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Encyclopedia > Joseph Banks Rhine

Joseph Banks Rhine (September 29, 1895February 20, 1980) (usually known as J. B. Rhine) was a pioneer of parapsychology. Rhine founded the parapsychology lab at Duke University, the Journal of Parapsychology, and the Foundation for Research on the Nature of Man. September 29 is the 272nd day of the year (273rd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... 1895 (MDCCCXCV) was a common year starting on Tuesday (see link for calendar) of the Gregorian calendar (or a common year starting on Thursday of the 12-day-slower Julian calendar). ... February 20 is the 51st day of the year in the Gregorian Calendar. ... 1980 (MCMLXXX) was a leap year starting on Tuesday. ... Parapsychology is the study of certain types of paranormal phenomena (parapsychology comes from the Greek para, “beside, beyond,” + psychology, derived from the Greek psyche, “soul, mind,” + logos “rational discussion”). The term was coined by Max Dessoir (1889). ... Duke University is a private coeducational research university located in Durham, North Carolina, USA. The school, which officially became Duke University in 1924, traces its institutional roots to 1838. ... The Journal of Parapsychology is a quarterly publication devoted primarily to the original publication of experimental results and other research findings in extrasensory perception and psychokinesis. ...



Joseph (J.B.) Rhine was the second of four 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 shool 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.

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. 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. There, after he and his wife were impressed by a lecture given by Arthur Conan Doyle exulting the scientific proof of communication with the dead. Rhine later wrote, "This mere possibility was the most exhilarating thought I had had in years." [1] [2] Rhine began the studies that helped develop parapsychology into a branch of science, looking upon it primarily as a branch of "abnormal psychology". To meet Wikipedias quality standards, this article may require cleanup. ... The College of Wooster is a liberal arts college with fewer than 2000 students located in Wooster, Ohio, in Wayne County, Ohio. ... The University of Chicago is a private university located principally in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago. ... Doctor of Philosophy (Ph. ... There have been several people called William McDougall For the Canadian politician, see William McDougall (politician) For the British psychologist, see William McDougall (psychologist) This is a disambiguation page — a navigational aid which lists other pages that might otherwise share the same title. ... Duke University is a private coeducational research university located in Durham, North Carolina, USA. The school, which officially became Duke University in 1924, traces its institutional roots to 1838. ... Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, DL (22 May 1859 – 7 July 1930) was a Scottish author most noted for his stories about the detective Sherlock Holmes, which are generally considered a major innovation in the field of crime fiction, and the adventures of Professor Challenger. ...

Based in Durham, Rhine's next work had two aspects: one was lab experiments designed to probe the actuality or lack thereof of the Lamarckian theory of inherited characteristics in animals; the other was fieldwork that brought scrutiny, healthy skepticism, and rigor of data analysis to investigations of psychic mediums. Jean-Baptiste Lamarck Jean-Baptiste Pierre Antoine de Monet, Chevalier de Lamarck (August 1, 1744 – December 28, 1829) was a French naturalist and an early proponent of the idea that evolution occurred and proceeded in accordance with natural laws. ...

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. Linzmayer's epic run of naming 21 out of 25 took place in Rhine's car. [3] Zener cards are cards used to conduct experiments for extra-sensory perception, most often clairvoyance. ...

The following year, among the new subjects Rhine tested another promising individual, Hubert Pearce, who managed to surpass Linzmayer’s overall 1931 performance in (Pearce’s average during the period he was tested in 1932 was 40%, whereas chance would have been 20%). Pearce was actually allowed to handle the cards most of the time. He shuffled and cut them. [4]

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. Pearce's overall score in guessing the order of the unseen cards was twice as good as chance. Repeating the experiment some days later, with 250 yards distance between them, the score was again well above chance.

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.

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-throawn dice.

In 1940 Rhine published a book, Extra-Sensory Perception After Sixty Years, that summarized his own work and the work of earlier “psychic researchers” who had attempted to be methodical, painstaking, and scientific in their (very different from Rhine’s) approach, one emphasizing field work. Rhine invited his critics – scientists and academics who had debated or criticized his work, or even criticized Rhine himself – to contribute chapters to the book; only three did, and only one maintained an adamant criticism. During the War years, Rhine lost most of his male staff members to war work or the military. He carried on, though, and after the War he had occasion to study some dramatic cases outside the lab.

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).

