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How to Test People for ESP Using Cards and Objects

Zener or Regular Cards Used in Testing General ESP and Telepathy


The first ESP experiments using cards were conducted by Joseph Banks Rhine, one of the founders of modern parapsychology, at Duke University in 1930. Perceptual psychologist Karl Zenerdesigned the cards. The cards have five designs: a square, a plus sign, a circle, three wavy lines and a five pointed star printed in black. Each symbol has five cards.

ESP Testing Preliminaries

Parapsychologists, people who study psychic phenomena scientifically, without bias, use the Zener cards. People who don’t have the cards can substitute five groups of five different objects. The objects in each group must be identical. Birthday cake candles are an excellent example. They would be sorted by colors: red, blue, green, pink and white.

Testing can be done with a regular deck of cards. Twenty cards are used, five from each suit. They can be replaced by twenty objects, four groups of five identical items.

Gather all needed items: Pens or pencils, paper, a screen behind which the objects will be shuffled or placed to avoid the subject from seeing them. Eliminate as much noise and other distractions as possible. Turn off the ringer on the telephone. Both participants should be comfortable.

Each test is called a trial. A run is twenty trials. It’s best to have five or more runs. Test accuracy rises with the number of runs. All testing doesn’t have to be done during one sitting.



General ESP and Telepathy Tests

When a regular deck of cards is used, choose five cards of the same ranking from each of the four suits: spades, hearts, diamonds and clubs. Testing can be done by using the suits or by rankings. The tester and subject are seated across from each other. A screen is put between the tester and subject.

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The cards are shuffled and placed face down on the table. The tester removes one card after the subject records his or her guess and places it on the table, face down. This is repeated until all of the cards have been used. The tester looks at each card in the deck and tells the subject what the card is. The subject checks off each correct response. Results are scored. The only difference between the GESP and telepathy test is that the tester looks at and concentrates on the card for the latter.

General ESP and Telepathy Tests for Children

Marbles, candy, pictures or colors are used instead of cards. The procedure is that same as the one for cards. Some testers offer children different treats for the number of correct guesses in a run.

  • 6 = ice cream scoop in a cup
  • 7 = ice cream cone
  • 8 = ice cream soda
  • 9 = milk shake
  • 10 = ice cream sundae

ESP and Telepathy Scoring Using Twenty Cards

  • 5 Runs, Chance score – 25, Good – 34, Excellent – 36
  • 10 Runs, Chance score – 50, Good – 62 Excellent – 66
  • 15 Runs, Chance score – 75, Good – 90 Excellent – 96

ESP and Telepathy Scoring Using Twenty-five Objects or Zener Cards

  • 4 Runs, Chance score – 20, Good – 28-31, Excellent – 32+
  • 10 Runs, Chance score – 50, Good – 63-68, Excellent – 80+
  • 50 Runs, Chance score – 250, Good – 279-292, Excellent – 293+
  • 100 Runs, Chance score – 500, Good – 540 – 559, Excellent – 560+
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