Psychic Transmission of Card Images
The James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF) tests a variety of extraordinary claims. At their request, TASC agreed to perform a preliminary test of one claimant, a Mr. J., who claimed that he could transmit images to anyone of any object. TASC proposed a simple test using playing cards of this claim. Mr. J. felt confident that he could transmit all fifty-two cards in a deck to a recipient successfully. This seemed a remarkable feat if true, and I told him that we would recommend that JREF perform a full-scale test if he should correctly predict ten or more cards correctly. He agreed, and brought an intended recipient with him for the test. However, because the recipient (R) did not understand the importance of synchronization, R got well ahead of the sender, and hence R was not attempting to "receive" the fifth card at the same time that Mr. J. was "sending" it. After recording 48 cards, the sender stopped, and we compared the "sent" list to the "received" list. There were no matches, but we felt that the test was invalid because of the problems with synchronization.
We then performed a simpler, easier test involving only the cards ace through ten of hearts. The sender sent images of ten cards, while the receiver attempted to guess which card was sent. As can be seen in the table at right, there were two matches among the ten cards. The probability of there being two or more matches out of ten is about 26 percent. This was an encouraging result, but was not good enough for us to recommend that JREF perform a full test.
In September 2001, Mr. J. repeated a test using a new receiver. The setup was repeated identically. This time there was only one success out of ten rounds. The probability of doing this well by chance is 64 percent.
In January, 2001, a nearly identical claim was made by another challenger to JREF. This time, due to time and distance, the Sender was unable to bring a receiver with him, so we provided a TASC volunteer. The procedure this time was very similar to before. Stopwatches were used for synchronization, but the test, from the start, was planned to use only the cards ace through ten of hearts. As you can see in the table above, there was only one match this time. The probability of there being one or more matches out of ten is about 63 percent. Once again, we did not recommend that JREF perform a full test.
More details about this investigation are available in our Newsletter, Skeptically Speaking.