Mythical Wednesday: Zener Cards
February 19, 2014 Leave a comment
In the first scenes of the 80’s movie GHOSTBUSTERS, Dr. Venkman (Bill Murry) is performing experiments on students using cards, with each card depicting one of five patterns; star, wavy lines, a circle, a square, and a cross.
Comical representation (and electric shock) aside, the experiment shown in the movie was accurate. The cards are known as Zener cards and were created by psychologist Karl Zener with his colleague in the early 1930s for experiments dealing with psychic phenomenon. In particular, clairvoyance.
It is thought that a person could send telepathic ‘messages’ to another person by concentrating hard on a certain image. A typical deck of Zener cards is twenty five cards, and with only five images, there is a 20% chance of getting a hit, so anything above this 20 percent would be considered a sign of psychic clairvoyance. Yet this could this also prove that the test itself is susceptible to cheating. One could ‘count cards’ (like they do for gambling purposes), and debunk the entire theory.
How to conduct the experiment.
I found this online version so you can see how the process is to work. I’m not sure how accurate it is, as the experiment is meant for two live people, but it’s a fun way to spend a few minutes.