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Summary: Extra Sensory Perception

Natural but unusual forms of sensory ability include infrared sensitivity (sensitivity to radiant heat), magnetic sensitivity (which has been demonstrated in pigeons and salamanders but not humans), and sensitivity to microwaves (which can heat the bones around the cochlea, producing a crackling sound). Experiments in the 1980s showed that blind humans could reach out and touch objects in their visual field. This might be due to a visual circuit that regulates eye movement.

Distinct from all the preceding sensitivities is "extrasensory perception" or ESP. Four classic ESP abilities are telepathy (the ability to transmit thoughts), psychokinesis (the ability to move objects using thought alone), clairvoyance (awareness of physical objects or places without sensory inputs), and precognition (ability to see or experience the future). Such phenomena seem to require modes of information transmission unknown to science, such as "psi energy," a purely mental energy.

Scientists tend to prefer alternative explanations of ESP-like events, using known forms of energy transmission. Scientists would be swayed if a replicable demonstration of ESP could be discovered. So far, this has not occurred. Some psychologists argue that ganzfeld experiments have provided a replicable demonstration of ESP, but the effect is weak and uncertain. If it is a genuine effect, it will survive further attempts at replication.


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