Extrasensory Perception, or ESP as it is usually called, is the perception that takes place separate from the known sensory processes. There are a number of different phenomena that come under the umbrella of ESP, like Telepathy, Clairvoyance, Precognition, Retrocognition, Mediumship, or Psychometry.
In the next few sections, I will explore them and in the end, I will show you several examples of Extrasensory perception experiments that you can try at home.
Table of Contents
Telepathy is a term used to describe a real or imaginary ability to communicate thoughts without the use of the known senses.
A simple way of thinking about it is that telepathic transmission is a way of projecting thoughts from your mind into the minds of others.
The other aspect of this would be telepathic perception, where an individual can receive the thoughts projected by another person.
According to a recent article in “Inside Science“, the existence of telepathy has been proven, “It is real” and formal scientific papers have been published.
However, what they describe as Telepathy is not quite the sort of activity we might see on a stage.
The scientific process is somewhat different and is based on the fact that our brain sends electrical messages internally. These are thoughts but encoded in a “language” that we do not understand.
When a message is sent, we know the thought has occurred, but we don’t know what it is. We can record these electronic signals using an electronic device, send a representation of those signals over the Internet, and then turn it back into brain activity at the other end.
What we do not understand yet is what the message means.
The other problem is to implant that thought back into the head of the recipient.
Scientists have done some experiments by telling the subject to imagine making a movement. That electrical activity is recorded, and after many people have imagined the same activity, scientists know what activity meaning move the leg looks like.
The problem is finding a way to implant that electrical activity in the recipient.
Elon Musk has founded a company called Neuralink which has been experimenting with the insertion of fine wires into the brain of rats with some success. They say they will be making the first experiments on humans as well.
If this succeeds, this will be the missing piece of the puzzle, in transmitting data directly from one human brain to another.
Clairvoyance is the knowledge of information, that other people are not aware, that was received through extra-ordinary channels.
To a spiritualist, this would mean communication with the dead. To a researcher, this would involve testing the subject’s ability to predict the order of cards in a shuffled deck.
The Association for Psychological Science recently reviewed an article from the Washington Post that postulated that Clairvoyance is simply the brain confusing the order between thinking about an event, and the event occurring.
Where say the individual “knows” when a traffic light is going to turn green. It might be that in reality, the light turned green moments before that “Knowledge” was realized. The brain, however, mixed up the sequence of thought and events.
However, while this may be one explanation for some people feeling they can predict future events, it does not explain the wider nature of this phenomenon, like the ability to predict the order of a deck of cards.
Precognition is a knowledge of future events obtained by supernormal methods. There is a subtle difference between the mind causing events to occur in the future and the mind predicting those occurrences that have already been determined.
An example of Precognition often used as an example in the book “The Wreck of the Titan: or, futility.” Written by Morgan Robinson who wrote this book detailing events that were so very similar to the events with the sinking of the Titanic, which took place 14 years later.
At the time of the actual sinking, many people claimed that Robinson possessed Precognition abilities, which he denied.
Scholars say that it was a result of Robinsons’ detailed knowledge of shipbuilding. However, this fails to explain all the similarities.
One way of testing precognition is if a subject can predict whether the next card in a deck is going to be higher or lower than the previous card drawn (aces high).
You can try this out for yourself with an online version of this test at Psychic Science.
If you can win consistently with this test then it may indicate that you have a precognition ability.
Retrocognition is a knowledge of past events obtained by supernormal methods.
The issue is, how do you check that the facts without referring to some kind of record of the event. If such a record exists then how do you know the subject has not seen that record?
Scientists, therefore, claim that it is a claim that is impossible to test.
A Medium claims to have the ability to arrange communication between the “spirits of dead people” and living humans.
There are many mediums who earn a living by utilizing this ability, and public shows by such mediums are quite common.
One of the principal tools used by Mediums is something called the “Forer Effect“. Bertram Forer was a psychologist and he told his students that he was going to give his students a test. He gave them the cover story that it was to assist him with the creation of individual personality profiles.
He gave every single student the same “personal profile” and then interviewed each one asking them how accurate they thought this was. Most of the students said that the profile was very accurate.
There is a TV show called “Crossing Over,” that features a guy called John Edward who starts with a room full of people, telling them that he is in touch with the dead.
By using “Cold Reading” (to learn more about Cold reading, you can refer to our next article) it is possible to make vague statements and gradually focus down on one individual who identifies with all those statements.
As Edwards goes through the process, he is gathering information about the individual’s responses and gradually is able to make statements that are more specific.
Eventually, he will have one member of the crowd convinced that he must be in touch with the spirit of a dead relative or friend, because of the knowledge that Edwards appears to have.
By making vague statements that will apply to most of the people present, Edwards appears to have got some facts right about the person.
For example, by saying that they are in touch with an older person who died as a result of heart problems, audience members are very likely to know of someone who has died this way as it is the leading cause of death.
Practitioners of this form of ESP claim they are able to “read” energy being emitted by objects and receive knowledge of past events from that object. This should not be confused with individuals called Psychometrist who work in hospitals and sometimes in larger schools, administering psychological tests.
The person using Psychometry is often found at psychic fairs and giving stage acts where people bring objects relating to a departed family member so they can be used to get in touch with the dead through this “reading.”
