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The term psychokinesis (from the Greek ψυχή, "psyche", meaning mind, soul, heart, or breath; and κίνησις, "kinesis", meaning motion; literally "movement from the mind"), also known as telekinesis (Greek + , literally "distant-movement"), sometimes abbreviated PK and TK respectively, is a term coined by Henry Holt1 to refer to the direct influence of mind on a physical system that cannot be entirely accounted for by the mediation of any known physical energy.2 Examples of psychokinesis could include distorting or moving an object, or influencing the output of a random number generator.23

The study of phenomena said to be psychokinetic is an aspect of parapsychology. Some paranormal researchers believe that psychokinesis exists and deserves further study, although the focus of research has shifted away from large-scale phenomena to attempts to influence dice and then to random number generators.45

There is currently no unchallenged scientific evidence that shows psychokinesis exists.6 A meta-analysis of 380 studies in 2006 found a "very small" effect which could be explained by publication bias.4 PK experiments have historically been criticised for lack of proper controls and repeatability.789 However, some experiments have created illusions of PK where none exists, and these illusions depend to an extent on the subject's prior belief in PK.1011


Early history

The term "Telekinesis" was coined in 1890 by Russian psychical researcher Alexander N. Aksakof.12 The term "Psychokinesis" was coined in 1914 by American author-publisher Henry Holt in his book *On the Cosmic Relations and adopted by his friend, American parapsychologist J. B. Rhine in 1934 in connection with experiments to determine if a person could influence the outcome of falling dice.13 Both concepts have been described by other terms, such as "remote influencing", "distant influencing", "remote mental influence", "distant mental influence",14 "directed conscious intention", " anomalous perturbation", and "mind over matter."15 Originally telekinesis was coined to refer to the movement of objects thought to be caused by ghosts of deceased persons, mischievous spirits, angels, demons, or other supernatural forces.15 Later, when speculation increased that humans might be the source of the witnessed phenomena not caused by fraudulent mediums and could possibly cause movement without any connection to a spiritualistic setting, such as in a darkened séance room, psychokinesis was added to the lexicon.15 Eventually, psychokinesis became the term preferred by the parapsychological community.13 Popular culture, however, such as movies, television, and literature, over the years preferred telekinesis to describe the paranormal movement of objects, likely due to the word's resemblance to other terms, such as telepathy, teleportation, etc.

Modern usage

As research entered the modern era, it became clear that many different, but related, abilities could be attributed to the wider description of psychokinesis and telekinesis are now regarded as the subspecialties of PK. In the 2004 U.S. Air Force-sponsored research report Teleportation Physics Study, the physicist-author Eric Davis, PhD, described the distinction between PK and TK as "telekinesis is a form of PK." Psychokinesis, then, is the general term that can be used to describe a variety of complex mental force phenomena (including object movement) and telekinesis is used to refer only to the movement of objects, however tiny (a grain of salt or air molecules to create wind)16 or large (an automobile, building, or bridge). Hypothetically, a person could have very profound telekinetic ability, but not be able to produce any of the additional effects found in psychokinesis, such as softening the metal of a spoon to allow its bending with minimal physical force. Conversely, someone who has succeeded in psychokinetically softening metal once or a number of times may exhibit no telekinetic ability to move objects.

Measurement and observation

Parapsychology researchers describe two basic types of measurable and observable psychokinetic and telekinetic effects in experimental laboratory research and in case reports occurring outside of the laboratory.1514 Micro-PK (also micro-TK) is a very small effect, such as the manipulation of molecules, atoms,14 subatomic particles,14 etc., that can only be observed with scientific equipment. The words are abbreviations for micro-psychokinesis/ micropsychokinesis16 and micro-telekinesis/ microtelekinesis. Macro-PK (also macro-TK) is a large-scale effect that can be seen with the unaided eye. The adjective phrases "microscopic-scale," "macroscopic- scale," "small-scale," and "large-scale" may also be used; for example, "a small-scale PK effect."

Spontaneous effects

Spontaneous movements of objects and other unexplained effects have been reported, possibly caused by forms of psychokinesis/telekinesis.1513 Parapsychologist William G. Roll coined the term "recurrent spontaneous psychokinesis" (RSPK) in 1958. The sudden movement of objects without deliberate intention in the presence or vicinity of one or more witnesses is thought by some to be related to as-yet-unknown PK/TK processes of the subconscious mind.16 Researchers use the term "PK agent," especially in spontaneous cases, to describe someone who is suspected of being the source of the PK action.16 Outbreaks of spontaneous movements or other effects, such as in a private home, and especially those involving violent or physiological effects, such as objects hitting people or scratches or other marks on the body, are sometimes investigated as poltergeist cases.

Umbrella term

Psychokinesis is the umbrella term for various related specialty abilities, which may include:


In September 2006, a survey about belief in various religious and paranormal topics conducted by phone and mail-in questionnaire polled Americans on their belief in telekinesis. Of these participants, 28% of male participants and 31% of female participants selected "agree" or "strongly agree" with the statement "It is possible to influence the world through the mind alone". There were 1,721 participants, and the poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 4%.19

In April 2008, British psychologist and skeptic Richard Wiseman published the results of an online survey he conducted entitled "Magicians and the Paranormal: A Survey," in which 400 magicians worldwide participated. For the question "Do you believe that psychokinesis exists (i.e., that some people can, by paranormal means, apply a noticeable force to an object or alter its physical characteristics)?", the results were as follows: No 83.5%, Yes 9%, Uncertain 7.5%. (Published April 23, 2008.)

Notable claimants of psychokinetic or telekinetic ability

Notable witnesses to PK events

Alleged psychokinetic events have been witnessed by psychologists in the United States,212223 and in the U.S. and elsewhere in the world by professionals with medical degrees,2423 physicists,25 electrical engineers,22 military personnel,26 police officers,27 and other professionals and ordinary citizens. Robert M. Schoch PhD, professor at Boston University, has written "I do believe that some psychokinesis is real" referring to the evidence for micro-psychokinesis obtained by the Princeton PEAR laboratory experiments and similar studies and some reports of macro-RSPK observed in poltergeist cases. He reports once seeing a book "jumping off a shelf" while in a room where a female psychokinesis agent was also present. Best-selling author and medical doctor Michael Crichton described what he termed a "successful experience" with psychokinesis at a "spoon bending party" in his 1988 book Travels.24 Senior Scientist at the Institute of Noetic Sciences, author Dean Radin has reported that he, like Michael Crichton, was able to bend the bowl of a spoon over with unexplained ease of force with witnesses present at a different informal PK experiment gathering. He described his experience in his 2006 book Entangled Minds: Extrasensory Experiences in a Quantum Reality and online (with photos).22

PK Parties

"PK Parties" were a cultural fad in the 1980s, where groups of people were guided through rituals and chants to awaken metal-bending powers. They were encouraged to shout at the items of cutlery they had brought and to jump and scream to create an atmosphere of pandemonium (or what scientific investigators called heightened suggestibility). Critics were excluded and participants were told to avoid looking at their hands. Thousands of people attended these emotionally charged parties, and many became convinced that they had bent silverware by paranormal means.

Scientific controversy

If PK were to exist as claimed by some experimenters, it would violate some well-established laws of physics, including the inverse square law, the second law of thermodynamics and the conservation of momentum.28 Hence scientists have demanded a high standard of evidence for PK, in line with Marcello Truzzi's dictum "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof".829 When apparent PK can be produced in ordinary ways—by trickery, special effects or by poor experimental design—scientists accept that explanation as more parsimonious than to accept that the laws of physics should be rewritten.14

The late Carl Sagan included telekinesis in a long list of "offerings of pseudoscience and superstition" which "it would be foolish to accept (...) without solid scientific data" though even highly improbable claims may possibly be eventually verified. He placed the burden of proof on the proponents, but cautioned readers to "await-or, much better, to seek-supporting or disconfirming evidence" for claims that have not been resolved either way. Physicist Richard Feynman advocated a similar position.

In their 1991 research paper Biological Utilization of Quantum Nonlocality, Nobel Prize laureate Brian Josephson and coauthor Fotini Pallikara-Viras proposed that explanations for both psychokinesis and telepathy might be found in quantum physics.30

There is a broad consensus, including several proponents of parapsychology, that PK research, and parapsychology more generally, has not produced a reliable, repeatable demonstration.6318

In 1984, the United States National Academy of Sciences, at the request of the US Army Research Institute, formed a scientific panel to assess the best evidence from 130 years of parapsychology. Part of its purpose was to investigate military applications of PK, for example to remotely jam or disrupt enemy weaponry. The panel heard from a variety of military staff who believed in PK and made visits to the PEAR laboratory and two other laboratories that had claimed positive results from micro-PK experiments.

The panel criticized macro-PK experiments for being open to deception by conjurors, and said that virtually all micro-PK experiments "depart from good scientific practice in a variety of ways". Their conclusion, published in a 1987 report, was that there was no scientific evidence for the existence of psychokinesis. Parapsychology advocates responded by accusing the panel of bias.

Research with random number generators has been influenced by signal detection theory, viewing the effect of PK as weak but real "signal" hidden in the "noise" of experimental results. An effect too weak to be demonstrated in a replicable experiment would still show up as a statistically significant effect in a large set of data. To test this, parapsychologists have carried out meta-analyses of large data sets, with apparently impressive positive results. This has in turn been criticized as an invalid use of meta-analysis, since the original studies are too dissimilar for the resulting statistics to be meaningful.5 A 2006 meta-analysis of 380 studies found a small positive effect within the margin that could be explained by publication bias.4

Physicist Robert L. Park finds it suspicious that a phenomenon should only ever appear at the limits of detectability of questionable statistical techniques. He cites this feature as one of Irving Langmuir's indicators of pathological science. Park argues that if PK really existed it would be easily and unambiguously detectable, for example using modern microbalances which can detect tiny amounts of force.31

PK hypotheses are also tested implicitly in a number of contexts outside parapsychological experiments. Gardner considers a dice game played in casinos, where gamblers have a large incentive to affect the numbers that come up. This is in effect a large sample-size test of the same hypothesis as the J. B. Rhine dice experiments, but year after year the house takings are exactly those predicted by chance. Psychologist Nicholas Humphrey argues that many experiments in psychology, biology or physics assume that the intentions of the subjects or experimenter do not physically distort the apparatus. Humphrey counts them as replications of PK experiments (but implicitly so) in which PK fails to appear.8

In the book Parapsychology: The Controversial Science (1991), British parapsychologist Richard S. Broughton, Ph.D, wrote of the differences of opinion among top scientists encountered by Robert G. Jahn, director of the (now-closed) PEAR laboratory, regarding the psychokinesis research that the lab was engaged in at the time.14

Explanations in terms of bias

Cognitive bias research has been interpreted to argue that people are susceptible to illusions of PK. These include both the illusion that they themselves have the power, and that events they witness are real demonstrations of PK.32 For example, Illusion of control is an illusory correlation between intention and external events, and believers in the paranormal have been shown to be more susceptible to this illusion than skeptics.10 Psychologist Thomas Gilovich explains this as a biased interpretation of personal experience. For example, to someone in a dice game willing for a high score, high numbers can be interpreted as "success" and low numbers as "not enough concentration."28 Bias towards belief in PK may be an example of the human tendency to see patterns where none exist, which believers are also more susceptible to.32

A 1952 study tested for experimenter's bias in a PK context. Richard Kaufman of Yale University gave subjects the task of trying to influence 8 dice and allowed them to record their own scores. They were secretly filmed, so their records could be checked for errors. The results in each case were random and provided no evidence for PK, but believers made errors that favored the PK hypothesis, while disbelievers made opposite errors. A similar pattern of errors was found in J. B. Rhine's dice experiments which at that time were the strongest evidence for PK.

Wiseman and Morris (1995) showed subjects an unedited videotape of a magician's performance in which a fork bent and eventually broke. Believers in the paranormal were significantly more likely to misinterpret the tape as a demonstration of PK, and were more likely to misremember crucial details of the presentation. This suggests that confirmation bias affects people's interpretation of PK demonstrations.11 Psychologist Robert Sternberg cites confirmation bias as an explanation of why belief in psi phenomena persists, despite the lack of evidence: "People want to believe, and so they find ways to believe."

On the problem of eyewitness testimony of alleged psychokinetic events, anecdotes; that is, stories by eyewitnesses outside of controlled laboratory conditions, are considered insufficient evidence to establish the scientific validity of psychokinesis.14

Magic and special effects

Magicians, sleight-of-hand-artists, etc., have successfully simulated some of the specialized abilities of PK (object movement, spoon bending, levitation, teleportation), but not all of the feats of claimed spontaneous and intentional psychokinesis have been reproduced under the same observed conditions as the original.14 According to philosopher Robert Todd Carroll, there are many impressive magic tricks available to amateurs and professionals to simulate psychokinetic powers. These can be purchased on the Internet from magic supply companies. Metal objects such as keys or cutlery can be bent by a number of different techniques, even if the performer has not had access to them beforehand. Amateur-made videos alleging to show feats of psychokinesis, particularly spoon bending and the telekinetic movement of objects, can be found on video-sharing websites such as YouTube. Critics point out that it is now easier than ever for the average person to fake psychokinetic events and that without more concrete proof, the topic, apart from its enjoyment in fiction, will continue to remain controversial.17

The need for PK researchers to be aware of conjuring techniques was illustrated by events in the early 1980s. The McDonnell Laboratory for Psychical Research at Washington University reported a series of experiments in which two subjects had demonstrated PK phenomena (including metal-bending and causing images to appear on film) and other psychic powers under laboratory conditions. Magician James Randi revealed that the subjects were two of his associates, amateur conjurers Steve Shaw and Michael Edwards. The pair had created the effects by standard trickery, but the researchers, being unfamiliar with magic techniques, interpreted them as proof of PK. The laboratory closed not long after.

Prize money for proof of psychokinesis

Internationally, there are several individual skeptics of the paranormal and skeptics' organizations who offer cash prize money for demonstration of the existence of an extraordinary psychic power, such as psychokinesis. Experimental design must be agreed upon prior to execution, and additional conditions, such as a minimum level of fame, may be imposed. Prizes have been offered specifically for PK demonstrations, for example, businessman Gerald Fleming's offer of 250,000 pounds sterling to Uri Geller if he can bend a spoon under controlled conditions. These prizes remain uncollected by people claiming to possess paranormal abilities.

The James Randi Educational Foundation offers 1,000,000 US dollars to anyone who has a demonstrated media profile as well as the support from some member of the academic community, and who can produce a paranormal event, such as psychokinesis, in a controlled, mutually agreed upon experiment.

Religion and mythology

There are written accounts and oral legends of events fitting the description of psychokinesis dating back to early history, most notably in the stories found in various religions and mythology. In the Bible, for example, Jesus is described as transmuting water into wine, which "could be called psychokinesis", healing the sick, and multiplying food.

Mythological beings, such as witches, have been accused of levitating people, animals, and objects. The court wizard and prophet Merlin in the King Arthur legend, is said to have used his power to transport Stonehenge across the sea to England from Ireland.

Psychokinesis has a well-established existence in movies, television, computer games, literature, and other forms of popular culture. In the 1976 film Carrie, based on the Stephen King novel of the same name, Sissy Spacek portrayed a troubled high school student with telekinetic powers. She was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress, the first psychokinetic character in a film ever to be so recognized (Ellen Burstyn was the second, in 1980's Resurrection). Numerous characters have the ability to control the movement of objects using the "the Force" in the Star Wars canon.

The comic book character Jean Grey of the X-Men exhibits extremely powerful telekinetic ability. It is also commonly used as a power in a large number of videogames and role playing games.

See also

Further reading

Published Papers on PK / TK

Military Papers on PK / TK


  1. Holt, Henry, On the Cosmic Relation - Book II- Part III, Psychokinesis, pp.216-217 

  2. "Parapsychological Association, glossary of key words frequently used in parapsychology". Retrieved on December 20, 2006. 

  3. "Parapsychological Association FAQ". Parapsychological Association (1995). Retrieved on 2007-07-02. 

  4. Bösch, Holger; Fiona Steinkamp, Emil Boller (July 2006). "Examining psychokinesis: The interaction of human intention with random number generators--A meta-analysis". Psychological Bulletin 132 (4): 497–523. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.132.4.497. Retrieved on 2008-11-17. 

  5. Hyman, Ray (2007). "Evaluating Parapsychological Claims", in Robert J. Sternberg, Henry L. Roediger, Diane F. Halpern: Critical Thinking in Psychology. Cambridge University Press, 218. ISBN 0521608341. 

  6. Vyse, Stuart A. (1997). Believing in Magic: The Psychology of Superstition. Oxford University Press US, 129. ISBN 0195136349. "[M]ost scientists, both psychologists and physicists, agree that it has yet to be convincingly demonstrated." 

  7. Girden, Edward (September 1962). "A review of psychokinesis (PK)". Psychological Bulletin 59 (5): 353–388. doi:10.1037/h0048209. 

  8. Humphrey, Nicholas K. (1995). Soul Searching: Human nature and supernatural belief. Chatto & Windus. ISBN 0-7011-5963-4. 

  9. Carroll, Robert Todd (2005). "psychokinesis (PK)". The Skeptics Dictionary. Retrieved on 2007-10-05. 

  10. Benassi, Victor A.; Paul D. Sweeney, and Gregg E. Drevno (1979). "Mind over matter: Perceived success at psychokinesis". Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 37 (8): 1377–1386. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.37.8.1377. Retrieved on 2008-11-16. 

  11. Wiseman, Richard; Robert Morris (1995). "Recalling pseudo-psychic demonstrations". British Journal of Psychology 86 (1): 113–125. Retrieved on 2008-11-29. 

  12. "The Oxford English Dictionary, Second Edition", 1989, Clarendon Press, Oxford, England, ISBN 0-19-861229-X 

  13. Spence, Lewis (1920). Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology. Kessinger Publishing (reprint publisher), 752–753, 879, 912, 933. ISBN 0-7661-2817-2 

  14. Broughton, Richard S. (1991). Parapsychology: The Controversial Science. New York: Ballantine Books, 35, 75–79, 149, 161–162, 329–330. ISBN 0-345-35638-1. 

  15. Berger, Arthur S.; Berger, Joyce (1991). The Encyclopedia of Parapsychological and Psychical Research. New York: Paragon House, 326, 341, 430. ISBN 1-55778-043-9. 

  16. Guiley, Rosemary Ellen (1991). Encyclopedia of the Strange, Mystical & Unexplained. New York: Gramercy Books, 454, 456, 478, 609. ISBN 0-517-16278-4. 

  17. Genzmer, Herbert; Hellenbrand, Ulrich (2007). "Psychokinesis", Mysteries of the World: Unexplained Wonders and Mysterious Phenomena. Bath, United Kingdom: Parragon Books Ltd, 194. ISBN 978-1-4054-9022-1. 

  18. Time-Life Books. (1988). Mind Over Matter (volume of Mysteries of the Unknown encyclopedia series). New York: Time-Life Books, 7–8, 27, 82, 85. ISBN 0-8094-6336-9. OCLC 17877875 

  19. Study conducted by the Gallup Organization between October 8, 2005 and December 12, 2005 on behalf of the Baylor Institute for Studies of Religion, Baylor University, of Waco, Texas, in the United States. 

  20. Text of entire book 

  21. Roll, William G.; Storey, Valerie (2004). Unleashed — Of Poltergeists and Murder: The Curious Story of Tina Resch. New York: Paraview Pocket Books/Simon and Schuster. ISBN 0-7434-8294-8. OCLC 55117933. William G. Roll, PhD, and Jeannie Lagle (Masters degree) both state that they witnessed psychokinesis involving Tina Resch. Roll additionally reports numerous other cases he investigated. 


  23. "Official website of Pamela Heath". Retrieved on June 9, 2007. 


  25. John B. Hasted (1921-2002), PhD, Physics professor, University of London. In his book The Metal-Benders, he describes his research of psychokinesis claimants and psychokinesis events he personally witnessed. 

  26. "In 1979, a secret unit was established by the most gifted minds within the US Army. Defying all known accepted military practice—and indeed, the laws of physics-they believed that a soldier could adopt a cloak of invisibility, pass cleanly through walls, and, perhaps most chillingly, kill goats just by staring at them."; "Lenny from Special Forces disappeared into the room where the goat was. He came back and answered, with surprise and solemnity, "The goat is down.'" In reality, Fort Bragg, by 1978, was already a hotbed of mind-war experimentation. Among the programs carried out at remote corners of the sprawling special operations base: the Goat Lab, where a team of New Age- trained Special Forces soldiers attempted to burst the hearts of goats, in an adjacent holding pen, through the power of psychic concentration." Article available online at The 2009 feature-film comedy The Men Who Stare at Goats explored this history. 

  27. Two police officers witnessed alleged psychokinetic activity in the Resch home in the 1984 Columbus poltergeist case. 

  28. Gilovich, Thomas (1993). How We Know What Isn't So: The fallibility of human reason in everyday life. Simon & Schuster, 174-175. ISBN 0029117062. 

  29. Sutherland, Stuart (1994). Irrationality: the enemy within. Penguin books, 309. ISBN 0-14-016726-9. “[T]he movement of objects without the application of physical force would, if proven, require a complete revision of the laws of physics. (...) [T]he more improbable something is, the better the evidence needed to accept it” 

  30. Foundations in Physics, Vol. 21, pp. 197-207, 1991, Plenum Press, New York. 

  31. Park, Robert L. (2000). Voodoo Science: The road from foolishness to fraud. Oxford University Press, 198–200. ISBN 0-19-860443-2. 

  32. Blackmore, Susan J. (1992). "Psychic Experiences: Psychic Illusions". Skeptical Inquirer 16: 367–376.