Telephone Telepathy: Can you get better at it? Try for yourself!

February 7, 2020
Rupert Sheldrake, PhD

Many people have had the experience of thinking about a particular person, for no apparent reason, and then the phone rings and that person is on the line. Generally such calls are from familiar people like close friends and family members. These seemingly telepathic experiences with telephones are very common. In surveys in Britain, USA, and other countries, more than 80% of the respondents said that they had known who was calling before answering or looking at the caller ID.

Skeptics try to dismiss this phenomenon by saying that it is just a matter of coincidence and that people simply forget all the times they are wrong when anticipating who was calling. The only way to resolve this question is through controlled scientific experiments.

I developed a simple experimental procedure that has given clear, positive, and repeatable results. In these tests (carried out with landlines without caller ID displays), subjects received a call from one of four different callers. They knew who the potential callers were, but did not know which one was calling in any given test because the caller was picked at random by the experimenter. They had to guess who the caller was before picking up the phone. By chance, the guesser would be right about one time in four, or 25% of the time. As a precaution against possible cheating or inadvertent errors in recording the data, subjects were filmed throughout the experimental period on time-coded videotape. They said to the camera what their guess was before answering the phone. In these filmed tests, with more than 250 trials, the accurate hit rate was 45%, very significantly more than the level expected by chance. You can see an experiment of this kind, filmed for TV in the UK, here.

I have now developed a simple, easy to use, automated test that works on cell phones in the US, Canada, the UK, and Italy. It is free and can be done at any time. You register online here, giving the names and numbers of two people you know well, who will be your callers in this test. The registration link gives full instructions and details.

You will receive your score at the end of each test, which involves six short calls randomly spread out over about one hour.

I am keen to know if people can get better with practice. Also, does it work better after you have been meditating? Or after other practices that help you increase your intuition? Do please have a go at the test, and see if you can find ways of improving your score. If you can do this, please send me an email describing how you did it.

About the Author

Rupert SheldrakeRupert Sheldrake, PhD, is a biologist and author of more than 85 scientific papers and eight books, including Science and Spiritual Practices. He has been a Fellow of Clare College, Cambridge University, a Research Fellow of the Royal Society, and a Frank Know Fellow at Harvard. He worked in India as Principal Plant Physiologist at the International Crops Research Institute ICRISAT, and also lived in the Benedictine ashram of Fr. Bede Griffiths, in Tamil Nadu. From 2005-2010 he was the Director of the Perrott-Warrick Project for the study of unexplained human and animal abilities, funded by Trinity College, Cambridge. He is a Fellow of the Institute of Noetic Sciences, and also a Fellow of Schumacher College in England.

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