The term parapsychology was coined in or around 1889 by philosopher Max Dessoir. It was adopted by J.B. Rhine in the 1930s as a replacement for the term psychical research in order to indicate a significant shift toward experimental methodology and academic discipline. The term originates from the Greek: παρά para meaning "alongside", and psychology.
Parapsychology is a discipline that seeks to investigate the existence and causes and conditions of psychic abilities, near-death experiences, out-of-the-body experiences, crisis apparitions, retro-cognitions, reincarnation memories, regression memories, prophecy, astrology, ghosts and life after death. Parapsychological experiments have included the use of random number generators to test for evidence of precognition and psychokinesis with both human and animal (e.g. cat) subjects and Ganzfeld experiments to test for extrasensory perception.
Parapsychologists describe parapsychology as an emerging science; however the status of parapsychology as a science is disputed. While the results of parapsychologists' experiments are regarded by the Parapsychological Association as having demonstrated the existence of some forms of psychic abilities, critics argue that methodological flaws can explain the apparent experimental successes. External scientists and skeptics have criticized the discipline as being a pseudoscience because, as they see it, parapsychologists continue investigation despite not having demonstrated conclusive evidence of psychic abilities in more than a century of research, nor have the parapsychologists ever produced over one or two centuries a single theory that might explain to magician's or laymen's satisfaction what they are experimenting about
Parapsychologists study a number of ostensible paranormal phenomena, including but not limited to:
- Telepathy: Transfer of information on thoughts or feelings between individuals by means other than the five classical senses.
- Precognition: Perception of information about future places or events before they occur.
- Clairvoyance: Obtaining information about places or events at remote locations, by means unknown to current science.
- Psychokinesis: The ability of the mind to influence matter, time, space, or energy by means unknown to current science.
- Near-death experiences: An experience reported by a person who nearly died, or who experienced clinical death and then revived.
- Reincarnation: The rebirth of a soul or other non-physical aspect of human consciousness in a new physical body after death.
- Apparitional experiences: Phenomena often attributed to ghosts and encountered in places a deceased individual is thought to have frequented, or in association with the person's former belongings.