Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Extrasensory Perception


You meet someone for the first time, and a vibe rings out from deep within you, and suddenly you know without images or words, what kind of person they are. The phone rings and before you answer, or even see the caller ID, you know who it is. You are walking along a dark road when you come to a crossroads, when you look both ways, something ominous warns you from taking the left path over the right, something you can't see, only feel, and you might not understand why.

What is Extra-Sensory Perception (ESP)? What is this part of you that everyone experiences from time to time, in varying degrees, that can gleam information from future events or situations. What informs you of the nature of someone you just met? Or, allows you to know who's calling before one of your five senses can confirm it for you. What sometimes warns you of impending danger before it occurs so you can avoid it? What about ourselves do we not know or fully understand?

ESP is a widely experienced and heavily debated phenomena. We don't understand where it comes from, or what purpose it serves, or how accurate information about the future can be acquired prior to the event itself. Yet at the same time, it occurs enough to not be wholly overlooked either. Another problem that is present, is whether or not this phenomena can even be attributed to something physical within the body.

ESP was often tested using a series of cards called Zener Cards, or now appropriately named, ESP cards. Each card would have 1 of 5 possible symbols on them in a deck of 25 cards. The deck was shuffled, and the experimenter would draw a card, making sure the participant testing for ESP didn't see the card, while they psychically tried to predict the correct symbol on the card. Afterward, the score would be tallied up based on how many of the cards the participant predicted correctly, against how many they got incorrectly.

This test for ESP was developed by J. B. Rhine, who was interesting in psychical research, believing it to be a branch of abnormal psychology, eventually dubbing the phenomena as Parapsychology. He moved to Duke University in the late 1920's and opened a lab dedicated to it's research and hoping to turn ESP into an acceptable field of science. Many students and volunteers were tested for ESP during Rhine's years at Duke university, and in 1940 he co-authored a review of ESP research from over 60 years.

The review included 50 studies, most of which belonged to independent research groups and other universities. The majority of the studies showed significant results regarding ESP, with participants scoring far above chance alone. Interestingly enough, it's not just high scores that generate attention, it is also incredibly low scores that do as well. Scores so low, they are far below chance.

Rhine, among others, began testing to see why some participants would score highly above chance, while others scored far below chance. They found one indicator that produced low scoring was due to boredom. If the participant was tested for too long, the scores would eventually decline. This was believed to be due to a loss of interest. From there the researchers wanted to know just how much of the participants personality played a part in the test results.

Much of the research showed that the subjects attitude played a large role in whether they had a high or low success rate. For instance, those who were shown to believe in ESP, had a greater tendency to produce higher scores then those who did not. Besides belief being a major contributor, other things have shown to aid the effectiveness of ESP, such as creativity, artistic ability, mental and emotional stability, and meditation.

Besides Rhine's Zener card experiments, and others like it, there was also the Ganzfeld Experiment, conducted by Charles Honorton. The ganzfeld experiment is again aimed at testing ESP, but this time more controls are put in place to try and eliminate any flaws in the process. The experiment itself puts a person in a sound proof room that is electromagnetically shielded, the person sits in a chair, with eyes covered, and headphones on that play static for a half an hour. This forces the persons awareness inward.

After a half an hour has passed, a sender outside of the room, observes a randomly chosen target image, who then tries to mentally send this information to the receiver sitting in the shielded room. The receiver verbalizes everything they might see, which is then recorded on tape. Over 350 experiments were conducted between the years 1982 and 1989, where significantly positive results were produced again and again. They also found that belief and attitude affects ESP results just as Rhine did.

Research into ESP is still ongoing, but the field continues to hold promise, despite skeptics appeals. Each day we draw closer and closer to an answer, and thereby closer to the truth, as science is forced to expand to fit the evidence.

ESP has since broadened its definition to fit just about all kinds of psychic abilities and activities. Such as telepathy, precognition, clairvoyance and even telekinesis, but I'll try to cover those later. In the end, if you believe in ESP, it seems the science is on your side!

Hope you enjoyed.


No comments: