My research on telepathy in animals, summarized in my book Dogs That Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home and published in detail in a series of papers (listed below), led me to see telepathy as a normal, rather than a paranormal phenomenon, an aspect of communication between members of animal social groups. I see psychic phenomena as an extension of biology, which is why I, as a biologist, am interested in them. The same principles apply to human telepathy, and I have investigated little explored aspects of human telepathy, such as telepathy between mothers and babies, telephone telepathy (thinking of someone who soon afterwards calls) and email telepathy. I have designed several automated telepathy tests, some of which can be carried out through this website.
I think telepathy has evolved, like other biological abilities, subject to natural selection, and my lecture on the evolution of telepathy at Cambridge University is online here: Evolution of Telepathy . This research is summarised in my book The Sense of Being Stared At And Other Aspects of The Extended Mind (Hutchinson, London, 2003; Crown, New York, 2003). A fully revised and updated edition was published in the US in 2013 (Inner Traditions, Rochester, VT).
This website provides opportunities to participate directly in the research on Telepathy. The experiments can be carried out by individuals, by groups, or in the classrooom. Simple instructions are provided and there are notes for teachers and group leaders.
Scientific Papers on Telepathy
Explore: The Journal of Science and Healing (2015), 11 No. 4, 310-319
by Rupert Sheldrake, PhD, Pamela Smart and Leonidas Avraamides
Objective: To carry out automated experiments on mobile phones to test for telepathy in connection with telephone calls.
Study Method: Subjects, aged from 10 to 83, registered online with the names and mobile telephone numbers of three or two senders. A computer selected a sender at random, and asked him to call the subject via the computer. The computer then asked the subject to guess the caller's name, and connected the caller and the subject after receiving the guess. A test consisted of six trials.
Interactions Evaluated: The effects of subjects' sex and age and the effects of time delays on guesses.
Main Outcome Measure: The proportion of correct guesses of the caller's name, compared with the 33.3% or 50% mean chance expectations.
MainResults: In 2080 trials with three callers there were 869 hits (41.8%), above the 33.3% chance level (P < 1 x 1015). The hit rate in incomplete tests was 43.8% (P=.00003) showing that optional stopping could not explain the positive results. In 745 trials with two callers, there were 411 hits (55.2%), above the 50% chance level (P=.003). Ananalysis of the data made it very unlikely that cheating could explain the positive results. These experiments showed that automated tests for telephone telepathy can be carried out using mobile phones.
Journal of International Society of Life Information Science (2014), 32 No. 1, 7-15
by Rupert Sheldrake
Telepathy in connection with telephone calls is the commonest kind of apparent telepathy in the modern world. It usually occurs between people who have strong bonds or emotional connections with each other, such as parents and children, husbands and wives, and good friends. In experimental tests in which subjects had to identify who, out of four callers, was calling, the average scores were very significantly above the 25% hit rate expected by chance. The callers were selected at random, and the subjects made their guesses before answering the call. These positive results were replicated independently at the universities of Amsterdam, Holland, and Freiburg, Germany. Similar telepathic phenomena seem to occur in connection with emails and SMS messages. Experimental tests using all these methods gave significantly above-chance results. Versions of telephone and SMS tests designed to detect precognition, as opposed to telepathy, gave results at chance level, suggesting that the positive results in the telepathy tests were indeed a result of telepathy rather than precognition. Automated telepathy tests using mobile telephones now enable anyone to participate in this research. These forms of telepathy have evolved in connection with modern communication technologies and probably occur because people's intention to call or send a message can be detected telepathically before the call has been made or the message sent.
Journal of Scientific Exploration (2009), 23 No. 1, 29-36
by Rupert Sheldrake and Leonidas Avraamides
Can people sense telepathically who is sending them an email before they receive it? Subjects, aged from 12 to 66, registered online with the names and email addresses of 3 senders. A computer selected a sender at random, and asked him to send an email message to the subject via the computer. The computer then asked the subject to guess the sender's name, and delivered the message after receiving the guess. A test consisted of 6 or 9 trials. In a total of 419 trials, including data from incomplete tests, there were 175 hits (41.8%), significantly above the 33.3% chance level (p = .0001). Hit rates in incomplete tests were higher than in complete tests. There was no significant difference between hit rates with male and female subjects. The highest hit rates were with subjects in the 20-29 age group. The effect size in these tests was lower than in previous telephone and email telepathy tests, in spite of the fact that they were unsupervised. One reason may be that the subjects were being asked to guess who had sent them a message several minutes earlier, rather than thinking about them simultaneously.
