Using Virtual Reality to Test for Telepathy: A Proof-of-Concept Study


virtual reality

How to Cite

Vernon, D., Sandford, T., & Moyo, E. (2020). Using Virtual Reality to Test for Telepathy: A Proof-of-Concept Study. Journal of Scientific Exploration, 34(4), 683-702.


Telepathy is one of the most commonly reported psi-type experiences and represents the idea that one person can acquire information relating to the thoughts/feelings/intentions of another from a distance via a non-usual route. Typically the procedure involves a Sender and a Receiver who are physically separated whilst the former attempts to relay target information to the latter. Refinements to this paradigm have included placing the Receiver in sensory isolation in an effort to enhance the signal to noise ratio of the signal, as seen in the ganzfeld research. Here the aim was to immerse the Sender in a virtual reality (VR) environment in an effort to boost the transmission of the target whilst keeping the Receiver in partial sensory isolation. Using such a paradigm we tested eleven pairs of participants, each acting as Sender and Receiver across five trials. In each trial the Sender was immersed in a VR environment depicting a positive arousing experience (e.g., skiing downhill, driving a racing car). The Receiver’s task was to identify the correct target image from a set of 5 (i.e., 20% chance) matched for mean valence and arousal. Initial analysis of Receiver performance showed hit rates that did not differ significantly from chance. However, a post-hoc analysis comparing participants top two choices to chance showed a mean hit rate of 52% which was significantly greater than chance (at 40%). Examination of possible associations between hit rate and belief in psi as well as the subjectively rated strength of the relationship between Sender-Receiver pairings only showed a correlation with the psi sub-scale of the RPB. Hence, we argue that participant hit rate is more suggestive than conclusive of a telepathic effect. In addition, we outline a number of methodological refinements which we think could help to improve the viability and effectiveness of using VR.
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