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Extra-Sensory Perception, by J. B. Rhine, [1934], at

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THERE has been considerable deliberation prior to the publication of this work on perception-without-the-senses. It is three years since it was begun, and more than two years since the results began to be so striking as to move some of my interested friends to urge publication. These two years have been spent in making sure "ten times over", in testing and re-testing at every reasonable point of doubt, and in going on beyond the point of proof into the discovery of natural relationships or laws that will make the capacity for this mode of perception more understandable and acceptable to those who must understand somewhat before they can believe. Now that we are fast approaching the mark of 100,000 trials or individual tests—will doubtless be beyond it before this leaves the press—it seems entirely safe to publish these experiments. We need, of course, to have them discussed before a larger forum.

It is to be expected, I suppose, that these experiments will meet with a considerable measure of incredulity and, perhaps, even hostility from those who presume to know, without experiment, that such things as they indicate simply cannot be! But this inevitable reactionary response to all things new and strange, which is as old as the history of science, already shows many signs of decline, as the scientific world turns a "scientific attitude", one of open-minded but cautious inquiry, toward the facts. Even so short a period as the last ten years has been one of marked transition. In it we have had many features contributing to popular interest and enlightenment. There have been broadcasting telepathy experiments by radio in England and America; the popular presentation of some remarkable evidence in Upton Sinclair's "Mental Radio", with introductions by William McDougall (here) and Albert Einstein (in Germany), (and with a splendid analysis by Walter Franklin Prince in B.S.P.R. Bulletin XVI); popular tests for telepathy conducted by the Scientific American Magazine; favorable expressions by Freud, Whitehead and other prominent intellectuals in their lectures; and other features and facts that reach and impress the minds of the people at large. There is today much more natural inquiry as a consequence and less of the older blind intolerant credulity—for or against.

The work reported here is motivated largely by what may be termed an interest in its philosophical bearing—by what it can teach us of the place of human personality in nature and what the natural capacities are that determine that place. Ever since reading, ten years ago, of the telepathy experiments carried, out by Professor Lodge when he was a young Professor of Physics at Liverpool I have been bent upon this quest. The somewhat unknown and unrecognized features of mind such as are

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studied here promise more of such "philosophical fruit" as that mentioned than any other inquiry I can conceive of. Hence their deep fascination for me. By a cautious study of the unusual we come most readily into an understanding of the more usual and common.

But it is a "philosophy for use" that these studies are meant to serve. The need felt for more definite knowledge of our place in nature is no mere academic one. Rather it seems to me the great fundamental question lying so tragically unrecognized behind our declining religious system, our floundering ethical orders and our unguided social philosophies. This work is, then, a step, a modest advance, in the exploration of the unrecognized boundaries and reaches of the human personality, with a deep consciousness of what such steps might lead to in the way of a larger factual scheme for a better living philosophy.

It is the more general purpose behind this work to push on with caution and proper systematization into all the other seriously alleged but strange phenomena of the human mind. By proceeding always from already organized territory out into the phenomena on trial, never lowering the standards of caution in the face of the desire to discover or the need to generalize, the field of these unrecognized mental occurrences can and will ultimately be organized and internally systematized to a degree that will simply compel recognition. How long this may require one cannot estimate; but it is the only truly scientific course to take.

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I began using the term "Extra-Sensory Perception" (E. S. P.) at first with the more tentative meaning, "perception without the function of the recognized senses". But as our studies progressed it gradually became more and more evident that E. S. P. was fundamentally different from the sensory processes, lacking a sense organ, apparently independent of recognized energy forms, non-radiative but projectory, cognitive but un-analyzable into sensory components—all quite non-sensory characteristics. It seemed to extend the word "sensory" ridiculously to use it to cover this phenomenon. Hence the present interpretation is rather that E.S.P. is, frankly, "perception in a mode that is just not sensory", omitting all question of "unrecognized". I think we have progressed this far with reasonable certainty.