Explore: The Journal of Science and Healing (2009) 5, 272-276
by Rupert Sheldrake, Leonidas Avraamides, and Matous Novák
Objective: To carry out automated experiments to test for telepathy in connection with text messages.
Method: Subjects, aged from 11 to 72, registered online with the names and mobile telephone numbers of 3 senders. A computer selected a sender at random, and asked him to send an SMS message to the subject via the computer. The computer then asked the subject to guess the sender's name, and delivered the message after receiving the guess. A test consisted of 9 trials.
Interactions evaluated: The effects of subjects' sex and age and the effects of delay on guesses.
Main outcome measure: The proportion of correct guesses of the sender's name, compared with the 33.3% mean chance expectation.
Results: In 886 trials there were 336 hits (37.9%), significantly above the 33.3% chance level (p = .001). The hit rate in incomplete tests was 38.4% (p = .03) showing that optional stopping could not explain the positive results. Most tests were unsupervised, which left open the possibility of cheating, but high-scoring subjects were retested under filmed conditions, where no cheating was detected, with 19 hits in 43 trials (44.2%; p = 0.09).
Key words: SMS messages, telepathy, ESP, automated test, internet experiment.
Psychological Reports (2009)Vol 104 957-970
by Rupert Sheldrake and Ashwin Beharee
In an automated online telepathy test, each participant had four senders, two actual and two virtual, generated by the computer. In a series of twelve 30-second trials, the computer selected one of the senders at random and asked him to write a message to the subject. After 30 seconds, the participant was asked to guess who had written a message. After the computer had recorded his guess it sent him the message. In a total of 6,000 trials there were 1599 hits (26.7%), significantly above the chance expectation of 25%. In filmed tests the hit rate was very similar. The hit rate with actual senders was higher than with virtual senders, but there was a strong guessing bias in favour of actual senders. When high-scoring subjects were retested, hit rates generally declined, but one subject repeatedly scored above chance.
Journal of Scientific Exploration (2007) Vol 21 No 3, 511-522
by Rupert Sheldrake and Michael Lambert
This paper describes an automated online telepathy test in which each receiver had four senders. In a series of 10 trials the computer picked on of the senders at random and asked her to write a short message to the receiver. At the end of the one-minute trial period, the receiver was asked to guess which sender had written a message, and she received the message only after this guess had been recorded by the computer. The receivers chose their own senders when they registered for the test. If they chose only two or three, the computer supplied virtual senders so that there were four senders altogether. In a total of 1,980 trials there were 581 hits (29%), significantly above the chance expectation of 25% (p = 0.000006). In tests with two real and two virtual senders, there were significantly more hts with real than virtual senders. Receivers had significantly higher hit rates with family members than with non-family members. Cheating seems unlikely, but it could not be ruled out, and for evidential purposes the hit rates can be regarded as suggestive only. Telepathy could provide on possible explanation for the above-chance results, but other forms of ESP could not be eliminated.
Perceptual and Motor Skills (2005), 101, 771-786
by Rupert Sheldrake and Pamela Smart
This study investigated possible telepathic communication in connection with e-mails. On each trial, there were four potential e-mailers, one of whom was selected at random by the experimenter. One minute before a prearranged time at which the e-mail was to be sent, the participant guessed who would send it. 50 participants (29 women and 21 men) were recruited through an employment web site. Of 552 trials, 235 (43%) guesses were hits, significantly above the chance expectation of 25%. Further tests with 5 participants (4 women, 1 man, ages 16 to 29) were videotaped continuously. On the filmed trials, the 64 hits of 137 (47%) were significantly above chance.
