Writing x0 took me down the path of researching telepathy and in October 2012, I posted about the skeptics point of view. I offered the most compelling arguments I encountered against the existence of any sort of extra sensory perception. I also pointed out that while writing x0 I had come to appreciate both the the desire for truth and the effort to help others avoid scams that appears to compel telepathy’s strongest detractors. The fact is that a wide variety experiments, conducted thousands of times over decades, have failed to produce convincing evidence that telepathy exists. And some of these folks have really looked.
And yet …… according to a 2005 Gallup Poll, about one third of Americans believe telepathy is real. These believers are more or less evenly divided among age, gender, race, income, education and region of the country. Don’t believe me? Check it out here. This prompts me to wonder whether we are such a wishful species that some of us will accept an appealing idea as true even after multiple experiments appear to disprove it, or whether many of us choose to ignore massive amounts of data because our own experiences suggest a different truth. Websites such as Crystalinks suggest the latter.
Part of the problem, I think, is that tests for telepathy tend to center around conveying information. What color of dot am I thinking of? What number between one and ten? Quick. Concentrate. Answer. Yet no one I am aware of claims to have ever had a mind to mind transfer of this kind of information. Rather, telepathy is a gentle nudge, an added awareness that involves feelings, not facts. It speaks in symbols, like dreams. It whispers of primal sensations, leaving you sure of the essential emotions, but vague about the rest.
So it did not surprise me to learn that the one test for telepathy that has shown statistically significant positive results is the “Ganzfeld” experiments in which one person is shown photos and film clips and tries to send a sense of the feelings behind these images to the receiver. The receiver has four choices, and after 6700 tests receivers made the right choice about 28% of the time. This is instead of the 25% one would expect. Impressive? Frankly, no. Not to you or I. But to a statistician, it is. In fact, if you assume, like the book x0 does, that everyone can project their feelings but only a telepath can receive them, these results suggest that about 3% of the population is somewhat telepathic.
But how? The human brain is a complex electrical and chemical device. Companion book y1 discusses how neurotransmitters travel through the brain carrying thoughts and feelings with a precession that is astounding. Might it not be possible for another brain to detect some of this activity? We smell each other. Our eyes can detect light from a star a billions of miles away. Our ears hear a whisper that corresponds to a pressure variation of less than a billionth of the current atmospheric pressure. Are we so that sure we know of every type of sensory receptor that every one of us has?
How contagious is the fear felt around a campfire where ghost stories are being told? The anger of a mob, the exhilaration of sports fans, and the growing confidence of a group on the path to accomplishing something great all give testament to the idea that we catch feelings from one another.
A researcher in Sydney recently finished a five-year study monitoring brain activity during therapy sessions and used electrodes placed around the head to investigate how two people can become physiologically aligned. And according to an article in Wired, the U.S. army is investigating ways to wire brains to communicate “pre-speech” thoughts. And in spite of the fact that we all know that we pick up countless tiny clues from each other that can be misconstrued as telepathy, sometimes the feeling that there is more to it than that is overwhelming.
Other work has suggested that after two people spend years together, their brain waves become more similar. It’s late, and I’m about to go curl up in bed with the man I have slept next to for the last three decades. I know him almost as well as I know myself, and as I drift off to sleep I sometimes have a sense of knowing how he is feeling. Am I picking up some of those those tiny body language clues? Of course I am. Am I using my knowledge of him and of the kind day we have had? Certainly. Is there something more? Maybe …. just maybe. I’m open to the idea, anyway.