The Utterly Strange Ganzfeld Experiment

“Right. If I were a fake psychic, it would be eerily similar.” —Shawn, Psych

In A Nutshell

The Ganzfeld is an experiment wherein the volunteer is put in a temporary state of sensory deprivation for the purpose of testing psi phenomena. While parapsychological researchers have claimed conclusive results, others have been unable to replicate their findings.

The Whole Bushel

The field of parapsychology is the study of psi phenomena in an attempt to prove it’s existence. Parapsychology has long been regarded as a pseudoscience due to never producing anything even approaching proof of psychic activity. Even worse, they are constantly looking for proof of psychic activity—which can lead to confirmation bias, instead of exploring the universe as a whole and looking for answers.

One attempt to prove psi phenomena is the Ganzfeld experiment. The theory behind the experiment is that, when in a state of sensory deprivation, people will find it easier to use psi phenomena. The Ganzfeld experiment consists first of taking one volunteer who is called the receiver and putting him in a separate room. He has halved ping-pong balls placed on his eyes and then has red light shone through them. This, along with heavy headphones that constantly buzz white noise in the subject’s ear, complete the setup.

In the other room a sender is placed. It is this person’s job to take an image and try to think it at the other person in the hopes that they will mentally “receive” the image. While the victim is sitting in sensory deprivation, they are to call out whatever they think of, in the vain hope of striking on something similar to what the image was to prove the researcher’s point.

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After all of this initial rigmarole is over, the receiver is taken out of their sensory-deprived state and shown a series of images. One of them is, of course, the correct one that they were supposed to pluck out of the air with only the power of their brain to guide them as a divining rod. The other three were never “sent” by the sender. If the correct one is picked and the receiver is certain about it, it is considered a match. Since only four images are shown, the test should produce results of about 25 percent “accuracy” without the presence of psi phenomena. Some people who research the psi phenomena believe that since the Ganzfeld tests have shown rates closer to 33 percent, that they finally have something approaching proof of psi.

Unfortunately, though, replications of the study by those who were not parapsychologists were unable to end up with the same results. Which means, of course, that psychic phenomena probably aren’t real. Bummer.

Show Me The Proof

Introduction to Psychology, by Rod Plotnik, Haig Kouyoumdjian
Science and Nonbelief, by Taner Edis

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