What is Remote Viewing?

Remote viewing, also known as remote sensing, remote perception, telesthesia, and traveling clairvoyance, is the alleged paranormal ability to perceive a distant or hidden target without support of the senses.

In recent times, a well-known study of remote viewing has been the U.S. government-funded project at the Stanford Research Institute during the 1970s through the mid-1990s. In 1972, Harold Puthoff and Russell Targ initiated a series of human subject studies to determine whether participants (the viewers or percipients) could reliably identify and accurately describe salient features of remote locations or targets. In the early reviews, a human sender was typically present at the remote location, as part of the experiment protocol. A three-step process was used; the first step is to randomly select the target conditions to be experienced by the senders. Secondly, in the viewing step, participants were asked to express or sketch their impressions of the remote scene verbally. Thirdly, in the judging phase, these descriptions were matched by separate judges, as closely as possible, with the intended targets. The term remote viewing was coined to describe this overall process. The first paper by Puthoff and Targ on remote viewing was published in Nature in March 1974; in it, the team reported some degree of remote viewing success. After the publication of these findings, other attempts to replicate the experiments were carried out with remotely linked groups using computer conferencing.
The psychologists David Marks and Richard Kammann attempted to replicate Targ and Puthoff remote viewing experiments that were carried out in the 1970s at the Stanford Research Institute. In a series of 35 studies, they were unable to replicate the results, investigating the procedure of the original experiments. Marks and Kammann discovered that the notes given to the judges in Targ and Puthoff trials contained clues as to which order they were carried out, such as referring to yesterday’s two targets, or they had the date of the session written at the top of the page. They concluded that these clues were the reason for the experiment’s high hit rates. Marks was able to achieve 100 percent accuracy without visiting any of the sites himself but by using cues. James Randi has written controlled tests by several other researchers, eliminating several sources of cuing and extraneous evidence present in the original tests, produced negative results. Students were also able to solve Puthoff and Targ’s locations from the clues that had inadvertently been included in the transcripts.

In 1980, Charles Tart claimed that a rejudging of the transcripts from one of Targ and Puthoff experiments revealed an above-chance result. Targ and Puthoff again refused to provide copies of the transcripts, and it was not until July 1985 that they were made available for study when it was discovered they still contained sensory cues. Marks and Christopher Scott (1986) wrote, “considering the importance of the remote viewing hypothesis of adequate cue removal, Tart’s failure to perform this basic task seems beyond comprehension. As previously concluded, remote viewing has not been demonstrated in the experiments conducted by Puthoff and Targ, only the investigators’ repeated failure to remove sensory cues.”

In 1982 Robert Jahn, then Dean of the School of Engineering at Princeton University, wrote a comprehensive review of psychic phenomena from an engineering perspective. His paper included numerous references to remote viewing studies at the time. Others have proposed statistical flaws in his work in the parapsychological community and within the general scientific community.

Where is it used?

Remote viewing (R.V.) is the practice of seeking impressions about a distant or unseen target, purportedly using extrasensory perception (ESP) or “sensing” with the mind. 

Remote viewing experiments have historically been criticized for lack of proper controls and repeatability. There is no scientific evidence that remote viewing exists, and the topic of remote viewing is generally regarded as pseudoscience.

Typically a remote viewer is expected to give information about an object, event, person, or location hidden from physical view and separated at some distance.

How is it used?

Physicists Russell Targ and Harold Puthoff, parapsychology researchers at Stanford Research Institute (SRI), are generally credited with coining the term “remote viewing” to distinguish it from the closely related concept of clairvoyance. However, according to Targ, the name was first suggested by Ingo Swann in December 1971 during an experiment at the American Society for Psychical Research in New York City.

Remote viewing was popularized in the 1990s upon declassifying certain documents related to the Stargate Project. This $20 million research program had started in 1975 and was sponsored by the U.S. government, in an attempt to determine any potential military application of psychic phenomena. The plan was terminated in 1995 after it failed to produce any actionable intelligence information.


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