Telepathy, also mind reading or thought transfer, is one of the main research areas of parapsychology.


The term telepathy (com altgr. Tele "far" and pathos "experience" or "influence" was coined by Frederic WH Myers and describes the ability of some people to think, drive, feel (empathy) or feelings in one way It is not for nothing that telepathy is often referred to as mind reading or thought transmission, or simply put, telepathy describes the direct psychological contact between people without the normal sense organs.

Telepathy is a word creation by the British author, poet, critic and essayist Frederic W. H. Myers, which he first published in December 1882 before the Society for Psychical Research (SPR) in London. The previously used term transference (Thought Transfer) for the phenomenon was replaced by Myers' word creation.

Myers' creation of words took place in England in the Victorian era, in which belief in spiritualism and special psychic powers had been widespread since around 1850 and seances were a common pastime in affluent bourgeois circles. At the time, this movement was also supported by well-known scientists such as William Crookes, who was convinced that he had experimentally proven a new psychic force when examining the then famous media Daniel Dunglas Home and Florence Cook. The electrical engineer Cromwell Fleetwood Varley and the biologist Alfred Russel Wallace were also convinced of the possibility of transferring ideas, which even then was rejected by leading scientific representatives such as the members of the X-Club as ridiculous. The concept of telepathy was originally an attempt to detach and objectify the concept of transferring thoughts from the context of spiritism, media and spirits. The scholars of the newly founded Society for Psychical Research, mainly associated with Cambridge University, of which Myers was one of the founding members, looked down on the hustle and bustle of the usual seances at the time and undertook to cleanse the underlying phenomena from giddiness and gullibility and to do them scientifically to explore. For her, telepathy was a descriptive term that should not be mixed with guesswork about the forces behind it. In particular, it is not mandatory to assume forces or effects that contradict scientific physics. The physician Charles Richet even proposed some of the first randomized controlled trials ever to research the phenomenon in 1884, when this concept was still completely new and uncommon in science (though most parapsychologists were disappointed by Richet's low probabilities for it) were).

Research method

Studies based on scientific methodological standards have been carried out by psychologists, but mostly by parapsychologists, for more than a hundred years. From the outset, one of the main goals of these studies was to provide scientific evidence that telepathy exists. To date, this proof has not been able to be provided, at least according to the majority of the scientists.

In order to increase the statistical significance of the results, standardized test protocols were soon introduced instead of free questions that allow numerous interpretations of the answers. For this purpose, for example, the so-called "Zen cards" were developed. The name comes from Joseph Banks Rhine, who named the cards after his colleague Karl Zener. Five different symbols are shown on the cards: a circle, a cross, three wavy lines, a square and a five-pointed star. A common set consists of 25 cards (five cards from each symbol). If a subject (the "recipient") is to be tested for whether they can see, for example, the order in which other person's (the "sender") cards are revealed by "psi-forces", their guess rate is five cards, at 20 percent. If she can correctly indicate a significantly higher proportion, this would indicate telepathy. Standardization makes it possible to repeat the experiment later (scientifically called replication), which would be crucial for scientific recognition. These simple rate tests were introduced in the early 20th century and later refined. The peak of their use was in the 1940s. In the 1970s and 1980s, so-called whole-field experiments became increasingly popular older.

Parapsychologists claim to have achieved statistically significant test results with these tests and methods, which point to — causally inexplicable — telepathic skills of at least some test subjects, and believe that this can also be ensured by meta-analyzes. However, psychologists and other scientists vehemently contradict this claim. The parapsychologists are generally assumed to be of good will and methodologically high-quality experimental design (although some researchers also suspected fraud). However, the representatives of "orthodox" science assume that there are methodological errors in the implementation or data analysis. Important sources of error, which often affect scientific psychology in the same way and may represent an equally big problem there, are, for example: carrying out the experiment until the desired result is significant and then immediately terminating (before the possibly only random effect can disappear again) ), Performing numerous tests, of which only those with a desired or significant result are published, measurement of numerous variables and their combination, whereby those without a desired result are kept secret. In addition, studies with very small amounts of data (few test persons and rounds) are very often published, which do not allow a meaningful answer to the question (due to insufficient power). In individual studies, this often shows what appears to be a very large, individually significant effect, which, however, apparently becomes smaller and smaller in the replications and ultimately disappears.

