the ordinary senses, that is by “extrasensory perception” (ESP), is not easily
accommodated by conventional neuroscientific assumptions or by traditional
theoretical support has marginalized the study of ESP, but experiments
investigating these phenomena have been conducted since the mid‐19th
modern experimental methods and meta‐analytical techniques, a persuasive
case can be made that, neuroscience assumptions notwithstanding, ESP does
exist. We justify this conclusion through discussion of one class o
homogeneous experiments reported in 108 publications and conducted from
1974 through 2008 by laboratories around the world. Subsets of these data
effects. The overall results now provide unambiguous evidence for an
independently repeatable ESP effect. This indicates that traditional cognitive
and neuroscience models, which are largely based on classical physical
concepts,are incomplete. We speculate that more comprehensive models will
require new principles based on a more comprehensive physics. The current
Key Words: extrasensory perception, non local perception, ganzfeld, meta‐
Quantum mechanics made its advent at the turn
of the 20th century through the work of Einstein,
Bohr, Heisenberg, Schrödinger, Jordan, Pauli,
and many others. Despite its unquestionable
success, interpretations of quantum mechanics
remain controversial. To avoid some of the
conceptual difficulties, von Neumann (1955)
postulated that there are two fundamentally
different types of evolution in a quantum system:
the causal evolution of the Schrödinger
wavefunction, and a non-causal, irreversible
change due to measurement. The latter, sudden
change is postulated to occur “outside” the
physical system under consideration; it was
metaphorically called the “collapse of the wave
function.” This idea led Jordan, Pauli, Wigner
and others to propose that one candidate for the
something “outside” was human consciousness.
This in turn suggested that some form of mind-
matter interaction was contained in, and perhaps
required for, the formalisms of quantum theory.
However, von Neumann’s postulate - the
idea that consciousness plays a role in the
manifestation of the physical world - is still as
controversial today as it was when first proposed.
This is because many physicists are reluctant to
include anything as ephemeral as consciousness
into the study of the physical world (Rosenblum
and Kuttner, 2008), but it is also resisted because
of the success of the neurosciences, which have
shown great progress in explaining perception,
cognition, and awareness in purely classical
terms. As a result, until very recently, there was
little reason to question the paradigmatic
assumptions or conclusions of neuroscience.
This situation is possibly poised to
change because of recent mathematical
developments. Conte (2010) modeled von
Neumann’s postulate mathematically to describe
the process of wave function collapse. To do this,
he linked his model of measurement to a
cognitive act, rather than to the prevailing
concept of measurement as an irreversible,
mechanistic process. He then proposed that
quantum mechanics may be fundamentally based
on cognitive and conceptual entities rather than
on physical factors.
Among the types of experimental
evidence suggesting that some human cognitive
abilities are better explained using quantum
rather than classical formalisms, Conte et al.,
(2009) investigated and confirmed the presence
of quantum-like interference effects during
perception of ambiguous figures, in the Stroop
effect, and in cognitive anomalies such as the
conjunction fallacy (Conte et al., 2009; Franco,
2009). Briefly, the conjunction fallacy is a logical
fallacy that occurs when it is assumed that
specific conditions are more probable than a
single general condition. A classic example is
captured in the following problem: Linda is 31
years old, single, outspoken, and very bright.
She majored in philosophy. As a student, she
was deeply concerned with issues of
discrimination and social justice, and also
participated in anti-nuclear demonstrations.
Given this scenario, which is more probable? (a)
Linda is a bank teller; or (b) Linda is a bank teller
and is active in the feminist movement? Most
participants, usually around 80%, choose option
(b). Conte et al., (2009) and Franco (2009)
demonstrated that the conjunction fallacy can be
considered an interference effect predicted by a
quantum formalism used to describe intuitive
judgments and, in general, any bounded-
Aerts (2009) also argued that quantum
mechanical principles, such as superposition and
interference, may be at the origin of effects in
cognition related to context sensitivity, such as
the guppy effect. This refers to the observation
that free associations to the word “fish” or the
word “pet” rarely elicit “guppy,” but associations
to the richer context of “pet fish” frequently
include “guppy.” Pothos and Busemeyer (2009)
showed that quantum probability models provide
better explanations than classical probability
models for results obtained with the two-stage
gambling game or the Prisoner’s Dilemma game,
two tasks commonly used to study human
decision models. Busemeyer, Wang and Lambert-
Mogiliansky (2009) demonstrated that quantum
probability theory is superior to classical (i.e.,
Markov) models in a categorization task. Bruza,
Kitto, Nelson and McEvoy (2009) postulated
quantum-like entanglement properties within the
human lexicon. And Blutner and Hochnadel
(2010) advanced a model of Jungian theory that
included quantum entanglement-like features
correlating psychological functions and attitudes.
