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The term psychokinesis (from the Greek ψυχή, "psyche", meaning mind, soul, heart, or breath; and κίνησις, "kinesis", meaning motion, movement; literally "mind-movement"),[1][2] also referred to as telekinesis[3] (Greek τῆλε + κίνησις, literally "distant-movement") with respect to strictly describing movement of matter, sometimes

Psychokinesis
abbreviated PK and TK respectively, is a term coined by publisher Henry Holt[4] to refer to the direct influence of mind on a physical systemthat cannot be entirely accounted for by the mediation of any known physical energy (i.e. moving objects with the mind).[5] Examples of psychokinesis could include distorting or moving an object,[6] and influencing the output of a random number generator.[5][7][8]

The study of phenomena said to be psychokinetic is part of parapsychology. Some psychokinesis researchers claim psychokinesis exists and deserves further study, although the focus of research has shifted away from large-scale phenomena to attempts to influence dice and then to random number generators.[9][10][11][12]

Most scientists believe that the existence of psychokinesis has not been convincingly demonstrated.[13] A meta-analysis of 380 studies in 2006 found a "very small" effect which could possibly be explained by publication bias.[11] PK experiments have historically been criticised for lack of proper controls and repeatability.[14][15][16] However, some experiments have created illusions of PK where none exists, and these illusions depend to an extent on the subject's prior belief in PK.[17][18]



TerminologyEdit

[edit]Early historyEdit

[1][2]Spirit photography hoaxer Édouard Isidore Buguet[19] (1840-1901) of France fakes telekinesis in this 1875 photograph titled Fluidic Effect.

The term "Telekinesis" was coined in 1890 by Russian psychical researcher Alexander N. Aksakof (also spelled Aksakov).[20][21] The term "Psychokinesis" was coined in 1914[22] by American author-publisher Henry Holt in his book On the Cosmic Relations[23][24] and adopted by his friend, American parapsychologist J. B. Rhine in 1934 in connection with experiments to determine if a person could influence the outcome of falling dice.[25][26] Both concepts have been described by other terms, such as "remote influencing", "distant influencing"[27] "remote mental influence", "distant mental influence",[28] "directed conscious intention", " anomalous perturbation",[29] and "mind over matter."[30] Originally telekinesis was coined to refer to the movement of objects thought to be caused by ghosts of deceased persons, mischievous spirits,angels, demons, or other supernatural forces.[30] Later, when speculation increased that humans might be the source of the witnessed phenomena not caused by fraudulent mediums[31] and could possibly cause movement without any connection to a spiritualistic setting, such as in a darkenedséance room, psychokinesis was added to the lexicon.[30] Eventually, psychokinesis became the term preferred by the parapsychological community.[25] Popular culture, however, such as movies, television, and literature, over the years preferred telekinesis to describe the paranormal movement of objects, likely due to the word's resemblance to other terms, such as telepathy, teleportation, etc.

[edit]Modern usageEdit

As research entered the modern era, it became clear that many different, but related, abilities could be attributed to the wider description of psychokinesis and these, along with telekinesis, are now regarded as the specialties of PK. In the 2004 U.S. Air Force-sponsored research reportTeleportation Physics Study, the physicist-author Eric Davis, PhD, described the distinction between PK and TK as "telekinesis is a form of PK."[32] The Oxford Dictionary of Psychology, 2009 edition, also defines psychokinesis in a wider sense as involving the "movement or change of physical objects," while its defintion for telekinesis only describes "movement."[33] Psychokinesis, then, is the general term that can be used to describe a variety of complex mental force phenomena (including object movement) and telekinesis is used to refer only to the movement of objects, however tiny (a grain of salt, or air molecules to create wind)[34] or large (an automobile, building, or bridge).

[edit]Measurement and observationEdit

[3][4]A spontaneous PK case featured on the cover of the French magazine La Vie Mysterieuse in 1911.

