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Joseph Gaither Pratt (1910-1979) was an American psychologist who specialized in the field of parapsychology. Among his research interests were extrasensory perception, psychokinesis, mediumship, poltergeists and psi.

Much of Pratt's research was conducted while he was associated with J.B. Rhine's Parapsychology Laboratory at Duke University (1932-1964), and he also conducted research while associated with the University of Columbia (1935-1937), under Gardner Murphy, and the University of Virginia (1964-1975). Pratt was co-experimenter in the Pearce-Pratt[1] and Pratt-Woodruff[2] tests that are considered by some parapsychologists to have provided convincing and controversial evidence for psi.[3][4][5][6] He was the principal author of the publication Extrasensory Perception after Sixty Years (1940),[7] He was the principal author of an article in the journal Nature that offered a statistical summary of almost a decade of experiments with the selected participant, Pavel Stepanek.


J. G. Pratt was born on August 31, 1910, at Winston-Salem in the Piedmont section of North Carolina, the fourth among 10 children of a large farming family. From an early age, he planned to become a Methodist minister. He commenced his university studies in 1928 at Trinity College, Durham, in what was to become Duke University's School of Religion, and from which he obtained his B.A. in 1931. Pratt came to realize that "my mind was not suited to a profession in which the answers to the great questions regarding man and his relation to the universe are largely taken on faith". Accordingly, in 1932, he entered Duke's Department of Psychology, from which he graduated with a M.A. in 1933, and a Ph.D. in 1936. His doctoral thesis was concerned with the psychology of learning, as informed by his experiments on white rats.[8][9]

Pratt spent two of his early academic years (1935-1937) at Columbia University, upon the invitation of Gardner Murphy to there seek to replicate the results of forced-choice ESP experiments, as offered by J. B. Rhine at Duke University. From 1937, Pratt worked as Research Associate, and then as Assistant Director, of the Parapsychology Laboratory at Duke University, under Rhine. A brief hiatus to his research occurred from 1942 to 1946, while he served in the U.S. Navy. Pratt continued as Assistant Director of the Parapsychology Laboratory until, in 1964, Rhine reorganized the Laboratory outside of Duke University, and within his own Foundation for Research on the Nature of Man. From this point onwards, Pratt maintained a professional relationship with the University of Virginia.

Pratt was President of the Parapsychological Association in 1960. In 1970, together with Jürgen Keil, of the University of Tasmania, he was awarded the Parapsychology Laboratory's McDougall award for their research with the selected participant Pavel Stepanek. His later years were somewhat concerned by attentions to the claims of fraud against his one-time research associate, S. G. Soal.

Pratt died on November 3, 1979. His archives are stored at Duke University, and within the historical collections section of the medical library at the University of Virginia.[10]

Selected worksEdit


  • Stuart, C. E., & Pratt, J. G. (1937). A Handbook for Testing Extra-sensory Perception. New York, NY, US: Farrar and Reinhart.
  • Pratt, J. G., Rhine, J. B., Smith, B. M., Stuart, C. E., & Greenwood, J. A. (1940). Extra-Sensory Perception after Sixty Years. New York, NY, US: Henry Holt.
  • Rhine, J. B., & Pratt, J. G. (1957). Parapsychology: Frontier Science of the Mind. Springfield, IL, US Charles C. Thomas.
  • Pratt, J. G. (1964). Parapsychology: An Insider's View of ESP. London, UK: W.H. Allen.
  • Pratt, J. G. (1973). ESP Research Today: A Study of Developments in Parapsychology since 1960. Metuchen, NJ, US: Scarecrow Press.

