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I was reading today's newspaper (3/18/2012), and this question appeared in Dear Abby's column:

DEAR ABBY: I will graduate from college in June and be a social worker. I am psychic, although I dislike that word because it conjures up visions of crystal balls, quacks and scams. For legitimate psychic individuals, it can be overwhelming to live this way. I first noticed my ability when I was young, but I repressed it because my folks thought I was imagining things. It began to resurge in college. This school is haunted, so I have become used to daily interactions with ghosts -- often in the dead of night. I also notice that during client counseling sessions images will pop into my head. I once gave a classmate the "willies" by perfectly describing the garden in her backyard having never laid eyes on it. My adviser says I must never tell my clients the things I "see" in them because it will frighten them.

It's hard to separate my own thoughts and emotions from those of spirits around me. I'm concerned about my psychic ability in relation to my clients. If I pick up on abuse in the mind of a child, for example, am I obligated to report it?

Being psychic is as natural to me as my having blue eyes. It will never go away. I must now find the means to manage it. I don't want a career as a medium. I'm dedicated to the profession I have chosen. Can you offer me advice? -- GIFTED IN NEW YORK

Here is Abby's answer:

DEAR GIFTED: Instead of using your visions to form judgments about your clients, use them to guide you during interviews. If you do, you will then be better equipped to provide concrete proof of the need for an intervention than revealing you "saw" something that others can't see or wasn't disclosed to you.

Many people have psychic abilities to a greater or lesser degree than you do, and those "vibes" can be invaluable. It is possible that your gift will give you insight into the individuals you will serve. I wish you success.

It is available online here: http://www.uexpress.com/dearabby/?uc_full_date=20120318. I was surprised how "matter of factly" Abby claimed that "Many people have psychic abilities to a greater or lesser degree than you do"

Does this have any basis in fact? Has there ever even been anyone proven to actually have psychic abilities?

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related xkcd comic: xkcd.com/373 –  mzuba Mar 22 '12 at 14:08
3  
sounds like she's a natural at cold reading, mix that with confirmation bias and you've got yourself a genuine "psychic" –  JKirchartz Mar 22 '12 at 17:45

1 Answer 1

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According to Wikipedia:

In 1988 the U.S. National Academy of Sciences gave a report on the subject and concluded there is "no scientific justification from research conducted over a period of 130 years for the existence of parapsychological phenomena."

They cite a source I haven't read:

The other widely cited evidence is that of the JREF Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge:

At JREF, we offer a one-million-dollar prize to anyone who can show, under proper observing conditions, evidence of any paranormal, supernatural, or occult power or event. The JREF does not involve itself in the testing procedure, other than helping to design the protocol and approving the conditions under which a test will take place. All tests are designed with the participation and approval of the applicant. In most cases, the applicant will be asked to perform a relatively simple preliminary test of the claim, which if successful, will be followed by the formal test. Preliminary tests are usually conducted by associates of the JREF at the site where the applicant lives. Upon success in the preliminary testing process, the "applicant" becomes a "claimant."

This prize has been available (in growing amounts) since 1964.

To date, no one has passed the preliminary tests.

If "GIFTED IN NEW YORK" could truly demonstrate psychic abilities, she would be able to do a lot of good as a Social Worker with a spare $US1m. Maybe that's the advice Abby should have given!

However, the column author would need to consider how his or her audience (including the original correspondent) would react to such advice; it possibly wouldn't be a sound commercial move in terms of maintaining readership.

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