DO YOU HAVE ESP?
Muse Science Magazine for Kids|January 2021
MAKE YOUR OWN ZENER CARD DECK AND FIND OUT!
Kathryn Hulick

ESP STANDS FOR EXTRA-SENSORY PERCEPTION, or an ability to sense or manipulate things without the help of your eyes, ears, nose, mouth, or skin. If ESP exists, it would allow people to read minds, see-through walls, or move things without touching them.

A researcher named Joseph Rhine invented the term ESP. He got his PhD in botany, the study of plants. But in 1927, he abandoned that field, moved to Duke University, and began searching for scientific evidence of ESP. His most famous type of experiment involved a set of 25 cards with the symbols shown on the facing page. They were named Zener cards after Rhine’s colleague, Karl Zener, who came up with the designs. In a Zener card experiment, a person tries to figure out the symbol on a card without being able to see it.

In 1934, Rhine published a book analyzing 90,000 trials he’d done with the cards. His experiments didn’t prove ESP existed because he didn’t always follow the best methods. For example, sometimes a little bit of the design showed through a card. Rhine’s work didn’t explain how such an ability might work either. ESP is not compatible with science as we know it, and there is no indication that mysterious signals emanate from people’s heads.

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