posted January 16, 2007 at 6:23 pm | Permalink

    A little research drug-up reference to Rupert Sheldrake’s claims about "morphic resonance", but no reference to published results were evident. These ideas are akin to the old hundredth monkey canard, Sheldrake is also fond of trotting-out. You may be interested in Discover’s profile of Sheldrake:
    http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1511/is_8_21/ai_63583788/print
    I wonder how they explain the great difficulty English speakers have in learning Chinese– after all, there are 1.3 billion Chinese speakers, shouldn’t that give us a boost if just a few hundred crossword players can?
    In short, these claims are a load of bullflop.

    • SmedleyButler
      Posted July 29, 2011 at 5:45 am | Permalink

      You’re an illogical, knuckle-dragging, troglodyte. Rubes like yourself disrupt intelligent discourse. In short, your brain is a load of bullshit.

  5. Posted January 16, 2007 at 6:32 pm | Permalink

    Should you be able to stomach it, Sheldrake’s claims are enumerated in “Nature As Alive: Morphic Resonance and Collective Memory”:
    http://www.primalspirit.com/pr1_1sheldrake_nature_as_alive.htm
    The font bespeaks much.

  6. Posted January 16, 2007 at 10:54 pm | Permalink

    I was unable to find independent reference to any experiment performed by Monica England of the University of Nottingham (as referred to in Sheldrake’s writings), however, I did find reference to an experiment failing to find an effect in Shermer’s SciAm fisking of Sheldrake:
    “…in 2000 John Colwell of Middlesex University in London conducted a formal test using Sheldrake’s experimental protocol. Twelve volunteers participated in 12 sequences of 20 stare or no-stare trials each and received accuracy feedback for the final nine sessions. Results: subjects could detect being stared at only when accuracy feedback was provided, which Colwell attributed to the subjects learning what was, in fact, a nonrandom presentation of the trials. When University of Hertfordshire psychologist Richard Wiseman also attempted to replicate Sheldrake’s research, he found that subjects detected stares at rates no better than chance.”

  7. Posted January 17, 2007 at 8:24 am | Permalink

    Also, there is no thesis by Monica England logged by the University of Nottingham library (http://aleph.nottingham.ac.uk/ALEPH), by Nottingham Trent Library (https://opac.ntu.ac.uk) and none by The British Library (http://www.bl.uk/catalogues/listings.html), which should have a record of all PhD theses completed in the UK (it shows up my thesis, for example. I didn’t really believe that they get sent a copy until just now…)

  8. tom
    Posted January 17, 2007 at 8:44 pm | Permalink

    Reader Alex Robinson wrote to me to say:
    On reading your latest entry I immediately thought “That has to have something to do with Rupert Sheldrake and Morphic Resonance”. Actually the exact thought was “That has to have something to do with that charlatan Rupert Sheldrake and Morphic Resonance”.
    And lo, a quick google later
    http://www.primalspirit.com/pr1_1sheldrake_nature_as_alive.htm
    “Space does not allow summarizing all the work that is happening at present. I will just mention one experiment done recently. It is not, in fact, the best experiment, but it is the easiest to explain. This was done with crossword puzzles in the psychology department at Nottingham University. The young woman who did it, Monica England, reasoned as follows: If morphic resonance is happening, it should be easier to do today’s newspaper crossword puzzle tomorrow than it would have been yesterday.
    So we managed to persuade a London newspaper, The Evening Standard, to supply its crossword puzzle in advance for the purpose of this experiment. Students were tested in Nottingham the day before and the day after the crossword was published in London. They were also tested with a control crossword which was not published during that period. This of course involved testing different groups of students before and after. The control crossword gave a measure of each individual’s ability to do crossword puzzles of that kind.
    It turned out that students’ performances on the test crossword did indeed improve by about 25 percent after it had been published, compared with the control crossword. This result is statistically significant and is, of course, very interesting.”
    but it was apparently never published in a journal…
    http://cfpm.org/~majordom/memetics/2000/6425.html
    I count myself coloured several shades of surprised.

  9. T.Daly
    Posted April 23, 2009 at 11:46 am | Permalink

    I stumbled across this page while attempting to find an addition of solid proof for my “Theory of the mind”. My theory attempts to prove that our minds can co-exist with our bodies in the fourth dimention but be seperate from our bodies and view time and a waving strand rather than a single point. I believe that if our minds are seperate from our bodies this could help explain the theory of Sychrinicity. just as it can work vice versa to help me. If anyone has done this experiment and would be willing to share the results with me then please email me through my hotmail account, tom_a_d@hotmail.com. your input would be very helpful. And incase anyone was wondering, my theory does include string theory.

    • everyone
      Posted November 26, 2010 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

      I hope that is a joke.

  10. Cata
    Posted November 22, 2011 at 4:31 am | Permalink

    This is all so Jorge Luis Borges, in Tlön Uqbar Orbis Tertius… I love it.

  11. RickyJI
    Posted April 8, 2013 at 12:16 am | Permalink

    I am writing a research paper on Psychics that solve crime…. bare with me folks… research the ” Law of Attraction ” which pretty much states ur reality of how your life is only the fault of your thoughts, what you project outwards. in the book and movie called ” The Secret ” people breakdown all the univers into energy…. each cell in our body creates and uses energy to live… according to what animal, solid object, material, electronic, what ever lets just focus on humans… humans are energy,thoughts arnt somthing you can scale on a desible meter they are some electric err some shit energy.(you have enough power in ur body to light up a city for two weeks)if enough people are doing the same cross word puzzle they are energetically coming up with words on the subtle frequency that each individuals intuition is picking up on… so theoretically if people are thinking the same thing (100th monkey)the next person will be thinking the same things and HEYY that word does fit in the cross word puzzle!!! now back to my topic of psychic detectives… if the criminals think.. which im sure anyperson does think he is energetically thinking at a frequency that projects outwards ( law of attraction) creating a thought that a Psychic ( lets define them as people who have a hightened sensitive tuition) that can hear the thought os a criminal and where he is stashing the body. Psychic tips the po po and all is hokus pokus to some peoples eyes… but hey thas only my opinion.

    • Posted June 2, 2013 at 3:19 am | Permalink

      Hunh. That really clears everything up, RickyJI. Thanks. Up until your post I was confused by the issue being discussed.


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