I was listening to BBC Radio 5 before they let fans back into the football stadiums in the UK, and they were commenting on how teams had lost a lot more home games during covid than in seasons with full stadiums. It got me thinking. Of course there is the emotional lift that you get with the fans behind you. At the same time it correlated with research carried out at Princeton University for 28 years that showed how collective intention impacts otherwise random events.
In the 1970’s a student came into Dean Robert Jahn‘s office at Princeton University’s engineering school asking him to supervise an independent study to determine whether human consciousness could affect the output of an electronic random number generator, or REG. As a rocket scientist, Jahn was aware of reports that that seemed to suggest that the inner state of fighter pilots might effect the electronic technology of their fighter aircraft. As a rocket scientist, Bob Jahn’s curiosity was roused enough for him to agree to oversee the project. (That, by the way, is the mark of a true scientist – someone who is willing to question their own understanding of the world if the data seems to be pointing to anomalies. Unlike the “scientist” he quotes as coming to him many years down the line and saying “Bob, even if what you are telling me is true, I wouldn’t believe it”. That’s scientism, not science.)
The Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research project was born in 1979 and ran for 28 years, continually responding to demands from the scientific community for more academic rigour, until they reached the point that the probability of what they had discovered being chance was statistically nearly one in a billion. They had proven beyond statistical doubt that our human intention impacts otherwise random events in the world around us (1).
The part of their story that relates to football matches and fans in stadiums is their research into the power of collective fields. They found that when a group of people who were aligned around a shared purpose and held the same intention, the impact of their intention was far greater that the expected impact if you just added up the number of people involved. The whole was far greater than the sum of the parts. They would therefore expect to see a measurable significant effect if tens of thousands of passionate fans were all urging their team to victory. The greater the number of fans, and the more passionate they were in their support, the greater one would expect the impact to be. So it should come as no surprise that when you remove that powerful energy, it levels out the playing field more. (See the report by Harvard psychiatrist Eric Lefkowitz on his research of this phenomenon with the Boston Red Sox, including tips on how to influence the performance of your team.)
However, it is not quite as simple as that. The research showed that these kind of effects also happened outside of our normal space and time parameters. If people were not physically in the same space, they could still achieve significant impact with their intention – interestingly they occasionally even performed better. So all the fans who were watching on their TVs or mobile devices would also have been impacting the field of probability around a match. Yet in this situation both sets of fans were operating at a distance and none had the advantage of physical presence.
Is physical presence such an advantage? To answer this question we need to refer to an experiment done with baby chicks and a robot driven by a random process. When the chicks hatched, the first other thing they set eyes on was the robot. The chicks thought the robot was their mother and followed it around the field they were in. The researchers then put the chicks in a confined area on one side of the field and set the robot to move randomly around the field. The chicks were clearly distressed at being separated from their robot “mother” and what the researchers found is that the robot was pulled over to the side of the field where the chicks were, to an extent that demonstrated statistical significance. The chicks seemed to be exerting a pull on the robot in a way that our Newtonian science can’t explain.
The reason that the chicks example is important is that it shows that the ability to exert influence through our intention is not limited to enlightened meditators. In fact it is much more about the use of pre-cognitive and pre-rational emotional drives than it is about transcendent stages or states of consciousness. I’m not saying that no football fans are enlightened beings, however the emotions active in a football match emanate much more from the pre-rational stages of development, and I would argue that the strength of those emotions is enhanced by the physical presence of tens of thousands of other people feeling the same thing.
The existence of collective information fields related to shared emotions continued to be researched after the Princeton work ended in 2007 by Roger Nelson and the Global Consciousness Project. They registered a significant peak for example just before the planes hit the twin towers on 9/11, as well as during Black Lives Matters events and many other moments where collective attention was focused and emotion was shared. The “FieldREG” technology was also made available to the public to run their own experiments.
At the moment this remains a hypothesis of course. We would need to do more research to track the correlations between the presence of football fans, the coherence of related information fields and the outcomes of football matches. Fortunately, after being in storage for a number of years following the closure of the Princeton lab, all the equipment, books, journals and data has now been shipped to the Broughton Sanctuary in Yorkshire, UK, where it will be restored and updated with the latest technology so the experiments can begin again. It will be part of the Wyrd Experience, a public space where people can come and experience for themselves their interconnectedness with the world around them as their minds and hearts influence the technology. 14-18 November there will be a special conference open to the public at Broughton dedicated to Science and Consciousness at which we will launch the Wyrd Experience with Brenda Dunne, who managed the Princeton work with Bob Jahn. Who knows, match-fixing may take on a whole new dimension!
(1) PEAR moved its digital home to the International Consciousness Research Labs website