Extrasensory perception is the hypothetical ability of a person to gain information independently of his five senses (hearing, seeing, tasting, smelling and touching) and without any previous knowledge of a person, place or situation. ESP, as well as other paranormal phenomena like ghosts and cryptozoology, fall within the field of parapsychology.
ESP is sometimes referred to as a sixth sense that has unlimited range. The information perceived may be from the present, past or future. People who use ESP are said to be psychic. Presently, experts have identified at least three different types of ESP: telepathy, precognition and clairvoyance.
The possibility of paranormal abilities has intrigued people since the beginning of civilization. The term ESP was first used in 1927 by the researcher J. B. Rhine at Duke University. Currently, no indisputable, repeatable scientific evidence exists that extra sensory perception is an actual sense, but it is widely accepted as popular belief.
ESP is based on the idea that people can perceive things beyond the scope of their normal bodily senses. Some believe that, while every person has ESP capabilities, some people are just more in tune with their abilities than others.
Others believe that one must be a psychic, shaman or medium to possess ESP. These people must put themselves into a special mental state to channel their extra sensory powers.
Most people believe that ESP is a result of something from beyond the known physical world. Like the concept of the afterlife, this hypothetical reality does not adhere to our physical laws of the universe.
There are several ways to determine who has ESP. One experiment uses 25 Zener cards, each of which has one of five patterns on it. Normal individuals pick one out of five correctly when they guess which pattern the sender is thinking about. Alternately, those with ESP can look into the sender's mind and "see" which card is held up to guess the correct pattern repeatedly.
In Ganzfeld experiments, the subject is deprived of sensory information to make it easier to focus on the message. In yet another test, the subject attempts to influence the behavior of a random number generator or other machine.
Having the extra sensory perception could be useful in many situations. For example, while psychics can help the police solve crimes, as many people have seen in sitcoms, ESP could also give an employee some additional insight into what co-workers and employers want and need. Personal relationships could also flourish with the help of a little ESP.
On a darker note, extra sensory perception could be used in national intelligence, defense and warfare.
Telepathy literally means distance feeling. Mental telepathy refers to mind reading. It is the transfer of thoughts or feelings without the use of the five physical senses.
Here is a look at some of the differences between other types of ESP:
Most scientists are skeptical of extra sensory perception. The existence of ESP does not follow the normal rules of the universe, and research that does prove anything extraordinary is not generally reproducible.
Some argue that people have had precognitions of tragic events, such as the sinking of the Titanic or Hurricane Katrina. However, it's hard to prove precognitions after these major events have already occurred.
Many apparent examples of ESP are reasoned, educated guesses. Other cases of extra sensory perception are more difficult to explain. As a result, some scientists believe that parapsychology should be investigated more thoroughly.