Op-Ed: Psychic Patricia Putt failed the test for the JREF prize today

Patricia Putt, who claims to be psychic, had agreed to be tested in order to qualify for the $1 million prize awarded by the James Randi Educational Foundation. Putt took the failure well and she did not blame the test nor the testers.

The test was administered at Goldsmiths University by Professor Christopher French, Professor Richard Wiseman, and psychology students Panka Juhasz, James Munroe, Suzanne Barbieri, and Fabio Tartarini.
Patricia Putt was asked to write a "reading" on 10 volunteers, whom she was not allowed to look in the face, nor to touch. She had to listen to each one of them while she or he was reading a text from William Blake’s ‘The Auguries of Innocence’, and write down her conclusions.
Once the test was over, the ten volunteers each received a package with the ten readings and they had to pick out the one that applied to them. Patricia would have passed the test if five of the volunteers had been able to do so. Why only five? Because no human talent is perfect, and any fair test must include the possibility of failure without invalidating the test.
After the test, it appeared that not a single volunteer had been able to identify the reading associated with her/him.
The JREF reports that Patricia putt took her failure well and that she did not blame the test or the testers but rather her own powers for failing.
It is important to note that this test does not prove that psychic powers do not exist. It does not even prove that Patricia Putt has no psychic powers. All it shows is that Patricia putt failed utterly to pass a test... this time.
In order to understand this properly, we can look at school/university exams. These exams are not meant to prove that a person is an able mathematician, psychologist, computer programmer, anatomist... They could not possibly accomplish that. However, they are meant as a filter that increases the chances that a person who passes to the next study year, and the next... is indeed qualified to do so.
In studies, students are often studying in such a way as to maximise their chances to have a high score. This does increase the possibility that a certified geologist, linguist, doctor... is in fact not actually capable of doing this job. At the same time, there is no guarantee that people who are capable do indeed pass the exams.
In other words, Patricia Putt's results are not proof positive that she does not have psychic powers. However, they are proof positive that they did not help her to pass this test.
This test is nevertheless very important, because the JREF, and other similar organisations around the world have all failed for decades to discover a single positive result. While this does not conclusively prove that psychics do not exist, it is a pattern of failure that the scientific community, and the public at large cannot interpret in any other way than that psychic powers, if not impossible, are so very rare, that we should live our lives as if they did not exist.