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Joseph Banks Rhine (September 29, 1895 – February 20, 1980) (usually known as J. B. Rhine) was a botanist who later developed an interest in parapsychology and psychology. Through the parapsychology lab at Duke he also lectured on mainstream psychological topics. [citation needed] Rhine founded the parapsychology lab at Duke University, the Journal of Parapsychology, and the Foundation for Research on the Nature of Man. He also initiated the Parapsychological Association. He coined the term ESP.

Biography[edit | edit source]

Joseph Banks (J.B.) Rhine was the second child of five children born to Samuel Ellis Rhine and Elizabeth Vaughan Rhine in Waterloo, Pennsylvania. Samuel Rhine had been educated in a Harrisburg business college, had taught school and later been a farmer and merchant. The family moved to Marshallville, Ohio when Joseph was in his early teens. A bright and strong-willed boy, Rhine grew up with a love of the outdoors.[1]

He was educated at Ohio Northern University and the College of Wooster, after which he enlisted in the Marine Corps, being stationed in Santiago where he became a sharpshooting champion. Afterwards, he enrolled at the University of Chicago, where he received his master's degree in botany 1923 and Ph.D. in botany in 1925. While there, he and his wife were impressed by a May 1922 lecture given by Arthur Conan Doyle exulting the scientific proof of communication with the dead.[2] Rhine later wrote, "This mere possibility was the most exhilarating thought I had had in years."[1][3][4]

He taught for a year at Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research, in Yonkers, N.Y. Afterwards, he enrolled in the psychology department at Harvard University, to study for a year with Professor William McDougall. In 1927 he moved to Duke University to work under Professor McDougall. Rhine began the studies that helped develop parapsychology into a branch of science, looking upon it primarily as a branch of "abnormal psychology".

Research[edit | edit source]

Rhine tested many students as volunteer subjects in his research project. His first exceptional subject in this ESP research was Adam Linzmayer, an economics undergraduate at Duke. In the spring of 1931, Linzmayer scored incredibly high in preliminary Zener-card tests that Rhine ran him through; initially, he scored 100% correct on two short (nine-card series) tests that Rhine gave him. Even in his first long test (a 300-card series), Linzmayer scored 39.6% correct scores, when chance would have been only 20%. He consecutively scored 36% each time on three 25-card series (chance being 20%). However, over time, Linzmayer's scores began to drop down much closer to (but still above) chance averages. Boredom, distraction, and competing obligations, on Linzmayer’s part, were conjectured as possible factors bearing on the declining test results.[1] Linzmayer's epic run of naming 21 out of 25 took place in Rhine's car.[3]

The following year, Rhine tested another promising individual, Hubert Pearce, who managed to surpass Linzmayer’s overall 1931 performance. (Pearce’s average during the period he was tested in 1932 was 40%, whereas chance would have been 20%).[1] Pearce was actually allowed to handle the cards most of the time. He shuffled and cut them.[3]

The most famous series of experiments from Rhine's laboratory is arguably the ESP tests involving Hubert Pearce and J. G. Pratt, a research assistant. Pearce was tested (using Zener cards) by Pratt, who shuffled and recorded the order of the cards in the parapsychology lab 100 yards from where Pearce was sitting in a campus library cubicle. The series comprised 37 25-trial runs, conducted between August 1933 and March 1934. From run to run, the number of matches between Pratt's cards and Pearce's guesses was highly variable, generally deviating significantly above-chance, but also falling dramatically below-chance. These scores were obtained irrespective of the distance between Pratt and Pearce, which was arranged as either 100 or 250 yards.[1]

In 1934, drawing upon several years of cautious and rigorous lab research and statistical analysis, Rhine published the first edition of a book titled Extra Sensory Perception, which in various editions was widely read over the next decades.[1]

In the later 1930s, Rhine investigated “psychokinesis” – again reducing the subject to simple terms so that it could be tested, with controls, in a laboratory setting. Rhine relied on testing whether a subject could influence the outcome of tossed dice – initially with hand-thrown dice, later with dice thrown from a cup, and finally with machine-thrown dice.[1]

In 1940 Rhine co-authored with J. G. Pratt and other associates at Duke Extra-Sensory Perception After Sixty Years, a review of all experimental studies of telepathy and clairvoyance that they could identify in scientific journals and other published sources. It has been recognized as the first meta-analysis in the history of science.[5] In the course of reviewing their methods and findings, it rated the studies on evidentiality, examined hypotheses other than ESP, and discussed what generalizations might be drawn from them. Additionally, as many of those persons as possible who had published criticism of the research were sent drafts of the book, and invited to offer their comments for publication within it. Only three took up the offer, of which only one maintained an adamant criticism.

