Some proponents of Psychokinesis (often abbreviated as PK) cite one of the earliest examples of the phenomena in the Christian Bible, Acts 16:19-40 wherein, through the power of prayer, St. Paul and Silas cast off their shackles and the doors of the prison in Ephesus swung open to release them4.
However, the incident doesn't fit modern criteria for Psychokinesis and perhaps is described more aptly as a biblical miracle. The generally accepted criterion for Psychokinesis is mental focus or concentration applied to an object that generates movement or distortion in an object without physical contact. Nevertheless, descriptions of Psychokinesis are found throughout history3 and often vary from incidence to incidence.
Originally, the power of "mind over matter" was dubbed telekinesis (tele- from the Greek, at a distance2) by German-Russian psychical researcher Alexander Asakof, sometime in the 1890s. The word was coined in reference to objects allegedly moved by the deceased, poltergeists, or other supernatural beings5. In his 1914 book On the Cosmic Relations, Henry Holt changed the term to Psychokinesis.
Noted parapsychology researcher, J.B. Rhine, adopted the new term in his first experiments on the phenomenon in 1934. Because the term telekinesis became linked with fraudulent activities such as séances (e.g. table levitation), paranormal researchers came to prefer "Psychokinesis" as a term that differentiated legitimate PK study from fraudulent object manipulations.
Of all paranormal phenomena, ESP and Psychokinesis are the most often studied5. J.B. Rhine's 1935 experiments to test whether an individual could manipulate a roll of the dice using the power of the mind was the first of PK experiments. Subjects concentrated on a number from one to six and Rhine tested whether the "hit rate" was significantly better than chance.
In 1984, Dean Radin of Princeton University also conducted a similar experiment. Although tests showed a slight lean towards the authenticity of Psychokinesis, the tests received criticism that ranged from the composition of the dice to charges of publication bias; i.e., studies that report positive results are more likely to be published than those that do not3.
In a 2004 U.S. Air Force sponsored report, Teleportation Physics Study, Dr. Eric David described the difference between Psychokinesis and telekinesis as "telekinesis is a form of PK." The term telekinesis refers only to movement at a distance5 while Psychokinesis encompasses a broad range of paranormal events including movement at a distance or distorting an object using the power of the mind.
Uri Geller is perhaps the most famous individual that claims to have psychokinetic powers. He became an International celebrity by purportedly bending spoons with the power of his mind. However, during his career, he never successfully tested his talent in a controlled environment and on several occasions, he was shown to be a fraud7.
2. Douglas Harper. “psycho + kinesis.” Online Etymology Dictionary Nov 2001. 24 Aug 2008 <http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?search=psycho&searchmode=none>.
3. Robert Matthews. “Psychokinesis may well exist - but don't bet the house on it .” The Sunday Telegraph London 1 May 2005. 24 Aug 2008 <http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1P2-8931654.html>.
4. Alan G. Hefner. “Psychokinesis (PK).” 2008. 24 Aug 2008 <http://www.themystica.com/mystica/articles/p/psychokinesis_pk.html>.
5. “Psychokinesis.” The Columbia Encyclopedia. Columbia University Press, 2008. 24 Aug 2008 <http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1E1-psychokines.html>.
6. “Psychokinesis.” Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. 2008. 24 Aug 2008 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychokinesis>.
7. “Parapsychology.” Encyclopedia of Psychology. Gale Cengage, 2001. 24 Aug 2008 <http://www.enotes.com/gale-psychology-encyclopedia/parapsychology>.