Parapsychology researchers describe two basic types of measurable and observable psychokinetic and telekinetic effects in experimental laboratory research and in case reports occurring outside of the laboratory.[28][30][35] Micro-PK (also micro-TK) is a very small effect, such as the manipulation of molecules, atoms,[28] subatomic particles,[28] etc., that can only be observed with scientific equipment. The words are abbreviations for micro-psychokinesis, micropsychokinesis[34] and micro-telekinesis, microtelekinesis. Macro-PK (also macro-TK) is a large-scale effect that can be seen with the unaided eye. The adjective phrases "microscopic-scale," "macroscopic- scale," "small-scale," and "large-scale" may also be used; for example, "a small-scale PK effect."

[edit]Spontaneous effectsEdit

Spontaneous movements of objects and other unexplained effects have been reported, and many parapsychologists believe these are possibly forms of psychokinesis/telekinesis.[25][30]Parapsychologist William G. Roll coined the term "recurrent spontaneous psychokinesis" (RSPK) in 1958.[36][37] The sudden movement of objects without deliberate intention in the presence or vicinity of one or more witnesses is thought by some to be related to as-yet-unknown PK/TK processes of the subconscious mind.[34] Researchers use the term "PK agent," especially in spontaneous cases, to describe someone who is suspected of being the source of the PK action.[34][38] Outbreaks of spontaneous movements or other effects, such as in a private home, and especially those involving violent or physiological effects, such as objects hitting people or scratches or other marks on the body, are sometimes investigated as poltergeist cases.[39]

[edit]Umbrella termEdit

Psychokinesis is the umbrella term for various related specialty abilities, which may include:

  • Telekinesis: movement of matter at the micro or macro (visible objects, life forms, etc.) levels; move, lift, agitate, vibrate, spin, bend, break, or impact)
  • Speed up or slow down the naturally occurring vibrations of atoms in matter to alter temperature,[40] possibly to the point of ignition if combustible (also known as pyrokinesis when speeding up vibrations, and cryokinesis when slowing them down).[41]
  • Self levitation (rising in the air unsupported, flying).[42]

[edit]BeliefEdit

In September 2006, a survey about belief in various religious and paranormal topics conducted by phone and mail-in questionnaire polledAmericans on their belief in telekinesis. Of these participants, 28% of male participants and 31% of female participants selected "agree" or "strongly agree" with the statement "It is possible to influence the world through the mind alone". There were 1,721 participants, and the poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 4%.[51]

In April 2008, British psychologist and skeptic Richard Wiseman published the results of an online survey he conducted entitled "Magicians and the Paranormal: A Survey," in which 400 magicians worldwide participated. For the question Do you believe that psychokinesis exists (i.e., that some people can, by paranormal means, apply a noticeable force to an object or alter its physical characteristics)?, the results were as follows: No 83.5%, Yes 9%, Uncertain 7.5%.[52]

