What Is Mental Telepathy? Definition + Research Explained

Updated September 17, 2021
Mental telepathy

Telepathy is a tricky thing to test for. Is it real, or can telepathy merely be chalked up to coincidence and lucky guesses? Here's what some of the recent research has to say about it.

What Is Telepathy?

A straightforward telepathy definition is that it is "the supposed process of communicating through means other than the senses, as by the direct exchange of thoughts." Basically, the ability to read someone's mind and to transmit your thoughts as well.

Telepathy is achieved without any form of writing or oral communication or the commonly-used five senses. The use of telepathy isn't just a human sixth sense but is believed to exist in other life forms such as animals.

Is Telepathy Real? Study Results

The study of whether telepathy is real is still ongoing, but the first recorded scientific hypothesis of telepathy was formed by Greek philosopher Aristotle, who hypothesized that telepathy transmissions were like a stone being thrown into still water, ripples radiating from one person to another. He wondered whether thoughts had similar waves.

When radio waves were first discovered, this only further deepened the possibility that maybe people could transmit thoughts as well as sound. And that opened up all sorts of research and experimentation into whether telepathy was possible -- research that continues to this day.

Girl connected with cables for EEG for a scientific experiment

U.S. National Research Council Says "Nope"

Various organizations and individuals have tested for proof of telepathic abilities with varying degrees of success. According to a panel formed by the United States National Research Council to study paranormal claims: "despite a 130-year record of scientific research on such matters, our committee could find no scientific justification for the existence of phenomena such as extrasensory perception, mental telepathy or 'mind over matter' exercises... Evaluation of a large body of the best available evidence simply does not support the contention that these phenomena exist."

They deduced that there is no known mechanism for telepathy, and that it falls under the umbrella of pseudoscience, and that most claims of telepathy were the result of coincidence, and nothing more.

Recent Research Says... "Maybe"

However, in Psychology Today, Srini Pillay, M.D., an Assistant Clinical Professor at Harvard Medical School, discusses new research that indicates mental telepathy is possible. There are several factors that may contribute to this ability. These include:

  • Brain to brain communication: This concept of communication is made possible through the use of neurons that serves as conduits/mirrors between two brains.
  • ESP (Extrasensory Perception): It's believed this sixth sense reaches beyond the normal five senses to obtain greater information.
  • He cites a 2014 study where telepathy was made possible for two people connected by the internet. It's believed that the frequency of the internet connection was the bridge between the two brains.
  • Other possible contributing factors include body language and social behavior.
  • Some studies undertake the challenge of learning ways to engineer telepathy.

So while he notes that the science isn't quite there yet, it's not entirely impossible.

Telepathy: Still More to Learn

Telepathy is one of those things that science hasn't quite figured out yet. Those who believe they've had a telepathic experience swear that they're real, but until there's a way to accurately study and experiment, all evidence for telepathic abilities can only be considered anecdotal.

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What Is Mental Telepathy? Definition + Research Explained