Countless movies, stories, and tales have spun gold out of the concept of extrasensory perception (often referred to as ESP). Consider popular television shows and films like Medium and The Sixth Sense. People are fascinated with the paranormal – Ouija boards and tarot card readings, once considered taboo and even somewhat dark – are now popular games sold in Toys R Us. But with all this talk and publicity, much of the origin and science of extrasensory perception has been obscured. The actual definition of extrasensory perception is the “ability to acquire information by means other than the five canonical senses (taste, sight, touch, smell, and hearing), or any other sense well-known to science (balance, proprioception, etc)”, but there are several different types of ESP, as well as interpretations of it.
Before getting into all the different ideas and challenges associated with extrasensory perception, let’s first consider the history of ESP. The concept itself goes way back, far before popular culture turned it into a cultural phenomenon of sorts. In fact, in many past cultures (i.e. ancient China and Egypt), it was simply expected that people could communicate mentally with others, including the dead, gods, and other supernatural spirits. While this possibility has been heavily criticized as, at best, speculation and at worst, pure superstition, plenty of accounts (both ancient and relatively recent) have described incidents of extrasensory perception, as well as everyday use of it for divination.
So, the big question is: Do people actually have ESP and can it be proved? Many paranormal scientists have run experiments to test the veracity of alleged psychic abilities and many have come out shocked and amazed at the results. It seems that ESP may be a little more likely than anyone previously thought. In fact, some paranormal studies have found that alleged psychics seem able to foretell the contents of sealed envelopes and accurately draw images identical to those of people drawing the same image from a remote locale. Parapsychology (especially the area of extrasensory studies) has grown both in venerability and believer population. In fact, many large universities now have Parapsychology programs including Edinburgh University in Scotland.
Most claims of psychic readings and abilities are similar to the three most commonly reported extrasensory happenings which include telepathy, clairvoyance, and precognition. Telepathy is defined as mental communication between two or more people. It entails one person sending or receiving thoughts to or from another person via some sort of mental or emotional link.
Clairvoyance is often called a “second sight” or a “sixth sense” — that is to say, the person perceives events happening in a location other than his or her present one, without having any previous knowledge of the event. For example, a clairvoyant person may sense that something is wrong with a friend or a family member to find that he or she was in trouble. They also may “know” that their house is being robbed as they are out to dinner. Precognition, on the other hand, is also known as “fortune telling” or “foresight” and entails the ability to know or predict what will happen in the future. Many prophets (including very false ones) have risen to fame – and even religious worship — through their apparent ability to predict the events of the future.