A psychic is a person who claims to use extrasensory perception (ESP) to identify information hidden from the normal senses, particularly involving telepathy or clairvoyance, or who performs acts that are apparently inexplicable by natural laws, such as psychokinesis or teleportation. Although many people believe in psychic abilities, the scientific consensus is that there is no proof of the existence of such powers, and describes the practice as pseudoscience. The word "psychic" is also used as an adjective to describe such abilities.
Psychics encompass people in a variety of roles. Some are theatrical performers, such as stage magicians, who use various techniques, e.g., prestidigitation, cold reading, and hot reading, to produce the appearance of such abilities for entertainment purposes. A large industry and network exists whereby people advertised as psychics provide advice and counsel to clients. Some famous psychics include Edgar Cayce, Ingo Swann, Peter Hurkos, Janet Lee, Miss Cleo, John Edward, Sylvia Browne, and Tyler Henry. Psychic powers are asserted by psychic detectives and in practices such as psychic archaeology and even psychic surgery.
Critics attribute psychic powers to intentional trickery or to self-delusion. 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 parapsychological phenomena". 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 affect it, "failed to produce significant effects" and thus "do not support the existence of psychic ability" of this kind.
Psychics are sometimes featured in science fiction and fantasy fiction. Examples of fiction featuring characters with psychic powers include the Star Wars franchise, which features "Force-sensitive" beings who can see into the future and move objects telekinetically, along with Dungeons & Dragons and some of the works of Stephen King, amongst many others.
The word "psychic" is derived from the Greek word 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 or to blow (hence, to live).
Elaborate systems of divination and fortune-telling 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") and psychics.
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.
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.
By the late twentieth century, psychics were commonly associated with New Age culture. Psychic readings and advertising for psychics were common from the 1960s on, as readings were offered for a fee and given in settings such as over the phone, in a home, or at psychic fairs.
A survey of the beliefs of the general United States population about paranormal topics was conducted by The Gallup Organization in 2005. The survey found that 41 percent of those polled believed in extrasensory 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 Oklahoma 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 college freshmen. Twenty-three 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.
Some people 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 methods. 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 term "psionics". They may be depicted as innate and heritable, as in Alfred Bester's The Demolished Man, A. E. van Vogt's Slan, Anne McCaffrey's Talents universe series or setting, and the television series Babylon 5. Another recurring trope is the conveyance of psychic power through psychoactive drugs, as in the Dune novels and indirectly in the Scanners films, as well as the ghosts in the StarCraft franchise. Somewhat differently, in Madeleine L'Engle's A 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 comics, for instance Jean Grey, Professor X and Emma Frost as well as many others from the Marvel Comics' X-Men. More characters include the characters Raven Baxter and Booker Baxter from the Disney Channel Original Series That's So Raven and its spin-off Raven's Home. The Disney Channel Original Series American Dragon: Jake Long features recurring characters Cara and Sara, who are twin psychics claimed to be the descendants of the Oracle of Delphi, their visions also contrast their personalities (Cara is a Goth that sees only positive visions, while Sara is always in a good mood despite only seeing negative visions).
Parapsychological 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.
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, hot 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 non-responsive. Magicians such as James Randi, Ian 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.
In 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, clairvoyance or precognition 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." James Alcock had cautioned the researchers against the wording of said statement.
A detailed 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 Investigations Group exposé 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." 041b061a72