In the present issue of this journal, Conte (this
issue) describes experimental results that further
support the superiority of quantum vs. classical
models in explaining a variety of cognitive tasks.
In sum, these recent theoretical advancements
suggest that quantum mechanical-inspired
models may be useful for describing a wide
variety of psychological processes that have been
difficult to accommodate under traditional
Quantum-like mental entanglement
One of the values of this new approach is that it
helps to illuminate a body of anomalous
experimental results collected over a century.
These results are reminiscent of quantum
entanglement-like cognitive processes between
people isolated by shielding or distance.
Quantum entanglement in the purely physical
sense describes what happens when two or more
elementary particles interact – a new property of
the multi-particle system arises that can no
longer be considered separate regardless of how
far apart the original particles travel in space or
time. This “spooky action at a distance” effect, as
Einstein called it, was dubbed entanglement by
Schrödinger. The principal characteristic is that
isolated particles remain instantaneously
connected through spacetime, and to date all
experimental tests of these predictions have been
confirmed (Gisin, 2009). This “nonlocal”
connection that transcends the classical
boundaries of space and time was initially
thought to apply only to microscopic particles.
But recent advances have shown that nonlocality
is a general phenomenon that also occurs in
macroscopic systems (Vedral, 2008), possibly
including living systems at room temperature
such as photosynthesis (Sarovar et al., 2010) and
DNA (Gutiérrez et al., 2010).
If quantum-like models are valid ways of
understanding certain forms of perception and
cognition and nonlocal entanglement-like
connections, are inherently contained within
such models, then it seems reasonable to expect
some aspects of those isolated systems we call
“individuals” to be more connected than they
appear to be. Gaining information without use of
the conventional senses, or “extrasensory”
perception (ESP), might be one way that those
connections might manifest.
A detailed account of possible
relationships between ESP and quantum theory
is beyond the scope of this paper, but to illustrate
how these two domains may be related, we briefly
mention three points. The first is that like the
quantum phenomenon of nuclear decay, ESP and
synchronicity (a possibly related paranormal
phenomenon) are, or would seem to be,
determined with confidence only through
analysis of statistical data. As explained by Storm
Pauli did not accept that synchronistic
phenomena can be measured in a
statistical way as are quantum events. . . .
He recognised that “statistical
correspondence” is the kind of law that
“acts as a mediator between the
discontinuum of individual cases”
(themselves non-reproducible) “and the
continuum that can only be realized
(approximately) in a large-scale
statistical framework.” [Meier, 2001, p.
56] The parallels between the single
quantum event, individual cases of
synchronicity, and spontaneous non-
recurrent cases of Psi should be evident.
And surely the solution devised by
parapsychologists to surmount the
problem of the individual case, just as
physicists overcame a similar problem in
quantum mechanics, can be seen as
applicable to synchronicity (Storm, 2008,
The second point is the intriguing
analogy between quantum entanglement and
telepathy, as noted by Einstein and others.
Beyond the analogy, neuronal activity may
include sub-atomic processes that incorporate
information or energy transfer at the requisite
scale to provide genuine quantum connections
(Hagan et al., 2002). The third point refers to the
quantum measurement problem’s “collapse of the
wave function,” which appears to require an
observer to transition quantum potentials into
classical actualities (Radin, 2006; pp.258-259). If
the observer includes humans, then mind-matter
interactions such as ESP should be expected.
Beyond musing about such analogies and
possibilities, one could conduct experiments to
see whether such abilities actually exist, and
indeed, experiments of this type have been
performed for over a century. Here we
concentrate on one type of telepathy experiment
that has been repeatedly performed in many
laboratories over the past 30 years.
All of these experiments share the
requirement that the participants, who are
isolated from each other by distance and/or
shielding, cannot obtain information from one
another by conventional means. Strict controls
are imposed so that no cues can be provided
about the telepathic “targets” by the
experimenters or by the experimental protocols,
and that chance identification of target
information can be precisely assessed.
In these studies, the telepathic “receiver’s” state
of consciousness is altered through use of a
procedure called “ganzfeld” stimulation. The
term ganzfeld, derived from German ganz,
meaning “whole” and feld or “field,” was coined
as a generic term for an unpatterned visual field.
