A psychic as strictly defined is a person who is able to sense things that are not available through ordinary sensory perceptions. Such perception might include being able to divine things about a person not present through use of an object or article belonging to the person, called psychometry. A psychic might also be clairvoyant, seeing things or perceiving things others can’t, as the boy in the film The Sixth Sense does. Alternately, a psychic might be able to see or predict events in the future, called precognition.
Not all psychics claim to have equal gifts. A person who claims clairvoyance might work as a medium, connecting the dead to relatives or helping them pass onto the next world. This psychic ability is used in popular television shows like Medium and Ghost Whisperer
Often people associate psychic ability with precognition, or being able to predict the future. Stephen King’s novel The Dead Zone is an interesting development of this psychic ability, which he claims is caused by a brain injury received by the main character.
People who use psychometry may sometimes be employed by police departments in the effort to gain access to knowledge of a crime that can’t be determined through physical evidence. This is the case with the real life inspiration for the television series Medium.
Not all people believe in psychic ability, and some believe that psychic ability is simply very good perception, and the ability to read other people. There are certainly many people who claim to be psychic but lack ability to prove their gifts. They can be quite convincing however, and may run scams to bilk people out of money in order to give them information.
It would be unfair to state that all who claim psychic ability are crooks. In fact many of them believe very strongly in their abilities and have much anecdotal evidence to prove they in fact possess some form of psychic abilities.
In some cultures, having any abilities outside of the norm, like being psychic, is related to the practice of witchcraft. Charges of witchcraft leveled at those who seemed to be more perceptive account for numerous executions of women from the Middle Ages onward. Salem, Massachusetts according to many modern psychics, still bears the scars of many who suffered execution during the Salem with trials.
Other religions may find psychic abilities somewhat normal. Gnostics, for example, believe humans are one of three types, hylics, psychics, and pneumatics. In Biblical history too, one must look at the prophets as being gifted with the power to perceive angels, or make predictions regarding the future.
Some Christians make a distinction between visions given by God, and those given by demons. A witch was a person who worshipped demons. Devil or demon worship is not associated with those of the Wiccan faith, often called witches today.
Parapsychologists are people who study psychic phenomena, and many are quite convinced that some people manifest psychic abilities. Many other people are on the fence as to whether psychic ability is really present or not. Some argue that given the limited amount of brain power one actually uses, perhaps those with psychic abilities have pathways to areas of the brain that most people don’t. However, psychic abilities remain difficult to prove.