[edit]Notable claimants of psychokinetic abilityEdit

  • Martin Caidin (1927–1997), the author whose 1972 novel Cyborg was used as the basis for the television series The Six Million Dollar Manand The Bionic Woman, claimed to be able to cause movement by means of telekinesis in one or multiple small tabletop "energy wheels," also known as psi wheels beginning in the mid 1980s.[53][54][55] Parapsychologist Loyd Auerbach, a friend of Caidin's who sometimes accompanied him in demonstrations and workshops, reiterated a strong endorsement of him in his June 2004 Fate magazine column: "Martin Caidin was capable of moving things with his mind."[56] James Randi offered to test Caidin's claimed abilities in 1994.[57]In September 2004, Randi wrote: "He frantically avoided accepting my challenge by refusing even the simplest of proposed control protocols, but he never tired of running on about how I would not test him."[57]
  • Uri Geller (1946 – ), the Israeli famous for his spoon bending demonstrations, allegedly by PK.[30] Geller has been caught many times using sleight of hand[58] and according to author Terence Hines, all his effects have been recreated using conjuring tricks.[59]
  • Many of India's "godmen" have claimed macro-PK abilities and demonstrated apparently miraculous phenomena in public, although as more controls are put in place to prevent trickery, fewer phenomena are produced.[60]
  • Nina Kulagina (1926–1990), alleged Soviet psychic of the late 1960s and early 1970s who was filmed apparently performing telekinesis while seated in numerous black-and-white short films,[30][61][62] mentioned in the U.S. Defence Intelligence Agency report from 1978.[63]
  • Miroslaw Magola (1958 – ), alias "Magnetic Man." He claims he can lift objects off the floor, transport them through the air and force them to stick to his body - all using the power of his mind.[64] "I load myself with energy (I connect myself to it) and at the same time I wish for the object to raise" he says of his power.[64] On the UK television programme Beyond Belief in February 1996, he was unable to perform any levitation effects.[65] On the television show "Stan Lee's Superhumans" in September 2010 however, marked changes to Miroslaw Magola's brain waves, skin conductance and temperature were recorded during one of his demonstrations.[66] He was investigated by Dr. Friedbert Karger of the Max Planck Institute and Dr. David Lewis (psychologist), a neurophysiologist at MindLab, one of the UK's leading neuro-research centers and Dr. Konstantin Korotkov, professor of Physics at St. Petersburg State Technical University in Russia.[67][68]James Randi has tested similar "magnetic men" and women around the world and remains unconvinced the effect observed in Magola is related to psychokinesis.[64][65]
  • Matthew Manning (1955 – ) of the United Kingdom was the subject of laboratory research in the United States and England involving PK in the late 1970s and today claims healing powers.[30][31]
  • Eusapia Palladino (1854–1918; alternate spelling: Eusapia Paladino) was an Italian medium who allegedly could cause objects to move during seances and was endorsed by world famous magician Howard Thurston (1869–1936), who witnessed her levitation of a table.[69]
  • Felicia Parise, an American medical laboratory technician who allegedly was able to repeatedly demonstrate telekinetic movement of small objects beginning in the 1970s, in the first reported instance spontaneously, and then with practice by intense conscious intention. She said her inspiration for making the attempt was in viewing the black-and-white films of Nina Kulagina performing similar feats.[42]Some of the items Parise reportedly caused movement in were a plastic pill container, compass needle, and pieces of aluminum foil (the latter two under a bell jar filmed by a magician).[28] During the height of her fame in the early 1970s , the National Enquirer tabloid newspaper in the United States, then printed in all black and white, featured her in a large photo on its cover seated at a table attempting to perform telekinesis with the headline: "First American to Move Objects with the Mind." Parise eventually retired from performing telekinesis due to the physical stress on her body.[28]
  • Swami Rama (1925–1996), a yogi skilled in controlling his heart functions who was studied at the Menninger Foundation in the spring and fall of 1970, and was alleged by some observers at the foundation to have telekinetically moved a knitting needle twice from a distance of five feet.[70] Although Swami Rama wore a facemask and gown to prevent allegations that he moved the needle with his breath or body movements, and air vents in the room had been covered, at least one physician observer who was present at the time was not convinced and expressed the opinion that air movement was somehow the cause.[71]


See Also

[edit]Notable witnesses to PK eventsEdit

Alleged psychokinetic events have been witnessed by psychologists in the United States,[72][73][74] and elsewhere in the world by professionals with medical degrees,[74][75] physicists,[76] electrical engineers,[73] military personnel,[77][78] police officers,[79] and other professionals and ordinary citizens. Robert M. Schoch Ph.D., professor at Boston University, has written "I do believe that some psychokinesis is real" referring to the evidence for micro-psychokinesis obtained by the Princeton PEAR laboratory experiments and similar studies and some reports of macro-RSPK observed in poltergeist cases. He reports once seeing a book "jumping off a shelf" while in a room where a female psychokinesis agent was also present.[80] Best-selling author and medical doctor Michael Crichton described what he termed a "successful experience" with psychokinesis at a "spoon bending party" in his 1988 book Travels.[75] Senior Scientist at the Institute of Noetic Sciences, author Dean Radin has reported that he, like Michael Crichton, was able to bend the bowl of a spoon over with unexplained ease of force with witnesses present at a different informal PK experiment gathering. He described his experience in his 2006 book Entangled Minds: Extrasensory Experiences in a Quantum Reality and online (with photos).[73] Author Michael Talbot (1953–1992) described a variety of spontaneous psychokinetic events he experienced and were witnessed by family and friends in two of his books, Beyond the Quantum andThe Holographic Universe.