During the War years, Rhine lost most of his male staff members to war work or the military. This caused something of an hiatus in the conduct of new research, but the opportunity was taken to publish the large back-log of experiments that, since the early 1930s, had been conducted on psychokinesis. After the War, he had occasion to study some dramatic cases outside the lab.[1]

Rhine’s wife, Dr. Louisa Rhine, pursued work that complemented her husband’s in the later 1940s, gathering information on spontaneous ESP reports (experiences people had, outside of a laboratory setting). Yet J. B. Rhine believed that a good groundwork should be laid in the lab, so that the scientific community might take parapsychology seriously.

In the early 1960s, Rhine left Duke and founded the Institue for Parapsychology which later became the Foundation for Research on the Nature of Man. In the 1970s, several high-scoring subjects – Sean Harribance, M.B. Dykshoorn, and Bill Delmore – were tested in the lab, shortly before Rhine’s retirement.

Legacy[edit | edit source]

Rhine, along with William McDougall, coined the term "parapsychology" (translating a German term introduced by Max Dessoir). It is sometimes said that Rhine almost single-handedly developed a methodology and concepts for parapsychology as a form of experimental psychology; however great his contributions, some earlier work along similar — analytical and statistical — lines had been undertaken sporadically in Europe, notably the experimental work of Sir Oliver Lodge.[citation needed]

Rhine founded the institutions necessary for parapsychology's continuing professionalization in the U.S. — including the establishment of the Journal of Parapsychology and the formation of the Parapsychological Association, and also the Foundation for Research on the Nature of Man (FRNM), a precursor to what is today known as the Rhine Research Center. His parapsychology research organization was originally affiliated with Duke University, but is now separate.

Criticism[edit | edit source]

According to sceptical commentators, such as Martin Gardner, Rhine's results have never been duplicated. This includes the claim that Rhine repeatedly tried to replicate his work, but produced only failures that he never reported[6].

Gardner also criticized Rhine for not disclosing the names of assistants he caught cheating:

His paper "Security Versus Deception in Parapsychology" published in his journal (vol. 38, 1974), runs to 23 pages. [..] Rhine selects twelve sample cases of dishonest experimenters that came to his attention from 1940 to 1950, four of whom were caught "red-handed". Not a single name is mentioned. What papers did they publish, one wonders.

This has suggested to Gardner that Rhine practised a "secrecy policy".

Gardner has also claimed to have inside information that Rhine's files contain "material suggesting fraud on the part of Hubert Pearce", but such information has not been independently confirmed.[7]

Selected key works[edit | edit source]

Books[edit | edit source]

  • Rhine, J. B. (1934). Extra-Sensory Perception. Boston, MA, US: Bruce Humphries.
  • Rhine, J. B. (1937). New Frontiers of the Mind. New York, NY, US.
  • Rhine, J. B. (1947). The Reach of the Mind. New York, NY, US: William Sloane.
  • Rhine, J. B. (1953). New World of the Mind. New York, NY, US: William Sloane.
  • Rhine, J. B., & Pratt, J. G. (1957). Parapsychology: Frontier Science of the Mind. Springfield, IL, US Charles C. Thomas.
  • Rhine, J. B., & Associates (Eds.). (1965). Parapsychology from Duke to FRNM. Durham, NC, US: Parapsychology Press.
  • Rhine, J. B., & Brier, R. (Eds.). (1968). Parapsychology Today. New York, NY, US: Citadel.
  • Rhine, J. B. (Ed.). (1971). Progress in Parapsychology. Durham, NC, US: Parapsychology Press.

