Extrasensory Perception (book)

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Extrasensory Perception
AuthorJ. B. Rhine
Pages240 pp.

Extrasensory Perception is a 1934 book written by parapsychologist Joseph Banks Rhine, which discusses his research work at Duke University. Extrasensory perception is the ability to acquire information shielded from the senses, and the book was "of such a scope and of such promise as to revolutionize psychical research and to make its title literally a household phrase".[1][2]


The book received worldwide attention and became the focus of criticism and controversy when some objections were raised about the validity of Rhine's work. The parapsychology experiments described by Rhine received much criticism from academics [citation needed] and others who challenged the concepts and evidence of ESP. A number of psychological departments attempted to repeat Rhine's experiments with failure. W. S. Cox (1936) from Princeton University with 132 subjects produced 25,064 trials in a playing card ESP experiment. Cox concluded, "There is no evidence of extrasensory perception either in the 'average man' or of the group investigated or in any particular individual of that group. The discrepancy between these results and those obtained by Rhine is due either to uncontrollable factors in experimental procedure or to the difference in the subjects."[3]

Four other psychological departments failed to replicate Rhine's results.[4][5] Rhine's experiments were discredited due to the discovery that sensory leakage or cheating could account for all his results, such as the subject being able to read the symbols from the back of the cards and being able to see and hear the experimenter to note subtle clues.[6][7][8][9]

Extrasensory Perception After Sixty Years[edit]

In response, Rhine published Extrasensory Perception After Sixty Years in 1940 with a number of colleagues, to address the objections raised.[1] However, critics have written the experiments described by Rhine and his colleagues contained methodological flaws.[10][11] In the book Rhine and his colleagues described three experiments the Pearce-Pratt experiment, the Pratt-Woodruff experiment and the Ownbey-Zirkle series which they believed demonstrated ESP. The psychologist C. E. M. Hansel wrote, "it is now known that each experiment contained serious flaws that escaped notice in the examination made by the authors of Extra-Sensory Perception After Sixty Years".[12] Joseph Gaither Pratt was the co-experimenter in the Pearce-Pratt and Pratt-Woodruff experiments at the Duke campus. Hansel visited the campus where the experiments took place and discovered the results could have originated through the use of a trick, so could not be regarded as supplying evidence for ESP.[13]

The Ownbey-Zirkle ESP experiment at Duke was criticized by parapsychologists and skeptics.[14] Ownbey would attempt to send ESP symbols to Zirkle who would guess what they were. The pair were placed in adjacent rooms unable to see each other and an electric fan was used to prevent the pair communicating by sensory cues. Ownbey tapped a telegraph key to Zirkle to inform him when she was trying to send him a symbol. The door separating the two rooms was open during the experiment, and after each guess Zirkle would call out his guess to Ownbey who recorded his choice. Critics pointed out the experiment was flawed as Ownbey acted as both the sender and the experimenter, nobody was controlling the experiment so Ownbey could have cheated by communicating with Zirkle or made recording mistakes.[14][15]

