It has long been said that psychic abilities may be hereditary. One study in Scotland looked at family trees of people with Second Sight and found that psychic abilities appear to run in families.1 There have also been several other research studies on the heritability of psychic abilities. “Second Sight” implies that there are two types of sight — our ordinary eyesight and a second type of sight that allows an individual to have prophetic visions. These visions may happen spontaneously and not usually “on-demand.”
Second sight surveys in Northern Scotland found that people with Second Sight are likely to report a family member with the same ability.2 This means that if one of your parents has second sight, there is a 50 percent chance that you also have it. If both your parents have second sight, there is a 50 to 100 percent chance that you have it.
In my family, my father reported telepathic and precognitive abilities, and his sister reported telepathic experiences. My own psi experiences have tended toward telepathy and precognition, like my father. A recent IONS study showed that 7 of 9 non-psychics had variations in the intron (non-coding) region of their DNA, adjacent to a gene on Chromosome 7. By contrast, none of the psychic participants had that mutation.3
So what does this mean? The purpose of the study was to see if there was a biological marker in participants reporting psychic ability. The results actually pointed towards the opposite conclusion, that those with this particular genetic mutation did not exhibit psychic capacity. So, the absence of variance in a particular gene might be important for maintenance of innate psychic capacities. Pondering this, I suddenly had a hunch that since this gene (called TNRC18) was inherited, perhaps mutations related to the expression of that gene may act to suppress psychic experiences.
I believe that psychic abilities are natural experiences. Children sometimes show evidence of psychic ability in early childhood, but it often subsides as they develop. In some cases this may happen because they are taught by parents and society to not trust their psychic experiences, or to not talk about them for fear of being labeled “strange.” In addition, as a child develops, perhaps these experiences tend to become inhibited as neuronal connections in the brain are pruned during the maturation process. However, there are always some people who retain their abilities into adulthood. And some animals have been observed to demonstrate telepathic or precognitive skills.4 I have personally experienced instances of telepathy and precognition in horses.
Perhaps there is an evolutionary pressure to suppress strong psychic abilities, or perhaps they have atrophied. In the era of the hunter-gatherer, it was a matter of life or death to be able to accurately perceive where the next meal would be found. With the proliferation of restaurants and grocery stores, such heightened perceptual abilities are no longer necessary. The role of the early Catholic church may also have been a cultural factor in the suppression of psychic abilities. Many of the Catholic saints were said to have exhibited a wide range of paranormal abilities, but historically the Church also had a strong desire to limit religious expression to its own set of rituals and activities. Independent spiritual practices, which likely included psychic abilities, were discouraged (to put it mildly). Somewhere in the mix of factors that act to suppress psychic awareness is also the fear of unknown “powers,” which is a trope that is endlessly exploited in novels, movies, and television shows. Based on these pressures, it is not surprising that some parents may train their children to suppress their psychic experiences. I can imagine that this might also play a role in selecting a mate later in life. That is, one might choose a mate who does not demonstrate these abilities, which through the combination of nature and nurture would not be passed down through future generations.
While a few studies have suggested that psychic capacities may be inherited, additional research is needed to further understand the mechanism by which that would occur and the nature of the genetic expressions. IONS is actively developing several new studies to explore the relationship between psychic abilities and genetics, including: A Telephone Telepathy Study: Does Genetic Relatedness Influence Psychic Abilities?; Psigenes Genetic Data Sharing; and Genetics of Psychic Ability.
About the Author
Eleanor Criswell, EdD, is emeritus professor of psychology and former chair of the psychology department, Sonoma State University. Founding Director of the Humanistic Psychology Institute (now Saybrook University), she is editor of Somatics Magazine, the magazine-journal of the mind-body arts and sciences, and Director of the Novato Institute for Somatic Research and Training. Her books include Biofeedback and Somatics: Toward Personal Evolution, How Yoga Works: An Introduction to Somatic Yoga, and she is editor of Cram’s Introduction to Surface Electromyography. She is the originator of Somatic Yoga and Equine Hanna Somatics. Her research interests include biofeedback/neurofeedback, psychophysiology, yoga, mind-body practices, somatics, and meditation. Eleanor is also an Institutional Review Board (IRB) member for the Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS).
- Cohn, S. A. (1999). Second sight and family history: Pedigree and segregation analyses. Journal of Scientific Exploration, 13(3), 351–372.
- Cohn, S. A. (1994). A survey on Scottish second sight. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 59(835), 385–400.
- Wahbeh, H., Radin, D., Yount, G., Woodley of Menie, M. A., Sarraf, M. A., & Karpuj, M. V. (2021). Genetics of psychic ability—A pilot case-control exome sequencing study. EXPLORE. doi.org/10.1016/j.explore.2021.02.014.
- “Animal Powers” by Rupert Sheldrake