The ganzfeld environment is used to induce a
hypnagogic-like state, similar to states that occur
spontaneously at sleep onset. A recent review of
the phenomenology and cerebral
electrophysiology of the ganzfeld experience is
available in Wackermann, Pütz and Allefeld
In a typical ganzfeld telepathy
experiment, a “receiver” is left in a room relaxing
in a comfortable chair with halved ping-pong
balls over the eyes, and with a red light shining
on them. The receiver is asked to keep his/her
eyes open, and to wear headphones through
which white or pink noise is played. The receiver
is exposed to this state of mild sensory
homogenization for about a half hour. During
this time a distant “sender” observes a randomly
chosen target, usually a photograph or a short
videoclip randomly drawn from a set of four
possible targets (each as different from one
another as possible), and he or she tries to
mentally send this information to the receiver.
During the ganzfeld stimulation period, the
receiver verbally describes any impressions that
come to mind. These “mentations” are recorded
by the experimenter (who is also blind to the
target) via an audio recording or by taking notes,
or both. After the ganzfeld period ends, the
receiver is taken out of the ganzfeld state and is
presented with four photos or video clips, one of
which was the target along with three decoys. The
receiver is asked to choose which target best
resembles the image sent by the distant sender.
The evaluation of a trial is based on (a)
selection of one image by the receiver, based on
his/her assessment of the similarity between
his/her subjective impressions and the various
target possibilities, possibly enhanced by
listening to his/her mentation recorded during
the session, or (b) an independent judge’s
assessment of similarity between the various
targets and the participant’s mentation recorded
during the session. The results are then collected
in the form of ‘hit rates” over many trials, (i.e.,
the proportion of trials in which the target was
correctly identified). Because four possible
targets are typically used in these studies, the
chance hit rate is normally 25%. After many
repeated trials, hit rates that significantly exceed
chance expectation are taken as evidence for
nonlocal information transfer. Most of these
experiments are now fully automated,
eliminating the possibility of data recording
Since 1974, six meta-analyses have been
performed on ganzfeld experiments (all
references may be obtained upon request from
the first author): (1) Honorton
(1985), N = 28
studies; period of analysis: 1974 to 1981; (2) Bem
(1994), N = 10; period of analysis:
1983 to 1989; (3) Milton and Wiseman
= 30; period of analysis: 1989 to 1997; (4) Storm
(2001), N = 11; period of analysis: 1982
to 1989; (5) Bem et al. (2001), N = 9 (only new
studies, after elimination of one outlier), period
of analysis: 1997 to 1999, and (6) Storm,
Tressoldi & Di Risio
(2010), N = 20; period of
analysis: 1997 to 2008.
In all of these meta-analyses, the primary
measure was percentage of correct hits, and
inferential statistics were calculated via exact
binomial probabilities, which in turn were
transformed into standard normal deviates (z
scores). Effect size was expressed as ES = z/√n,
where n was the number of test sessions. There is
some dispute about the optimal statistics to use
to best characterize these effects (Timm, 2000),
but to simplify interpretation of the mean effect
size across meta-analyses, we use the statistic π
(Rosenthal and Rubin, 1989), which conveniently
recasts mean chance expectation into π = .50.
Results expressed in terms of π are shown in
MetaAnalysis Meanand95%CI z p
Honorton(1985) .62(.60to.66) 7.72 1.2x10
Bem&Honorton(1994) .59(.53to.64) 3.7 .0002
Milton&Wiseman(1999) .53(.50to.56) 2.04 .041
Storm&Ertel(1999) .58(.53to.63) 3.11 .002
Bemetal.(2001) .64(.59to.68) 6.05 1.4×10
Stormetal.(2010) .59(.56to.62) 5.65 8.00×10
Considering all reported trials, after the
elimination of 6 outliers (see Storm et al. 2010 p.
477), the hit rate was 1323 hits in 4196 trial = 31.5
%, as compared to chance expectation of 25%.
This corresponds to an ES of 0.135 (95%
confidence interval from 0.10 to 0.17). In terms of
the π statistic, π = 0.58, (95% CI from .56 to .60,
Z = 9.9, p = 1.0 × 10
. The possibility that these
effects are due to inflation from selective
reporting has been considered in detail (e.g.,
Storm et al. 2010), and it is generally agreed,
including by skeptical reviewers, that the
“filedrawer effect” (referring to unpublished
papers will null results that languish in
investigators’ file drawers) cannot account for the
Differences with other altered states of
Using the Storm et al., (2010) database which
includes other types of ESP experiments, it was
possible to compare the outcome of 29 studies
using ganzfeld stimulation with 16 studies using
different types of altered states of consciousness
(ASC), including hypnosis, meditation and
dreaming. The mean ES and confidence intervals
for ganzfeld were π = .60 (95% CI .58 to .62; Z =
7.97; p = 2.00 × 10
) and for other ASCs, π = .57
(95% CI .54 to .61; Z = 4.08; p = 4.00 × 10
suggests that there may not be anything
especially unusual about the use of the ganzfeld
procedure, and that there may be many ASC
approaches to enhance ESP. This outcome is
supported by a previous meta-analysis by
Stanford & Stein (1994) related to use of hypnosis
to enhance ESP and of Child (1985) and
Sherwood & Roe (2003) related to ESP in
dreams. By comparison, as reported in Storm et
al. (2010), in analysis of 14 experiments where
participants were not in a ganzfeld or ASC (after
elimination of outliers), the results was at chance
(ES π = .49 [95% CI .46 to .52], z = -.69; p = .49).