Journal of Parapsychology (2003) 67, 147-166
by Rupert Sheldrake and Pamela Smart
The authors tested whether participants (N = 4) could tell who was calling before answering the telephone. In each trial, participants had 4 potential callers, one of whom was selected at random by the experimenter. Participants were filmed on time-coded videotape throughout the experimental period. When the telephone began ringing, the participants said to the camera whom they thought the caller was and, in many cases, also how confident they felt in their guesses. The callers were usually several miles away, and in some cases thousands of miles away. By guessing at random, there was a 25% chance of success. In a total of 271 trials, there were 122 (45%) correct guesses (p = 10-12). The 95% confidence limits of this success rate were from 39% to 51%. In most trials, some of the callers were familiar to the participants and others were unfamiliar. With familiar callers there was a success rate of 61% (n = 100; p = 10-13). With unfamiliar callers the success rate of 20% was not significantly different from chance. When they said they were confident about their guesses, participants were indeed more successful than when they were not confident.
Journal of the Society for Psychical Research (2004) 68, 168-172
by Rupert Sheldrake, Hugo Godwin and Simon Rockell
The ability of people to guess who is calling on the telephone has recently been tested experimentally in more than 850 trials. The results were positive and hugely significant statistically. Participants had four potential callers in distant locations. At the beginning of each trial, remote from the participant, the experimenter randomly selected one of the callers by the throw of a die, and asked the chosen caller to ring the participant. When the phone rang, the participant guessed who the caller was before picking up the receiver.
By chance, about 25% of the guesses would have been correct. In fact, on average 42% were correct. The present experiment was an attempt to replicate previous tests, and was filmed for television. The participant and her callers were all sisters, formerly members of the Nolan Sisters band, popular in Britain in the 1980s. We conducted 12 trials in which the participant and her callers were 1 km apart. Six out of 12 guesses (50%) were correct. The results were significant at the p=0.05 level.
Revista Argentina de Psicología Paranormal 15 No.3-4, Julio-Octubre 2004
by Rupert Sheldrake
Muchas personas afirman saber quien llama antes de atender el teléfono, o haber pensado en alguien sin razón aparente, y la persona luego llama. Llevamos cabo una serie de experimentos para testear si la gente podía o no decirnos realmente quien estaba llamando por teléfono. Cada participante tuvo cuatro posibles "llamadores" potenciales, y cuando el teléfono sonaba se les invitaba a decir quien estaba llamando antes que la otra persona hablara. La probabilidad estadística de éxito se calculó en un 25% de un total de 571 ensayos no videograbados, involucrando a 63 participantes. El resultado global fue del 40% con un 95% de confiabilidad dentro de los límites entre 36 a 45%. El efecto fue altamente significativo (p= 4x10-16 ). Investigamos subsiguientes pruebas con cuatro participantes bajo condiciones más rigurosas, de las cuales fueron videograbadas las sesiones experimentales, y estas videocintas evaluadas en forma independientemente por un sujeto a "ciegas" de los detalles experimentales. De un total de 271 ensayos videograbados, el rango de éxito fue de 45% (p= 1x10-12). El nivel de confiabilidad fue de un 95% dentro de un rango de éxito de entre el 39% al 51%. Los participantes tuvieron mucho más éxito con llamadas de familiares que con llamadas de extraños y esta diferencia fue estadísticamente significativa. No hubo efecto de declinación con la distancia, aún cuando algunos llamadores se encontraban a 18.000 km. de distancia. Estos efectos parecen ser inexplicables en términos de habiliades o fraude y produjo una fuerte evidencia de la realidad de la telepatía telefónica.
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, and that person 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 non-videotaped trials, involving 63 participants, the overall success rate was 40%, with 95% confidence limits from 36 to 45%. This effect was highly significant statistically (p= 4x10-16). We then carried out further trials with four participants under more rigorous conditions in which they were videotaped throughout the experimental sessions, and the videotapes were evaluated independently by a person blind to the experimental details. In a total of 271 videotaped trials the success rate was 45% (p= 1x10-12). The 95% confidence limits of this success rate were from 39% to 51%. Participants were much more successful with familiar callers than unfamiliar callers, and this difference was highly significant statistically. There was no decline with distance, even when callers were 18.000 km. away. These effects do not seem to be explicable in terms of artefacts or cheating and provide strong evidence for the reality of telephone telepathy.
