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Sheep-Goat Hypothesis

Sheep-Goat Hypothesis

A concept in parapsychology relating to the effect of belief and attitude to success in ESP scoring. The term derives from the pioneer researches of parapsychologist Gertrude R. Schmeidler in 1958. She conducted experiments in which her subjects were divided into two groups"sheep" and "goats." The sheep had belief in the possibility of psi, while the goats rejected the possibility.

It was observed that, in individual and group tests, the sheep scored higher in ESP trials than the goats, suggesting that belief strongly influenced successful ESP. The differences in scoring were relatively small, although statistically significant. Many later experiments have been conducted by other parapsychologists to test the hypothesis, and the term "sheep-goat" has now become commonplace in parapsychological discussions.


McConnell, R. A., and Gertrude Schmeidler. ESP and Personality Patterns. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1958.

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