Is There Any Evidence for Psychic Abilities?

Michael Anissimov
Michael Anissimov

The potential existence or non-existence of psychic abilities, also known as psi, has been investigated scientifically for about 150 years (since 1858), according to the US National Academy of Sciences. In 1985, the organization released a statement that concluded there is "no scientific justification from research conducted over a period of 130 years for the existence of parapsychological phenomena." According to a survey, just 2% of scientists in the National Academy of Sciences believed in psi phenomena or psychic abilities.

Twins may or may not have psychic abilities.
Twins may or may not have psychic abilities.

According to parapsychologists, these scientists are being closed-minded, and some psi phenomena including ESP (extra-sensory perception) and psychokinesis have experimental support. Most scientists argue that any apparent experimental support for the existence of psychic abilities is either within the margin of what would be predicted by chance (this accusation is especially frequent when the sample size is low), constitutes deliberate fakery (either by the experimenters or the subjects), or is due to a poor experimental design that subtly biases results towards affirmation of the existence of psi.

Precognition abilities are said to be able to predict major disasters, such as hurricanes or epic flooding.
Precognition abilities are said to be able to predict major disasters, such as hurricanes or epic flooding.

A 2008 study by Kosslyn and Multon based on neuroimaging tested for several psychic abilities including clairvoyance, remote viewing, and precognition, and found no distinguishable neural responses when a "receiver" viewed an image being psychically sent by a "sender" versus a random image. This effect persisted even when conditions alleged to magnify psychic abilities were used, such as the use of twins, siblings, or spouses. The scientists called these experiments "the strongest evidence yet obtained against the existence of paranormal mental phenomena."

One of the early and most popular tests for the presence of psi phenomena are the famous Zener cards, five cards with symbols on them: a circle, a cross, wavy lines, a square, and a star. The experimenter goes through the deck of cards, observes the result, and (while concealing the card) asks the subject to name the symbol on the other side. After many thousands of these experiments, participants rarely performed better than chance, and when new experimental controls were introduced, such as shuffling the cards using a machine, conducting a larger number of trials, and separating the participant and experimenter by a larger distance, the effect all but disappeared. Karl Zenner demonstrated a poor understanding of statistics and the scientific method, for instance interpreting worse-than-chance results as indicating the presence of psi phenomena ("psi-missing") and attributing convergence to chance performance over time (which is to be expected if psi isn't real) as due to boredom with performing the tests in the first place.

Since a brief resurgence of activity in the 1970s, nearly all university departments practicing psi research have been shut down. Today, only two remain, the University of Virginia's Department of Psychiatric Medicine, and the University of New Mexico's Veritas Laboratory.

Some psychics claim they can see the future in a crystal ball.
Some psychics claim they can see the future in a crystal ball.
Michael Anissimov
Michael Anissimov

Michael is a longtime wiseGEEK contributor who specializes in topics relating to paleontology, physics, biology, astronomy, chemistry, and futurism. In addition to being an avid blogger, Michael is particularly passionate about stem cell research, regenerative medicine, and life extension therapies. He has also worked for the Methuselah Foundation, the Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence, and the Lifeboat Foundation.

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Discussion Comments


I wish I had psychic abilities. I would love to remember every memory from when I was a kid to see if I had any kind of psychic ability then.


The Zener card tests run with thousands of trials on hundreds of subjects around the world consistently show results around 32% success, significantly above the 20% that chance would predict. When selecting for meditators, for example, the results improve even more. Google Dr. Dean Radin for lots more high-quality data supporting thee existence of these phenomena.


I'm really unsure of whether or not these abilities exist. It is because I'm very skeptical. Not only am I skeptical of those who claim to posses such powers, I am also skeptical about all of these tests and studies that show people have no psychic abilities. I have personally experienced strange things that I cannot explain, but I really think that humans need to delve into this matter, with no crap or lies, and find out the truth because this could be the next step in our evolution.


I am psychic and I'd love to work with scientists in order to investigate and prove it. I believe it would be great for all of humanity and offer us a new avenue of science to explore. I am interested in understanding my own abilities better. I think one thing science ignores is the process by which a person comes to understand themselves. It isn't cut and dried.

I also was a skeptic who has come to understand my abilities to a degree, but with a lot of work still ahead. If proven wrong I would gladly accept that. I won't be though. I am 100 percent sure of the existence of psychic abilities, although I am confused as to the laws and parameters which govern them.


@PurpleSpark: It is said that all children have a degree of psychic abilities. They say children possess stronger psychic gifts than adults. This is due to the fact that children are innocent and pure at heart.

Psychic children are known as crystal children or indigo children. Children are generally unaware of their gifts and most adults do not notice that their child has these gifts. For the most part, when a child tells their parents about something they experience it is usually written off as their imagination. So you never know if your child’s imaginary friend is real or not, it could be that they are communicating with the dead or unseen.


I've seen a show on TV about psychic kids. I would like to hear anyone's opinion on whether or not you think children can really have psychic abilities.


Wow! why am i blown away when i hear this all the time. We still haven't proved psionics, because the tests contain too much synchronicity and this makes every vision overlap. Due to the fact that the ones with the sight intermesh past/present/future and is very confusing to us. I am a blue-eyed pisces, one day from the new moon early morning, botn at 2:36 a.m. My numerology=11. These factors inhibit high psionics. I don't nor will i speak to dead people. But i have dreamed outcomes and took forks in the road from dream playback. These dreams play back into reality. I get other signals too: clairaudience. I hear someone say my name or talking, then they show up/ or call. I also can control the heat/vibration in me. I tell the world i will not hide anymore and we must be ignorant to have not recognized these abilities yet. I am so very sorry you people are third eye blind, but it's more of a burden anyway as i have always felt like an outcast. Wake up already, and stop devolving.

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