Zener Cards

zener

Zener [zeh-ner] cards are cards used to conduct experiments for extra-sensory perception (ESP), most often clairvoyance. Perceptual psychologist Karl Zener designed the cards in the early 1930s for experiments conducted with his colleague, parapsychologist J. B. Rhine. Originally, tests for ESP were conducted using a standard deck of playing cards. There are just five different Zener cards: a hollow circle (one curve), a Greek cross (two lines), three vertical wavy lines (or ‘waves’), a hollow square (four lines), and a hollow five-pointed star. There are 25 cards in a pack, five of each design.

When Zener cards were first used, they were made out of a fairly thin translucent white paper. Several subjects or groups of subjects scored very highly until it was discovered that they had often been able to see the symbols through the backs of the cards. A redesign made it impossible to see the designs through the cards under any conditions. A subsequent deck featured an illustration of a building at Duke University on its reverse side, but the use of a non-symmetric reverse design allowed the deck to be exploited as a one-way deck.

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