Anecdotes such as these - stories by eyewitnesses outside of controlled conditions - are considered insufficient evidence by the majority of scientists to establish the scientific validity of psychokinesis.[28][81]

[edit]PK PartiesEdit

"PK Parties" were a cultural fad in the 1980s, where groups of people were guided through rituals and chants to awaken metal-bending powers. They were encouraged to shout at the items of cutlery they had brought and to jump and scream to create an atmosphere of pandemonium (or what scientific investigators called heightened suggestibility). Critics were excluded and participants were told to avoid looking at their hands. Thousands of people attended these emotionally charged parties, and many became convinced that they had bent silverware by paranormal means.[82]

[edit]Scientific viewEdit

If PK were to exist as claimed by some experimenters, it would violate some well-established laws of physics, including the inverse square law, the second law of thermodynamics and the conservation of momentum.[83][84] Hence scientists have demanded a high standard of evidence for PK, in line with Marcello Truzzi's dictum "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof".[15][85] When apparent PK can be produced in ordinary ways—by trickery, special effects or by poor experimental design—scientists accept that explanation as moreparsimonious than to accept that the laws of physics should be rewritten.[28]

The late Carl Sagan included telekinesis in a long list of "offerings of pseudoscience and superstition" which "it would be foolish to accept (...) without solid scientific data" though even highly improbable claims may possibly be eventually verified. He placed the burden of proof on the proponents, but cautioned readers to "await—or, much better, to seek—supporting or disconfirming evidence" for claims that have not been resolved either way.[86] Physicist Richard Feynman advocated a similar position.[87]

In their 1991 research paper Biological Utilization of Quantum Nonlocality, Nobel Prize laureate Brian Josephson and coauthor Fotini Pallikara-Viras proposed that explanations for both psychokinesis and telepathy might be found in quantum physics.[88][89]

There is a broad consensus, including several proponents of parapsychology, that PK research, and parapsychology more generally, has not produced a reliable, repeatable demonstration.[13][15][90][91]

In 1984, the United States National Academy of Sciences, at the request of the US Army Research Institute, formed a scientific panel to assess the best evidence from 130 years of parapsychology. Part of its purpose was to investigate military applications of PK, for example to remotely jam or disrupt enemy weaponry. The panel heard from a variety of military staff who believed in PK and made visits to the PEAR laboratory and two other laboratories that had claimed positive results from micro-PK experiments.

The panel criticised macro-PK experiments for being open to deception by conjurors, and said that virtually all micro-PK experiments "depart from good scientific practice in a variety of ways". Their conclusion, published in a 1987 report, was that there was no scientific evidence for the existence of psychokinesis. Parapsychology advocates responded by accusing the panel of bias.[92]

Research with random number generators has been influenced by signal detection theory, viewing the effect of PK as weak but real "signal" hidden in the "noise" of experimental results. An effect too weak to be demonstrated in a replicable experiment would still show up as a statistically significant effect in a large set of data. To test this, parapsychologists have carried out meta-analyses of large data sets, with apparently impressive positive results.[93] This has in turn been criticized as an invalid use of meta-analysis, since the original studies are too dissimilar for the resulting statistics to be meaningful.[12] A 2006 meta-analysis of 380 studies found a small positive effect within the margin that could be explained by publication bias.[11]

Physicist Robert L. Park finds it suspicious that a phenomenon should only ever appear at the limits of detectability of questionable statistical techniques. He cites this feature as one of Irving Langmuir's indicators of pathological science. Park argues that if PK really existed it would be easily and unambiguously detectable, for example using modern microbalances which can detect tiny amounts of force.[91]

