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The Goop Lab thinks we're all psychics -- here's why that's false

Are you a psychic? No, at least not according to any scientific study ever.

Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/Netflix

Have you ever wondered if psychics can really talk to the dead? If it were true, it would change our existence as we know it -- the afterlife would be confirmed as real, you could finally get closure with a departed loved one and we may even confirm that we do have souls.

In episode 6 of The Goop Lab, Gwyneth Paltrow's new Netflix show about controversial treatments including jumping into a freezing lake and taking psychedelics, Paltrow brings in a few experts to get to the bottom of this conundrum. Though anecdotal evidence suggests that medium readings (where someone communicates with the departed) are valid, there's never been accepted scientific research to back up the claims. Nevertheless, the episode is tear-jerking from start to finish, but I was still left missing the actual reasoning behind psychic readings long after the show was done. 

The Goop Lab episode 6: Are You Intuit?


The Goop team tests out their own psychic abilities.

Adam Rose/Netflix

In the episode, Gwyneth Paltrow brought in renowned medium Laura Lynn Jackson and Julie Beischel, Ph.D, a researcher dedicated to proving the science behind talking to the departed. Jackson performed several medium readings on members of Goop's staff, recounting accurate details about their loved ones who had passed away. Almost everyone she read broke into tears during the experience.

The emotional clips were interspersed throughout a conversation between Paltrow, Jackson and Beischel about how medium readings work. Jackson's process involves "clearing her mind" so that she can become a "vessel that information can come through." The consciousness of the departed appears to her as a "point of light," then she communicates with them from there.

Later, Jackson performs group exercises with Paltrow's staff to teach them how to access their own psychic energy. By the end, almost everyone is convinced that medium readings are real.

What's the difference between mediums and psychics?


Laura Lynn Jackson performs an emotional psychic reading on a Goop team member.

Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/Netflix

Essentially, psychics read energy -- the energy that is supposedly present in every object and living thing. Mediums take it one step further and are able to connect with the consciousness of someone who has passed on to the "other side." Jackson reassuringly states that we are all psychics, and have the ability to get in touch with our own energy and that of others. If you take enough time to hone the skill, you may one day reach mediumship.

Mediums perform the same services you've likely seen on TV -- they sit with someone (the sitter) and conjure up images of the sitter's departed loved ones, delivering messages from the afterlife. Beischel said that there's anecdotal evidence that medium readings help with grief, and the people on the show who had received readings agreed. Though the science behind the validity of the practice is practically nonexistent, surveys have shown that many people find a much-needed sense of closure through medium readings.

What does the science say?

Unsurprisingly, not much.

Julie Beischel runs the Windbridge Research Center, which is dedicated to "rigorous scientific testing" on death, dying and what comes next. Many of their published studies are inconclusive, or are simply surveys attempting to identify common demographic traits in self-described mediums.

There are some interesting studies about an "altered brain state" observed in mediums while they're doing a reading, but the different electrical brain activity could also simply be a result of eye or muscular activity

A common explanation for accurate medium readings are the concepts of hot and cold readings. Hot readings are when the medium knows information about the sitter ahead of time. In cold readings, the medium uses nonverbal communication to guide their reading. Are You Intuit noted that critics use these terms to debunk the medium practice. 

Are we all really intuit?

Yes and no.

Medium readings cost anywhere from $25 to over $1,000 per hour, depending on the reported quality and fame of the psychic. If you're struggling with grief and believe it would be beneficial to find some sort of closure, I personally believe that there's no harm in finding a medium on the cheaper side to test it out. However, if you sense that the medium is using exploitative tactics, or if it's not helpful in your healing process, don't continue. There's a long history of psychic mediums making money off of other people's sadness.

On the other hand, getting in touch with your own energy can be a useful practice to incorporate into everyday life. As Jackson aptly put it, "we are all psychics." Sitting down in a quiet place for a few moments to assess what feelings, emotions and sensations arise can be a meditative practice -- and you don't have to believe in all of the hoopla surrounding psychic energy to experience the calming effects.

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.