I’ve touched on psi phenomena in a couple of other posts (What if we were all telepathic? and Would you take a pill to make you smarter?), but I didn’t really go into the details of what Charles Tart calls, “The Big Five.” In doing research for an upcoming series of posts on my thoughts of American public policy (which I briefly touched on here), I thought it might be good to also do a series of posts covering ‘the big 5,’ which are: telepathy, clairvoyance or remote viewing, precognition, psychokinesis, and psychic healing. I thought because I’d already touched on telepathy back in January, it would be best to start with it.
Let’s start with a definition. Telepathy is the scientific term for what some may call “mind-reading.” It is being able to pick up information from someone else’s mind. Some of the first scientific studies done in order to measure telepathy (in the 1930s) were done by J.B. Rhine, who is considered to be the father of modern parapsychology. He would have participants “read his mind” and guess the shape that was on the card he was holding (known as Zener cards). Rhine’s studies produced statistically significant results, time and time again. The one downfall to this method of experimenting is that it’s hard to know whether or not Rhine was measuring telepathy or clairvoyance (it is possible that the participants were divining the future [what card will turn up next?])
The second set of experiments conducted (starting in the mid-70s and still going on today) to test for telepathy are known as the Ganzfeld experiments. In these experiments, the participant would be subjected to sensory deprivation. To do this, the participant sits in a relaxing chair in a sound-proof room. The participant wears ping-pong balls that have been halved (and there is a red light that is shone on them). The participant also puts on a pair of headphones that play white noise. While in this state of sensory deprivation, another participant (the sender), will be shown random images that they will then try to mentally send to said participant. During the sensory deprivation period, the (receiver) speaks out loud and describes what they see. At the conclusion of the experiment, the participant is removed from the sensory deprivation state and is then shown a number of random images and asked to identify the image that they were being sent. To insure internal validity, the two participants have no way of physically contacting each other during the experiment. Meaning, the sender can’t hear what the receiver is saying out loud. The results from these Ganzfeld experiments have, like the Zener cards before them, produced statistically significant results.
One of the more recent (and different) studies being conducted on telepathy is being done by Rupert Sheldrake. It is affectionately known as telephone telepathy. A common lay-person example of telepathy is knowing who is on the phone before you answer the phone. Sheldrake took this idea and made it into an experiment. In fact, you can even sign-up and do this experiment yourself! The experiment works like this:
- Register as an experimenter.
- Add friends.
- Call to initiate the experiment.
- A random friend is selected.
- Friend calls the experiment system.
- System calls the experimenter.
- Experimenter enters a guess.
- Call is connected.
Sheldrake says that the average success rate is 42%, “which is hugely significant statistically.” And he’s right. By sheer chance, in the way that Sheldrake has organized the experiment, you’d expect a success rate of 25%.
My research on telepathy in animals (summarized in my book Dogs That Know When Their Owners are Coming Home and published in detail in a series of papers (listed here) led me to see telepathy as a normal. . . aspect of communication between members of animal social groups. The same principles apply to human telepathy.
Sheldrake also provides links to opportunities to contribute to the research of telepathy with both online and offline experiments (one of the offline experiments I mentioned above, telephone telepathy).
Because of the sheer volume of skepticism towards the field of parapsychology, the field has been subjected to extremely high standards. In all that I have read about telepathy (both from supporters and skeptics), it is clear to me that telepathy is not a fluke or a one-time event. Telepathy is a very real phenomenon. More than that, I believe, we all possess the ability to be telepathic.