Journal articlesEdit

  • Pratt, J. G. (1936). Towards a method of evaluating mediumistic material. Bulletin of the Boston Society for Psychic Research, 23.
  • Pratt, J. G., & Woodruff, J. L. (1939). Size of stimulus symbols in extrasensory perception. Journal of Parapsychology, 3, 121-158.
  • Pratt, J. G. (1947). Trial-by-trial grouping of success and failure in psi tests. Journal of Parapsychology, 11, 254-268.
  • Pratt, J. G. (1948). Parapsychology and general psychology. Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 42, 142-145.
  • Pratt, J. G., & Birge, W. R. (1948). Appraising verbal test material in parapsychology. Journal of Parapsychology, 12, 236-256.
  • Pratt, J. G. (1949). The meaning of performance curves in ESP and PK test data. Journal of Parapsychology, 13, 9-23.
  • Pratt, J. G., & Foster, E. B. (1950). Displacement in ESP card tests in relation to hits and misses. Journal of Parapsychology, 14, 37-52.
  • Pratt, J. G. (1951). The reinforcement effect in ESP displacement. Journal of Parapsychology, 15, 103-117.
  • Pratt, J. G. (1953). The homing problem in pigeons. Journal of Parapsychology, 17, 34-60.
  • Pratt, J. G. (1954). The variance for multiple-calling ESP data. Journal of Parapsychology, 18, 37-40.
  • Pratt, J. G., & Roll, W. G. (1958). The Seaford disturbances. Journal of Parapsychology, 22, 79-124.
  • Pratt, J. G. (1960). Methods of evaluating verbal material. Journal of Parapsychology, 24, 94-109.
  • Pratt, J. G. (1967). Further significant ESP results from Pavel Stepanek and findings bearing upon the focusing effect. Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 61, 95-119.
  • Pratt, J. G. (1967). A computer programme for ESP group tests. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 44, 71-82.
  • Pratt, J. G., Stevenson, I., Roll, W. G., Meinsma, G. L., Keil, H. H. J., & Jacobson, N. (1968). Identification of concealed randomized objects through acquired response habits of stimulus and word association. Nature, 220, 89-91.
  • Pratt, J. G., Keil, H. H. J., & Stevenson, I. (1970). Three-experimenter ESP tests of Pavel Stepanek during his 1968 visit to Charlottesville. Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 64, 18-39.
  • Roll, W. G., & Pratt, J. G. (1971). The Miami disturbances. Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 65, 409-454.
  • Pratt, J. G. (1973). A decade of research with a selected subject: An overview and reappraisal of the work with Pavel Stepanek. Proceedings of the American Society for Psychical Research, 30, 1-78.
  • Pratt, J. G., & Keil, H. H. J. (1973). Firsthand observations of Nina S. Kulagina suggestive of PK upon static objects. Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 67, 381-390.
  • Pratt, J. G. (1975). Some notes for the future Einstein for parapsychology. In J. C. Poynton (Ed.), Parapsychology in South Africa: Proceedings of a 1973 Conference (pp. 144-163). Johannesburg, SA: South African Society for Psychical Research.
  • Pratt, J. G. (1978). Prologue to a debate: Some assumptions relevant to research in parapsychology. Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 72, 127-139.

Further informationEdit

Keil, H. H. J. (1987). Gaither Pratt: A Life for Parapsychology. Jefferson, NC, US: McFarland. [Authored by Pratt's closest research associate from the 1960s-1970s, this publication includes a biographical essay on J. G. Pratt, seven articles authored by J. G. Pratt, comments from his peers, and an extensive bibliography of Pratt's published writings.]


  1. Rhine, J. B., & Pratt, J. G. (1954). A review of the Pearce-Pratt distance series of ESP tests. Journal of Parapsychology, 18, 165-177.
  2. Pratt, J. G. & Woodruff, J. L. (1938). Size of stimulus symbols in extrasensory perception. Journal of Parapsychology, 3, 121-158.
  3. Hansel, C. E. M. (1966). ESP: A Scientific Evaluation. New York, NY, US: Charles Scribner's Sons.
  4. Pratt, J. G. (1966, July 28). Was he peeking? New York Review of Books, 7.
  5. Pratt, J. G., & Woodruff, J. L. (1961). Refutation of Hansel's allegation concerning the Pratt-Woodruff experiment. Journal of Parapsychology, 25, 114-129.
  6. Rao, K. R. (1992). On the other hand: The two sides of the psi debate. Contemporary Psychology, 37, 1106-1108.
  7. Pratt, J. G., Rhine, J. B., Smith, B. M., Stuart, C. E., & Greenwood, J. A. (1940). Extra-Sensory Perception after Sixty Years. New York, NY, US: Henry Holt.
  8. Pratt, J. G. (1964). Parapsychology: An insider's view of ESP. London, UK: W. H. Allen.
  9. Pleasants, H. (Ed.) (1964). Biographical Dictionary of Parapsychology. New York, NY, US: Helix.
  10. Matlock, J. G. (1987). Archives and psychical research. Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 81, 233-255.
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