Psychic Kids

The self-proclaimed psychic medium Chip Coffey is coming to Saskatoon; I call him self-proclaimed because he does not offer any real evidence of his abilities. Coffey is one of the stars of Paranormal State, a truly awful reality show on A&E following a gullible ghost hunter who manages, despite the camera crews, to find no credible evidence. Paranormal State is just stupid; however, Coffey’s other show, Psychic Kids: Children of the Paranormal, is more disturbing.

In Psychic Kids, Coffey and a psychologist Dr. Lisa Miller come to the aid of “psychic” children who are experiencing difficulties. Dr. Miller’s theory is that skeptical parents are misunderstanding their child’s “powers”. The fact that rubbish like this gets on television is the surest sign that skepticism is in short supply. Another fact that blows Miller’s hypothesis out of the water is that the children cannot sign the release form to appear on television; their parents must sign it, and if they sign the form they obviously have no problem with their child appearing in Psychic Kids. Clearly not the most skeptical of parents. Dr. Miller is worried that her colleagues are misdiagnosing psychic children as fantasy-prone or mentally ill. If Miller is truly concerned about this, then she should stop wasting her time with A&E and design a robust, replicatable test for identifying a psychic child. If she can do this then James Randi has a million dollars for her.

There is no credible evidence for any psychic powers. The cold reading tricks seen on television can be done by any competent mentalist. Could children learn how to cold read? Of course they can. Could children pretend to see ghosts or move objects around and blame spirits? Of course they can. Just because they are children does not mean that deception is beyond their keen. Now if the child actually does believe in her powers, then what could we say about the adults who indulge her fantasy? What is the long term damage done to a child made to believe she has psychic powers, when there is no evidence? We don’t know. What A&E, Dr. Miller, and Chris Coffey are doing to these kids is shameful: it is the exploitation of the innocent. They are the adults and they should know better. Patrons of Chip Coffey’s “Coffey Talk” can apparently ask questions; the question I want to ask it “How can you sleep at night?”

Further Reading

Child’s Play: Pretending to be Psychic

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