Extrasensory Perception?

Extrasensory Perception?
Laura Santoso
Massachusetts Academy of Math and Science
Occam’s Razor is a philosophical idea of science that utilizes the simplest reasons to
explain a theory. The principle of Occam’s Razor eradicates superfluous or distracting
assumptions. Many divisions of pseudoscience have complex justifications to validate the
science, but Occam’s Razor can be used to simplify and authenticate seemingly paranormal
Extrasensory perception, or ESP, is one phenomenon of pseudoscience that has many
esoteric explanations. ESP is the ability to sense thoughts or feelings without the use of the five
traditional senses. The major types of ESP are telepathy, precognition, clairvoyance,
retrocognition, mediumship, and psychometry (“Extrasensory Perception,” n.d., para. 1).
Multiple theories have been produced to prove and explain ESP. One theory claims that ESP is
“spillover” from another dimension that has a different set of governing rules for elements like
time and space. While most people are unaware of this secondary existence, certain people can
receive information from this dimension from undetectable electromagnetic energy (Harris,
2002, The Case for ESP section, para. 9). However, there is no hard, scientific evidence to
validate these allegations; with these explanations the reality of ESP remains mysteriously
Likely statistics and educated guessing are sensible explanations for the existence of ESP.
Given the vast number of thoughts and events that a person experiences in a day, the thoughts
and events are statistically bound to coincide. Combine these statistics with educated guessing,
and the chances of correctly concluding unknown information becomes higher (Harris, 2002,
The Case Against ESP section, para. 3). Educated guessing and deductive reasoning are natural
human skills. For example, the fictional character Sherlock Holmes was a detective with a
supreme ability to make uncanny conclusions from seemingly irrelevant information. His
partner, Dr. Watson, was often flabbergasted when Holmes stated correct facts about strangers.
One might believe that Sherlock Holmes had ESP, but as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle explains,
Holmes just had an incredible intuition and deductive capabilities. These natural characteristics
helped Sherlock Holmes forecast information. From a human’s ability to make educated guesses,
his or her statistics of “predicting” unknown facts greatly increases. Thus, by reasoning
following the methods of Occam’s Razor, ESP may not be supernatural, but instead logical.
Another simple explanation for the apparent marvel of ESP is that it is a pure,
psychological fraud. So-called psychics may be using methods that only make it appear like they
have supernatural abilities. One method of fraud is called “cold reading.” The psychic gives
broad suggestions based on a client’s body language and characteristics until some bit of
information strikes the client as true (“Cold Reading,” n.d., para. 1.) A psychic can manipulate
his or her words so that his or her proposals will unlikely be wrong but possibly correct. Because
people tend to focus on correct conclusions, they may not even realize the vague or erroneous
predictions (Harris, 2002, ESP Research section, para. 5). Similarly, if a psychic predicts an
event, a person will try to find that event or a similar occurrence in the future. Attention is drawn
to anything that complies with the prophecy; inaccurate information is brushed aside. Through
deception, people may merely be inclined to believe in the pseudoscience of ESP.
Despite scientific theories that claim to justify the paranormal sense of ESP, there are
simple, practical explanations that give ESP understandable reason. Pseudo-scientists create
extravagant theories to validate ESP, but unpretentious rationalizations that include statistics,
educated guessing, deductive reasoning, and fraud reduce the credibility of excessively
complicated justifications. By using Occam’s razor to examine ESP, this supposed phenomenon
seems less like a supernatural occurrence. The authenticity of ESP as a legitimate science is
reversed when it can be simplified using logic.
Literature Cited
Harris, T. (2002). How ESP works. Retrieved September 25, 2008, from
Shamdasani, S. (n.d.) World of the body: extrasensory perception. Retrieved
September 25, 2008, from http://www.answers.com/topic/extra-sensory-perception
Cold reading, (n.d.), Retrieved September 25, 2008, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/
Extrasensory perception. (n.d.), Retrieved September 25, 2008, from http://en.wikipedia.org/