Although statisticians have confirmed to the parapsychologists that some of their studies meet the standards accepted in psychology, none of their studies on telepathy has reached a level that has been able to convince the critics, and none of the initially promising results could ultimately be replicated. A major problem is probably that until today they have not been able to offer a conclusive explanatory model for their findings, or even openly speculate about effects and phenomena that would refute the physical world view or at least make it incomplete. For such far-reaching conclusions, science demands particularly well-founded reasons that must go beyond the standards accepted for "average" and expected results.

Research projects on telepathy at universities

At some universities, telepathy is being researched as part of psychology as part of parapsychology, including, since 2001, no longer a German or German-speaking university. From 1954 to 1998, the Border Areas of Psychology headed by Hans Bender existed at the University of Freiburg.

Misperceptions of perceptions

Supposedly telepathic phenomena are often attributed to misjudgments of perceptions. There have been studies that people who believe that paranormal phenomena are possible are more likely to give paranormal explanations to scientifically describable phenomena, and that belief in paranormal phenomena is accompanied by an increased ability to fantasize, a lower level of critical thinking and a reduced ability to estimate probabilities. Some of these people were found to have increased activity in the right brain, which is said to allow conclusions to be drawn about strengths in the emotional, creative area and weaknesses in solving logical tasks.

Cold reading is a method that can suggest that an allegedly clairvoyant person has information that can only be obtained in a supernatural way.

Since 1922, various organizations have been awarding prizes for the demonstration of parapsychological skills. There are currently more than 20 different organizations around the world that have tendered a total of over 2.4 million US dollars. The highest prize money for the demonstration of psychic abilities like telepathy is currently advertised by the James Randi Educational Foundation with one million US dollars. Since 1922, not a single paranormal ability test performed by these organizations has been successful.


Authors who consider telepathic skills to exist despite the lack of generally accepted evidence and the skepticism of the scientific community due to their own research, impressions and evidence, include biologist Rupert Sheldrake (Morphic Fields), social psychologist Daryl J. Bem, and Charles Honorton, the system theorist Ervin László, the ethnologist Adolphus Peter Elkin (considered telepathy to be quite common due to his studies in Australia with so-called primitive peoples) or the psychologist Hanna Rheinz (dream suggestion in the sleep laboratory at the Maimonides Medical Center in New York; telepathic communication identical twins).

Whole field attempts

The whole-field experiment is an experiment designed to demonstrate telepathy. In a typical full-field experiment, there are two subjects, A and B, both of whom are spatially separated and shielded from one another. Person A is shielded from environmental stimuli by covering his eyes with halved tennis balls and illuminating them with red light. He gets a monotonous noise through headphones. This uniform sensory input (hence: "whole field", a homogeneous visual and acoustic field is generated) leads after a short time to a meditation-like twilight state in which the test subject is left for approx. 30 to 45 minutes. Subject B, the "broadcaster", will now be shown pictures or short videos. Person B is then supposed to "send" this information to person A, who then speaks her thoughts out loud. A four pictures or videos are shown for evaluation, one of which is the picture or video shown to person B, the other three are used for control purposes. A now tries to identify the correct previously "sent" picture or video based solely on the impressions and feelings of the whole-field session.

The results of the first full-field experiment were published in 1974 by Charles Honorton, with whose name this research design is closely linked.

Parapsychologists such as Dean Radin, Charles Honorton and Daryl Bem report that in the full-field experiments — approximately 3000 sessions were held by around two dozen investigators worldwide - the "recipient" selected the image or video that was previously used more often than average was also "sent". Since meta-analyzes, which take many whole-field studies into account, find a high significance for these test series, there have been repeated debates in scientific journals as to how these results can be interpreted appropriately.

When the American psychology professor Ray Hyman searched parapsychology for the best documented phenomena ("anomalies") in 1981, he quickly came across the whole-field experiments. He decided to do a so-called "meta-analysis" — which had not been common in parapsychology until then. Hyman initially obtained all 34 publications on whole-field studies that were published between 1974 and 1981. These contained 66 whole-field test series in which 47 different researchers were involved. 24 (= 33%) of the test series had led to a result that deviated significantly from the random expectation (at the 5% significance level).

