by The Global Consciousness Project
President-elect Barack Obama
walks on stage at his victory
celebration in Chicago with his wife, Michelle, and daughters
Malia and Sasha.
Image by Scott Olson / Getty Images
Barack Obama has been elected the 44th president
of the United States of America.
After nearly two years of intense
campaigning in primaries and the general election, voters have given an
overwhelming victory to Barack Obama.
"Change has come to America," the
first African-American leader tells his country.
by Alex Johnson
Barack Obama, a 47-year-old first-term
senator from Illinois, shattered more than 200 years of history Tuesday
night by winning election as the first African-American president of the
A crowd of 125,000 people jammed Grant Park in Chicago, where Obama
addressed the nation for the first time as its president-elect at
Hundreds of thousands more - Mayor Richard
Daley said he would not be surprised if a million Chicagoans jammed the
streets - watched on a large television screen outside the park.
"If there is anyone out there who doubts
that America is a place where anything is possible, who still
wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, who still
questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer," Obama
"Young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black,
white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and
not disabled, Americans have sent a message to the world that we
have never been just a collection of red states and blue states," he
"We have been and always will be the United States of America."
"It's been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did
on this day, in this election, at this defining moment, change has
come to America," he said to a long roar.
Obama congratulated his opponent, Republican
Sen. John McCain of Arizona, for his "unimaginable" service to the
United States, first as a prisoner of war for five and a half years in
North Vietnam and then for nearly three decades in Congress.
McCain called Obama to offer his congratulations at 11 p.m. ET, Obama's
chief spokesman, Robert Gibbs, told NBC News.
Obama thanked McCain for his "class and
honor" during the campaign and said he was eager to sit down and talk
about how the two of them could work together.
The GCP prediction for this momentous event was
set for the 24 hour period beginning at 15:00 Eastern time (20:00 UTC) on
November 4th. This includes several hours of election day in the US, and
enough time for the votes to be counted to determine the winner of the
election (assuming the margin would not be razor thin), and continues until
most of the world has awakened to begin a day with a new US President-elect.
Beginning about two hours before the official announcement that Obama had
won, the data show a consistent positive trend that continues through the
declaration at 23:00 ET and his subsequent speech to 125,000 people at Grant
Park in Chicago and the public via TV. The formal data segment overall shows
a modest positive trend through the 24 hour period.
Chisquare is 86806.274
on 86400 df, for p = 0.164 and Z = 0.977.
This represents a relatively large effect size
compared with the average of Z = 0.33 over the full GCP database.
Late in the day, with a clear win in
Pennsylvania and Ohio also decided for Obama, his win appears to be a fait
At this time, about two hours before the
official declaration, the data take on a steady positive trend. It continues
through the formal announcement and McCain's concession speech at 11:00 pm
and for two hours after Obama's acceptance speech in Grant Park at midnight.
The following below figure shows this period of time.
This is of course a post hoc analysis, rather
than a formal result, but the trend is consistent with the idea that the
widespread and intense emotional response to Obama's election might register
on our network.
The huge worldwide interest and engagement in the 2008 election suggests a
deeper exploration of the data is warranted. Early results using
alternate measures are available.
There are three other Obama related GCP events that are consistent with an
effect of his presence or charisma, though we can't make scientific claims
beyond the finding of consistent correlations.
In June, we identified the final determination
that he would be the
Democratic nominee as a formal event.
in August we did a formal assessment of his
nomination acceptance speech.
related measure was an informal, exploratory FieldREG recording at an
Obama rally in Chester PA.
All of these show positive, sometimes striking
Shouldn't the effect
Given the powerful emotions aroused by Barack Obama's success, and the
feeling of wonder and joy generated in huge numbers of people around the
world, we might expect a correspondingly powerful effect in the GCP data. It
is positive, but it isn't "off the charts" and we are tempted to believe it
Quoting one correspondent,
"I had hoped to see a bigger response,
and this only increases my doubts about the consciousness hypothesis."
This offers an opportunity to explain the statistical nature of the GCP
"Is there a correlation of structure in our data with widely
shared states of consciousness and emotion generated by great events?"
tools we have to answer this kind of question are averages and variance and
correlations among the scores from all the devices in the network. Such
measures have intrinsic variability, which is another way of saying they are
"noisy." Thus, when we look for structure, we have to expect some difficulty
differentiating real patterns from mere noise - both signal and noise are
represented by the same simple numbers.
In general, to understand the data, we have to examine the distribution of
the numbers to see if they are pushed away from the mean or spread out
If the distribution is distorted in identifiable
ways (corresponding to the scientific predictions or hypotheses we have set)
then we can say there is evidence for the signal we are looking for. Yet,
because of the intrinsic variability, it can happen that the signal is
obscured or weakened by an accidental but entirely normal excess of
variation in the noisy background.
Or, equally problematic, we may see an exciting
trend or spike of activity that is just normal fluctuation.
Here is our
standard caution to encourage patience and to avoid over-interpretation of GCP data:
It is important to keep in mind that we have
only a tiny statistical effect, so that it is always hard to distinguish
signal from noise. This means that every "success" might be largely
driven by chance, and every "null" might include a real signal
overwhelmed by noise. In the long run, a real effect can be identified
only by patiently accumulating replications of similar analyses.
In addition to this signal-to-noise issue, we
know from categorization studies that celebrations (and the 2008 Election
has a great deal of this quality) show relatively small effects in the
standard Netvar statistic, but relatively large effects using one of our
Alternate Measures called Covar, which
looks at second order variance of the internode correlations.
Finally, an instructive example of what is a "big" effect. The
September 11 2001 terror attacks were analyzed carefully and
extensively, and we can conclude that the effects were among the largest in
our 10-year database.
The following figure shows a comparison of 24
hours of data from 9/11 beginning with the crash of the first plane into the
World Trade towers, and a 24 hour period of data beginning with the
announcement that Barack Obama had won the election to become the
44th President of the United States of America. The figure speaks for itself
- remembering that we cannot reliably interpret single events like this,
nevertheless it appears that the election shows at least as strong an effect
as the terror attacks.
We can hope that the election is the beginning
of truly positive change.