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5 May 2010, JellyBean @ 4:36 pm

The most extensive study of alleged psychic Sylvia Browne’s predictions about missing persons and murder cases reveals a strange discrepancy: despite her repeated claim to be more than 85 percent correct, it seems that Browne has not even been mostly correct about a single case.

One difficulty in judging the accuracy of psychics is the vagueness of their readings, which are often so general that they are worthless. Psychics who offer readings about missing persons and murder cases, however, allow researchers to examine their accuracy with independent information. When Sylvia Browne was a weekly guest on The Montel Williams Show, she performed supposed feats ranging from ghost detecting to offering details about missing persons and murder cases. 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 Browne’s accuracy. According to Browne, “my accuracy rate is somewhere between 87 and 90 percent, if I’m recalling correctly.” 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), Browne’s confirmable accuracy was 0 percent.

This article is structured in terms of known and unknown outcomes. The criteria for a correct prediction is that it mostly matches a case referenced in a newspaper, and the criteria for a wrong prediction is that Browne’s claim is the opposite of what actually occurred. The metric for the final accuracy count is based on what is correct compared to the unknown or wrong claims. As this article shows, in the 115 available cases Browne was correct zero times and wrong twenty-five times. Ninety out of the 115 cases have unknown outcomes. A previous examination of thirty-five cases Browne made predictions about was published in Brill’s Content. The magazine concluded: “In twenty-one, the details were too vague to be verified. Of the remaining fourteen, law-enforcement officials or family members involved in the investigations say that Browne had played no useful role.” This article greatly expands the scope of the Brill’s Content article by looking at Browne’s comments to the press and on television about missing persons and criminal cases. No case was excluded. We have listed each case Browne made predictions about as well as provided a reference or broadcast date. When we began to research this, we expected Browne to have been correct at least a few times, but as the list demonstrates, she was not. The references show that the only cases in which Browne was not proven wrong are those that remain unsolved.

Read the whole article here:

CSI – Skeptical Enquirer

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