It would be a shock if it does but a series of nine experiments done in 2011 by Daryl Bem a professor at Cornell University and published in the prestigious Journal of Personality and Social Psychology seemed to find this remarkable effect in nine different experiments.
Steve Novella describes the experiment:
In the 9th study, for example, subjects were given a list of words in sequence on a computer screen. They were then asked to recall as many of the words as possible. Following that they were given two practice sessions with half of the word chosen by the computer at random. The results were then analyzed to see if practicing the words improved the subject’s recall for those words in the past. Bem found that they did, with the largest effect size of any of the 9 studies.
Got it? The subjects recalled better those words that they were later given to study.
Needless to say, these results sparked considerable skepticism and other researchers tried to replicate the results. When one group failed to so, they tried to get their negative results published by the same journal and failed, a common problem that I wrote about earlier. After much difficulty, they got it published elsewhere.
Now the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology has decided after all to publish a different replication attempt that also failed to reproduce the Bem study, pretty much sinking the idea that the future can influence the present
What might have gone wrong with the original Bem study? Novella has a good run-down of the possible reasons, some of which surprised me because they indicate a lack of rigor that is disturbing. I hope such practices are not widespread in psychology research.