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A psychic is a person who claims to use extrasensory
perception (ESP) to identify information hidden from the normal
senses. The word
"psychic" is also used as an adjective to describe such
abilities. Psychics may be theatrical performers, such as stage
magicians, who use techniques such as prestidigitation,
and hot reading
to produce the appearance of such abilities. Psychics appear
regularly in fantasy
fiction, such as in the novel The
Dead Zone by Stephen
A large industry and network exists whereby psychics provide advice
and counsel to clients.
Some famous psychics include Edgar
Ortiz El Samaritano,
Browne. Psychic powers are asserted by psychic
detectives and in practices such as psychic
archaeology and even psychic
Critics attribute psychic powers to intentional trickery or to
In 1988 the U.S.
National Academy of Sciences gave a report on the subject and
concluded there is "no scientific justification from research
conducted over a period of 130 years for the existence of
A study attempted to repeat recently reported parapsychological
experiments that appeared to support the existence of precognition.
Attempts to repeat the results, which involved performance on a
memory test to ascertain if post-test information would effect it,
"failed to produce significant effects", and thus "do
not support the existence of psychic ability."
The word psychic is derived from the
psychikos'("of the mind" or "mental") and
refers in part to the human mind or psyche (ex. "psychic
turmoil"). The Greek word also means "soul". In Greek
mythology, the maiden Psyche
was the deification of the human soul.
The word derivation of the Latin psȳchē is from the Greek
psȳchḗ, literally, breath, derivative of psȳ́chein,
to breathe, blow, hence, live.
French astronomer and
Flammarion is credited as having first used the word psychic,
while it was later introduced to the English
language by Edward
William Cox in the 1870s.
seers and prophets
Elaborate systems of divination
date back to ancient times. Perhaps the most widely known system of
early civilization fortune-telling was astrology,
where practitioners believed the relative positions of celestial
bodies could lend insight into people's lives and even predict
their future circumstances. Some fortune-tellers were said to be able
to make predictions
without the use of these elaborate systems (or in conjunction with
them), through some sort of direct apprehension or vision
of the future. These people were known as seers or prophets,
and in later times as clairvoyants
(French word meaning "clear sight" or "clear seeing")
Seers formed a functionary role in early civilization, often serving
as advisors, priests, and judges.
A number of examples are included in biblical accounts. The book of 1
Samuel (Chapter 9) illustrates one such functionary task when
is asked to find the donkeys of the future king Saul.
The role of prophet appeared perennially in ancient cultures. In
Egypt, the priests
of Ra at Memphis
acted as seers. In ancient Assyria
seers were referred to as nabu, meaning "to call" or
Oracle is one of the earliest stories in classical
antiquity of prophetic abilities. The Pythia,
the priestess presiding over the Oracle
of Apollo at
believed to be able to deliver prophecies
inspired by Apollo during rituals beginning in the 8th century
It is often said that the Pythia delivered oracles in a frenzied
state induced by vapors rising from the ground, and that she spoke
gibberish, believed to be the voice of Apollo, which priests reshaped
into the enigmatic prophecies preserved in Greek literature. Other
scholars believe records from the time indicate that the Pythia spoke
intelligibly, and gave prophecies in her own voice.
The Pythia was a position served by a succession of women probably
selected from amongst a guild of priestesses of the temple. The last
recorded response was given in 393 AD, when the emperor Theodosius
I ordered pagan temples to cease operation. Recent geological
investigations raise the possibility that ethylene
gas caused the Pythia's state of inspiration.
One of the most enduring
historical references to what some consider to be psychic ability is
the prophecies of Michel
de Nostredame (1503 – 1566), often Latinized
to Nostradamus, published during the French
Renaissance period. Nostradamus was a French
seer who wrote collections of prophecies
that have since become famous worldwide and have rarely been out of
print since his death. He is best known for his book Les
Propheties, the first edition of which appeared in 1555. Taken
together, his written works are known to have contained at least
as well as at least eleven annual calendars. Most of the quatrains
deal with disasters, such as plagues, earthquakes, wars, floods,
invasions, murders, droughts, and battles – all undated.