Over the years, Rhine looked closely at reports of spontaneous, sometimes sensational or bizarre paranormal cases. With these, he sometimes, but not always — as in the case of Mina Crandon and Lady the "talking" horse, which Rhine believed was psychic and the "greatest thing since radio" [5] — refused to pass judgment on their authenticity or just what principles were operating in them. He felt a good groundwork should be laid in the lab, so that the scientific community might, in the future, take parapsychology seriously. Mina Margery Crandon (1888-1941) was the wife of a wealthy Boston surgeon and socialite, Dr. Le Roi Goddard Crandon. ...

In the early 1960s, Rhine founded the Foundation for Research on the Nature of Man, at Duke. 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.


Rhine, along with William McDougall, coined the term "parapsychology" (translating a German term). 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, of England. Experimental psychology is an approach to psychology that treats it as one of the natural sciences, and therefore assumes that it is susceptible to the experimental method. ...

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. The Rhine Research Center Institute for Parasychology (successor to the Parapsychology Laboratory at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina) is a parapsychology research unit that aims to improve the human condition by creating a scientific understanding of those abilities and sensitivities that appear to transcend the ordinary limits of space...


Rhine's impressive pioneering results, sometimes regarded by parapsychologists as the foundation of parapsychology, have never been duplicated, nor has anyone produced reliable evidence that a psychic can rotate a delicately balanced pin under a bell jar. Rhine repeatedly tried, but with failures he never reported. [6]

Rhine has been criticized for not disclosing the names of assistants he caught cheating. Skeptic Martin Gardner wrote: Martin Gardner (b. ...

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.

Assistants whose cheating has been made public in spite of Rhine's secrecy policy are James D. MacFarland and Walter Levy. Gardner claims to have inside information that Rhine's files contain "material suggesting fraud on the part of Hubert Pearce".

In 1983 his wife Louisa Rhine (whom he had married during their university years) wrote a book Something Hidden. She wrote (Gardner 1988:240-43)

Jim [James D. MacFarland] had actually consistently falsified his records. ... To produce extra hits Jim had to resort to erasures and transpositions in his records of his call series.


  1. ^ ESP, Seers & Para psychology: What the Occult Really Is by Milbourne Christopher, Thomas Y. Crowell, 1970
  2. ^ Sixty Years of Psychical Research : Houdini and I Among the Spirits, by Joseph Rinn, Truth Seeker, 1950
  3. ^ ESP, Seers & Psychics : What the Occult Really Is by Milbourne Christopher, Thomas Y. Crowell, 1970
  4. ^ ESP, Seers & Psychics : What the Occult Really Is by Milbourne Christopher, Thomas Y. Crowell, 1970
  5. ^ ESP, Seer & Psychics: What the Occult Really Is by Milbourne Christopher, Thomas Y. Crowell Co., 1970
  6. ^ Skeptical Odysseys edited by Paul Kurtz, Prometheus Books, 2001 , Chapter 31: Confessions of a Skeptic by Martin Gardner

Milbourne Christopher (1914 - 1984) was one of Americas foremost illusionists, performing in sixty-eight countries. ...


  • 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.
  • Rogo, D, Scott. (1975) Parapsychology: A Century of Enquiry. New York:Taplinger/Dell

The Skeptical Inquirer is a magazine of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP) dedicated to debunking pseudoscience. ...

Further reading

Fads and Fallacies: In the Name of Science by Martin Gardner, New American Library, 1986 (second edition) Chapter 25: ESP and PK

See also

Psychokinesis (Greek + , literally mind-movement) or PK, also known as telekinesis[1] (Greek + , literally distant-movement) or TK, is the paranormal ability of the mind to influence matter or energy without the use of any currently known type of physical means. ... Zener cards Zener cards are cards used to conduct experiments for extra-sensory perception, most often clairvoyance. ...

External links

  Results from FactBites:
J.B. Rhine (deceased) (746 words)
J B Rhine (Joseph Banks Rhine) is widely considered to be the "Father of Modern Parapsychology." Along with his wife Dr Louisa E. Rhine, Dr J B Rhine studied the phenomena now known as parapsychology at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina.
Rhine, J. and Pratt, J. A reply to the Hansel critique of the Pearce-Pratt series.
Rhine, J. and Feather, S. The study of cases of psi-trailing in animals.
MSN Encarta - Search Results - Rhine (88 words)
Rhine (German Rhein; French Rhin; Dutch Rijn; ancient Rhenus), one of the principal rivers of Europe.
Rhine, Joseph Banks (1895-1980), American psychologist, born in Waterloo, Pennsylvania, and educated at the University of Chicago and Harvard and...
Middle German consists of (1) Rhine Franconian, spoken in most of the Palatinate and Hessen, which contain the cities of Mainz, Heidelberg, Frankfurt...
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