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No. 89: Sep-Oct 1993

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Ganzfeld experiments: do they prove telepathy exists?

[Ganzfeld = total field]

In Ganzfeld telepathy experiments, the receiver's eyes are covered with halves of ping-pong balls and his ears disappear under huge earphones that soothe his auditory sense with white noise. In his padded cubicle, deprived of most sensations, he drifts into a foggy blankness. After a quarter of an hour, the receiver begins to experience brilliant, dreamlike images -- even without the benefit of a telepathic 'sender.' C. Honorton (now deceased), the chief proponent of Ganzfeld experiments, believed that human telepathy, a very weak phenomenon at best, would be best detected during such sensory-deprivation experiments, in which extraneous sensory 'noise' was greatly reduced.

In actual Ganzfeld tests, the receiver and sender are placed in separate insulated cubicles. The sender is shown still photos and/or film clips. He tries to send these images, or the sense of them, to the receiver telepathically. In the best Ganzfeld experiments, photo and film clips are selected automatically and everything possible is computerized.

Because of the great care Honorton lavished on his experiments and his strong claims of positive results, we easily cannot ignore his work. In fact, Honorton designed his Ganzfeld experiments specifically to counter the critics of parapsychology, who are numerous and vocal. If telepathic transmissions really do exist, they just might be discerned when the receiver's mind is open to the tiniest sensory cues.

Have the ubiquitous doubters been swayed by Honorton's experiments? Some critics of parapsychology, such as S. Blackmore, opine that Honorton has come up with best best evidence yet for telepathy; but Blackmore still has her doubts. Already experimental flaws have been pointed out in Honorton's work. For example, the researchers scoring the experiments must be completely ignorant of which film clips were used, but surreptitious peeks at the automated equipment were possible, and there could have been subliminal cues as to film-clip identities from the time periods required to rewind the tapes. Then, in the scoring conferences with the receivers, the scorers could have subconsciously led the receivers along.

So, the verdict still seems to be that telepathy is unproven. In fact, one wonders if a foolproof telepathy experiment is really possible at all.

(McCrone, John; "Roll Up for the Telepathy Test," New Scientist, p. 29, May 15, 1993.)

Comment. One of Honorton's Ganzfeld discoveries was that strongly positive results occurred only with movie clips; still photos were 'transmitted' only at chance levels. Honorton attributed this to the richer imagery of action scenes. However, many other 'remote-viewing' experimenters have claimed success with still photos! No wonder mainstream science is wary of the claims of parapsychology.

From Science Frontiers #89, SEP-OCT 1993. � 1993-2000 William R. Corliss