Despite beliefs to the contrary, there has been no scientific evidence for extrasensory perception (ESP). In other words, humans can’t actually read others’ minds, send messages across time and space (without using communication technology), nor predict the future. But that doesn’t mean that we don’t have amazing capacity to subtly communicate with one another via nonverbal cues.
In fact, it is the ability to read subtle cues of body language in others that is used by con artists (and Las Vegas performers) to make people think that they have extrasensory powers. A great example is what is called “cold reading.” In cold reading, the fake psychic carefully reads nonverbal cues available in age, appearance, clothing, hairstyle, etc., to get some indication of the person’s background. A series of general statements or questions are then made (“I see someone who is experiencing a great deal of pain because of a sick family member” “Is there a person named John who has just made a major life transition?”) and the cold reader looks for subtle nonverbal reactions. By drilling down with additional questions and reading the body language reactions, the fake psychic can unearth a great deal of information that supposedly only the target person would know. Once you’ve seen one of these cold readers in action, you will recognize the pattern of statements and questions and requests for confirmation of information.