Variations in the effect
One may observe the overall hit rate of 32% in
the ganzfeld experiments (vs. chance expectation
of 25%), and, despite acknowledging the clear
statistical outcome, remain unimpressed because
after all, the yield in this type of experiment is
only 7% above chance. If telepathy were really
true, then one might wonder why hit rates are not
much higher. One reason is that this 32% hit rate
was obtained primarily with unselected
volunteers claiming no special abilities, thus the
7% effect is a general population effect. When
special populations are examined, such as
creative artists, substantially higher hit rates are
obtained (e.g., 47% reported in Holt, 2007). A
second reason is that ESP, like many perceptual
and behavioral phenomena (e.g., visual acuity
varies with light intensity; domestic violence
increases during geomagnetic storms), may be
influenced by a host of psychological and
environmental factors, and we haven’t yet found
a way to eliminate the effect of these noisy
Despite substantial empirical evidence, the
concept of ESP has eluded scientific acceptance
for two primary reasons. The first is a belief held
within the academic mainstream that there is no
empirical evidence in support of this claimed
phenomenon, or that if there is some evidence, it
is not repeatable and therefore not amenable to
scientific inquiry. The meta-analyses reported
here, as well as a dozen other meta-analyses
investigating various other classes of ESP
experiments, unambiguously demonstrate that
this commonly held belief is simply mistaken.
The second reason is a lack of well
accepted theoretical models. The present paper
suggests that in the second decade of the 21
century quantum-inspired models are beginning
to become acceptable in conventional psychology
because they offer solutions to problems that
classical models cannot easily accommodate.
However, quantum-inspired models in
psychology are not new. A half-century ago,
researchers studying ESP effects were already
proposing models based on quantum concepts
(Walker, 1979; Dunne and Jahne, 1987;
Houtkooper, 2002; Lucadou et al., 2007; Roll
and Williams, 2008). Supporting those models is
a growing body of experimental data which show
“spooky” correlations in, for example, electrical
brain activity between people isolated at a
distance (see Supplementary Information A).
While the concept that ESP may be explainable
via some form of entanglement between living
brains is still frankly speculative (Radin, 2006),
recent developments in quantum biology suggest
that entanglement may play a role in explaining
the stability of the DNA double helix (Rieper,
Anders and Vedral, 2010). That line of research
may eventually lead to testable models for
entangled brains at the neuronal level, and then
to entangled subjective experience, and thus ESP.
Final comments and a note of optimism
It is often said that extraordinary claims require
extraordinary evidence. The empirical results
presented here for the ganzfeld telepathy
experiment seem to satisfy this requirement.
More than 50 authors have reported successful
replications from laboratories across the USA,
UK, Sweden, Argentina, Australia, and Italy, and
the reported effects have been reliably repeatable
for over 30 years. In addition, a team of avowedly
skeptical researchers led by Delgado-Romero and
Howard (2005) successfully repeated the
ganzfeld experiment, and they obtained the same
32% hit rate estimated by the meta-analyses.
With the available data at hand, the nature of the
debate is shifting from earlier arguments that
ESP is impossible because it violates certain
unspecified but presumably sacrosanct laws of
nature, to quibbles over increasingly minor
technical details (Hyman 2010; Storm et al.,
Widely accepted theoretical explanations
for ESP have continued to lag behind the
collection of empirical data, but the explanatory
playing field is rapidly advancing. For example, a
recent book by Khrennikov (2010) summarizes
the state of art of quantum-like models in
cognitive science, psychology, genetics,
economics, finance, game theory, and biology
(Arndt et al., 2009). Likewise, the Conte (2010)
mathematical model, which proposes that
quantum mechanics describes not only the
behaviour of matter and energy, but also
cognition, suggests a new vision of the human
mind where the “classical” functioning of human
cognitive abilities must be expanded with
“quantum-like” features. Such models invite
fascinating new perspectives on the study of
cognition and perception, and on natural human
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