The Scientific View Of Psychics

We often hear people described as psychic, whether it’s serious or a joking reference to some sort of uncanny knowledge. But what is the scientific view of psychics? Is there any scientific basis for psychic tests and extrasensory claims?

Let’s start with the definition of a psychic. A psychic is someone who can sense things that fall outside what we know and can interpret through our senses of sight, hearing, smell, touch and taste. Consequently, psychics are typically seen as having a sixth sense or extrasensory perception.

Psychic abilities are very varied and may include:

  • Precognition, the ability to predict future events
  • psychometry, the ability to work out something about a person by being in contact with an object belonging to him or her
  • sensitivity to spiritual, supernatural or non-physical events. Mediums are reputed to be sensitive to spirits of the dead, for instance.

There are many psychic tests available to see if you have this type of ability. While some psychic tests use scientific research methods, the vast bulk of extrasensory tests are just for fun.

In everyday use, the word psychic is used to describe someone who knows something they could not know without access to extrasensory mental abilities. More often than not, the term psychic is used to describe someone who is very intuitive.

Psychics versus Scientists

Psychics and scientists are often at odds because of their differing attitudes towards unexplained phenomena. However, the two camps do share some similiarities. For example, scientists and psychics may use some of the same data to reach conclusions.

Just as psychics use non-verbal cues (clothing, body language, facial expressions and so on) to guide them in making statements or predictions, scientists may use those same cues in making their analyses, especially in psychoanalysis and psychiatry.

However, there is a big difference in the data that is used by scientists and psychics. Scientists tend to go on empirical evidence, that is, evidence that can be verified by observation. Most scientific experiments fall under this heading. In contrast, psychics often rely on their senses and intuition to reach conclusions and make predictions.

The Scientific View of Psychics

The scientific view of psychics varies widely. Many scientists feel that anything to do with the paranormal is pseudoscience, rather than real science.

Scientists justify this view by pointing to the fact that those who study psychic abilities and phenomena don’t use acceptable scientific methods and are, therefore, dealing in mumbo jumbo. It’s difficult for those studying parapsychology to get funding, and it’s rare to see their work in top, respected scientific journals.

However, this has not halted the study of paranormal abilities. Robert Jahn of Princeton University has conducted psychic tests studying psychokinetic phenomena since the 1980s. Jahn has done his research under controlled scientific conditions in a laboratory.

Although Jahn’s study showed that a proportion of the people studied could affect events with their minds, his results have been questioned by the scientific establishment.

Of course, many of the scientific facts that we take for granted today were once the subject of just as much ridicule as paranormal phenomena face today.

For example, Columbus’s belief that the world was round and Galileo’s views on astronomy were once dismissed as nonsense, but they turned out to be true. One day we may say the same of psychics and paranormal phenomena.