PK hypotheses are also tested implicitly in a number of contexts outside parapsychological experiments. Gardner considers a dice game played in casinos, where gamblers have a large incentive to affect the numbers that come up. This is in effect a large sample-size test of the same hypothesis as the J. B. Rhine dice experiments, but year after year the house takings are exactly those predicted by chance.[94]Psychologist Nicholas Humphrey argues that many experiments in psychology, biology or physics assume that the intentions of the subjects or experimenter do not physically distort the apparatus. Humphrey counts them as replications of PK experiments (but implicitly so) in which PK fails to appear.[15]

In the book Parapsychology: The Controversial Science (1991), British parapsychologist Richard S. Broughton, Ph.D, wrote of the differences of opinion among top scientists encountered by Robert G. Jahn, director of the (now-closed) PEAR laboratory, regarding the psychokinesis research that the lab was engaged in at the time.[28]

[edit]Explanations in terms of biasEdit

Cognitive bias research has been interpreted to argue that people are susceptible to illusions of PK. These include both the illusion that they themselves have the power, and that events they witness are real demonstrations of PK.[95] For example, Illusion of control is an illusory correlation between intention and external events, and believers in the paranormal have been shown to be more susceptible to this illusion than skeptics.[17][96] Psychologist Thomas Gilovich explains this as a biased interpretation of personal experience. For example, to someone in a dice game willing for a high score, high numbers can be interpreted as "success" and low numbers as "not enough concentration."[84]Bias towards belief in PK may be an example of the human tendency to see patterns where none exist, which believers are also more susceptible to.[95]

A 1952 study tested for experimenter's bias in a PK context. Richard Kaufman of Yale University gave subjects the task of trying to influence 8 dice and allowed them to record their own scores. They were secretly filmed, so their records could be checked for errors. The results in each case were random and provided no evidence for PK, but believers made errors that favoured the PK hypothesis, while disbelievers made opposite errors. A similar pattern of errors was found in J. B. Rhine's dice experiments which at that time were the strongest evidence for PK.[97]

Wiseman and Morris (1995) showed subjects an unedited videotape of a magician's performance in which a fork bent and eventually broke. Believers in the paranormal were significantly more likely to misinterpret the tape as a demonstration of PK, and were more likely to misremember crucial details of the presentation. This suggests that confirmation bias affects people's interpretation of PK demonstrations.[18]Psychologist Robert Sternberg cites confirmation bias as an explanation of why belief in psi phenomena persists, despite the lack of evidence: "[P]eople want to believe, and so they find ways to believe."[98]

Psychologist Daniel Wegner has argued that an introspection illusion contributes to belief in psychokinesis.[99] He observes that in everyday experience, intention (such as wanting to turn on a light) is followed by action (such as flicking a light switch) in a reliable way, but the underlying neural mechanisms are outside awareness. Hence though subjects may feel that they directly introspect their own free will, the experience of control is actually inferred from relations between the thought and the action. This theory of apparent mental causationacknowledges the influence of David Hume's view of the mind.[99] This process for detecting when one is responsible for an action is not totally reliable, and when it goes wrong there can be an illusion of control. This could happen when a external event follows, and is congruent with, a thought in someone's mind, without an actual causal link.[99]

As evidence, Wegner cites a series of experiments on magical thinking in which subjects were induced to think they had influenced external events. In one experiment, subjects watched a basketball player taking a series of free throws. When they were instructed to visualise him making his shots, they felt that they had contributed to his success.[100]

[edit]Magic and special effectsEdit

See also: Mentalism

Magicians, sleight-of-hand-artists, etc., have successfully simulated some of the specialized abilities of PK (object movement, spoon bending, levitation, teleportation), but not all of the feats of claimed spontaneous and intentional psychokinesis have been reproduced under the same observed conditions as the original.[28] According to philosopher Robert Todd Carroll, there are many impressive magic tricks available to amateurs and professionals to simulate psychokinetic powers.[101] These can be purchased on the Internet from magic supply companies. Metal objects such as keys or cutlery can be bent by a number of different techniques, even if the performer has not had access to them beforehand.[102] Amateur-made videos alleging to show feats of psychokinesis, particularly spoon bending and the telekinetic movement of objects, can be found on video-sharing websites such as YouTube. Critics point out that it is now easier than ever for the average person to fake psychokinetic events and that without more concrete proof, the topic, apart from its enjoyment in fiction, will continue to remain controversial.[41]

