Psychology

Joseph Rhine



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E.S.P or Extrasensory Perception is defined as the "ability to perceive in the absence of ordinary sensory information" (Kassin, 2004, p. 123). It basically states that a person may have special powers like telling the future. Many psychologists believe such phenomenon like ESP to be hogwash and disprovable. But as with many opinions there is more than one. One such psychologist, J. B. Rhine, believed that ESP was very real and devoted much of his life to proving it scientifically. He was and still is considered the father of Parapsychology, which is the "study of ESP and other claims that cannot be explained by existing principles of science" (2004). So one may consider, if there is a science devoted to the study of ESP, is it real? Can it be proven? Rhine believed it did exist and was out to prove his theories. With some basic background knowledge of Parapsychology and ESP, along with a little information on Rhine, one may make up their mind for their own sake. At the end, the achievements and contributions will be discussed to act as a measuring stick of how far the psychologist came in his work.

How is Parapsychology broken down and how exactly is it tested? It is broken down in to three extrasensory "powers" if you will. Mind-to-mind communication is described as telepathy, or the "ability to receive thoughts transmitted by another person with the usual sensory contact" (2004). This is what a person would see in many movies where such creatures like aliens have no mouths, rather they communicate to each other with their minds. The next "power" would be clairvoyance, which allows the person to see events that are taking place somewhere else. This is what is seen on TV's Psychic Detectives. And finally the third ESP is precognition, which is described as a person being able to see future events, like Nostradamus predicting the end of the world. All of which have certain test to calibrate their accuracy. Such tools like Zener cards are used to test telepathy, precognition and clairvoyance. These are basic cards with circles, stars and squares on them and the "gifted one" is to tell what is what without seeing the cards for themselves. Dice were used for psychokinesis, in which the volunteer would have to move them from a distance. Psychokinesis is the ability to move objects with your mind, this however is not part of the three stated above because it requires movement of an object without a tool or another object. Of all four "powers" psychokinesis is one that is held with the most skepticism. Rhine, as a calibration for his studies, invented many testing devices like the Zener cards.

J. B. Rhine, also known as, Joseph Banks Rhine was born on September 29, 1895 in the town of Juniata, Pennsylvania. He was married by age 25 while he was attending the University of Chicago. Here his major was botany and he stayed there long enough to pick up a Masters and Doctoral (Ph. D.) degree in his field. His ideas of psychic phenomenon stemmed during his studies of mediumship and plant physiology. You could say it began subconsciously while receiving his Ph. D. from the University of Chicago in 1925. It was his study of plant physiology, which ignited a light in his mind on the idea that certain psychic phenomenon could be tested with scientific measures. He then began teaching at the West Virginia University but soon left in 1927 to study psychic phenomenon with William MacDougal at Duke University. There he got busy right away with first studying telepathy and later psychokinesis, (which has become known as telekinesis), and finally opening up his own research facility along with MacDougal in 1935. Not many people in the psychological community believed in such things like ESP and to spend college money to finance research experiments was even more of a stretch. Thus, the two men were obligated to open up their own research facility. He did remain at Duke until 1965 when he lost control of the laboratory that he had worked so hard to build. He did however continue working in the field of parapsychology until is death on February 20, 1980 at the age of 84. Throughout his life he made many contributions to the field of parapsychology and wrote many great works. Some of which were harshly criticized on the information portrayed and some became required readings for anyone who is to study in the field today.

The contributions to the parapsychological community are as small as a simple card to as grand as a facility or institution. Rhine worked hard in his lifetime for what he believed in, and did that so much so, that he started journals, an institution, and a whole new field of study in the psychology department. He invented such tools like the Zener cards and even coined the word ESP. Those however are small accomplishments as compared to his lead in the foundation of the Parapsychology Association. J. B. Rhine had even greater accomplishments like the Foundation for Research on the Nature of Man, as well as, establishing a new research facility known as the Institute for Parapsychology. These associations and foundations along with his Journal of Parapsychology allowed his field to grow great leaps and bounds in his lifetime. He succeeded all this with the wind in his face.

In conclusion, the Father of Parapsychology achieved such feats due to his supporters and his belief in himself. How many people actually believe in ESP today? According to a poll conducted by CBS News (2002) "57 percent, to be precise," (2004) believe in ESP. How is this possible some may ask? Is it because of TV and special effects or has J. B. Rhine's data captured so many audiences? One may never know. The mind truly is a mystery all its own.

"Joseph Banks Rhine." Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology, 5th ed. Gale Group, 2001. Reproduced in Biography Resource Center. Farmington Hills,Mich.: Thomson Gale. 2006. http://galenet.galegroup.com/servlet/BioRC

Kassin, S. (2004) Psychology. (4th ed.) Upper Saddle River. Pearson Ed., Inc

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