The Case for Extra-Sensory Perception

How does one test for the existence of ESP? That's a question that has puzzled science for decades. Unlike chemistry experiments, tests that involve the human mind are subject to so many vagaries that it's almost impossible to control every factor. There have been, however, a number of famous experiments that seem to suggest that ESP does indeed exist.

In the early 1930s, J.B. Rhine, a professor at Duke University, became intrigued with the possibility that ESP existed. The experiment he designed to test his hypothesis that some people can know things without the use of their five normal senses is one of the most famous ever conducted. Karl Zener, an associate of Rhine's, designed a set of 25 cards, each of them printed with one of five distinct images.

Rhine designed an experiment using Zener's cards to test for ESP. The test subject sat in a room by himself with a pad of paper and a pencil. In another room - often in another building - a research assistant would shuffle the deck of Zener cards, then take each card and place it face down on a book in front of him. The subject would write down the design of the card that he "saw". The orders of the symbols from the research assistant and the test subject were then compared.

Statistically, the subject would have about 20% of the cards in the right order. However, in many of the tests, the percentage of correct cards was as high as 30%.

In 1994, Daryl J. Bem, a psychologist at Cornell University, published an overview of experiments carried out using a computer assisted technique. The ganzfeld technique involves two subject - one is isolated in a room while the other watches a film clip and tries to 'send' his impressions of the film to his friend. Later, the subject is shown a series of film clips and asked to choose the one that comes closest to what they visualized during the experiment. Bem cited a number of studies that showed abnormally high correlations between the film viewed and the film chosen as proof that ESP experiments can and do show replicable results.

While some later researchers have disputed Bem's findings, others have pointed out that those experiments that were carried out strictly according to the standards listed consistently show a higher correlation of 'hits' than pure chance would dictate.

Though these experiments are not proof positive that ESP exists, most scientists agree that they do suggest that it should be studied more seriously and more closely.

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