"sensing with mind". Scientific studies have been conducted, some earlier, less sophisticated experiments produced positive results but they had invalidating flaws,[ and none
of the newer experiments had positive results when under properly controlled conditions. The scientific community rejects remote viewing due to the absence of an evidence
base, the lack of a theory which would explain remote viewing, and the lack of experimental techniques which can provide reliably positive results. It is also considered a
Typically a remote viewer is expected to give information about an object that is hidden from physical view and separated at some distance. The term was coined by
parapsychologist Russell Targ and Harold Puthoff while running the SRI team, to distinguish it from clairvoyance.
Remote viewing was popularized in the 1990s, following the declassification of documents related to the Stargate Project, a $20 million research program sponsored by the
U.S. Federal Government to determine any potential military application of psychic phenomena. The program was eventually terminated in 1995, because it had failed to
produce any useful intelligence information.
The study of psychic phenomena by major scientists started in the mid-nineteenth century; early researchers included Michael Faraday, Alfred Russel Wallace, Rufus
Osgood Mason and William Crookes. Their work predominantly involved carrying out focused experimental tests on specific individuals who were thought to be psychically
gifted. Reports of apparently successful tests were met with much skepticism from the scientific community.
Later, in the 1930s, J. B. Rhine expanded the study of paranormal performance into larger populations, by using standard experimental protocols with unselected human
subjects. But, as with the earlier studies, Rhine was reluctant to publicize this work too early, because of the fear of criticism from mainstream scientists.
This continuing skepticism, with its consequences for peer review and research funding, ensured that paranormal studies remained a fringe area of scientific exploration.
However, by the 1960s, the countercultural attitudes of the time muted some of the prior hostility. The emergence of New Age thinking and the popularity of the human
potential movement provoked a "mini-renaissance" that renewed public interest in consciousness studies and psychic phenomena, and helped to make financial support more
available for research into such topics.
In the early 1970s, Harold E. Puthoff and Russell Targ joined the Electronics and Bioengineering Laboratory at Stanford Research Institute . In addition to their mainstream
scientific research work on quantum mechanics and laser physics, they initiated several studies of the paranormal. These were supported with funding from the
Parapsychology Foundation and the newly-formed Institute of Noetic Sciences.
One of the early experiments, lauded by proponents as having improved the methodology of remote viewing testing and as raising future experimental standards, was
criticized as leaking information to the participants by inadvertently leaving clues. Some later experiments had negative results when these clues were eliminated.
US government-funded research
From World War II until the 1970s the US government occasionally funded ESP research. When the US intelligence community learned that the USSR and China were
conducting ESP research, it became receptive to the idea of having its own competing psi research program.
In 1972, Puthoff tested remote viewer Ingo Swann at SRI, and the experiment led to a visit from two employees of the CIA's Directorate of Science and Technology. The
result was a $50,000 CIA-sponsored project. As research continued, the SRI team published papers in Nature, in Proceedings of the IEEE and in the proceedings of a
symposium on consciousness for the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
The initial CIA-funded project was later renewed and expanded. A number of CIA officials, including John N. McMahon (then the head of the Office of Technical Service and
later the Agency's deputy director), became strong supporters of the program.
In the mid 1970s sponsorship by the CIA was terminated and picked up by the Air Force. In 1979, the Army's Intelligence and Security Command, which had been providing
some taskings to the SRI investigators, was ordered to develop its own program by the Army's chief intelligence officer, General Ed Thompson. CIA operations officers,
working from McMahon's office and other offices, also continued to provide taskings to SRI's subjects.
In 1984 viewer McMoneagle was awarded a legion of merit for determining "150 essential elements of information...producing crucial and vital intelligence unavailable from
any other source".
Unfortunately, the viewers' advice in the "Stargate project" was always so unclear and non-detailed that it was never been used in any intelligence operation. Despite this,
SRI scientists and remote viewers have claimed that a number of "natural" psychics were crucial in a number of intelligence operations. The most famous claimed results
from these years were the description of "a big crane" at a Soviet nuclear research facility by Pat Price and Joseph McMoneagle, a description of a new class of Soviet
strategic submarine by a team of three viewers including McMoneagle, and Rosemary Smith's location of a downed Soviet bomber in Africa. By the early 1980s numerous
offices throughout the intelligence community were providing taskings to SRI's psychics, but the collaboration never resulted in useful intelligence information.
Decline and termination
In the early 1990s the Military Intelligence Board, chaired by DIA chief Soyster, appointed an Army Colonel, William Johnson, to manage the remote viewing unit and
evaluate its objective usefulness. Funding dissipated in late 1994 and the program went into decline. The project was transferred out of DIA to the CIA in 1995.
In 1995, the CIA hired the American Institutes for Research (AIR) to perform a retrospective evaluation of the results generated by the Stargate project. Reviewers included
Ray Hyman and Jessica Utts. Utts maintained that there had been a statistically significant positive effect, with some subjects scoring 5%-15% above chance. Hyman argued
that Utts' conclusion that ESP had been proven to exist, "is premature, to say the least. Hyman said the findings had yet to be replicated independently, and that more
investigation would be necessary to "legitimately claim the existence of paranormal functioning." Based upon both of their studies, which recommended a higher level of
critical research and tighter controls, the CIA terminated the 20 million dollar project in 1995. Time magazine stated in 1995 three full-time psychics were still working on a
$500,000-a-year budget out of Fort Meade, Maryland, which would soon be shut down.
The AIR report concluded that no usable intelligence data was produced in the program. David Goslin, of the American Institute for Research said, "There's no documented
evidence it had any value to the intelligence community."
UK government research
In 2001–2002 the UK Government performed a study on 18 untrained subjects. The experimenters recorded the E field and H field around each viewer to see if the cerebral
accessed the targets in the data collection phase, the project was abandoned, and the data was never analyzed since no RV activity had happened. Some "narrow-band" E-
fields were detected during the viewings, but they were attributed to external causes. The experiment was disclosed in 2007 after a Freedom of Information request.
PEAR's Remote Perception program
Following Utts' emphasis on replication and Hyman's challenge on interlaboratory consistency in the AIR report, the Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research Lab
conducted several hundred trials to see if they could replicate the SAIC and SRI experiments. They created an analytical judgment methodology to replace the human
judging process that was criticized in past experiments, and they released a report in 1996. They felt the results of the experiments were consistent with the SRI experiments.
In 2007 the Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research Lab laboratory was closed.
Scientific studies and claims
According to psychologist David Marks in experiments conducted in the 1970s at the Stanford Research Institute, the notes given to the judges contained clues as to which
order they were carried out, such as referring to yesterday's two targets, or they had the date of the session written at the top of the page. Dr. Marks concluded that these
clues were the reason for the experiment's high hit rates.
Marks has also suggested that the participants of remote viewing experiments are influenced by subjective validation, a process through which correspondences are
perceived between stimuli that are in fact associated purely randomly. Details and transcripts of the SRI remote viewing experiments themselves were found to be edited and
The information from the Stargate Project remote viewing sessions was vague and included a lot of irrelevant and erroneous data, it was never useful in any intelligence
operation, and project managers changed the reports so they would fit background cues.
According to James Randi, controlled tests by several other researchers, eliminating several sources of cuing and extraneous evidence present in the original tests, produced
negative results. Students were also able to solve Puthoff and Targ's locations from the clues that had inadvertently been included in the transcripts.[
Professor Richard Wiseman, a psychologist at the University of Hertfordshire and a fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI) has said that he agrees remote
viewing has been proven using the normal standards of science, but that the bar of evidence needs to be much higher for outlandish claims that will revolutionize the world,
and thus he remains unconvinced:
"I agree that by the standards of any other area of science that remote viewing is proven, but begs the question: do we need higher standards of evidence when we study the
paranormal? I think we do. (...) if I said that a UFO had just landed, you'd probably want a lot more evidence. Because remote viewing is such an outlandish claim that will
revolutionize [sic] the world, we need overwhelming evidence before we draw any conclusions. Right now we don't have that evidence." Richard Wiseman Daily Mail,
January 28, 2008,
Wiseman also pointed at several problems with one of the early experiments at SAIC, like information leakage. However, he indicated the importance of its process-oriented
approach and of its refining of remote viewing methodology, which meant that researchers replicating their work could avoid these problems. Wiseman later insisted there
were multiple opportunities for participants on that experiment to be influenced by inadvertent cues and that these cues can influence the results when they appear.
Psychologist Ray Hyman says that, even if the results were reproduced under specified conditions, they would still not be a conclusive demonstration of the existence of
psychic functioning. He blames this on the reliance on a negative outcome—the claims on ESP are based on the results of experiments not being explained by normal means.
He says that the experiments lack a positive theory that guides as to what to control on them and what to ignore, and that "Parapsychologists have not come close to (having
a positive theory) as yet". Ray Hyman also says that the amount and quality of the experiments on RV are way too low to convince the scientific community to "abandon
its fundamental ideas about causality, time, and other principles", due to its findings still not having been replicated successfully under careful scrutiny.
Science writer Martin Gardner, and others, describe the topic of remote viewing as pseudoscience. Gardner says that founding researcher Harold Puthoff was an active
Scientologist prior to his work at Stanford University, and that this influenced his research at SRI. In 1970, the Church of Scientology published a notarized letter that had
been written by Puthoff while he was conducting research on remote viewing at Stanford. The letter read, in part: "Although critics viewing the system Scientology from the
outside may form the impression that Scientology is just another of many quasi-educational quasi-religious 'schemes,' it is in fact a highly sophistical and highly technological
system more characteristic of modern corporate planning and applied technology." Among some of the ideas that Puthoff supported regarding remote viewing was the claim
in the book Occult Chemistry that two followers of Madame Blavatsky, founder of theosophy, were able to remote-view the inner structure of atoms.
Various skeptic organizations have conducted experiments for remote viewing and other alleged paranormal abilities, with no positive results under properly controlled
conditions. Some of the organizations would provide large monetary rewards to anyone who could demonstrate a supernatural power under fraud-proof and fool-proof
conditions. For the largest paranormal research institution, the James Randi Educational Foundation, out of all of the applicants who applied for the One Million Dollar
Paranormal Challenge, nobody has even passed the preliminary tests.
Recent studies into Remote Viewing suggest positive results. Michael Persinger, Cognitive Neuroscientist and professor at Laurentian University has published increases in
experimentally blind participants during stimulation with complex magnetic fields using a circumcerebral (around the head) eight-channel system. In 2010, Persinger
published a report of his work with the psychic Sean Harribance, reporting that blind-rated accuracies in his psychic insights correlated with specific Quantitative
Electroencephalography profiles; specifically, congruence between activity over the left temporal lobe of those being 'read' by Mr. Harribance and his right temporal lobe.
"The results indicate even exceptional skills previously attributed to aberrant sources are variations of normal cerebral dynamics associated with intuition and may involve
small but discrete changes in proximal energy.