Terms And Definitions
Terms And Definitions
Chris French (Anomalistic Psychologist) gives expert video advice on: What does paranormal mean?; What does psychic mean?; What is psychic healing? and more...
What does paranormal mean?
When parapsychologists refer to paranormal they are using a fairly strict definition, and that covers three things. It covers evidence relating to the possibility of life after death, it refers to psychokinesis or PK which is the alleged ability to influence the outside world by using willpower alone, and it refers to ESP- Extra Sensory Perception, and that can be subdivided into telepathy- direct mind to mind contact. Clairvoyance-the illegibility to pick up information from remote locations other than by the known sensory channels, and pre-cognition-the illegibility to be able to foretell future events. Now other people use the term paranormal in a much wider, looser sense, so in particular books that you'll buy in your local bookstore, the tabloid press and even anomalistic psychologists So when you have this wider definition; essentially anything that is weird and wonderful and can't be explained by science as currently understood so that could include things like fire walking, astrology, alien abduction claims, zombies, you name it- anything that is weird and and wonderful.
What does psychic mean?
The word psychic is used in two slightly different senses. On the one hand, the word psychic can refer to a particular individual who claims to have paranormal abilities, so they might claim for example that they can talk to the dead or that they can read minds or that they can psychokinetically move objects or bend metal. On the other hand, the word psychic can be used as an adjective in the sense of describing a particular phenomenon as being a psychic phenomenon, and that means basically that it involves paranormal forces, things which couldn't be understood in terms of conventional science.
What is psychic healing?
Psychic healing refers to the alleged ability to heal other people or even animals purely by the power of thought. And lots of people believe that they have benefited from psychic healing, but skeptics would point out that there are always other possible explanations for what's going on. In particular, the placebo effect plays an important role. We know in lots of other contexts that if you give people a worthless form of treatment, such as a sugar pill, but you tell them it's going to make them feel better, lots of people will report that they do indeed feel better. So that's one factor, there are all kinds of other factors, and so far the evidence from controlled scientific studies say there's no convincing evidence that psychic healing has any effect over and above a placebo effect.
What is ESP?
ESP stands for Extra Sensory Perception and it's sub-divided into three categories: telepathy, clairvoyance, and precognition.
What is telepathy?
Telepathy refers to the alleged ability of direct mind-to-mind contact. So someone either being able to read someone else's mind or transmit their own thoughts into that other person's mind.
What is clairvoyance?
Clairvoyance refers to the eligibility to be able to pick up information from remote locations without using the known sensory channels. So an example of this would be a psychic detective, who claims that they can tell the police where the missing person is, even though they are not using the known sensory channels. They just claim to be tuning in psychically to that information.
What is precognition?
Precognition refers to the alleged ability to be able to foretell the future, other than by just using inference. So it's not a matter of just knowing that something is likely to happen but actually being able to directly pick up that information. So obviously one would be much more impressed with a claim if the event that the person had dreamt about or, in some other way, claimed to have known was going to happen if it was something that was extremely unexpected, rather than something that anybody would have been able to guess anyway.
What are psychokinesis and telekinesis?
Psychokinesis and telekinesis are two words which actually mean the same thing and the more common term these days is psychokinesis. What that refers to is the alleged ability to be able to influence the external world simply by the power of thought. So examples of this would be people who claim that they can make objects levitate or move in other ways, people who claim that they can bend metal purely by will power, or people who claim that they heal other people just by the power of the mind. These would all be examples, if they really occured, of psychokinesis.
What is dowsing?
Dowsing is the alleged ability to be able to locate particular substances, typically water, and a variety of different instruments are used in dowsing. Most typically, people will use fork-shaped twigs trees - it's claimed that if you hold the tree branch at both forks, the end will dip down when you're over water. Some people use pendulums for dowsing as well, and there are a variety of other techniques that are used. It's not only the claim that you can locate water using dowsing but also that you could locate minerals, that you could locate lost objects and so on and so forth. Some people even go further and claim that they can dowse over a map, and these dowsers will claim that they can locate missing persons or dead bodies that people have been unable to find, and they basically just get out the map, they'll take out their pendulum, they'll hold the pendulum over the map, move the pendulum. At a certain point it will start to move. Another very common belief is that you can use a dowsing pendulum to determine the sex of an unborn child, unborn baby. Again, there's no convincing evidence that these things really work when you test them under properly controlled conditions.
What is cold reading?
Cold reading is a technique that is used by deliberate con-artists who convince complete strangers that you know all about them and therefore you can do a very convincing psychic reading by using these techniques. I actually teach our students how to master the basics of cold reading so that once they've graduated and they can't get a job, they've got something to fall back on. The basic technique involves something called the barnum effect. There are lots of statements which sound as if they are saying something very insightful and profound about your innermost personality. So for example, if you hear someone say to you," You've got a lot of unused potential, you've achieved quite a lot in life, but there's so much more you could achieve, if only you could tap into that potential." We all think, "Yes, that's me", if you say to people, "I'm getting a very strong sense that in the past you regretted revealing too much of yourself to other people," we all think back to those embarrassing times we said something to someone that was very personal and private and afterwards we wished we hadn't and you can go on like that easily for half an hour. You could also then pat that out with other techniques that make it appear that you come up with very specific information so that the overall illusion is very convincing.