However, Hyman discovered numerous methodological errors in the studies that massively questioned the results. For example, he pointed out unsuitable randomization procedures. As long as these possible sources of error were not excluded in future studies, the whole-field experiments could not be used as evidence for anything. Hyman's criticism appeared in a full-field special festival of the Journal of Parapsychology in 1985, followed by a response from Charles Honorton as the main researcher, who provided his own meta-analysis in which Hyman's results were criticized and reasoned in many ways.

Now something unique has happened in the history of parapsychology: the critic Hyman and the whole-field researcher Honorton sit down and say goodbye to a common comminiqué that appeared in the Journal of Parapsychology in 1986. In it, Honorton and Hyman agreed that

(a) in fact the previous studies had various methodological shortcomings.

(b) the previous full-field studies

(c) a final decision can only be made on the basis of future experiments, which must be carried out by a large number of independent investigators and subject to strict methodological standards, i.e. the potential sources of error discovered (which have been listed in detail) must be eliminated in future improved whole-field studies.

On the basis of this joint declaration, Honorton developed a new generation of whole-field experiments, so-called auto-full-field experiments, in which the identified sources of error were eliminated, above all by computer-controlled automation. As early as 1990, Honorton published the first results of 355 individual full-field sessions in the Journal of Parapsychology. The hit rate was 34.4% (p = 0.00005), which means that the existence of the phenomenon again despite eliminating the sources of error was hardened. Hyman conceded that parapsychology ("abnormal psychology") was well on the way to showing truly reproducible effects for the first time.

Now there was no confirmation from independent examiners. These were published in 1994 by Daryl Bem in the well-known psychological journal Psychological Bulletin (Vol. 115, p. 4). Charles Honorton did not live to see the publication, he died of a heart attack in November 1992 at the age of 46. In the study, 106 hits (= 32%) were found out of 329 whole-field sessions, which in turn differed significantly (p = 0.002) from the chance expectation. Hyman confirmed that the strict methodological standards required in the 1986 communiqué were largely met. Now more intensive research efforts are necessary to further substantiate and possibly clarify the existence of telepathy.

The few laboratories around the world that were technically equipped to carry out the whole-field experiments were active. Numerous experiments were carried out in particular at the "Koestler Chair for Parapsychology" at the University of Edinburgh, which was held by Robert L. Morris.

In the proceedings of the Parapsychological Association, the work of Julie Milton and Richard Wiseman Ganzfeld at the crossroads appeared: A meta-analysis of the new generation of studies, in which a meta-analysis of all autogeld field experiments carried out since 1987 is carried out: 31 studies with a total of 1237 individual tests, carried out in 7 different laboratories by 10 different researchers. Richard Wiseman is the head of the Perrott-Warrick Research Department at the Psychological Institute of the University of Hertfordshire (England), which was established in 1995 and is primarily concerned with the critical study of results from parapsychology.

This new meta-analysis showed a near-zero effect size (r = 0.02), i.e. an overall result that was not significantly different from the random expectation (Stouffer Z = 0.87, p = 0.19, checked on one side).

Rupert Sheldrake and the Morphic Fields

The British biologist Rupert Sheldrake called a morphic field, originally also known as a morphogenetic field, a hypothetical field that serves as a "form-creating cause" for the development of structures in biology, physics, chemistry, but also should be responsible in society. The hypothesis is classified by the natural sciences as pseudoscientific, nevertheless the scientific examination of the hypothesis is required in individual cases. Representatives of the social sciences have also seriously discussed the hypothesis.

The term morphogenetic field used in developmental biology is not identical to the fields assumed by Sheldrake.

Sheldrake studied biochemistry at Clare College, Cambridge University and philosophy at Harvard University. He was interested in how plants and all other living things got their shape. A single cell initially splits into identical copies, which assume specific properties with each further cell division; some cells turn into leaves, others into stems. This change, called differentiation, is irreversible.

