First Sight: A Psychological Theory of Psi | James Carpenter

Jim Carpenter, PhD, is a clinical psychologist and experimental parapsychologist in Chapel Hill, NC. His First Sight theory (First Sight: ESP and Parapsychology in Everyday Life: Rowman & Littlefield) is an attempt to show how psi is intimately, unconsciously integrated into everyday cognitive processes, with reference to a large body of research in both parapsychology and mainstream cognitive science.

Summary: We would like a theory of psi to tell us what psi is for in its everyday functioning, basically sketch out how it works (with guidance for how to learn more about this), and provide some roadmap for the eventual integration of knowledge about psi with established mainstream knowledge about how organisms, including human beings, function. First Sight theory, developed by Jim Carpenter, attempts to do all of these things. It is a psychological theory because almost all of our more robust findings are psychological in nature, and it is these aspects of psi that most need to be understood and further developed. From the point of view of First Sight, psi is not anomalous or rare or unpredictable. It is common, continually ongoing (but unconscious) and used with exquisite efficiency by all organisms all the time. Its expressions are always inadvertent, because the processes leading to them are ineluctably unconscious, even though we can sometimes understand that they represent psi, and some people (we call them psychic) can understand them more often than most. These expressions are bi-directional – that is, they may be truth-telling, or they may be truth-avoiding. And the expressions may be strong or weak. It is these two aspects of psi – direction and strength – that we most need to understand and predict, and First Sight has many ideas about how to predict them. Dr. Carpenter will sketch some of these ideas, illustrate how they can help understand and integrate previous findings, blend into contemporary research in cognitive science, and guide future research.


The Parapsychological Association is an international professional organization of scientists and scholars engaged in the study of psi (or ‘psychic’) experiences, such as telepathy, clairvoyance, psychokinesis, psychic healing, and precognition. The primary objective of the PA is to achieve a scientific understanding of these experiences.

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Published on July 24, 2023