Tag Archives: Joseph Banks Rhine

Psychic test cards were actually invented to make psychic tests easier

psychic test cards
Esther Inglis-ArkellBy Esther Inglis-Arkell via io9.com

Earlier this week we did a post on survivorship bias, and how it could trick people into believing in psychic ability. It turns out that the most famous test of psychic ability was made expressly to allow for this kind of bias.

One of the most famous tests of psychic ability was made by J. B. Rhine. He claimed to identify strong psychics by testing a lot of people with Zener Cards. The tests involved two people, the examiner looking at the card, and the person being tested trying to guess the card that the examiner is looking at. Rhine noted that some people, a small minority, got a disproportionate number of cards right. They were “strong psychics.” Skeptics countered that, if you were to test any group on the street, some would do far better than average – just as some would do far worse than average. That’s the point of survivorship bias. You test a large amount of people and hold up the few who do better-than-average as examples of proof rather than coincidence.

One could argue that there shouldn’t be a coincidence at all. What are the chances that if someone looks at a card – a card that could show any picture at all – that another person will be able to guess the picture on it? The chances, it turns out, got a lot better once Zener Cards were invented. Zener Cards were made by Karl Zener, a paranormal investigator.

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Telekinesis: Facts About Mind Over Matter

via LiveScience

Scientific evidence for the psychic ability to move objects or bend spoons remains elusive.

Scientific evidence for the psychic ability to move objects or bend spoons remains elusive.

There are several claimed types of psychic powers, including precognition (knowing future events before they happen); pyrokinesis (creating fire with the mind, popularized in Stephen King’s novel and film “Firestarter”); and telepathy (describing things at a remote location). Among the most dramatic of these is telekinesis (also called psychokinesis, or PK), the ability to move objects through mind power. Though many Americans believe in psychic ability (about 15 percent of us, according to a 2005 Baylor Religion Survey), scientific evidence for its existence remains elusive.

History of telekinesis

LEVITATION_300pxThe idea of people being able to move objects through mind power alone has intrigued people for centuries, though only in the late 1800s was it seen as an ability that might be scientifically demonstrated. This occurred during the heyday of the early religion Spiritualism, when psychic mediums claimed to contact the dead during séances, and objects would suddenly and mysteriously move, float, or fly by themselves across the darkened room, seemingly untouched by human hands. Sometimes small tables would tip or levitate, disturbed either by unseen spirits or the psychic’s mind.

Though many people were convinced — including, ironically, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes — it was all a hoax. Fraudulent psychics resorted to trickery, using everything from hidden wires to black-clad accomplices to make objects appear to move untouched. Magician Harry Houdini investigated and exposed many fake mediums, and even wrote a book about it titled “Miracle Mongers and Their Methods.”

As the public slowly grew wise to the faked telekinesis, the phenomenon faded from view. It was revived again in the 1930s and 1940s, when a researcher at Duke University named J.B. Rhine became interested in the idea that people could affect the outcome of random events using their minds. Rhine began with tests of dice rolls, asking subjects to influence the outcome through the power of their minds.

Uri Gellermade millions in the 1970s pretending to bend spoons with his mind.

Uri Geller made millions in the 1970s pretending to bend spoons with his mind.

Though his results were mixed and the effects were small, they were enough to convince him that there was something mysterious going on. Unfortunately for Rhine, other researchers failed to duplicate his findings, and many errors were found in his methods.

A few decades later, in the 1970s, a man named Uri Geller became the world’s best-known psychic and made millions traveling the world demonstrating his claimed psychokinetic abilities including starting broken watches and bending spoons. Though he denied using magic tricks, many skeptical researchers observed that all of Geller’s amazing feats could be — and have been — duplicated by magicians. In 1976, several children who claimed to be able to bend spoons with their minds were tested in controlled experiments at the University of Bath in England. At first the results seemed promising, and experimenters believed they might finally have found real scientific evidence of psychokinesis. However the children were caught cheating on hidden cameras, physically bending spoons with their hands when they thought no one was watching.

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Via illuminutti.com – Uri Geller’s Tonight Show (lack of) performance (courtesy of James Randi):

Telepathy

via The Skeptic’s Dictionary – Skepdic.com

“To the present day, no one has come up with a persuasive experimental design that can unambiguously distinguish between telepathy and clairvoyance….Based on the experimental evidence, it is by no means clear that pure telepathy exists per se, nor is it certain that real-time clairvoyance exists.” The evidence “can all be accommodated by various forms of precognition.”–Dean Radin

telepathy500a_300pxLiterally, “distance feeling.” The term is a shortened version of mental telepathy and refers to mind-reading or mind-to-mind communication through ESP.

Since there is no way to distinguish direct communication with another mind from communication with a future or past perception by that or some other mind, there is no way to distinguish telepathy from precognition or retrocognition. There is no way to distinguish telepathy, clairvoyance, retrocognition, or precognition from a mind perceiving directly the akashic record. There is no way to distinguish telepathy, clairvoyance, retrocognition, precognition, or perceiving the akashic record from perceiving what is directly placed in the mind by God (occasionalism). There is no way to distinguish telepathy, clairvoyance, precognition, perceiving the akashic record, or having perceptions directly implanted in our minds by a god from perceiving the hidden record of all perceptions in the eleventh dimension that is vibrating in the intersection between the tenth and twelfth dimensions. I could go on, but it would be too annoying.

The term ‘telepathy’ was coined by psychical investigator Frederick W. H. Myers (1843-1901) in an 1882 article in the Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research. Myers was a classics scholar and one of the founders of modern psychology.

[…]

[E]verybody knowledgeable of the history of psi research remembers Joseph Banks Rhine (1895-1980). In 1925, Rhine and his wife, Louisa, both with doctorates in biology (plant physiology) from the University of Chicago arrived at Harvard to study psychology, philosophy, and what Rhine would come to call “extra-sensory perception.” Both heard Sir Arthur Conan Doyle lecture on spiritualism and were impressed not only with his message but his serene demeanor. The possibility that spirits might be communicating with the living, said Rhine, was “the most exhilarating thought” he’d had in years. The Rhines sat in on a number of séances but were not completely taken in by their experiences. They were quick to claim that famed medium “Margery” (Mina, wife of Dr. Le Roi Goddard Crandon, a respected surgeon) was guilty of “brazen trickery.” Yet, when they went to Duke in 1927 to work with William McDougall, their first investigation was of an alleged telepathic horse called Lady Wonder. They declared that they could detect no trickery and that the horse was genuinely telepathic. In a follow-up study, the horse couldn’t perform and the Rhines declared that Lady Wonder had lost her psychic ability.blueconsciousness_150px A similarly clever horse had been studied by Oskar Pfungst in 1904 and it was found that the horse was responding to subtle visual cues. Had the Rhines been so inclined, they might have found the same thing with Lady Wonder. It turns out humans are as clever as horses and the phenomenon of unconsciously responding to sensory cues is now known as the clever Hans phenomenon. In any case, the Rhines took over the Duke lab from Dr. McDougall and ran it until Rhine’s retirement in 1966. What did Rhine have after nearly forty years of scientific research on ESP and psychokinesis? He had a lot of data, a number of followers, but there was no Noble Prize on the horizon.

The Lady Wonder fiasco was just one of several blunders made by America’s most preeminent name in parapsychology.

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