This is the 2007 version. Click here for the 2017 chapter 04 table of contents.

Extrasensory Perception (ESP)

The sensitivities described so far can all be explained by normal science. They are extra sensory abilities but they are not supernatural. In other words, they do not defy the laws of physics or require as-yet-undiscovered forms of energy.

What is the difference between the phenomena just described and ESP?

By contrast, extrasensory perception or ESP is said to involve forms of energy that cannot be measured or are not yet acknowledged by the physical sciences. If an ESP phenomenon is explained as a regular form of information processing, involving microwaves or magnetism or electric charges or correlational knowledge, then (in the view of most scientists) it ceases to be ESP and becomes classified as a variety of normal perception.

What accusation does Tart level against most psychologists?

Believers in ESP sometimes attribute ESP-like phenomena to psychic energy or psi power. This is a form of purely mental power that does not involve any normal process of energy or information transfer, except perhaps little-understood quantum effects. Many scientists believe psi power does not exist. One proponent of ESP, Charles Tart, accuses his fellow psychologists of "Fear of Psi" which accounts for their inability to accept the phenomenon.

A minority of psychologists does believe in something like ESP, and many of them point to quantum physics for a possible explanation. Physicists exploring quantum effects (which occur on a subatomic level) can demonstrate very odd phenomena such as action at a distance (one thing affecting another which is far away) under laboratory conditions. However, despite many speculative theories involving quantum processes, nobody has yet come up with a testable theory of how such quantum effects can influence psychological events.


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