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Psi and ESP

Psi, from "psychic phenomena", denotes not quite common processes of information or energy transfer. In an article by Professor Daryl Bern, "◦Does Psi exist?", the answer is yes. Artistic individuals and other playful persons may get good at it, he finds, too. However, see the Skeptic's Dictionary's entries in the matter also. [◦Link]

Psi processes include:

  1. EXTRASENSORY PERCEPTION (ESP): getting information without using the known senses. The term was coined by Duke University researcher J. B. Rhine.
  2. PSYCHOKINESIS, the ability to affect physical objects or events without the intervention of any known physical force.

In turn, ESP comprises the following:

  • TELEPATHY: transfer of information from one person to another without the mediation of any known channel of sensory communication.
  • CLAIRVOYANCE: getting information about places, objects, or events without the mediation of any of the known senses (for example, Pythia's knowledge that the king was making stew).
  • PRECOGNITION: getting information about a future event that could not be anticipated through any known inferential process. Pythia's prediction to King Croesos about the loss of an empire, although dubious, can be used as an example.
  • REMOTE VIEWING and CLAIRAUDIENCE have been added in recent years.

Much of the belief in ESP is based on seemingly unusual events that are hard to explain in other ways.

ESP Exists, Says Dr. Jessica Utts


It is clear to this author [Professor Jessica Utts, 1995] that [ESP] is possible and has been demonstrated. This conclusion is . . . based . . . on commonly accepted scientific criteria. The phenomenon has been replicated in a number of forms across laboratories and cultures.

We have progressed very far in understanding the mechanism . . . Senders do not appear to be necessary at all; feedback of the correct answer may or may not be necessary. Distance in time and space do not seem to be an impediment. Beyond those conclusions, we know very little.

I believe that it would be wasteful of valuable resources to continue to look for proof. No one who has examined all of the data across laboratories, taken as a collective whole, has been able to suggest methodological or statistical problems to explain the ever-increasing and consistent results to date. Resources should be directed to the pertinent questions about how this ability works.

If appropriate resources are targeted to appropriate questions, we can have answers within the next decade. - Professor Jessica Utts, Division of Statistics, University of California, Davis [◦Link]

EGR ESP exists, she says. Others say the existence of ESP abilities is highly controversial.

Ganzfield studies

In the 1960s parapsychologists developed experimental procedures that included relaxation, meditation, REM-sleep, and the Ganzfeld (a mild sensory deprivation procedure). Such studies have proved to be even more successful than Rhine's forced-choice paradigm, with meta-analyses evidencing reliable effects, and many confirmatory replication studies.

Daryl J. Bem, professor of psychology at Cornell University, is cited verbatim between the boldface, red-coloured pointers for each paragraph below. He writes:

Relax to have a good time

In a ganzfeld telepathy experiment, one subject (the receiver) rests in a reclining chair in a soundproof chamber. Translucent ping pong ball halves are taped over the eyes and headphones are placed over the ears. A red floodlight is directed toward the receiver's eyes and white noise is played through the headphones. (White noise is a random mixture of sound frequencies similar to the hiss made by a radio tuned between stations.) This homogeneous visual and auditory environment is called the Ganzfeld, a German word meaning "total field." To quiet "noise" produced by internal bodily tension, the receiver is also led through a set of relaxation exercises at the beginning of the ganzfeld period.

Control stimuli help one see goings in a better light - platitudes may not

While the receiver is in the ganzfeld, a second subject (the sender) sits in a separate soundproof room and concentrates on the "target," a randomly selected picture or videotaped sequence. For about 30 minutes, the receiver thinks aloud, providing a continuous report of all the thoughts, feelings, and images that pass through his or her mind. At the end of the ganzfeld period, the receiver is presented with several stimuli (usually four) and, without knowing which one was the target, is asked to rate the degree to which each matches the thoughts and images experienced during the ganzfeld period. If the receiver assigns the highest rating to the target, it is scored as a "hit." Thus, if the experiment uses judging sets containing four stimuli (the target and three control stimuli), the hit rate expected by chance is one out of four, or 25 percent.

