What’s the connection between Walmart and parapsychology? ESP

SamWaltonToday, the SPR’s John Poynton asked me an interesting question. Where did the phrase ‘Error Some Place’ (in lieu of ExtraSensory Perception) originate? After a bit of searching, I dug up a 1975 reference to it in a Journal of Communication article by Charles Honorton. Honorton attributed the acronym to a ‘skeptical psychologist’ (the first page of his article is here). But it seems that the phrase has a separate life outside of parapsychology. Walmart founder Sam Walton wrote about his use of the term in his 1992 autobiography Sam Walton: Made in America, as follows:

Nowadays, you hear a lot about fancy accounting methods, like LIFO and FIFO, but back then we were using the ESP method, which really sped things along when it came time to close those books. It’s a pretty basic method: if you can’t make your books balance, you take however much they’re off by and enter it under the heading ESP, which stands for Error Some Place. (p. 68)

But who was that ‘skeptical psychologist’ Honorton mentioned? My money’s on Ray Hyman. What do others think?

About Caroline Watt

Prof Caroline Watt is a founder member of the Koestler Parapsychology Unit.
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7 Responses to What’s the connection between Walmart and parapsychology? ESP

  1. Scott Scribner says:

    Coon & Mitterer’s INTRODUCTION TO PSYCHOLOGY attributes Error Some Place to Marks (2000). I think Hyman admitted that some parapsychological results are “astronomically significant”. In my opinion, the Error crowd might have some obligation to find the error. There was recently a call in the APA to discard the importance of statistical significance, which should mainly be used to test only data reliability.

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  2. This quote for “Sam Walton: Made in America” actually appears in Chapter 4: Swimming Upstream on page 53.

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  3. Honorton’s is the earliest ref I’ve found in the context of parapsychology. I doubt Honorton (or Honorton’s anonymous skeptical psychologist) inspired Walton’s use, though Walton may have been using the phrase for decades before he wrote the autobiography. I wrote the blog to stimulate curiosity and see if anyone had an idea who Honorton was referring to.

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