"Extra-Sensory Perception" is preferable, I think, to "Supernormal Perception" because of the ambiguity of the term "Supernormal" in psychology and because "super" is taken by many, in spite of careful definition to the contrary, to imply an hypothesis of the explanation. In fact, "extra" (as "without") includes "super" (as "above") and we do not yet know if "above" is what we want to state about the process; i.e.,

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[paragraph continues] "above" may be the wrong "direction" or rating. "Metagnomy" is defined in much the same way as the use here of Extra-Sensory Perception; but I prefer the more obvious and simpler term, even though it is longer. E.S.P. keeps the natural association with sensory perception more before the mind as one reads; i.e., it normalizes it as a psychological process more than does the strange and less obviously associative term "metagnomy". There the need is to keep in mind that E.S.P. is a natural mode of perception and an integral part of mental life, as this work helps to demonstrate. "Cryptesthesia", the name given by the eminent physiologist, Richet, means a hidden sense, and for this there is no evidence; it calls, moreover, for a vibratory theory of transmission which its author proposes. This, too, has all the facts against it. Let us merely say, if we wish to be noncommittal, as is safest, of course: "perception by means that are outside of the recognized senses", and indicate this meaning by "Extra-Sensory Perception" or E.S.P. We may then think of it, as I do, as a non-sensory type of phenomenon.

In the use of the words "Telepathy" and "Clairvoyance" I take their accepted usage of "perception of the thought or feeling of another (telepathy) or of an objective fact or relation (clairvoyance) without the aid of the known sensory processes".

The convenience of the reader will, it is hoped, be served by the arrangement of the chapters Part I is introductory, general, historical and technical. Part II is a report of the evidence and the conditions followed, with little else added. If the reader is antagonistic to the field, he might better begin with Part II. Chapter 3 of this Part gives a narrative account of the experiments pretty much in the order in which they occurred and gives enough of the results to permit a sort of survey of the work. This may be as far as some readers will care to go into the data. But the careful scientific reader will find in the chapters of Part II that follow the full statement of the results and conditions, arranged around the individual subjects themselves. In Part III these results are generally discussed and, to a great extent, reassembled around the major points of importance, and their larger bearing is considered. This discussion is naturally the more debatable section of the report and the reader may judge for himself as to the acceptability of the suggestions and conclusions, since the supporting facts are given or else are referred to by table number and chapter.

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Finally, I wish to give the strongest utterance to an expression of gratitude that these experiments have been permitted in a Psychological Laboratory of an American University. I am doubtful if there is any other

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[paragraph continues] Psychological Department on this side of the Atlantic or even, perhaps, in the world, where they would even have been permitted, much less encouraged and supported, as these have been. For this I have to thank Professor William McDougall, Head of the Department, whom I might characterize as the "presiding genius" in the work. But his own attitude of encouragement and interest has been shared by others of my colleagues in the Department, notably by Dr. Helge Lundholm and by Dr. Karl Zener, who have themselves, like him, given me valuable aid and counsel. Dr. D. K. Adams, the remaining Departmental colleague, has kindly cooperated as a subject and given some promise of himself demonstrating E.S.P. ability.

It has, I think, been a unique and noteworthy feature that, from the sympathetic and enlightened interest of the President of Duke University, Dr. W. P. Few, and of Mrs. Few, down to the hundreds of students who kindly served as subjects, a very gratifying spirit of cooperation and open-mindedness has marked the trail of these three years of research, this spirit centering chiefly in the contributions and attitudes of the colleagues already mentioned, in the valuable work of certain of the graduate assistants of this Department, namely, Miss Sara Ownbey 1, Mr. C. E. Stuart and Mr. J. G. Pratt, who have been my principal assistants, and of the major subjects who have spent hundreds of laborious hours in monotonous experimentation. At every point we have met only with friendly encouragement and willingness to give assistance. Thus the scope of the work was greatly broadened. It is with pleasure and gratitude that I acknowledge this help, the extent of which will be very apparent through the chapters to come.

The financial assistance given me from the Department Budget and the University Research Fund is also gratefully acknowledged.

To Dr. Walter Franklin Prince, whom I am proud to recognize as my principal teacher in Psychic Research, I am grateful for help and criticism, especially from the standpoint of publication, and for his generous acceptance of this work for the Boston Society Series. My wife, Dr. Louisa E. Rhine, has given me great assistance and encouragement throughout, but especially in the writing of this report. I cannot over-appreciate her share in whatever of merit it may have.


4:1 Miss Ownbey has been married since the above writing, and is now Mrs. George Zirkle.

Next: Chapter 1. Clarification of the Problem