There is no evidence that there is any reality in this practice and it is widely criticized as exploiting bereaved people.
The History of Extrasensory Perception
ESP has been around for most of history with stories of its use going back to Samuel in biblical times.
The practices mentioned above reached their peak of popularity in the USA and UK in the 1800s. this was connected with the rise of the religious practice called Spiritualism.
Spiritualism was based on the teachings of Emanuel Swedenborg. Later Franz Mesmer introduced the concept of Mesmerism (later called hypnotism) as a way of inducing trances.
The most prominent early figures in Spiritualism were the “Fox Sisters” from New York.
The two younger sisters convinced the older sister that they were communicating with spirits. Later the older sister took control and managed the two younger siblings and they gained a substantial following.
In 1888 Margaret confessed that they were fakes and showed how they pulled off the trick.
Their reputation dive-bombed and they died in poverty. However, the movement that had arisen around them, Spiritualism, continued and grew.
In the 1930s J. B. Rhine and Louisa E. Rhine (his wife) began investigations into ESP at Duke University in North Carolina.
J. B. Rhine spent his time devising experiments and investigating the concept while his wife curated cases of ESP that had occurred outside of studies.
They devised a simple set of cards called Zenner Cards which are still used for experiments.
These are a pack of 25 cards that have various symbols on them (a circle, wavy lines, a plus sign, square, and star). There are five of each card in a pack:
In experiments, the sender looks hard at each card in turn and the receiver guesses the symbols. These cards were used to test for precognition and clairvoyance (see above).
The work of Rhine was rejected by most academics as it proved impossible to repeat the results that Rhine achieved.
In the 1960s there was a renewed interest. Investigations with a wider range of experiments began. These procedures included “dream telepathy” and the “Ganzfeld Experiments.”
Nowadays, ESP cards are used for experiments / magic tricks performed by mentalists. Most of the tricks are very easy to perform and I show and explain to you several tricks using these cards at the end of this article.
The Ganzfeld Experiment
The term comes from the German word for “entire field”. It is a technique used in Parapsychology as a method of testing individuals for ESP. Since 1974 this test has been at the very core of research.
The “receiver” is placed in a comfortable chair with the haves of table tennis balls covering their eyes. They are bathed in red light and are further disconnected from the world with headphones through which white noise is played.
They remain in this form of sensory deprivation for 30 minutes.
During the half, an hour, a “Sender” views a random object and the receiver attempts to describe what he can “see”.
These attempts at describing the object are recorded by the experimenter (who cannot see the object) who takes notes.
After the thirty minutes, the receiver is released from the sensory deprivation and given a range of possible objects.
They then choose which of these objects most closely resembles what they “saw” during the experiment.
Typically there are four objects used, one of which was described. This means that there is a 25% chance of success relying on chance alone.
After a series of experiments, a paper was produced in 1982.
They stated that the experiments proved the existence of PSI. In 1985 the results were re-analyzed and errors in all of the 42 experiments were discovered.
It was agreed that the original results were flawed. Since then continued attempts have been made using these tests. In 2003 it was still the case that undisputed evidence had not been produced, in line with all scientific testing criteria
To date, no scientific study into ESP has passed the scientific scrutiny that is required so the state of play at the moment is that nobody has proved that ESP exists, and nobody has proved it does not.
ESP study is neither scientific nor unscientific. It is up to the individual how they study the subject.
Then, of course, there is the third dimension, those that consider ESP to be a spiritual matter and involves another plane of existence. It is impossible to study ESP in that context at all.
Conducting ESP Experiments
Today many people still use the Zenner cards for ESP demonstrations and investigations. Today ESP has been incorporated into the performances of Mentalists and performed on stage.
Experiment #1: Easy ESP Demonstration
In this easy to perform ESP Experiment, you might convince your spectator that they are having some hidden extrasensory abilities.
In reality, this is a self-working trick that can be done by anybody; the only requirement is to have a deck of ESP cards.
Experiment #2: Extrasensory perception
This is another Extrasensory perception experiment that you can learn in a matter of a few minutes.
Experiment #3: ESP for beginners
The following experiment will combine classic ESP cards with coins.
Again, this is very easy to do and you will be able to learn it very quickly.
Experiment #4: Simple Prediction Card Trick
This time, the performer is able to correctly predict the future, using a normal deck of playing cards.
The self-working miracle that you can perform today.
Experiment #5: Prediction Card Trick
Five colors, free choice, and a prediction that is locked inside the box and is always correct!
A pretty amazing and easy trick that will amaze your audience.
Can You Learn Extrasensory Perception?
Extrasensory perception as such is part of Mentalism that can be learned, as you have seen on video examples above.
If you’re ready to learn more and reveal secrets of how Mentalists perform their tricks, I can highly recommend this online training.
I learned a lot from participating in this online course and I’m sure you’ll like it too if you’re interested in learning mentalism.
ESP is a topic that many people have an interest in, viewing it from a variety of perspectives.
This is what makes simple care demonstrations so fascinating, as they can be viewed at so many levels.
The simple Zenner card demonstration is using the exact same tools that were used in academic studies and have a degree of validity not commonly found on the stage.