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Afterwards, he enrolled at the University of Chicago, where he received his master's degree in botany in 1923 and a Ph. Afterwards, he enrolled in the psychology department at Harvard University, to study for a year with Professor William Mc Dougall.

In 1927, he moved to Duke University in Durham, North Carolina to work under Professor Mc Dougall.

Joseph Banks Rhine was the second child of five children born to Samuel Ellis Rhine and Elizabeth Vaughan Rhine in Waterloo, Juniata County, Pennsylvania.

Samuel Rhine had been educated in a Harrisburg business college, had taught school and later been a farmer and merchant.

Rhine, along with William Mc Dougall, introduced the term "parapsychology" (translating a German term coined by Max Dessoir).

It is sometimes said that Rhine almost single-handedly developed a methodology and concepts for parapsychology as a form of experimental psychology; however great his contributions, some earlier work along similar — analytical and statistical — lines had been undertaken sporadically in Europe, notably the experimental work of Oliver Lodge.

In 1934, drawing upon several years of meticulous lab research and statistical analysis, Rhine published the first edition of a book titled Extra-Sensory Perception, which in various editions was widely read over the next decades.Rhine began the studies that helped develop parapsychology into a branch of science; he looked at parapsychology as a branch of "abnormal psychology." Rhine lent an insight into the medium Mina Crandon's performances.Rhine was able to observe some of her trickery in the dark when she used luminous objects.After the war, he had occasion to study some dramatic cases outside the lab. Rhine, pursued work that complemented her husband's in the later 1940s, gathering information on spontaneous ESP reports (experiences people had, outside of a laboratory setting).Yet Rhine believed that a good groundwork should be laid in the lab, so that the scientific community might take parapsychology seriously.

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His first exceptional subject in this ESP research was Adam Linzmayer, an economics undergraduate at Duke.