chapter  23
38 Pages

Old Horses in New Stables: Rapid Prompting, Facilitated Communication, Science, Ethics, and the History of Magic


We in the sciences believe that high-quality research and reasoned conceptual analyses will resolve important controversies. Good methods will be discovered and adopted. Bad ones will be revealed for what they are and abandoned. Sometimes that happens. Sometimes it does not.1 Consider facilitated communication (FC). FC was developed in the 1980s in Australia by Rosemary Crossley (Crossley, 1994; Crossley & McDonald, 1980; Palfreman, 1994, 2012), then introduced to the rest of the world by Douglas Biklen in 1990 in an extended anecdote in the Harvard Education Review (Biklen, 1990). Almost four dozen scientific studies, most published in the 1990s,2 showed that FC was not the communications miracle it was purported to be (for reviews, see Green, 1994; Green & Shane, 1994; Mostert, 2001, 2010; Probst, 2005). Rather, scientists demonstrated what should have been obvious about FC from the beginning. FC was just another in a long list of unconscious movement and cueing phenomena-a combination of Clever Hans signaling and Ouija board divining (Candland, 1993; Faraday, 1853; Hall, 1993; Jastrow, 1935; Pfungst, 1911; Pinchbeck, 1805a; Spitz, 1997; von Mádáy, 1914; Wegner, 2002; Wegner, Fuller, & Sparrow, 2003).