Theoretical and review papers, and editorials[edit | edit source]

  • Rhine, J. B. (1937). The effect of distance in ESP tests. Journal of Parapsychology, 1, 172-184.
  • Rhine, J. B. (1937). The question of sensory cues and the evidence. Journal of Parapsychology, 1, 276-291.
  • Rhine, J. B. (1938). The hypothesis of deception. Journal of Parapsychology, 2, 151-152.
  • Rhine, J. B. (1942). Hypnotism, "graduate" of parapsychology [Editorial]. Journal of Parapsychology, 6, 159-163.
  • Rhine, J. B. (1943). The mind has real force! [Editorial]. Journal of Parapsychology, 7, 69-75.
  • Rhine, J. B. (1945). Telepathy and clairvoyance reconsidered. Journal of Parapsychology, 9, 176-193.
  • Rhine, J. B. (1945). Precognition reconsidered. Journal of Parapsychology, 9, 264-277.
  • Rhine, J. B. (1946). The psychokinetic effect: A review. Journal of Parapsychology, 10, 5-20.
  • Rhine, J. B. (1948). Conditions favoring success in psi tests. Journal of Parapsychology, 12, 58-75.
  • Rhine, J. B. (1952). The problem of psi missing. Journal of Parapsychology, 16, 115.
  • Rhine, J. B. (1958). On the nature and consequences of the unconsciousness of psi. Journal of Parapsychology, 22, 175-186.
  • Rhine, J. B. (1969). Position effects in psi test results. Journal of Parapsychology, 33, 136-157.
  • Rhine, J. B. (1969). Psi-missing re-examined. Journal of Parapsychology, 33, 136-157.
  • Rhine, J. B. (1971). The importance of parapsychology to William McDougall. Journal of Parapsychology, 35, 169-188.
  • Rhine, J. B. (1974). Security versus deception in parapsychology. Journal of Parapsychology, 38, 99-121.
  • Rhine, J. B. (1974). Telepathy and other untestable hypotheses. Journal of Parapsychology, 38, 137-153.
  • Rhine, J. B. (1975). Psi methods reexamined. Journal of Parapsychology, 39, 38-58.
  • Rhine, J. B. (1977). History of experimental studies. In B. B. Wolman (Ed.), Handbook of Parapsychology (pp. 25-47). New York, NY, US: Van Nostrand Reinhold.

Experimental reports[edit | edit source]

  • Rhine, J. B. (1934). Extra-sensory perception of the clairvoyant type. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 29, 151-171.
  • Rhine, J. B. (1936). Some selected experiments in extrasensory perception. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 31, 216-228.
  • Rhine, J. B. (1938). Experiments bearing on the precognition hypothesis: I. Pre-shuffling card calling. Journal of Parapsychology, 2, 38-54.
  • Rhine, J. B. (1941). Terminal salience in ESP performance. Journal of Parapsychology, 5, 183-244.
  • Rhine, J. B. (1942). Evidence of precognition in the covariation of salience ratios. Journal of Parapsychology, 6, 111-143.
  • Rhine, L. E., & Rhine, J. B. (1943). The psychokinetic effect. I. The first experiment. Journal of Parapsychology, 7, 20-43.
  • Rhine, J. B., & Humphrey, B. M. (1944). The PK effect: Special evidence from hit patterns. I. Quarter distribution of the page. Journal of Parapsychology, 8, 18-60.
  • Rhine, J. B. (1946). Confirmatory experiments in PK research. Journal of Parapsychology, 10, 71-74.
  • Rhine, J. B., & Pratt, J. G. (1954). A review of the Pearce-Pratt distance series of ESP tests. Journal of Parapsychology, 18, 165-177.