Journal of the Society for Psychical Research (July 2003) 67, 184-199
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.
Journal of the Society for Psychical Research (2002) 66 181-185
Some nursing mothers claim that when they are away from their baby they often know when their baby needs them because their milk lets down. Some are convinced that this response is telepathic. In order to find out more about this phenomenon, 100 mothers who had recently had babies were surveyed and asked a series of questions about their experiences when breastfeeding. 62% had experienced milk let-down when away from their babies and 16% had noticed that this seemed to coincide with their baby needing them. Most of these women breastfed their babies for more than six months. In addition, 3 women said they had felt there was something wrong with their baby when they were away from home, and found that it was indeed in distress because of a fall or other accident, and 5 women commented that they often woke up shortly before their baby needed them in the night.
Journal of Parapsychology (2001) 65 145-156
by David Jay Brown and Rupert Sheldrake
200 randomly-selected people were surveyed in Santa Cruz County, California to investigate the frequency and nature of anticipations of telephone calls. 78% of the people surveyed said that they have had the experience of telephoning someone who said that they were just thinking about telephoning them. 47% of the respondents said that they had had the experience of knowing who was calling them when the phone rang without any possible cue. 68% of those surveyed said that they had thought about a person that they haven't seen for a while, who had then telephoned them that same day. A higher proportion of women than men gave positive answers to these questions. These results are in general agreement with two previous surveys in England, although there were several significant differences, which we discuss. These surveys reveal that seemingly telepathic experiences in connection with telephone calls are remarkably common. We suggest ways that this phenomenon can be investigated empirically.
Journal of the Society for Psychical Research (2000) 64 224-232
Many people claim to have thought about a particular person who then calls them on the telephone. Through informal surveys I have found that seemingly telepathic telephone calls are common. Two telephone surveys were carried out in London and Bury to investigate the frequency of these experiences in a random sample of the population. In both surveys, half the respondents said they had felt that someone was about to telephone them just before they did. In Bury, 45 per cent of the respondents said they had thought about a person they had not seen for a while who then telephoned the same day, and two thirds of the Bury respondents said they had telephoned people who said they were just thinking about telephoning them. In Bury, 37 per cent of respondents who said they had know in advance who was calling without any possible clue said this happened often. In both surveys significantly more women than men gave positive responses, and in both surveys more pet owners than people without pets gave positive responses. In London significantly more people claimed to have anticipated telephone calls that to have had psychic experiences. Telepathic telephone calls may be one of the commonest kinds of psychic experience in the modern world, and I suggest ways in which they can be investigated empirically.
Related Research by Others
EXPLORE, August 2023
by Helané Wahbeh, Cedric Cannard, Dean Radin, Arnaud Delorme,
Some people claim to occasionally know who is calling them without using traditional means. Controlled experiments testing these claims report mixed results. We conducted a cross-sectional study of triads examining the accuracy of knowing who was calling using two randomly selected designs: 1) a web server randomly chose the caller before the callee's guess (telepathic/pre-selected trials), and 2) a web server randomly chose the caller after the callee's guess (precognitive/post-selected trials). We also performed exploratory multilevel mixed-effects logistic regressions on the relationship of genetic relationships, emotional closeness, communication frequency, and physical distance data with accuracy. A total of 177 participants completed at least one trial (105 “completers” completed all 12 trials). Accuracy was significantly above chance for the 210 completers telepathic/pre-selected trials (50.0% where the chance expectation was 33.3%, p<.001) but not the 630 completers precognitive/post-selected trials (31.9% where the chance expectation was 33.3%, p = .61). We discuss how these results favor the psi hypothesis, although conventional explanations cannot be completely excluded. Genetic relatedness significantly predicted accuracy in the regression model (Wald χ2 = 53.0, P < .001) for all trials. Compared to 0% genetic relatedness, the odds of accurately identifying the caller was 2.88 times (188%) higher for 25% genetic relatedness (Grandparent/Grandchild or Aunt/Uncle or Niece/Nephew or Half Sibling; β = 1.06, z = 2.10, P = .04), but the other genetic relatedness levels were not significant. In addition, communication frequency was significant (β = 0.006, z = 2.19, P = .03) but physical distance (β = 0.0002, z = 1.56, P = .12) and emotional closeness (β = 0.005, z = 1.87, P = .06) were not for all trials. To facilitate study recruitment and completion, unavoidable changes to the protocol were made during the study due to persistent recruitment difficulties, including changing inclusion/exclusion criteria, increasing total call attempts to participants, adjusting trial type randomization schema to ensure trial type balance, and participant compensation. Thus, future research will be needed to continue to improve the methodology and examine the mechanism by which people claim to know who is calling, as well as factors that may moderate the effects.
