Parapsychologist  What They Do

Just the Facts

Insider Info

dotMany things in our universe remain a mystery to the scientific world: ESP, telepathy and clairvoyance are just a few of these puzzles. Studying and trying to explain these phenomena is all in a day's work for parapsychologists.

There's a big difference between a professionally trained parapsychologist with a degree and background in the sciences, and so-called mainstream psychics who simply call themselves parapsychologists. Parapsychology is the experimental and quantitative study of paranormal phenomena, using the same research methods used in other sciences.

However, some parapsychological research is mixed up with personal beliefs, sloppy science and sometimes just plain fraud.

There's no legal restriction on who can call themselves parapsychologists. As a result, the few practitioners who do quality scientific research in the field are often rejected by mainstream science.

dotCharles Tart is a parapsychologist. "It's scientific research carried out by people trained in some recognized scientific discipline focused on understanding the nature of phenomena like telepathy, clairvoyance, precognition, psychokinesis (PK) and psychic healing," he says.

"The emphasis here is on high-quality controlled experiments up to or exceeding the standards in other recognized fields of scientific inquiry."

Parapsychology isn't limited by the known boundaries of space or time. And it blurs the sharp distinction usually made between mind and matter.

Cheryl Alexander works with the Rhine Research Center. "Scientific parapsychology explores the unusual types of experiences that suggest capabilities as yet unrecognized in the domain of human personality. We investigate those capabilities thoroughly by exact scientific methods."

dotBasic parapsychological phenomena fall into these categories:

  • Telepathy: direct mind-to-mind communication
  • Precognition: obtaining information about future events, where the information couldn't be inferred through normal means
  • Clairvoyance: obtaining information about events at remote locations beyond the reach of normal senses
  • Extrasensory perception: a general term for obtaining information about events beyond the reach of normal senses -- includes telepathy, clairvoyance and precognition
  • Psychokinesis: direct mental interaction with physical objects, animate or inanimate
  • Bio-PK: mental interaction with living systems
  • Near-death experience: an experience reported by those revived from near death -- a core experience that includes feelings of peace, out-of-body experiences, seeing lights and other phenomena
  • Out-of-body experience: feeling separated from the body, often accompanied by visual perceptions as though from above the body
  • Reincarnation: the belief that we live successive lives, with evidence primarily coming from the apparent recollections of previous lives by very small children
  • Haunting: recurrent phenomena in particular locations -- apparitions, sounds, movement of objects and other effects

dotBesides a fascination with these phenomena, those entering the field need persistence. They must have a willingness to accept negative results, because psychic functioning isn't often evident in everyday life.

dotScientific parapsychology is a tiny field. Only a few dozen people in North America work in it part time.

At a Glance

The study of paranormal phenomena

  • The majority of parapsychologists are licensed psychologists
  • Only a few dozen people work in this field in North America
  • There are no accredited degree programs in parapsychology in the U.S.