James M. O. Wheatley
The word guess is commonly used in the literature of parapsychology, where its meaning and reference usually seem to be taken for granted. This is (I guess) fair enough much of the time, but on occasion -- perhaps when reading the account of a telepathy experiment -- one wishes for a clearer and more definite indication of the word's work than what is given. Curiosity is whetted by the preference of some authors, when they are discussing ESP, to clothe guess in quotation marks. For example, R. Heywood reports in a recent article that:
. . . a partial solution to the problem of repeatable ESP was worked out by Professor J. B. Rhine. . . . one person . . . would look through a pack of cards at a given time and speed while at the same time and speed another person in a different place would "guess" its order. . . . even if every "guess" were not correct, the number of hits in proportion to the number to be expected by chance alone could be assessed statistically. 1
Do the guess-enclosing quotes in such a passage express hesitancy or a more positive qualification? Are "guesses" different from guesses in important respects? While no attempt will be made here to answer these questions fully, I shall suggest a partial answer in the course of discussion. But mainly I shall be offering some thoughts on the logic of the concept as
Reprinted from the Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, volume 64 ( 1970), pp. 286-295, by permission of the author and editor.