Articles & Papers

Experimental Tests for Telephone Telepathy

Journal of the Society for Psychical Research 67, 184-199 (July 2003)

by Rupert Sheldrake and Pamela Smart


Many people claim to have known who was calling before they picked up the telephone, or to have thought about someone for no apparent reason, who then called. We carried out a series of experiments to test whether or not people really could tell who was telephoning. Each participant had four potential callers, and when the telephone rang had to guess who was calling before the other person spoke. By chance the success rate would have been 25%. In a total of 571 trials, involving 63 participants, the overall success rate was 40%, with 95% confidence limits from 36 to 45%. This effect was hugely significant statistically (p = 4 x 10-16). We obtained similar positive effects when the calls were made at randomly chosen times, and when the calls were made at fixed times known to the subject in advance. With 37 participants, we compared the success rates with familiar and unfamiliar callers and found a striking difference. With familiar callers, 53% of the guesses were correct (n = 190; p = 1 x 10-16). With unfamiliar callers, only 25% of the guesses were correct, exactly at the chance level. This difference between the responses with familiar and unfamiliar callers was highly significant (p = 3 x 10-7). We also investigated the effects of distance between the callers and participants. With overseas callers at least 1,000 miles away, the success rate was 65% (n = 43; p = 3 x 10-8). With callers in Britain, the success rate was lower (35%). In most cases, the overseas callers were people to whom the participants were closely bonded. For the successful identification of callers, emotional closeness seemed to be more important than physical proximity.

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