The need for PK researchers to be aware of conjuring techniques was illustrated by events in the early 1980s. The McDonnell Laboratory for Psychical Research at Washington University reported a series of experiments in which two subjects had demonstrated PK phenomena (including metal-bending and causing images to appear on film) and other psychic powers under laboratory conditions. Magician James Randirevealed that the subjects were two of his associates, amateur conjurers Steve Shaw and Michael Edwards. The pair had created the effects by standard trickery, but the researchers, being unfamiliar with magic techniques, interpreted them as proof of PK. The laboratory closed not long after.[103]

[edit]Prize money for proof of psychokinesisEdit

Main article: List of prizes for evidence of the paranormal

Internationally, there are several individual skeptics of the paranormal and skeptics' organizations who offer cash prize money for demonstration of the existence of an extraordinary psychic power, such as psychokinesis. Experimental design must be agreed upon prior to execution, and additional conditions, such as a minimum level of fame, may be imposed. Prizes have been offered specifically for PK demonstrations, for example businessman Gerald Fleming's offer of £250,000 to Uri Geller if he can bend a spoon under controlled conditions.[104] These prizes remain uncollected by people claiming to possess paranormal abilities.

The James Randi Educational Foundation offers US$1,000,000 to anyone who has a demonstrated media profile as well as the support from some member of the academic community, and who can produce a paranormal event, such as psychokinesis, in a controlled, mutually agreed upon experiment.

[edit]Psychokinesis in religion, mythology, and popular cultureEdit

Religion and mythology

There are written accounts and oral legends of events fitting the description of psychokinesis dating back to early history, most notably in the stories found in various religions and mythology. In the Bible, for example, Jesus is described as transmuting water into wine, which "could be called psychokinesis",[105] healing the sick, and multiplying food.[106]

Mythological beings, such as witches, have been accused of levitating people, animals, and objects.[107] The court wizard and prophet Merlinin the King Arthur legend, is said to have used his power to transport Stonehenge across the sea to England from Ireland.[108]

Popular culture
See also: Superpower (ability)

Psychokinesis has been an aspect in movies, television, computer games, literature, and other forms of popular culture. An early example is the 1952 novella Telek by Jack Vance. In the 1976 film Carrie, based on the Stephen King novel of the same name, Sissy Spacek portrayed a troubled high school student with telekinetic powers. She was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress, the first psychokinetic character in a film ever to be so recognized (Ellen Burstyn was the second, in 1980's Resurrection). Numerous characters have the ability to control the movement of objects using "the Force" in the Star Wars canon. In the 1988 anime movie Akira, a few of the main characters use telekinesis throughout the film. In the 2009 film PUSH and the subsequent DC Comics series, the "Mover" characters Nick Grant and Victor Budarin display a very advanced mastery of telekinesis. Also in 2009, the U.S. soldier character Lyn Cassady portrayed by actor George Clooney was able to stop a goat's heart using psychic powers in the feature film The Men Who Stare at Goats, inspired by the book of the same title. Also in the Sonic the Hedgehog, one of the characters, Silver the Hedgehog has psychokinetic powers to destroy enemies. There are many Pokemon that practice telekinesis. Most of these Psychic-type Pokemon, and they have telekinesis-inspired moves such as Psychic and Confusion. Notable examples of such Pokemon include Alakazam, Jirachi, Metagross, Chimecho, and Gardevoir.

In the television series Heroes (2006–2010), the serial killer Sylar, portrayed by actor Zachary Quinto, frequently exhibited telekinetic ability.

The comic book character Jean Grey of the X-Men exhibits extremely powerful telekinetic ability. Psychokinesis is also commonly used as a power in a large number of videogames and role playing games.

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