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Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Humans Can Sense Future Events Without Any Known Clues

Humans Can Sense Future Events Without Any Known Clues

Wouldn't it be nice to predict future events, even if they are just ten seconds ahead? According to researchers at Northwestern University, we can do just that.


Researchers already know that our subconscious minds sometimes know more than our conscious minds. Physiological measures of subconscious arousal, for instance, tend to show up before conscious awareness that a deck of cards is stacked against us.

Parapsychologists have made outlandish claims about precognition -- knowledge of unpredictable future events -- for years. But the fringe phenomenon recently got a mainstream airing after a paper providing evidence for its existence was accepted for publication by the leading social psychology journal.

What's more, sceptical psychologists who have pored over a preprint of the paper say they can't find any significant flaws. "My personal view is that this is ridiculous and can't be true," says Joachim Krueger of Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, who has blogged about the work on the Psychology Today website. "Going after the methodology and the experimental design is the first line of attack. But frankly, I didn't see anything. Everything seemed to be in good order."

"What hasn't been clear is whether humans have the ability to predict future important events even without any clues as to what might happen," said Julia Mossbridge, lead author of the study and research associate in the Visual Perception, Cognition and Neuroscience Laboratory at Northwestern.

A person playing a video game at work while wearing headphones, for example, can't hear when his or her boss is coming around the corner.

"But our analysis suggests that if you were tuned into your body, you might be able to detect these anticipatory changes between two and 10 seconds beforehand and close your video game," Mossbridge said. "You might even have a chance to open that spreadsheet you were supposed to be working on. And if you were lucky, you could do all this before your boss entered the room."

Predicting the near future is vital in guiding behavior and is a key component of theories of perception, language processing and learning, says Jeffrey M. Zacks, PhD, WUSTL associate professor of psychology in Arts & Sciences.

"It's valuable to be able to run away when the lion lunges at you, but it's super-valuable to be able to hop out of the way before the lion jumps," Zacks says. "It's a big adaptive advantage to look just a little bit over the horizon."

Zacks and his colleagues are building a theory of how predictive perception works. At the core of the theory is the belief that a good part of predicting the future is the maintenance of a mental model of what is happening now. Now and then, this model needs updating, especially when the environment changes unpredictably.

"When we watch everyday activity unfold around us, we make predictions about what will happen a few seconds out," Zacks says. "Most of the time, our predictions are right.

"Successfull predictions are associated with the subjective experience of a smooth stream of consciousness. But a few times a minute, our predictions come out wrong and then we perceive a break in the stream of consciousness, accompanied by an uptick in activity of primitive parts of the brain involved that regulate attention and adaptation to unpredicted changes."

This phenomenon is sometimes called "presentiment," as in "sensing the future," but Mossbridge said she and other researchers are not sure whether people are really sensing the future.

"I like to call the phenomenon ‘anomalous anticipatory activity,'" she said. "The phenomenon is anomalous, some scientists argue, because we can't explain it using present-day understanding about how biology works; though explanations related to recent quantum biological findings could potentially make sense. It's anticipatory because it seems to predict future physiological changes in response to an important event without any known clues, and it's an activity because it consists of changes in the cardiopulmonary, skin and nervous systems."

In previous studies, researchers have suggested that early childhood education should focus on building behavioral, social and emotional skills just as much as building academic skills. Freed from distraction, your intuition will step in and guide you effortlessly through life.

It is this cumulative knowledge, which our feelings summarize for us, that allows us make better predictions. In a sense, our feelings give us access to a privileged window of knowledge and information, "a window that a more analytical form of reasoning blocks us from."

April McCarthy is a community journalist playing an active role reporting and analyzing world events to advance our health and eco-friendly initiatives.

Those Who Trust Their Intuition and Emotions Can More Accurately Predict The Future

A higher trust in your intuition and emotions may result in more accurate predictions about a variety of future events


 "All great men are gifted with intuition. They know without reasoning or analysis, what they need to know." 
-- Alexis Carrel

Researchers conducted a series of eight studies in which their participants were asked to predict various future outcomes, including presidential nominees, the box-office success of different movies, the winner of American Idol, movements of the Dow Jones Index, the winner of a college football championship game, and even the weather.

Despite the range of events and prediction horizons (in terms of when the future outcome would be determined), the results across all studies consistently revealed that people with higher trust in their feelings were more likely to correctly predict the final outcome than those with lower trust in their feelings. The researchers call this phenomenon the emotional oracle effect.

In previous studies, researchers have suggested that early childhood education should focus on building behavioral, social and emotional skills just as much as building academic skills. Freed from distraction, your intuition will step in and guide you effortlessly through life.

Across studies, the researchers used two different methods to manipulate or measure how much individuals relied on their feelings to make their predictions. In some studies, the researchers used an increasingly standard trust-in-feelings manipulatio. In other studies, the researchers simply measured how much participants typically relied on their feelings in general when making predictions.

Due to the nature of our emotions and how they emerge from our unconscious mind, from our internal supercomputer, they tend to reflect more information than our rational mind. Buying a car or getting married are just the kind of decisions that seem to benefit the most from a more emotional, intuitive thought process.

Regardless of the method used, participants who trusted their feelings in general or were induced to trust their feelings experimentally were more accurate in their predictions compared to participants with lower trust in their in their feelings and participants in a control group.

Those who trusted their feelings were 25 percent more accurate than those who trusted their feelings less.

The researchers explain their findings through a "privileged window" hypothesis. Professor Michel Pham elaborates on the hypothesis. "When we rely on our feelings, what feels 'right' or 'wrong' summarizes all the knowledge and information that we have acquired consciously and unconsciously about the world around us.

It is this cumulative knowledge, which our feelings summarize for us, that allows us make better predictions. In a sense, our feelings give us access to a privileged window of knowledge and information -  a window that a more analytical form of reasoning blocks us from."

In accordance with the privileged window hypothesis, the researchers caution that some amount of relevant knowledge appears to be required to more accurately forecast the future. For example, in one study participants were asked to predict the weather. While participants who trusted their feelings were again better able to predict the weather, they were only able to do so for the weather in their own zip codes, not for the weather in Beijing or Melbourne. Professor Leonard Lee explains this is because "...they don't possess a knowledge base that would help them to make those predictions." As another example, only participants who had some background knowledge about the current football season benefited from trust in feelings in predicting the winner of the national college football BCS game.

Thus, if we have a proper knowledge base, the future need not be totally indecipherable if we simply learn to trust our feelings.


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