Can we all be allied with over 42 studies from 10 US laboratories or so?

In 1985 and 1986, the Journal of Parapsychology devoted two entire issues to a critical examination of the ganzfeld studies, featuring a debate between Ray Hyman, a cognitive psychologist and a knowledgeable, skeptical critic of parapsychological research, and the late Charles Honorton, a prominent parapsychologist and major ganzfeld researcher. At that time, there had been 42 reported ganzfeld studies conducted by investigators in 10 laboratories.

Going against odds - that "one in a million or more" guy may ten need more than good tact and outfit and seek protection

Across these studies, receivers achieved an average hit rate of about 35 percent. (This might seem like a small margin of success over the 25 percent hit rate expected by chance, but a person with this margin of advantage in a gambling casino would get rich very quickly.) Statistically this result is highly significant: The odds against getting a 35 percent hit rate across that many studies by chance are greater than a billion to one. (...)

Eleven more rigorous studies

In 1983, Honorton and colleagues had initiated a new series of 11 ganzfeld studies, studies that complied with all the guidelines he and Hyman later published in their joint communiqué. They are called autoganzfeld studies because a computer controlled the experimental procedures, including the random selection and presentation of the targets and the recording of the receiver's ratings. These studies were published by Honorton in the Journal of Parapsychology in 1990, and the complete history of ganzfeld research was resummarized by Bem (the author of this article) and Honorton in the January 1994 issue of the Psychological Bulletin of the American Psychological Association.

Better results for artistic persons

The autoganzfeld studies confirmed the results of the earlier, less sophisticated studies, obtaining virtually the same hit rate: about 35 percent. These studies also reconfirmed several other findings from other research. For example, it has often been reported that creative or artistically gifted persons show high psi ability. The autoganzfeld studies tested this by recruiting twenty students from the Juilliard School in New York City to serve as receivers. Overall, these students achieved a hit rate of 50 percent, one of the highest hit rates ever reported for a single sample in a ganzfeld study. The autoganzfeld studies also found that significantly higher hit rates were obtained when the targets were videotaped film sequences than when they were still pictures.

SO: There are signs that many people could benefit from learning to evolve some Psi figuring prowess themselves, for example before a next visit to Monte Carlo and its casinos. But we should not get cramped and nervous at it. To the contrary, just as winning in the casino should be great fun, so should the training that lets some of us win fairly easily by tapping higher sources and outlets fit for men and women.

And sceptics abound.


Extra-Sensory Perception, ESP, Literature  

Margolis, Jonathan. 2013. The Secret Life of Uri Geller. London: Watkins Publishing.

Margolis, Jonathan. 2013. Uri Geller - Magician or Mystic? Long Beach, CA: Apostrophe Books.

Mason, Keith. The Radionics Handbook: How to Analyse Your Health and Enhance Your Wellbeing . London: Piatkus, 2001.

Murphy, Joseph. 1996. Psychic Perception: The Magic of Extrasensory Power. Marina del Rey, CA: DeVorss.

Playfair, Guy Lyons, and Uri Geller. 1986. The Geller Effect. London: Jonathan Cape.

Rhine, Joseph Banks. New Frontiers of the Mind: The Story of the Duke Experiments. New York: Farrar and Rinehart, 1937.

Targ, Russell, and Jane Katra. 1999. Miracles of Mind: Exploring Nonlocal Consciousness and Spiritual Healing. Novato, CA: New World Library.

Tart, Charles T. Learning to Use Extrasensory Perception. Authors Guild ed. Lincoln, NE: iUniverse, 2001. (Originally published by University of Chicago Press, 1975)

Tart, Charles, ed. 1975. Transpersonal Psychologies. New York: Harper Colophon.

Tart, Charles T, Harold E. Puthoff and Russell Targ, eds. 2002. Mind at Large: Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Symposia on the Nature of Extrasensory Perception. Charlottesville, VA: Hampton Roads Publishing.

Wilson, Colin. 1976. The Geller Phenomenon. London: Aldus Books.

Harvesting the hay

Symbols, brackets, signs and text icons explained: (1) Text markers(2) Digesting.

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