The development from a single cell to a complex organism is the subject of developmental biology. The most important mechanisms in the differentiation of the organisms were clarified by her. It has been discussed since the 1920s that regulation of embryo development and limb regeneration imply the existence of unknown "morphogenetic fields". The discussion was replaced by the discovery of differential gene expression, which was able to explain the pattern formation at least in large part. It was only in the 1990s that factors were found that actually define such "fields" — they are referred to as morphogens.

Sheldrake developed another hypothesis. In this the existence of a universal field is postulated, which is supposed to encode the "basic pattern" of a biological system. He initially referred to the previously existing concept of the morphogenetic or development field, but reformulated it as part of his hypothesis.

In Sheldrake's view, it is easy for a form that already exists in one place to emerge in any other place. According to this hypothesis, the morphic field affects not only biological systems, but also any form, for example, the formation of crystal structures. In 1973, Sheldrake called this a morphic field, later also nature's memory. He published his hypothesis in 1981 in his book A New Science of Life ("The creative universe. The theory of the morphogenetic field").

In his 1988 book Presence of the Past: A Field Theory of Life ("The memory of nature. The secret of the formation of forms in nature") he expanded his hypothesis to the effect that the morphic fields also capture the laws of nature itself. From this point of view, nature might not consist of natural laws, but rather of habits.

In contrast to the electromagnetic field as the "energetic type of causation", this field should not provide any energy. The morphic field hypothesis serves as an explanatory model for the exact appearance of a living being (as part of its epigenetics) and should be involved in behavior and coordination with other beings. This morphogenetic field is intended to provide a force that controls the development of an organism so that it takes on a shape that resembles other specimens of its species. A feedback mechanism called morphic resonance is said to both lead to changes in this pattern and to explain why people take on the specific form of their type during their development.

As early as 1958, the chemist and philosopher Michael Polanyi had developed a very similar concept in his book Personal Knowledge: Towards a Post-Critical Philosophy (pp. 348-359), which he also called morphogenetic fields. Other forerunners are the largely ignored theory of morphogenetic fields by biologist Alexander Gurwitsch from the 1920s and the even older entelechy theory by embryologist Hans Driesch, which was created around the turn of the century.

One of Sheldrake's evidence was the work of Harvard University researcher William McDougall, who in the 1920s examined the ability of rats to figure out labyrinths. He had found that rats, after others had learned the labyrinth in front of them, found it faster. The rats first needed 165 failed attempts before finding their way through the labyrinth each time, but after a few generations there were only 20 failed attempts. McDougall believed that the reason for this was a kind of Lamarckian evolutionary process. Sheldrake, on the other hand, saw this as proof of the existence of a field. The rats that first went through the labyrinth created, in his view, a learning pattern within a "rat field" that the descendants of these rats could access, even if they were not related. The same labyrinth was always used for the experiments, with no trace of smell.

As a popular scientific hanger of his theories, Sheldrake frequently uses references to an experiment that the South African naturalist Eugéne Marais is said to have carried out in the 1920s: A continuous, vertical gap of several centimeters width is made in a termite structure, after which one is over in the middle the steel plate protruding from the edges is fixed so that the two halves of the building are separated from each other, but the cut surfaces are still open. This could not have prevented the termites from building similar arches on both sides of the plate when repairing the cut, which would have met exactly if the plate had not. Marais reports in his writing The Soul of the White Ant about this alleged observation, but does not provide any specific information about the width of the cut, etc. Detailed information on how exactly the constructions actually meet is also not available.

A further observation by Marais, to which Sheldrake cites frequently, namely the cessation of all activity by the termite people upon the death of the Queen, is indeed evident. Science today usually attributes this to the absence and absence of (measurable) pheromone secretions from the queen.

In 1994 Sheldrake published the book Seven Experiments that could change the world. In it, Sheldrake suggests seven experiments that can be used to confirm or refute his hypothesis: (An excerpt):

→ An experiment to verify the reported ability of pets to sense their owner's return before they arrive.

→ An experiment to feel that you are being stared at from behind.

→ An experiment on the effect of the experimenter's expectations on the experiment. Usually this is explained in the context of the experimenter effect or the Rosenthal effect.

He published one of these experiments in the study The Seventh Sense of Animals (1999). The study is often rejected as methodologically inadequate.

