Monday, 25 November 2013

Psi (parapsychology)

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Coined byB. P. Wiesner (1942)
DefinitionA term used to demarcate processes or effects associated with cognitive or physiological activity that fall outside of conventional scientific boundaries (ESP, for example).
Pronunciation:Pronounced with a silent p, sounding like "sigh".
See alsoParapsychology
Extrasensory perception
Remote viewing
In parapsychology, psi is the purported process of information transfer or energy transfer in extrasensory perception or psychokinesis that is unexplained in terms of known physical or biological mechanisms.[1] The term is derived from the Greek, ψ psi, 23rd letter of the Greek alphabet; from the Greek ψυχή psyche, "mind, soul".[2][3]
The Parapsychological Association divides psi into two main categories: psi-gamma for extrasensory perception and psi-kappa for psychokinesis.[3]
The study of psi is normally viewed as beyond the concern of science.[4] In popular culture, "psi" has become more and more synonymous with special psychic, mental, and "psionic" abilities and powers.


The term was coined by biologist Berthold P. Wiesner, and first used by psychologist Robert Thouless in a 1942 article published in the British Journal of Psychology.[5] Psi was argued by Thouless and Wiesner to offer a non-theoretical manner of referring to extrasensory perception and psychokinesis.[6]
According to Ray Hyman psi is negatively defined as any effect that cannot be currently explained in terms of chance or normal causes and this is a fallacy as it encourages parapsychologists into using any peculiarity in the data as a characteristic of psi.[7] On the definition of psi, James Alcock wrote:
Parapsychology is the only realm of objective inquiry in which the phenomena are all negatively defined, defined in terms of ruling out normal explanations. Of course, ruling out all normal explanations is not an easy task. We may not be aware of all possible normal explanations, or we may be deceived by our subjects, or we may deceive ourselves. If all normal explanations actually could be ruled out, just what is it that is at play? What is psi? Unfortunately, it is just a label. It has no substantive definition that goes beyond saying that all normal explanations have apparently been eliminated. Of course, parapsychologists generally presume that it has something to do with some ability of the mind to transcend the laws of nature as we know them, but all that is so vague as to be unhelpful in any scientific exploration.[8]
Parapsychologists have admitted it is impossible to eliminate the possibility of non-paranormal causes in their experiments. There is no independent method to indicate the presence or absence of psi.[7]


Traditionally the term has had two sub-categories:[3]
  • Psi-Gamma - Pertaining to paranormal cognition (ESP, remote viewing, etc.)
  • Psi-Kappa - Pertaining to paranormal action (psychokinesis, etc.)

Scientific study[edit]

In an experiment using neuroimaging to resolve the psi debate (Moulton and Kosslyn, 2008) wrote:
Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) was used in an effort to document the existence of psi. If psi exists, it occurs in the brain, and hence, assessing the brain directly should be more sensitive than using indirect behavioral methods (as have been used previously). To increase sensitivity, this experiment was designed to produce positive results if telepathy, clairvoyance (i.e., direct sensing of remote events), or precognition (i.e., knowing future events) exist. Moreover, the study included biologically or emotionally related participants (e.g., twins) and emotional stimuli in an effort to maximize experimental conditions that are purportedly conducive to psi. In spite of these characteristics of the study, psi stimuli and non-psi stimuli evoked indistinguishable neuronal responses-although differences in stimulus arousal values of the same stimuli had the expected effects on patterns of brain activation. These findings are the strongest evidence yet obtained against the existence of paranormal mental phenomena.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Bem, D. J., & Honorton, C. (1994). Does psi exist? Replicable evidence for an anomalous process of information transfer. Psychological Bulletin', 115, 4-18.
  2. ^ What do parapsychologists study?, Parapsychological Association (2007-02-03)
  3. ^ a b c Psi - Glossary of Key Words Frequently Used in Parapsychology, Parapsychological Association (2007-01-29)
  4. ^
  5. ^ Thouless, R. H. (1942). "Experiments on paranormal guessing". British Journal of Psychology, 33, 15-27.
  6. ^ Robert Todd Carroll. (2010). "Psi". The Skeptic's Dictionary.
  7. ^ a b Ray Hyman. Evaluating Parapsychological Claims in Robert J. Sternberg, Henry L. Roediger, Diane F. Halpern. (2007). Critical Thinking in Psychology. Cambridge University Press. pp. 216-231. ISBN 978-0521608343
  8. ^ James Alcock. (2003). Give the Null Hypothesis a Chance: Reasons to Remain Doubtful about the Existence of Psi. Journal of Consciousness Studies 10: 29–50.
  9. ^ Moulton, S. T., & Kosslyn, S. M. (2008). Using neuroimaging to resolve the psi debate. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 20, 182-192.

External links[edit]

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