Summary of 13 Maharishi Effect Published Studies

Excerpted from:

Orme-Johnson DW
“Preventing crime through the Maharishi Effect”
Journal of Offender Rehabilitation. 2003;36(1/2/3/4):257-282.


  • Studies on the City and Metropolitan Level
  • Studies on the State and Provincial Level
  • Studies on the National Level

Studies on the City and Metropolitan Level

1) Twenty-four US cities—A Retrospective Study: This study was of all twenty-four cities in the United States with populations over 10,000 with 1% or more of their population practicing the Transcendental Meditation program by 1972. These experimental cities were compared to twenty-four control cities, which were selected by an independent investigator prior to collection of the last several years of data. Matching variables were total population, college population, and geographic region (Dillbeck, Landrith III, & Orme-Johnson, 1981). In the control cities, less than 0.7% of the population had learned the TM technique. Stepwise discriminate analysis showed that 1% and control cities were similar on per capita income, percentage of persons aged 15 to 29, stability of residence, percentage unemployed, and percentage of families with incomes below poverty level. The two groups of cities did differ on median years education and pre-intervention crime rate slope, which were controlled statistically by analysis of covariance.
The study examined change in the FBI total crime index in 1973, the year after the 1% cities reached 1%, and studied the change in crime rate trend for six post-intervention years from 1972–1977. Change in crime rate in 1973 was assessed by the difference in the actual 1973 crime rate from the level predicted by linear regression on the six-year pre-intervention baseline period from 1967–72. Change in crime rate trend was assessed by comparing the slope of regression on the post-intervention period with the slope for the pre-intervention period.
In 1973 there was a significant decrease in crime rate by 24% (p<.001) in 1% cities relative to controls. In addition, the post-intervention slope of the crime trend for the 1% cities decreased compared an increase in the slope in the control cities (p<.025). During the post-intervention period the mean slope of change in crime rate for the 1% cities was not significantly different from zero, while the slope for the control cities was significantly greater than zero (p<.0001).
Because this study took place in a period when cities of this size were increasingly complying with FBI standard for reporting the Uniform Crime Report index, a second analysis was conducted on a reduced sample of 20 1% and 20 control cities, which eliminated all cities which showed a sudden increase in crime that might have been an artifact due to a change in police reporting procedures. The results for this reduced sample were similar to the whole sample; a 22% decrease in crime in 1% cities in 1973 compared to an increase by 2% in control cities (p<.005), and a reduction in crime rate trend in the 1% cities by 89% compared to an increased by 53% in controls (p<.05). In addition, a significant correlation was found between of percentage TM participation in each city in 1972 and crime rate change in 1973 (r=.53, p<.001) and change in slope (r=.41, p.01). This study demonstrated that the Maharishi Effect has immediate effect on crime as well as a long-term effect that persisted over six years, which was independent of the influences of major demographic variables known to affect crime.
2) 160 US Cities—A Causal Analysis: Causality implies lagged correlation, i.e., the cause should precede the effect in time (McCleary & Hay Jr., 1980). One type of causal analysis, called cross-lagged panel correlation, compares the synchronous correlation (the correlation between two variables at the same time) with the lagged correlations (the correlation of a variable with another variable at earlier and later times). The hypothesis that A is causing B is supported if variations in A are followed in time by correlated changes in B, whereas changes in B are not followed in time by correlated changes in A, assuming that the synchronous correlations at both time periods are equal (Kenny, 1979).
Crime data is only readily available for cities on a yearly basis, so only relatively slowly evolving processes can be studied using this data. However, yearly data should be expected to capture the dynamics of the prediction that rising numbers of TM participants will cause a decline in crime rate in subsequent years. This prediction was tested in a stratified random sample of 160 US cities, which was comprised of 40 cities in each of 4 population groups (greater than 250,000; 100,000 to 250,000; 50,000 to 100,000; and 25,000 to 50,000) (Dillbeck, Banus, Polanzi, & Landrith III, 1988). This sample comprised 25% of the total urban population of the United States (1970 census) studied over the 15 year period 1964–1978. As before, FBI total index crime data were used.
