The Psychology of the Psychic

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The Psychology of the Psychic
Author David Marks (1980 edition with Richard Kammann)
Publisher Prometheus Books
Publication date
1980 and December 2000
Media type Hardcover/Paperback
Pages 336 pages
ISBN ISBN 1-57392-798-8
OCLC 43296735
133.8/01/9 21
LC Class BF1042 .M33 2000

The Psychology of the Psychic is a work by psychologists David Marks and Richard Kammann, written while both were lecturers in psychology at New Zealand's University of Otago.

The original edition published in 1980 was co-authored with Richard Kammann. The second edition was published in 2000. Each edition contains a Foreword written by Martin Gardner. The second edition is dedicated to Kammann (1934-1984), who had died of a heart attack.[1]


The Psychology of the Psychic is a skeptical analysis of claims of the paranormal. The book critiques a few notable studies within parapsychology from the period 1970-2000. The book contains a critical analysis of the remote viewing experiments carried out in the 1970s at Stanford Research Institute (SRI) by two physicists Russell Targ and Harold Puthoff. These studies formed part of the highly publicized Stargate Project studies funded by the Defense Intelligence Agency and CIA. Marks describes flaws in the experimental protocols of the original SRI that enabled the statistical significance of the results to become inflated. Marks reached the conclusion: "Remote viewing is nothing more than a self-fulfilling subjective delusion" (p. 92).

Marks is equally skeptical about paranormal claims such as the ganzfeld, psychic staring and psychic pets as described by Rupert Sheldrake, and Uri Geller's performances. Regarding Geller, Marks concludes: "As far as I am aware, from my observation, Geller has no psychic ability whatsoever. However, he's a very clever, well-practiced magician" (p. 224).

In the final section of the book, some principles that Marks believes are helpful to the analysis of paranormal claims are described. Four different meanings of the term coincidence are described. Skeptical analyses of the research of Alister Hardy and Arthur Koestler lead Marks to define "Koestler's Fallacy" as the assumption that odd matches of random events cannot arise by chance. Marks illustrates the fact that such odd matches do regularly occur with examples from his own experience. The Psychology of the Psychic describes research evidence concerning self-perpetuating beliefs and superstitious thinking.

Finally the book advocates what Marks and Kammann call "The Art of Doubt", the application of alternative skeptical thinking about the conventional beliefs and assumptions of our time.

In the foreword to the first edition, Martin Gardner appeals to his readers, opining:

"For every person who reads this valuable book there are hundreds of naïve souls who would prefer to have their spines tingled by a sensational but worthless potboiler by some hack journalist of the paranormal. You who now read these sentences join a small but wiser minority".


The psychologist Stuart Sutherland described it as excellent book for debunking Uri Geller's tricks and other paranormal phenomena. Sutherland notes that the book was rejected by over thirty publishing companies who instead had chosen to publish books supportive of psychic phenomena.[2]


  1. ^ Both of Kammann's brothers and one of his sisters also died due to heart attacks.
  2. ^ Sutherland, Stuart. (1994). Irrationality: The Enemy Within. p. 311. Penguin Books. ISBN 0-14-016726-9

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