|Who was "J B
J B Rhine (Joseph Banks Rhine) is widely considered to be the "Father of Modern Parapsychology." Along with his wife Dr Louisa E. Rhine, Dr J B Rhine studied the phenomena now known as parapsychology at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina.
J B Rhine collaborated with Professor William McDougall who served as the Chairman
of the Department of Psychology.
Dr. J B Rhine coined the term "extrasensory perception" (ESP) to
describe the apparent ability of some people to acquire information
without the use of the known (five) senses). He also adopted the term
"parapsychology" to distinguish his interests from mainstream
The Duke experiments on telepathy, clairvoyance and precognition used specially designed cards called Zener cards. About the size of regular playing cards, these cards were composed of decks of 25 cards, with each card having one of five symbols on one size: a cross, star, wavy lines, circle and square.
Under various experimental conditions, subjects would
attempt to guess these cards. Out of each deck of 25 cards, 5 correct
guesses were expected by chance. Using exact binomial probability
calculations, it is possible to determine how "improbable" it
would be to guess an excess number of cards correctly. In one set of
experiments, 2400 total guesses were made and an excess of 489 hits
(correct guesses) were noted. The statistical probability of this outcome
is equivalent to odds of 1,000,000 to 1 (against chance) and thus show
significant evidence that "something occurred." Skeptics will
argue that factors other than ESP account for the deviations (some claim
cheating by the subjects, sloppiness by the experimenters, etc.)
J B Rhine's work was summarized in a now-famous book Extra-Sensory Perception After Sixty Years (Rhine, J.B., Pratt, J.G.; Smith, Burke M; Stuart, Charles E; and Greenwood, Joseph A. Extra-Sensory Perception After Sixty Years, Holt: New York, 1940; Humphries: Boston, 1966)
What conclusions can we draw about Rhine's overall research program? By 1940, 33 experiments had accumulated, involving almost a million trials, with protocols which rigorously excluded possible sensory clues (e.g., by introducing distance and/or barriers between sender and receiver, or by employing precognition protocols (i.e., where the target has not yet been selected at the time subjects make their responses).
Twenty seven (27) of the 33 studies produced statistically significant results -- an exceptional record, even today. Furthermore, positive results were not restricted to Rhine's lab. In the five years following Rhine's first publication of his results, 33 independent replication experiments were conducted at different laboratories. Twenty (20) of these (or 61%) were statistically significant (where 5% would be expected by chance alone).
A meta-analysis was done specifically for precognition experiments conducted between the years 1935 - 1987. (Honorton, C., & Ferrari, D. . Meta-analysis of forced-choice precognition experiments 1935 - 1987. Journal of Parapsychology, vol 53, 281 - 308). This included 309 studies, conducted by 62 experimenters. The cumulative probability associated with the overall results was p = 10-24 (that is equivalent to .000000000000000000000001 where .05 is considered statistically significant). The scientific evidence for precognition, the most provocative of all parapsychological phenomena, stands of firm statistical grounds.
The Rhine Research Center in Durham still continues to be a thriving center for parapsychological research.
Selected Publications of J B & Louisa Rhine:
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