Mentalists – showing the world that feats claimed to be psychic are, in fact, natural.
Many people believe in psychic abilities, whether it is clairvoyance, telepathy, dowsing, communicating with the dead or telekinesis. So, given the abundance of people who claim to be psychic and the stories of those who claim to have encountered one, is it all real?
I do not believe so. While I can’t say with 100 percent certainty that all psychic claims are fake, I am very comfortable saying that I strongly doubt it. There are reasons I am so confident in this. I don’t hold a personal vendetta against psychics, I’m not jealous of their powers, and I never received a reading form someone that I didn’t like; I just fail to see any evidence that explains a claimed psychic phenomenon that can’t be explained by other, more natural, means.
I am not alone in this conviction. Those who have read my previous columns would likely pick up on a pattern. I am a skeptic. Simply put, this means I believe that any claim, explanation or other form of information, should be supported by evidence. The more extraordinary the claim, the stronger the need for supporting evidence. There are many other skeptics in the world.
One of the most famous is James Randi, also known as The Amazing Randi. Randi is a skeptic and has made a living out of challenging psychics and other paranormal or pseudoscientific claims. He is arguably one of the most famous of the modern skeptics.
One of the things that has made him so famous is The One Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge. The James Randi Educational Foundation, named after him, offers a prize of 1 million U.S. dollars to anyone who can demonstrate a paranormal or supernatural claim under proper scientific conditions and testing. The challenge has been on the table for that amount of money since 1996. So far, none have succeeded.
This is a great example of my point; there is, thus far, no evidence that psychic powers are anything other than intentional trickery or self-delusion.
There are many ways that an individual claiming to have psychic powers could produce the desired effect. The most common, however, is cold reading, the use of body language and other clues to obtain information from a person that would normally be considered unknown or private.
Experienced cold readers use guesses that have a high probability of being correct for a large number of people and use the input from the individual to determine if they are close to being correct.
Psychics ask lots of questions, and many times ask you if a question is correct. If it’s not, they move on to another question; if it is correct, then they continue asking more questions similar to the one already asked.
Most people remember the correct guesses and forget the incorrect ones and are thus fooled by the illusion of the cold reader being psychic. Whether intentional or not, this is how most professional psychics do it.
Using cold reading, with practice, anyone can become a professional psychic.
Ever notice that the information psychics give is generic and that people tend to fill in the actual personal details?
The dead never tell of secret money hidden in the house or the location of the will, just that they love you and that they got to see their spouse again.
People never find out that in a past life they died at the age of twelve from the plague; they’re always a princess or some great warrior.
Why don’t psychics ever win the lottery? Why are psychics in the same number of accidents as regular people?
The answer is because psychics, whether they realize it or not, don’t actually have any abilities outside of the natural world.