In 2003 he wrote in The Seventh Sense of Man about a perception that is reported by many people. The book contained an experiment in which the test subjects, with their blindfolds on, had to decide whether they were being stared at by people sitting behind them. The decision as to whether the person sitting in the back was looking at the test subject with the blindfold or looking somewhere else was determined at random (coin flip or table of random numbers). After a signal in the form of a loud click, the test subject had to decide whether they were staring at them. If the subjects had guessed wrong and were told that, they were less likely to guess wrong in future attempts. After tens of thousands of individual attempts, the score was 60 percent if the subject was stared at (i.e. above the random result), but only 50 percent if they were not stared at (which corresponds to the random result). This result indicates a weak sense of being stared at, and no sensory perception of not being stared at. Sheldrake claims that these experiments have been repeated very often and with consistent results in universities in Connecticut and Toronto and in a science museum in Amsterdam.

Since September 2005, Sheldrake has been director of the Perrott-Warrick project, which is funded by a foundation that benefited Trinity College, Cambridge. The project examines unexplained human and animal abilities.

Initially, the scientific community largely ignored the hypothesis of causal causation presented in his first work (A New Science of Life, 1981). A majority of the scientific community today regards the hypothesis as pseudoscientific.

The theory of morphic fields is also received in the context of spatial sociology by the US sociologist Michael Mayerfeld Bell. He assumes that people who were permanently present in one place leave their "ghost" of this place in the sense of an "atmosphere" or "aura" and thereby cause actions, thoughts and intuitions of third parties, who are later in this place.


Animals who know when their owner is going home

The English biologist Rupert Sheldrake investigated this phenomenon (also the one in which the animals found their way home). In 1992 he called for "Science for Everyone" in the USA (1994 also in Europe). Pet owners should share their experiences. Following this call, he received over 2000 letters, 500 of them from German-speaking countries alone. He also wrote the report about Jaytee. Dr. Rupert Sheldrake, the "frightful figure of academic science" (Focus magazine), explains the phenomenon as follows: "There is an invisible connection between pets and their owners, a way of communication that is currently unknown to science."

The five-year-old terrier mixed breed Jaytee of the Smart family from Ramsbottom (England) in central England apparently has a sixth sense. Whenever Mum makes her way home, Jaytee gets restless, runs happily and jumps into his window seat. There he presses his nose against the window pane and waits until Pam Smart comes home. It doesn't matter how far she is from home, what time of day she starts and what means of transport she uses. When Secretary Pam returns from Bury, ten minutes away, Jaytee takes his place ten minutes before their arrival. However, if she comes from Blackpool an hour and a half away, Jaytee reacts 90 minutes before her arrival. With all sorts of tests, Pam Smart and a television team from the Austrian Broadcasting Corporation successively excluded all possible explanations. A coin was drawn to determine when Pam was going home and the means of transport she was using. Video cameras monitored the dog's behavior. But it was like before: Whenever Pam made her way home, the dog reacted. But once she went to see her sister after work, the dog did not strike.

Farewell to the dying

In the last moments of a life you sometimes think of relatives or friends whom you couldn't say goodbye to. But some people still receive messages from the dying. This can be a shadowy manifestation of the dying person or indirect messages such as the stopping of a watch that the person gave you. The literature is full of such reports. Such reports always come to us for advice (currently discontinued). Here are just two examples:

In his book Psi Research Today, J. Gaither Pratt reports on the wife of a psychologist at a college where he lectured on parapsychology. She told him about an experience that she shared with her Elhad. They were sitting in the living room when they suddenly saw the lampshade of the table lamp float slowly up for a moment and then return to the starting point just as slowly. The phone rang within two minutes and a relative told them that Grandfather had just died.

In his book Parapsychologie, published in 1970, Hans Bender tells the results and problems of an appearance. Three students told him "that in a ski hut they suddenly saw an unreal looking figure, an old man, floating through the room, whom one of them recognized as his grandfather. He had died at the same time - probably a telepathic one Collective hallucination."

— yb —

Doctorate of Parapsychology

There are also providers on the Internet that provide doctoral degrees in Parapsychology. Don't wait long, → Buy Doctorate in Parapsychology.