An Alternative To Zener Cards

If you have even cursorily studied the science of parapsychology, you’ve heard of Zener Cards. These are the cards invented by perceptual psychologist Karl Zener in the 1930’s to test for psychic ability. They consist of 5 simple shapes: a circle, a plus sign, a series of waves, a square, and a star. You probably remember seeing them in “Ghost Busters”.

The Zener deck’s symbols were chosen to be as psychologically neutral as possible at the time. According to some, that is also their downfall. You see, studies over the years have shown that emotions are more easily shared by apparently psychic means than anything else. With the lack of emotional cues, the cards fail to show any strong signs of psychic ability.

As a test, I’ve devised a new set of cards I’d like to see people try. My Psychic Testing Cards use the symbolism of Western Alchemical elements: Earth, Air, Fire, Water, and AEther or Spirit. The cards contain a depiction of the standard symbol for the element in its standardly accepted color as well as the element’s name, also in that color. There are 50 cards, 10 of each element. Thus, in testing, pure chance will yield a 1 in 5 chance of being guessed correctly — the same as the Zener deck.

There are two common methods of using this sort of deck in psychic testing. One tests for telepathy and the other tests for precognition.

Telepathy Test: The deck is shuffled thoroughly. A “sender” then looks at the cards, one at a time. The “receiver” then indicates which card s/he thinks is being “sent”.

Precognition Test: The deck is shuffled thoroughly. The test subject tries to predict what the next card in the deck will be.

Of course, these are very simplified instructions. Separating the sender from the receiver in the telepathy test would be good scientific practice, as would a set timing sequence, in order to rule out any possible signals the sender might be giving which were not paranormal. A mechanical shuffle machine might be in order, and like in casinos, it might be a good idea to use multiple decks shuffled together to preclude any chance of “card counting”.

Be sure to keep a good score sheet with accurate results as well as any other info that might be useful, such as time, date, location, how the participants are feeling that day, etc. One possible example is this Psychic Testing Score Sheet.

Over time, you might notice patterns emerge. You might get better results under certain conditions and worse results under others. Some studies show that boredom reduces psychic ability. Disbelievers often exhibit what is called “anti-psi” where they get an above chance number of incorrect results. Additionally, the effect is usually very small, and in order to get any statistically significant results, you’ll need to conduct a very large number of tests, conducted over numerous sessions.

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