Todd Murphy, 2019.
A Dutch experiment using a fake God Helmet was published last year (D. Maij, et al.). It claimed to have elicited a large number of extraordinary experiences using suggestion and a placebo helmet. On closer examination, it turns out that the percentages of “sensed presences” and out of body experiences they reported from their “fake” God Helmet were very close to what Dr. Michael Persinger reported from his placebo control subjects.
Dr. Persinger found that about 10% of his control subjects reported feeling a presence, in contrast to the 80% who felt it under actual stimulation conditions. The “fake” God Helmet experiment found that 5.6% of their subjects (placebo subjects, all) felt a presence. Persinger saw more “sensed presences” in his placebo control group because he used an acoustically silent chamber, which has a noticeable, but small, effect on it’s own. He published this in one of his many essays.
The Dutch researchers didn’t apply any actual stimulation, so they didn’t see the high rates (80%) of sensed presence sensations that Persinger saw in his experiments, which also used placebo controls and blind protocols (sample).
The Dutch researchers found that 8.6% of their subjects reported “floating” sensations or out of body experiences (different, but similar experiences) without any stimulation. In contrast, Persinger’s subjects in one study found 28 to 37% (depending on their neural profiles and other factors) reporting them. If the results were due to placebo effect or suggestion, the numbers should have been approximately the same.
The Dutch study was carried out during a music festival, a high-energy, loud, and celebratory environment. The subjects went from that environment into partial sensory deprivation, and the strong contrast between the mood in the crowd, and the mood that appears with sensory deprivation could have contributed to the results from the “fake” helmet.
The God Helmet isn’t a placebo device, and it doesn’t work through suggestion or suggestibility. It’s a real neural stimulation technology. The best way to see the effects a brain technology has is to use EEG or another brain imaging method to observe it’s effects directly, which was not done in the Dutch experiment.
Maij’s results with his ‘fake‘ or ‘pretend‘ helmet were similar to Persinger’s control groups, but not even close to Persinger’s results with his actual subjects.
In addition, Maij used “white noise” a known mild hallucinatory stimulus, so although his helmet was a “dummy”, his procedure wasn’t a full placebo.