For each city, a trend line was calculated that represented changes in crime rate from 1964 to 1971 before significantly large numbers began practicing the TM program in the United States. The trend line was projected from 1972 to 1978 to predict what the crime rate would have been had the earlier trend continued. The trend of increasing crime seen from 1964 to 1971 was predicted to continue in the period from 1972 to 1978 in cities with low percentages of TM participants. However, in the cities with high percentages of TM participation, the slope of the crime rate trends were predicted to decline below the previous slopes. Partial correlations were used to control ten specific social variables known to influence crime-median years education, percent unemployed, per capita income, percent of families in poverty, stability of residency over five years, median age, percent over age 65, population size, population density, and ratio of police per population. The assumption of stationarity was tested and upheld.
The cross-lagged differences were each in the direction that would be predicted by the hypothesis of TM program causality (p’s ranged from<.01 to.05), except one which was essentially zero.
Because some of the smaller cities in the random sample could have been part of a larger metropolitan area, a second cross-lagged panel analysis was conducted using Standard Metropolitan Statistical Areas (SMSA). 3) 80 US Standard Metropolitan Statistical Areas—A Second Causal Analysis: Using the same causal analysis as above for the 16 year period from 1964 to 1979, a second study was conducted on a random sample of 80 SMSAs constituting 55% of the SMSAs with over 200,000 population. This sample included 47% of the total metropolitan population of the United States. The results were essentially the same as with the cities; a stable causal structure was found that supported the hypothesis that the Maharishi Effect reduced crime rate. Both raw correlations and partial correlations, which controlled for other variables known to influence crime, showed that level of TM participation predicted reduced crime in subsequent years (p<.01 for each year). The magnitude of the correlations of TM leading crime decrease were small, an average of -.22, accounting for 5% of the total variance. However, a correlation of this magnitude is equivalent to an improvement of 17.6% in a dichotomous outcome variable (e.g., cure rate) due to a treatment (Rosenthal & Rubin, 1982).
3) Union Territory of Delhi—Decreased Crime (1980–1981) A study in India involved time series analysis of the impact on crime rate in New Delhi of a group of TM and TM-Sidhi experts attending a Vedic Science Course there from November 1980 to early April 1981. The impact of the group was assessed on a time series comprising 304 observations of daily crime totals for Delhi from June 1980 to March 1981. After weekly, monthly, and other cycles and trends were removed from the time series, the estimated impact of the group was highly statistically significant (p<.0001), indicating a decrease in crime by 11% from the pre-intervention average. The size and statistical significance of the intervention parameters proved to be highly robust to alternative specifications of the noise model. This reduction in Delhi’s crime rate could not be accounted for by changes in governmental policies. A detailed analysis by an Indian police official showed that there were no changes in local police policy, no special drives on crime, no systematic transfer of police staff, and no apparent change in the number of criminals through externment or court clearance (Dillbeck, Cavanaugh, Glenn, Orme-Johnson, & Mittlefehldt, 1987).
4) Metro Manila Region—Decreased Crime and Death (1979–1981) A study in the Philippines found that a group of approximately 400 TM and TM-Sidhi participants, who regularly practiced their program together as part of their jobs, had a significant positive effect (p<.025) on a monthly quality of life index comprised of crime totals, fetal deaths, and other deaths, the most unambiguous indicators of quality of life available for study in this experiment (Dillbeck, et al., 1987).
5) Metro Manila—Decreased Crime (1984–1985) The second study in the Philippines was on the weekly time series of crime totals for Metro Manila’s 8 million population from December 31, 1982 to March 7, 1985. A large group of approximately 1,500 teachers of the TM program who also practiced the TM-Sidhi program went to Manila, principally in August and September 1984, because of a demand for the TM program in rehabilitation and educational settings. There were more than 300 TM and TM-Sidhi participants, the square root of 1% of Manila’s population, in the city during the experimental period from August to January. Impact-assessment analysis indicated that crime decreased significantly during the experimental period by 12.1 percent (p<.005) (Dillbeck, et al., 1987).
