extrasensory perception

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extrasensory perception:

see parapsychologyparapsychology,
study of mental phenomena not explainable by accepted principles of science. The organized, scientific investigation of paranormal phenomena began with the foundation (1882) of the Society for Psychical Research in London.
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Extrasensory Perception (ESP)

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

Extrasensory Perception, psi, Paragnosis, or ESP as it is more generally known is today commonly accepted as fact. This is mainly due to the work of Dr. Joseph Banks Rhine, one of the pioneers of parapsychology, and Dr. Samuel George Soal. For many years, Soal conducted parapsychological studies on the various forms of mediumship and statistical experiments in telepathy in England. In later years, Soal was found guilty of fraud in some of his telepathic experiments. This certainly tarnished his image, yet he had done outstanding work in the field for decades. The term “extrasensory perception” was coined by Dr. Rhine and used by him as the title of a book published in 1934.

Serious investigation of possible “thought transference” dates from the late nineteenth century, when a number of experiments were conducted in England by Mrs. A. Verrall and C. P. Sanger. By the late 1920s, in similar experiments, Miss I. Jephson and R. A. Fisher found that the everyday playing cards previously relied upon were not ideal for testing purposes. This led to the introduction of the Zener deck of cards, developed by Dr. Karl E. Zener during the 1930s. They consisted of twenty-five cards, with five each of five different designs. The designs were basic black ink on white backgrounds, showing circle, square, cross, star, and wavy lines. Today these Zener cards are used almost exclusively for testing ESP.

The point of ESP testing is to ascertain whether or not a person can know what is in another person’s mind a greater number of times than could be explained purely by chance. With one person looking at the twenty-five Zener cards, it is known that a second person would guess correctly which card was being looked at five times out of the twenty-five, if it was simply by chance. Going through the deck a number of times, the average correct guesses would be five per twenty-five cards. Scores above that are notable. As an example of what has been achieved in such tests, Hubert E. Pearce, Jr. was tested at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, and guessed correctly 3,746 cards out of 10,300. In London, B. Shackleton guessed correctly 1,101 cards out of 3,789. Shackleton guessed not the actual card being looked at, but the card that was going to be looked at next! Such scores, carried out in laboratory conditions, would seem to prove beyond doubt that extrasensory perception is a fact.

If two people sit down facing one another, at opposite sides of a room, with one holding the cards in front while the other tries to guess which card is being looked at, this would not be “laboratory conditions.” No matter how impressive the scores, they would not be seriously considered. Many minor factors could contribute to the Guesser’s choices. The cards may have odd marks such as spots, specks, scratches, or other visual clues on their backs. If only unconsciously, these could help the Guesser differentiate one card from another. Another factor might be the face of the Sender. An unconscious facial movement might trigger the Guesser’s choices. Many precautions must be taken for the results to be truly under laboratory conditions. The two participants must not be in the same room. Moving on from one card to the next should be signaled by a flashing light or a buzzer. Even the cards should not be picked by the Sender; they should be shuffled by a machine and put into truly random order. Every possible precaution should be taken and even then, if your mind is set against it, you can discount the results. For example, if a person guesses 8,000 correct cards out of 10,000 (astronomical odds against chance), who is to say that if they went on to try another 10,000 they might not be so far off that the overall score would be no more than chance?

In Spiritualist mediumship the aim is to show that ESP is not a factor. Mediums contact spirits of the dead and receive from them information of an evidential nature that is unknown to the medium or to the sitter(s). It is only on later investigation that there is confirmation of the accuracy of the messages received, proving that ESP was not a factor. On the other hands, in many psychic readings (such as with tarot cards, palmistry, etc.) ESP is frequently a factor; the reader merely picking up information from the mind of the sitter. Of course, if this is complex, accurate information, then it is very credible evidence of the psychic’s ESP ability.


Buckland, Raymond: A Pocket Guide to the Supernatural. New York: Ace Books, 1969
Buckland, Raymond: The Fortune–Telling Book: The Encyclopedia of Divination and Soothsaying. Detroit: Visible Ink Press, 2004
Ebon, Martin: True Experiences in Telepathy. New York: Signet, 1967
Holroyd, Stuart: The Supernatural: Minds Without Boundaries. London: Aldus, 1975
Rhine, Joseph Banks: Extrasensory Perception. Boston: Bruce Humphries, 1934
Rhine, Joseph Banks: New Frontiers of the Mind. New York: Farrar & Rinehart, 1937
Spraggett, Alan: The Unexplained. New York: New American Library, 1967

extrasensory perception

[¦ek·strə′sen·sə·rē pər′sep·shən]
The alleged phenomenon of perception or awareness of external events in the absence of any sensory stimulation arising from the events. Abbreviated ESP.

extrasensory perception

the supposed ability of certain individuals to obtain information about the environment without the use of normal sensory channels