Non-parapsychology sources[edit | edit source]

(Additional to those included in the above lists)

  • Rhine, J. B. (1927). One evening's observation on the Margery mediumship. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 21, 401-421.
  • Rhine, J. B., & Rhine, L. E. (1929). An investigation of a mind-reading horse. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 23, 449-466.
  • McDougall, W., & Rhine, J. B. (1933). Third report on a Lamarckian experiment. British Journal of Psychology, 24, 213-235.
  • Rhine, J. B. (1934). Telepathy and clairvoyance in the normal and trance states of a medium. Character and Personality, 3, 91-111.
  • Rhine, J. B. (1938). Comments on Dr. Wolfle's review. American Journal of Psychiatry, 94, 957-960.
  • Rhine, J. B. (1938). ESP: What precautions are being taken to forfend against error in the extrasensory perception research as conducted at Duke University? Scientific American, 158, 328.
  • Rhine, J. B. (1940). Extra-sensory perception: A review. Scientific Monthly, 51, 450-459.
  • Rhine, J. B. (1950). An introduction to the work on extrasensory perception. Transactions of the New York Academy of Sciences, 12, 164-168.
  • Rhine, J. B. (1950). Psi phenomena and psychiatry. Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine, 43, 804-814.
  • Rhine, J. B. (1952). Extrasensory perception and hypnosis. In L. M. LeCron (Ed.), Experimental Hypnosis (pp. 359-368). New York, NY, US: Macmillan.
  • Rhine, J. B. (1954). The science of non-physical nature. Journal of Philosophy, 51, 801-810.
  • Rhine, J. B. (1956). "Science and the Supernatural" [Comment]. Science, 11-14.
  • Rhine, J. B. (1959). How does one decide about ESP? American Psychologist, 14, 606-608.
  • Rhine, J. B. (1960). On the nature of man. In S. Hook (Ed.), Dimensions of mind. New York, NY, US: New York University Press.
  • Rhine, J. B. (1965). Parapsychology and medicine. Journal of the Missouri State Medical Association, 6, 378-381.
  • Rhine, J. B. (1972). A brief introduction to parapsychology. Research Journal of Philosophy and Social Sciences, 3, 1-19.
  • Rhine, J. B. (1979). Parapsychology - a correction. Science, 205, 144.

Further reading[edit | edit source]

  • Brian, Denis (1982). The Enchanted Voyager. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall (A full-length biography of Rhine)
  • Gardner, Martin (1988). "The Obligation to Disclose Fraud", Skeptical Inquirer, Vol. XII No. 3.
  • Gardner, Martin (1986). Fads and Fallacies: In the Name of Science by Martin Gardner, New American Library (second edition). Chapter 25: ESP and PK.
  • Horn, S. (2009). Unbelievable: Investigations into Ghosts, Poltergeists, Telepathy, and Other Unseen Phenomena from the Duke Parapsychology Laboratory. Ecco.
  • Mauskopf, S. H., & McVaugh, M. R. (1980). The Elusive Science: Origins of Experimental Psychical Research. Baltimore, ML, US: Johns Hopkins University Press.
  • Rhine, J. B. (1934). Extra Sensory Perception. Forward by William McDougall. (Softcover, Kessinger Pub Co.) ISBN 0-7661-3962-X
  • Rogo, D. Scott (1975) Parapsychology: A Century of Enquiry. New York:Taplinger/Dell

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 Denis, Brian. (1982). The Enchanted Voyager. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall
  2. Time-Life Books (1987), Psychic Powers. Mysteries of the unknown, Alexandria, VA.: Time-Life Books, p. 50, ISBN 9780809463091, OCLC 16091540,, retrieved on February 26, 2010 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Christopher, Milbourne (1970). ESP, Seers & Psychics: What the Occult Really Is, Thomas Y. Crowell.
  4. Sixty Years of Psychical Research : Houdini and I Among the Spirits, by Joseph Rinn, Truth Seeker, 1950
  5. Bösch, H. (2004). Reanalyzing a meta-analysis on extra-sensory perception dating from 1940, the first comprehensive meta-analysis in the history of science. In S. Schmidt (Ed.), Proceedings of the 47th Annual Convention of the Parapsychological Association, University of Vienna, (pp. 1-13).
  6. Skeptical Odysseys edited by Paul Kurtz, Prometheus Books, 2001 , Chapter 31: Confessions of a Skeptic by Martin Gardner
  7. Mauskopf, S. H., & McVaugh, M. R. (1980). The Elusive Science: Origins of Experimental Psychical Research. Baltimore, ML, US: Johns Hopkins University Press.

External links[edit | edit source]

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