Psychologist Carl Jung referred to Rhine’s work as scientific proof that part of the psyche is not subject to the laws of space and time.[16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Craighead, E. D; Nemeroff, C. B. (2001). Rhine, Joseph Banks. In The Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology and Behavioral Science. John Wiley. p. 1141. ISBN 978-0-471-24400-4
  2. ^ Michael R. McVaugh; Seymour H. Mauskopf (1976). "J. B. Rhine's Extra-Sensory Perception and Its Background in Psychical Research". Isis. 67 (2): 161–189. doi:10.1086/351583. ISSN 0021-1753. JSTOR 230921. Wikidata Q120651333.
  3. ^ Cox, W. S. (1936). An experiment in ESP. Journal of Experimental Psychology 12: 437.
  4. ^ Jastrow, Joseph. (1938). ESP, House of Cards. The American Scholar. Vol. 8, No. 1. pp. 13-22. "Rhine’s results fail to be confirmed. At Colgate University (40, 000 tests, 7 subjects), at Chicago (extensive series on 315 students), at Southern Methodist College (75, 000 tests), at Glasgow, Scotland (6, 650 tests), at London University (105, 000 tests), not a single individual was found who under rigidly conducted experiments could score above chance. At Stanford University it has been convincingly shown that the conditions favorable to the intrusion of subtle errors produce above-chance records which come down to chance when sources of error are eliminated."
  5. ^ Cited in Hansel, C. E. M. The Search for a Demonstration of ESP. In Paul Kurtz. (1985). A Skeptic's Handbook of Parapsychology. Prometheus Books. pp. 105-127. ISBN 0-87975-300-5
    • Adam, E. T. (1938). A summary of some negative experiments. Journal of Parapsychology 2: 232-236.
    • Crumbaugh, J. C. (1938). An experimental study of extra-sensory perception. Masters thesis. Southern Methodist University.
    • Heinlein, C. P; Heinlein, J. H. (1938). Critique of the premises of statistical methodology of parapsychology. Journal of Parapsychology 5: 135-148.
    • Willoughby, R. R. (1938). Further card-guessing experiments. Journal of Psychology 18: 3-13.
  6. ^ Gulliksen, Harold. (1938). Extra-Sensory Perception: What Is It?. American Journal of Sociology. Vol. 43, No. 4. pp. 623-634. "Investigating Rhine's methods, we find that his mathematical methods are wrong and that the effect of this error would in some cases be negligible and in others very marked. We find that many of his experiments were set up in a manner which would tend to increase, instead of to diminish, the possibility of systematic clerical errors; and lastly, that the ESP cards can be read from the back."
  7. ^ Zusne, Leonard; Jones, Warren. (1989). Anomalistic Psychology: A Study of Magical Thinking. Psychology Press. p. 158. ISBN 978-0805805086
  8. ^ Hines, Terence. (2003). Pseudoscience and the Paranormal. Prometheus Books. p. 122. ISBN 978-1573929790 "The procedural errors in the Rhine experiments have been extremely damaging to his claims to have demonstrated the existence of ESP. Equally damaging has been the fact that the results have not replicated when the experiments have been conducted in other laboratories."
  9. ^ Smith, Jonathan. (2009). Pseudoscience and Extraordinary Claims of the Paranormal: A Critical Thinker's Toolkit. Wiley-Blackwell. ISBN 978-1405181228. "Today, researchers discount the first decade of Rhine's work with Zener cards. Stimulus leakage or cheating could account for all his findings. Slight indentations on the backs of cards revealed the symbols embossed on card faces. Subjects could see and hear the experimenter, and note subtle but revealing facial expressions or changes in breathing."
  10. ^ Hansel, C. E. M. (1967). Extra-Sensory Perception after 60 Years by J. B. Rhine. American Scientist. Volume. 55, No. 3. Frontiers of Zealous Research: 341-342.
  11. ^ Wynn, Charles; Wiggins, Arthur. (2001). Quantum Leaps in the Wrong Direction: Where Real Science Ends...and Pseudoscience Begins. Joseph Henry Press. p. 156. ISBN 978-0-309-07309-7 "In 1940, Rhine coauthored a book, Extrasensory Perception After Sixty Years in which he suggested that something more than mere guess work was involved in his experiments. He was right! It is now known that the experiments conducted in his laboratory contained serious methodological flaws. Tests often took place with minimal or no screening between the subject and the person administering the test. Subjects could see the backs of cards that were later discovered to be so cheaply printed that a faint outline of the symbol could be seen. Furthermore, in face-to-face tests, subjects could see card faces reflected in the tester’s eyeglasses or cornea. They were even able to (consciously or unconsciously) pick up clues from the tester’s facial expression and voice inflection. In addition, an observant subject could identify the cards by certain irregularities like warped edges, spots on the backs, or design imperfections."
  12. ^ Hansel, C. E. M. The Search for a Demonstration of ESP. In Paul Kurtz. (1985). A Skeptic's Handbook of Parapsychology. Prometheus Books. pp. 97-127. ISBN 0-87975-300-5
  13. ^ Hansel, C. E. M. (1980). ESP and Parapsychology: A Critical Re-Evaluation. Prometheus Books. pp. 125-140. ISBN 978-0879751203
  14. ^ a b Lamont, Peter. (2013). Extraordinary Beliefs: A Historical Approach to a Psychological Problem. Cambridge University Press. pp. 206-208. ISBN 978-1-107-01933-1
  15. ^ Hansel, C. E. M. (1989). The Search for Psychic Power: ESP and Parapsychology Revisited. Prometheus Books. p. 46. ISBN 0-87975-516-4
  16. ^ Jung, Carl (1963). Memories, Dreams, Reflections (in German). HarperCollinsPublishers. p. 358.