6) Washington, D.C.—Decreased Violent Crime (1981–1983) Maharishi International University (then called Maharishi International University) opened a branch campus in Washington, D.C., (the College of Natural Law) for the expressed purpose of creating coherence in the nation’s capital. A study using the transfer function approach of time series analysis, supported a causal relationship between participation in the group practice in the TM and TM-Sidhi programs at the College of Natural Law and decreased violent crimes in Washington over the two year period of their study. Alternative explanations in terms of weather, changes in police coverage, demographic shifts or increases in neighborhood watch programs could not account for the results (Dillbeck, et al., 1988). When the College of Natural Law had to move from Washington, beginning in 1986 and completed in 1987, the homicides in Washington, D.C. increased drastically to become the highest in the nation in 1990.
7) Merseyside, England—Decreased Crime (1978–1991) A time series analysis on monthly crime data and a coherence creating group practicing the TM and TM-Sidhi program showed a phase transition to decreased crime in March 1988 when the group size exceeded the predicted threshold of the square root of 1% of the population. The crime rate fell by 16% in Merseyside (p=.00006), whereas during the same period it increased by 20% in the rest of England and Wales. Merseyside moved from the third highest crime rate of all metropolitan areas in the UK to the second lowest area. There were 170,000 fewer crimes in Merseyside than expected over the 3.5 year experimental period, and the projected savings to the government was 850 million British pounds (Hatchard, Deans, Cavanaugh, & Orme-Johnson, 1996).
8) Washington, D.C.—Decreased Violent Crime (1993) This study was a prospective experiment in which a group of approximately 4,000 participants in the Transcendental Meditation and TM-Sidhi programs assembled in Washington, D.C., from June 7 to July 30, 1993. The hypothesis that levels of violent crime in the District of Columbia would fall substantially during the Demonstration Project was posited with a 27 member Project Review Board comprising independent scientists and leading citizens. The Board approved the research protocol and monitored the research process. The District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Department (DCMPD) provided weekly crime data from a database used for their FBI Uniform Crime Reports. The study statistically controlled for the effects of weather variables, daylight, historical crime trends and annual patterns in the District of Columbia, as well as trends in neighboring cities.
Time series analysis of 1993 data showed that homicides, rapes and assaults (HRA) crimes dropped significantly during the Demonstration Project, corresponding with increases in the size of the group. The maximum decrease was 23.3%, p<2 x 10-9, (24.6% using a longer baseline, with 1988–1993 data, p<3 x 10-5), coincident with the peak number of participants in the group during the final week of the assembly. No significant decreases in HRA crimes were found during the same period in each of the five previous years. Nor could the effect of the coherence-creating group on reducing HRA crimes be accounted for by additional police staffing. The results for HRA crime were highly robust to alternative time series model specifications, and showed that the effect of the group size was cumulative and persisted after the Demonstration Project ended. Calculation of the steady state gain based on the time series model predicted that a permanent group of 4,000 coherence-creating experts in the District would have a long-term effect of reducing HRA crimes by 48% (Hagelin, Rainforth, Orme-Johnson, Cavanaugh, & Alexander, 1999).
It should also be noted that another major purpose of the project, that was lodged in advance, was to create coherence for government. During the project, a floundering Clinton administration suddenly began to make progress. On July 18th, journalist Sally Quinn wrote in the Washington Post j: “Well, in case anyone hasn’t noticed, Washington is in a lull, at least from the vantage point of the inmates…. the Clinton administration appears to have revived….But such a swift reversal of political fortune is not easy to account for. The inmates may logically wonder whether Clinton really turned things around or if something else is going on…almost mysteriously and almost overnight, in the face of government distress…” This change was also observed from inside the White House. Clinton’s special assistant and White House press secretary, George Staphanopoulos, recently wrote of that period: “By the Fall of 1993, The Clinton White House had found its footing. We held the Middle East peace ceremony, passed NAFTA and the Brady bill, got our economic plan through and had proposed the centerpiece of our domestic agenda: Health-care reform” (Staphanopoulos, 1999). Time series analysis showed that coincident with the onset of the Demonstration Project that Clinton’s approval rating increased (p=5.29 X 10-8), media positivity increased towards the president (p=.01) and all five available indicators of social stress decreased (emergency psychiatric calls (p=.009), hospital trauma cases (p=.02), complaints against the police, (p=.01), accidental deaths (p=.05), and a social stress index of the four (p=3.22 X 10-5) (Goodman, Orme-Johnson, Rainforth, & Goodman, 1997).

Studies on the State and Provincial Level

9) The Ideal Society Campaign—An Experimental Study: The first publicly announced, prospective experimental research on the sociological effects of groups collectively practicing the TM and TM-Sidhi program was undertaken in the summer of 1978, as part of a project called the Ideal Society Campaign held in 20 countries. In the U.S., a group of approximately 300 teachers of the TM program went to the state of Rhode Island to teach the TM program to 1% of the population.
By the beginning of August 1978, only about half the required number for 1% of the population (5,045) had been instructed in Rhode Island, many of whom had learned the TM technique previously. However, the 300 TM teachers who went to Rhode Island were all practicing the TM-Sidhi program together in groups in various cities throughout the state. This added influence was calculated to be sufficient to create coherence for a population of 532,000. This, together with the 5,045 TM participants, was predicted to be the threshold for a transition to improved quality of life in Rhode Island’s entire one million population (Dillbeck, et al., 1987).
This prediction was evaluated using time series analysis of a composite index of eight variables for seven years of monthly data from 1974 to 1980. Since the group was there in 1978, the analysis extended to over two years after the experimental period. The eight variables were FBI total crime, motor vehicle fatality rate, motor vehicle accident rate, death rate, per capita beer consumption, per capita cigarette consumption, unemployment rate, and degree of pollution (particulates). To control for the possibility that the quality of life generally improved in that region of the United States, the quality of life in Rhode Island was contrasted with that of the nearby state of Delaware.
Time series analysis found that during the Ideal Society Campaign the quality of life in Rhode Island significantly improved (p<.01). There was also a significant but less pronounced improvement continuing after the intervention (p<.01). These results indicate on the state level an effect of a direct intervention of a large group of participants in the Transcendental Meditation and TM-Sidhi programs on improved quality of life, which included not only the FBI total crime index, but also two major crime risk factors—unemployment and alcohol (beer) consumption— as well as a variety of other measures indicating a general increase in coherence in society.
10) Puerto Rico—Decreased Crime (1984) A time series analysis of the impact of a group of more than the square root of 1% of Puerto Rico’s 3.4 million population (n=185) from April to June 1984 showed a decrease of 543.1 crimes per month (p<.025) during the group’s presence in the territory compared with the mean of the series at other times. The police department had established an air-to-ground surveillance system using helicopters, patrol cars, and motorcycles in May 1980, but an impact assessment series analysis of this program showed that its effect on crime was statistically nonsignificant. There was no other apparent alternative explanation of the effect (Dillbeck, et al., 1987).

Studies on the National Level

11) Israel—Decreased Crime and Improved Quality of Life in Jerusalem and Israel as a Whole and Decreased War Intensity in Lebanon (1983)
This project was designed by the late Dr. Charles N. Alexander as a critical experimental demonstration of the Maharishi Effect on armed conflict in a major trouble-spot area: the civil war in Lebanon. The experiment created a group of resident Israeli TM and TM-Sidhi experts in Jerusalem at an arbitrarily picked time (July and August 1983) to test the effect of the group on crime and the quality of life in Jerusalem and Israel as a whole, and on the war in Lebanon. The major hypotheses and the proposed categories of measurements were lodged in advance of the experiment with a group of research scientists in the U.S. and Israel. Upon arrival in Israel, the authors met with local scientists to finalize selection of a smaller subset of available measures. The analysis of the project used all of the non-redundant daily time series data available at the time of departure of the researchers from Israel in the fall of 1983; these included eight social indicators: (1) crime in Jerusalem, (2) crime in Israel as a whole, (3) automobile accidents involving personal injury in Jerusalem, (4) fires in Jerusalem, (5) a stock index of all freely traded stocks on the Tel Aviv stock exchange, (6) a national-mood scale derived from content analysis of a major newspaper, (7) reported war deaths of all factions in the Lebanese war, and (8) a war-intensity scale of the Lebanese war derived by newspaper content analysis.
The critical thresholds of TM and TM-Sidhi participants needed for Jerusalem, Israel, and Lebanon were calculated at 65, 122, and 197, respectively, which took into account the number of meditators already in the area. The size of the experimental group actually fluctuated between 65 and 241 during the experiment.
Time series transfer function analysis indicated that crime decreased by 7.4% in Jerusalem (p=.023) and by 4.1% in Israel (p=.022). When the group was largest, the war in Lebanon was impacted, as seen by decreased war deaths (p=.019) and war intensity (p=.0045) (Orme-Johnson, Alexander, Davies, Chandler, & Larimore, 1988). This result of decreased war in Lebanon due to groups practicing the TM and TM-Sidhi program has been replicated seven times (Davies, 1988; Davies, Alexander, & Orme-Johnson, 1988).
In the study in Israel, the effects were generally stronger for composite quality of life indices than for individual measures such as crime. The composite index for Jerusalem comprising crime, auto accidents, and fires showed an increase of approximately one standard deviations during the 15 days when it was the group was largest compared to the 15 days when the group was smallest to (p=.003). A composite index for Israel as a whole, composed of crime, national mood, and the stock market, showed an increase of 1.38 standard deviations over the same periods (p=.0001). The Overall composite index of all variables showed an increase of 1.69 standard deviations (p<.0001). The stronger results for the indices than for the individual variables suggests the presence of a common influence of coherence acting on all the variables at once that was most clearly seen when the common variance was enhanced and random components canceled through signal averaging. This result supports the hypothesis that the TM and TM-Sidhi techniques operate to create coherence on a fundamental, unifying level of natural law (Orme-Johnson, Alexander, & Davies, 1990; Orme-Johnson, et al., 1988).
12) United States—Decreased Index of Homicide, Suicide and Motor Vehicle Fatalities (1979–1985)
This study assessed the influence of the group practice of the TM and TM-Sidhi program at Maharishi International University on reducing violent death in the U.S. due to homicide, motor vehicle accidents, and suicide. The major period of the study was from 1982–1985, during which the size of the group in Iowa was frequently larger than the square root of 1% threshold for the U.S. The last year for which violent fatality data were available at the time of the study was 1985. A secondary analysis was also conducted over the period 1979–1985, since the inception of the group practice in 1979 at Maharishi International University.
Box-Jenkins time series analysis, using the impact assessment approach on weekly aggregate index of homicide, motor vehicle accidents, and suicide indicated a statistically significant decline in violent deaths (31 fewer deaths per week, p<.0001) in the week immediately after the group of TM and TM-Sidhi participants exceeded the predicted threshold of the square root of 1% of the U.S. population (1500 in 1979 and 1550 by the end of 1985). When the number of participants in the group was considered as a continuous variable, time series transfer function analysis indicated that increased TM-Sidhi group participation was associated with a significant decline in violent deaths that began in the same week and increased in magnitude the following weeks. The steady-state gain associated with these effects indicated a decrease of 5.5% in US violent deaths due to these causes when the TM-Sidhi group exceeded the square root of 1% of the U.S. population. A separate transfer function indicated that changes in the violence index did not lead to changes in the number of TM-Sidhi participants, supporting a conclusion that the TM-Sidhi group has a causal effect of reducing violent deaths in the United States (Dillbeck, 1990).
13) Canada—Improved Quality of National Life: Improvements on a Weekly Index Including Homicide, Suicide, and Motor Vehicle Fatalities (1983–1985); Improvements on a Monthly Index Including Homicide, Suicide, Motor Vehicle Fatalities, Cigarette Consumption, and Worker-Days Lost in Strikes (1972–1986)
This study used the same weekly measure of national violence (homicide, motor vehicle accidents, and suicide) for Canada as had previously been used for the U.S. in the study described above. It found that during weeks from 1982 to 1985 in which the size of group practice of the TM and TM-Sidhi program at Maharishi International University in Iowa reached the square root of 1% of the combined population of the U.S. and Canada, violence decreased in Canada (p<.01). A simultaneous reduction of fatalities due to all other accidents also occurred (p<.005).
This study also measured a monthly index of quality of life for Canada for 1972 through 1985 consisting of violent fatalities, cigarette consumption, and worker-days lost in strikes. When the predicted threshold for the combined U.S.- Canada population was reached by the Maharishi International University group, there was a significant improvement in the quality of life in Canada on this index (p<.001) (Assimakis & Dillbeck, 1995).
Assimakis, P. D., & Dillbeck, M. C. (1995). Time series analysis of improved quality of life in Canada: Social change, collective consciousness, and the TM-Sidhi program. Psychological Reports, 76, 1171–1193.
Davies, J. L. (1988). Alleviating political violence through enhancing coherence in collective consciousness: Impact assessment analyses of the Lebanon war. Dissertation Abstracts International, 49(8), 2381A.
Davies, J. L., Alexander, C. N., & Orme-Johnson, D. W. (1988). Alleviating political violence through enhancing coherence in collective consciousness: Impact assessment analyses of the Lebanon war. The Journal of the Iowa Academy of Science, 95(1), 1 (Also presented at the 85th Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, September 1989, Washington, DC.).
Dillbeck, M. C. (1990). Test of a field theory of consciousness and social change: Time series analysis of participation in the TM-Sidhi program and reduction of violent death in the U.S. Social Indicators Research, 22, 399–418.
Dillbeck, M. C., Banus, C. B., Polanzi, C., & Landrith III, G. S. (1988). Test of a field model of consciousness and social change: The Transcendental Meditation and TM-Sidhi program and decreased urban crime. The Journal of Mind and Behavior, 9(4), 457–486. Dillbeck, M. C., Cavanaugh, K. L., Glenn, T., Orme-Johnson, D. W., & Mittlefehldt, V. (1987). Consciousness as a field: The Transcendental Meditation and TM-Sidhi program and changes in social indicators. The Journal of Mind and Behavior, 8(1), 67–104.
Dillbeck, M. C., Landrith III, G., & Orme-Johnson, D. W. (1981). The Transcendental Meditation program and crime rate change in a sample of forty-eight cities. Journal of Crime and Justice, 4, 25–45.
Goodman, R. S., Orme-Johnson, D. W., Rainforth, M. S., & Goodman, D. H. (1997). Transforming political institutions through individual and collective consciousness: The Maharishi Effect and government. Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, Washington, D.C.
Hagelin, J. S., Orme-Johnson, D. W., Rainforth, M., Cavanaugh, K., & Alexander, C. N. (1999). Results of the National Demonstration Project to Reduce Violent Crime and Improve Governmental Effectiveness in Washington, D.C. Social Indicators Research, 47, 153-201.
Hatchard, G. D., Deans, A. J., Cavanaugh, K. L., & Orme-Johnson, D. W. (1996). The Maharishi Effect: A model for social improvement. Time series analysis of a phase transition to reduced crime in Merseyside metropolitan area. PsychologyCrime & Law, 2(3), 165–174. Kenny, D. A. (1979). Correlation and Causality. New York: John Wiley & Sons.
McCleary, R., & Hay Jr., R. A. (1980). Applied time series analysis for the social sciences. Beverly Hills: Sage.
Orme-Johnson, D. W., Alexander, C. N., & Davies, J. L. (1990). The effects of the Maharishi Technology of the Unified Field: Reply to a methodological critique. Journal of Conflict Resolution, 34, 756–768.
Orme-Johnson, D. W., Alexander, C. N., Davies, J. L., Chandler, H. M., & Larimore, W. E. (1988). International peace project in the Middle East: The effect of the Maharishi Technology of the Unified Field. Journal of Conflict Resolution, 32(4), 776–812.
Rosenthal, R., & Rubin, D. B. (1982). A simple, general purpose display of magnitude of experimental effect. Journal of Educational Psychology, 74, 166–169.
Stephanopoulos, G. (1999). All too human: A political education. New York: Little, Brown, and Company, Inc.


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