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CSI’s Balles Prize Goes to Richard Wiseman for Paranormality

News & Comment

Barry Karr

Skeptical Inquirer Volume 36.5, September/October 2012

Richard Wiseman

The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI) will award its 2011 Robert P. Balles Annual Prize in Critical Think­ing to psychologist Richard Wiseman for his book Paranormality: Why We See What Isn’t There.


Wiseman holds Britain’s only Chair in the Public Understanding of Psy­chology, at the University of Hertford­shire (UK). He has written several best-selling books, including The Luck Factor, Quirkology, 59 Seconds, and Paranormal­ity. More than two million people have taken part in his mass participation experiments, and his YouTube channel has received more than thirty million views. He is one of the most frequently quoted psychologists in the British media and was recently listed as one of the Inde­pendent on Sunday’s top 100 people who make Britain a better place to live. He is also a Committee for Skep­tical Inquiry fellow and a Skeptical Inquirer consulting editor.

Paranormality is not like a good number of skeptical books looking at paranormal claims. Wiseman is not simply interested in looking at a claim, gathering the evidence, and debunking the claim. He goes a step further. He is interested in showing us how easy it is for us to be deceived and how easily we can be fooled and fool others. He includes do-it-yourself activities that allow you to learn some of the basics and share in the experiences for yourself.

As the book jacket says: “Richard Wise­man is clear about one thing: Para­normal phenomena don’t exist. But in the same way space travel yields technology that transforms our everyday lives, so research into telepathy, fortune-telling, and out-of-body experiences produces remarkable insights into our brains, behaviour and beliefs.” Exactly.

The Robert P. Balles Annual Prize in Critical Thinking is a $1,500 award given to the author of the published work that best exemplifies healthy skepticism, logical analysis, or empirical science. Each year, the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, publisher of the Skeptical Inquirer, selects the paper, article, book, or other publication that has the greatest potential to create positive reader awareness of important scientific issues.

The prize will be presented to Wiseman during CSICon Nashville, October 25–28, 2012.

This prize has been established through the generosity of Robert P. Balles, an associate member of CSI, and the Robert P. Balles Endowed Memorial Fund, a permanent endowment fund for the benefit of CSI. CSI’s established criteria for the prize include use of the most parsimonious theory to fit data or to explain apparently preternatural phenomena.

This is the seventh year the Robert P. Balles prize has been presented. Previous winners of this award are:

Barry Karr

Barry Karr's photo

Barry Karr is the director of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry.