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The History of Zener Cards

Zener cards were created at Duke University in the 1930s by Karl Zener and J.B.Rhine, colleagues in the Psychology Department, to test ESP in subjects. The types of psychic power most often tested were precognition, clairvoyance and telepathy.

The deck of cards consists of five different symbols: a cross, three wavy lines, a square, a circle and a five-pointed star. A complete deck has 25 cards, 5 of each design.

Zener cards The original cards were printed on thin paper, and there were concerns about subjects being able to see the symbols. This caused the researchers to create sturdier card stock that was not translucent.

Other safeguards were put into place to eliminate possible cheating or influencing of outcomes. Some falsification of data by certain assistants seems to have been discovered by Rhine himself.

There seems to be no consensus about whether the Zener card testing, which took place over many years and included many subjects, proved or disproved ESP exists.

Skeptics deny that any of the experimental results were significant, or that if they were, cheating and faulty design caused the positive results. These are common claims in the scientific community when results go against the majority opinion.

Those who support the existence of ESP point to the many positive and even reproducible results obtained by the researchers at Duke. A large number of statistically significant results were gathered.

So if you don't believe in ESP, you won't buy this research, and if you already believe in it, it will support your belief.

Regardless of who is right, the Zener cards continue to be used in this type of testing.

For more information on psychic testing, click here.


How Useful are Zener Cards?

A deck of these cards has 25 cards with 5 different designs. The subject guesses which card will come up next or has come up. Subjects can also guess the card another subject is looking at. Score is kept and results are compared with chance to determine the degree of psychic ability the subject has, if any.

J.B. Rhine of the Rhine Research Center noted that results often seemed to be better the first few or several times a person was tested. He found that if one was tested over and over, results got worse. This was called the decline effect.

The decline effect makes sense. If you had to do something boring and repetitious, would you start doing worse after a while? I think most of us would.

When I first was learning to dowse, I decided to try predicting a simple coin toss or guessing the color of a playing card turned face down using dowsing. My results were terrible. I spent a lot of time trying and trying to get better results, but I never did very well.

I finally realized that my mind is not easily engaged in boring, repetitious tasks that have no real meaning. Maybe that is actually a GOOD sign. As soon as I decided to dowse more meaningful things, I began to get great results.

For some of us, poor results may have to do with subconscious negativity about gambling. You see, I was brought up not to gamble. I believe that at some level, I felt that predicting coin tosses and guessing playing cards was gambling, so I was unable to make that work.

Zener cards may be popular, but there are weaknesses to using them to test your psychic skill.


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