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Parapsychology articles and news

UK ministry of defense conducted remote viewing tests

It has been now revealed that the UK MoD has conducted in 2002 a psychic power study to find out whether psychic abilities, especially remote viewing, could be used to find hidden objects.

During the tests, the volunteers had to identify the contents of sealed envelopes while blind-folded. In the beginning, the MoD tried to recruit advertising psychics for the tests. But all 12 of the advertising, or “known”, psychics have declined to take part in the experiments. The MoD then has found “novice” volunteers who took part in this research.

Some 28% of tested psychic could get a close guess at the contents of the envelopes, which included pictures of a knife, Mother Teresa and an “Asian individual”. The MoD spokeswoman had the following comments about the study:

The study concluded that remote viewing theories had little value to the MoD and was taken no further.

My commentary: although most of the tested subjects could not correctly “guess” the contents of the envelopes, to me the 28% percent getting a close guess sounds like an astounding achievement. Although, by MoD standards this might not be enough for reliable intelligence work, from the parapsychology researcher’s point of view, this looks like a strong evidence for the existence of psi and validity of remote viewing as one of the best performing uses of psi. The MoD did not say that remote viewing does not work at all, just not good enough. Although the original BBC article did not say what the expected chance for the “guesses” was, 28 percents sounds like a lot above chance when you had you tell what’s inside an envelope.

On a sad note, I wonder what the fact that all 12 of contacted “known” psychic have refused to take part means? It makes them now look like charlatans. But I always thought that the strongest psychics do not advertise themselves. They really don’t have to, since in their case word of mouth advertising would serve them better and cheaper.

Source: BBC article





  1. I have obviously arrived late to this discussion, but, having just received an email from an old friend in the UK containing a screenshot of the MoD document in question, I would like to say something about this, just for the record.

    First of all, it is clear to me, even from a brief perusal of this report, that the methodology employed in these tests was sloppy and unscientific. In fact the entire project strikes me as having been amateurish from beginning to end. Consider, for example, how the experimenters went about choosing a location for the tests: “To that end, with the approval of DI, a search was made for a rented property that offered minimal environmental distractions…”

    Minimal environmental distractions! What does that mean – a bedsit in Charing Cross not too close to the train station?
    And why a rented property, when the MoD owns hundreds of buildings – many of them vacant – in London alone? Or why not use the facilities available to them in one of the Universities? Birkbeck already has a psi lab.
    Obviously the budget allocated for this “research” can’t have been more than a few thousand pounds.

    As to why the 12 “known psychics” who were approached declined to take part, I can think of several very simple and very obvious explanations. First of all, if they approached some fortune tellers who had advertised in the local newspapers – “Madame Betty of Bayswater” or whatever – they would certainly have been barking up the wrong tree, since A/ the Madame Bettys of this world are usually about as psychic as a lamp-post, and B/ the Madame Bettys of this world tend to operate outside the taxable income zone, and would run a mile from any kind of official scrutiny.

    Second, even if the psychics approached were genuine, what incentives were they offered in return for giving their time to taking part in these tests? Given that the whole thing seems to have been organised on a shoestring budget, I can’t imagine that they were offered substantial compensation for their participation. I myself opted out of a research project into psychokinesis at Birkbeck College some years ago when I was informed that there was no money available to cover even my travel expenses. And yet I knew that a certain Israeli conjuror had been paid large sums of money to perform cheap tricks in the lab just a short time previously.

    Third, most psychics would assume that experiments conducted by the MoD would have a military objective, and might very well be reluctant to participate on that account.

    Lastly, I find it strange that the MoD did not simply consult the police database at the National Crime Faculty, which contains the details of psychics whose information has proved helpful in criminal investigations.

    Can the MoD department which organised these experiments really have been so inept? Well, it is possible. Just a couple of months ago the MoD lost a computer hard drive containing the personal details of 100,000 members of the armed forces. And in January of this year the MoD “misplaced” a laptop with details of 600,000 people. So they are certainly capable of gross incompetence.

    On the other hand, these remote viewing experiments appear to me to have have all the hallmarks of a decoy operation – ie, having been set up to give the impression that research into RV had been carried out, and had been terminated when it was found to have no practical or militaristic application. In other words, the entire project may have been an exercise in misdirection.

  2. With regards to the MOD conducting Remote Viewing experiments, they really do not have the first idea about how to conduct them !.

    Their approach and subsequent set up was flawed as was thier interp of the Rv process.

    Rick H

  3. You may be interested in reading Paul H. Smith’s response to the British MOD study and the media representation of that study, *They Think They Know*, as well as his more recent op ed piece in response to a NY Times item – *Skepticism’s Victory Over Science*. Both articles are available at

    ~ Shelia M

  4. Thanks for the link, Øystein.

    For the first trial, the target was a picture of Mother Teressa with “Mother Teresa” and “Who is this?” written under it. The subject drew a circle in a box and some piramids. That trial scored as one of the 28% that may have accessed the target.

    In not a single case did the subject clearly access the target.

  5. In response to you claiming “the strongest psychics do not advertise themselves”, the BBC-article clearly states that *”During the tests, defence experts attempted to recruit 12 “known” psychics who had advertised their abilities on the internet. “*
    -So advertising seems right up their alley.

    Other than that: The “entire” (blacked out) report can be read at

  6. I blogged about this and added my opinion after seeing your take on it on here. Then one of my readers commented about how important the “close guess” was. I did some research and actually found the original documents from the Ministry. I’ve blogged about them in a follow up story you might want to read.