What is Psychometry?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Psychometry, literally translated from the Greek as “measure of the soul,” is a form of psychic ability that allows people to “read” objects they hold. The term should not be confused with psychometrics, different types of tests that might measure IQ, emotional capacities, or assess learning capabilities. In fact, since the terms are so close, some mediums may use the term token-object reading instead of psychometry.

Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

In the 1979 Stephen King novel The Dead Zone a man who has been in a coma for several years wakes up with the gift of psychometry. By holding objects he can get sense of who used them, and is able to solve a series of brutal killings through psychometry. The idea King uses is a fascinating one, which had captivated people long before King’s novel.

The first use of the term psychometry was by Joseph Rhodes Buchanan, who described this psychic process in 1842. His idea was that objects contain impressions that can be “read” by some people with a high degree of psychic ability. Since then, though it’s extremely hard to verify that someone actually has psychometry, a few times, police investigators have turned to psychics with pieces of evidence and asked them to try to identify location or identity of criminals.

This is the case with Allison Dubois, who has claimed she has worked in several criminal investigatory matters. Her experiences are the base story for the TV show Medium. The departments for which she claims to have worked have not supported her claims, and she has been subject to criticism. Many believe that the whole field of psychic phenomenon is non-existent. Yet there are some alleged incidences where people with the ability to use psychometry have helped solve crimes.

Opponents of psychometry suggest that what mediums are really good at is reading the expectations of people around them and performing on the spot. Mediums who claim to have gifts in psychometry assert they weren’t exactly thrilled to have psychic gifts, and that “seeing dead people” or using psychometry to read objects exposes them to horrific images and thoughts that most people would give anything to be without.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments


I don't believe in any of this psychometric theory. I really hate all the unknown mystery of it all. Is it good? Is it evil? It frightens me and the reason it does is because I tried it out for myself, persuaded by a friend.

I was holding a piece of jewelry and basically writing a list of everything that came into my head. Imagine your car: you have a picture of it in your head? When I tried this psychometry 'experiment' the visions I had were like those from when you imagine a picture of something.

I felt very silly writing all my thoughts down on a list, and even wrote how I was feeling, which apart from feeling silly, I felt a bit poorly. I had had enough of this rubbish 'game' and handed over my list and the outcome was not what I expected. Everything I had written, honestly, everything, had significance to this person. I was and still am completely gobsmacked by their response.

Did I just use another sense a sixth sense?! Not trying it again because I'm so uneasy about it all. I've never ever believed in fortune tellers or anything like that, so I'm not sure what to make of it all now!


On the one hand, you say that opponents think psychics have completely made up the idea of psychometry by cueing in on the expectations of their clients. Yet on the other hand, you say that most mediums are upset that they have this gift. These are two very big extremes.

First of all, many mediums address issues about which they couldn't possible have any information. In many cases, mediums request that they are not told anything about the object or the person to whom it belonged.

Secondly, many mediums are very happy to have their gifts. They see it as an opportunity to help others. There are also many mediums who use their gift to provide income or supplemental income.

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