Nostradamus is a
controversial figure. His many enthusiasts, as well as the popular
press, credit him with predicting many major world events. Interest
in his work is still considerable, especially in the media and in
popular culture. By contrast, most academic scholars maintain
that the associations made between world events and Nostradamus'
quatrains are largely the result of misinterpretations or
mistranslations (sometimes deliberate) or else are so tenuous as to
render them useless as evidence of any genuine predictive power.
In addition to the belief that
some historical figures were endowed with a predisposition to psychic
experiences, some psychic abilities were thought to be available to
everyone on occasion. For example, the belief in prophetic dreams was
common and persistent in many ancient cultures.
(1877–1945) was a psychic of the 20th century and made many
highly publicized predictions.[citation
In the mid-nineteenth century, Modern
Spiritualism became prominent in the United
States and the United
Kingdom. The movement's distinguishing feature was the belief
that the spirits of
the dead could be contacted by mediums
to lend insight to the living.[page needed]
The movement was fueled in part by anecdotes of psychic powers. One
such person believed to have extraordinary abilities was Daniel
Dunglas Home, who gained fame during the Victorian
period for his reported ability to levitate to various heights and
speak to the dead.
As the Spiritualist movement
grew other comparable groups arose, including the Theosophical
Society, which was co-founded in 1875 by Helena
Blavatsky (1831–1891). Theosophy coupled spiritualist
elements with Eastern
mysticism and was influential in the early 20th century, later
influencing the New
Age movement during the 1970s. Blavatsky herself claimed numerous
By the late
twentieth century psychics were commonly associated with New
readings and advertising for psychics was very common from the
1960s on, and readings were offered for a fee and given in settings
such as over the phones, in a home, or at psychic fairs.
in psychic abilities
In a survey, reported in 1990, of members of the National Academy of
Sciences, only 2% of respondents thought that extrasensory
perception had been scientifically demonstrated, with another 2%
thinking that the phenomena happened sometimes. Asked about research
in the field, 22% thought that it should be discouraged, 63% that it
should be allowed but not encouraged, and 10% that it should be
were the most hostile to parapsychology
of all the specialties.
A survey of the beliefs of the
States population about paranormal topics was conducted by The
Gallup Organization in 2005.
The survey found that 41 percent of those polled believed in
perception and 26 percent believed in clairvoyance.
31 percent of those surveyed indicated that they believe in telepathy
or psychic communication.
A poll of 439
college students conducted in 2006 by researchers Bryan Farha of
City University and Gary Steward of University
of Central Oklahoma, suggested that college seniors and graduate
students were more likely to believe in psychic phenomena than
23 percent of college freshmen expressed a belief in paranormal
ideas. The percentage was greater among college seniors (31%) and
graduate students (34%).
The poll showed lower belief in psychic phenomena among science
students than social science and education students.
also believe that anyone can have psychic abilities which can be
activated or enhanced through the study and practice of various
disciplines and techniques such as meditation and divination, with a
number of books and websites being dedicated to instruction in these
Another popular belief is that psychic ability is hereditary, with a
psychic parent passing their abilities on to their children.
Psychic abilities are common in science fiction, often under the
They may be depicted as innate and heritable, as in Alfred
Demolished Man, A.
