Notes Psychology

Myth 3: Extrasensory Perception (ESP) Is a Well-Established Scientific Phenomenon (50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology)

Almost 70 percent of Americans have reported having an ESP (Extra-Sensory Perception) experience in their lives. ESP means knowledge or perception without using any of the senses. This includes telepathy (minds communicating with each other) and clairvoyance (the mind’s ability to predict the future or to know the past).

Miss Cleo was a psychic who made a staggering $1 billion dollars from people who called in to tell ask for life advice. The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) managed to suspend $500 million in customer bills and pay $5 million in taxes. Her psychic powers didn’t warn her of that, unfortunately.

The U.S government invested millions of dollars in the 70’s to investigate the potential of ESP’s but a couple of decades later, they discontinued the research because they could find no evidence that it worked.

This isn’t to say that we know that ESP’s is a busted myth, but so far, the fact that we haven’t been able to scientifically verify it despite the amount of resources that have been invested in its research is a bad sign.

The propagation of belief in ESP has largely been the result of the entertainment industry (Twilight Zone, X-Files, Medium, The Sixth Sense) – this genre has seen remarkable success, and according to Gilovich, the reason why many people believe in ESP may be in part due to the human need to believe that there is a reality beyond the mundane senses. It may be a form of wishful thinking, and indeed, the fact that people often do encounter strange phenomena that is not easily explainable.

For example, if you had a dream about a friend you hadn’t seen or heard from in years, and the next morning, you receive a call from them, you would not be irrational for thinking that something strange just happened, but the fact is, most people have a very poor understanding of statistics. This coincidence of the two events may not be so unlikely.

You may be surprised to know that in a room full of 24 people, there is a higher than 50 percent chance that two people share the same birthday. Statistics are not intuitive, and what may seem highly improbable to us, may actually be far more likely when all the variables have properly been taken into consideration.  

"Silence is the best expression of scorn" - G.B. Shaw

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