Keywords: Anomalous cognition; Telepathy; Precognition; Telephone
The Open Psychology Journal, 2009, 2, 12-18
by Schmidt S.; Erath D.; Ivanova Vm; Walach H.
Many people report that they know in advance who is on the phone when the telephone is ringing. Sheldrake and Smart [1, 2] conducted experiments where participants had to determine which one of four possible callers is on the phone while the telephone was still ringing. They report highly significant hit rates that cannot be explained by conventional theories.
We attempted to replicate these findings in a series of three experiments. In study one, 21 participants were asked to identify the callers of 20 phone calls each. Overall 26.7 % were identified correctly (mean chance expectation 25%, ns). In a second study a pre-selection test was introduced in a different experimental setting. Eight participants identified 30% of the calls correctly (p = .15). However one of the participants recognized 10 out of 20 calls correctly (p = .014). We conducted a third study with only this participant. In an additional 60 trials she could identify 24 callers correctly (p = .007). We conclude that we could not find any anomalous cognition effect in self-selected samples. But our data also strongly suggest that there are a few participants who are able to score reliably and repeatedly above chance.
by Eva Lobach and Dick J. Bierman, University of Amsterdam
Paper presented at the Parapsychology Association Annual Convention, Vienna, August 2004
Can we guess who is calling us on the phone before picking up, and does local sidereal time (LST) affect how often we guess right? Reviews of anomalous cognition studies have shown that effect sizes are highest around 13.30 LST (Spottiswoode, 1997). A post-hoc analysis of telephone telepathy data of Sheldrake (2003) also showed a peak at that time. LST (peak or non-peak) was an independent variable in our prospective telephone telepathy study. Six women who indicated they often experienced telephone telepathy were selected to participate. Each participant chose four close friends or relatives to act as callers. All completed a total of 36 trials; six sessions of six trials each, three sessions at peak time (between 8.00 and 9.00 local time) and three at non-peak time (between 17.30 and 18.30 local time). One of the experimenters was at the participant's home during the sessions. The experimenter made sure no irregular communication was going on and logged times of the calls and responses of the participant. At a different location another experimenter used a dice to select a caller about five minutes before the scheduled trial. Then he or she contacted the caller who was asked to call the participant in five minutes and to concentrate his or her thoughts on the participant for the last two minutes before the call was made. When the phone rang at the participant's home, the participant guessed who she thought was calling before picking up. Analyses show a significant over-all scoring rate of 29.4% (p = .05). Almost all of this effect originates from the sessions at peak time with a scoring rate of 34.6%. Exploratory analyses show that a stronger emotional bond between particpant and caller is associated with a higher hitrate. It is concluded that results provide tentative support for the hypothesis that Local Sidereal Time is related to a phenomenon like telephone telepathy. In addition, the results are in support of the existence of telephone telepathy. Other explanations of the anomalous effect cannot be ruled out, such as precognition, retro psychokinesis by the experimenter or the participant so the dice throw would coincide with the particular caller the participant would guess, or clairvoyance of the dice throws. Future studies should aim at teasing apart the supposed effects of LST and local time on 'telephone telepathy.'