E. van Vogt's Slan,
universe series or setting, and the television series Babylon
5. Another recurring trope
is the conveyance of psychic power through psychoactive drugs, as in
novels and indirectly in the Scanners
films, as well as the ghosts in the Starcraft franchise. Somewhat
differently, in Madeleine
Wind in the Door and Robert
A. Heinlein's Stranger
in a Strange Land, psychic abilities may be achieved by any
human who learns the proper mental discipline, known as kything
in the former work. Popular movies include The initiation of
Sarah. Psychic characters are also common in superhero
for instance Jean
X and Emma Frost as well as many others from the Marvel comics'
Participant of a Ganzfeld
Experiment whose results have been criticized as being
misinterpreted as evidence for telepathy.
research has attempted to use random
number generators to test for psychokinesis,
mild sensory deprivation in the Ganzfeld
experiment to test for extrasensory
perception, and research trials conducted under contract by the
U.S. government to investigate remote
viewing. Critics such as Ed J. Gracely say that this evidence is
not sufficient for acceptance, partly because the intrinsic
probability of psychic phenomena is very small.
Critics such as Ray
Hyman and the National
Science Foundation suggest that parapsychology has methodological
flaws that can explain the experimental results that
parapsychologists attribute to paranormal explanations, and various
critics have classed the field as pseudoscience.
This has largely been due to lack of replication of results by
The evidence presented for psychic phenomena is not sufficiently
verified for scientific acceptance, and there exist many
non-paranormal alternative explanations for claimed instances of
psychic events. Parapsychologists,
who generally believe that there is some evidence for psychic
ability, disagree with critics who believe that no psychic ability
exists and that many of the instances of more popular psychic
phenomena such as mediumism,
can be attributed to non-paranormal techniques such as cold
reading, or even self-delusion.
Cold reading techniques would include psychics using flattery,
intentionally making descriptions, statements or predictions about a
person vague and ambiguous, and surreptitiously moving on to another
prediction when the psychic deems the audience to be
such as James
Rowland and Derren
Brown have demonstrated techniques and results similar to those
of popular psychics, but they present physical and psychological
explanations as opposed to paranormal ones.
January 2008 the results of a study using neuroimaging
were published. To provide what are purported to be the most
favorable experimental conditions, the study included appropriate
emotional stimuli and had participants who are biologically or
emotionally related, such as twins. The experiment was designed to
produce positive results if telepathy,
occurred, but despite this no distinguishable neuronal responses were
found between psychic stimuli and non-psychic stimuli, while
variations in the same stimuli showed anticipated effects on patterns
of brain activation. The researchers concluded that "These
findings are the strongest evidence yet obtained against the
existence of paranormal mental phenomena."
had cautioned the researchers against the wording of said
study of Sylvia
Browne predictions about missing persons and murder cases has
found that despite her repeated claims to be more than 85% correct,
"Browne has not even been mostly correct in a single case."
Concerning the television psychics, James
Underdown states that testing psychics in a studio setting is
difficult as there are too many areas to control: the psychic could
be getting help from anyone on the set. The editor controls
everything; they can make a psychic look superior or ridiculous
depending on direction from the producer. In an Independent
Investigation Group IIG
expose of John
Edward and James
Van Praagh they discovered that what was actually said on the
tape day, and what was broadcast to the public were "substantially
different in the accuracy. They're getting rid of the wrong
guesses... Once you pull back the curtain and see how it's done, it's
not impressive at all."
Look up psychic
in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
James Randi (1982). Flim-Flam! Psychics, ESP, Unicorns, and Other
Delusions. Prometheus Books. pp. 173–195.
D. and Swets, J. A. eds. (1988). Enhancing Human Performance:
Issues, Theories and Techniques. National Academy Press, Washington,
D.C. p. 22. ISBN 0-309-07465-7.
Joseph (1978). The Delphic Oracle: Its Responses and Operations.
Maurizio, Lisa. "The Voice at the Centre of the World:
The Pythia's Ambiguity and Authority". (in Lardinois, Andre;
McClure, Laura (2001). Making Silence Speak: Women's Voices in
Greek Literature and Society. Princeton
University Press. pp. 38–54.)
McConnell, R.A., and Clark, T.K. (1991). "National Academy of
Sciences' Opinion on Parapsychology" Journal of the American
Society for Psychical Research, 85, 333-365.