Research study hints we can sense future events. Don’t get too excited…

It’s one study and the causes are not determined. While pro-paranormal sites may latch on to this, I stress caution.

Can your body sense future events without any external clue?.

Presentiment without any external clues may, in fact, exist, according to new Northwestern University research that analyzes the results of 26 studies published between 1978 and 2010.

Researchers already know that our subconscious minds sometimes know more than our conscious minds.

“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

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.

The paper: Predictive physiological anticipation preceding seemingly unpredictable stimuli: a meta-analysis

The results reveal a significant overall effect with a small effect size[…]. Higher quality experiments produced a quantitatively larger effect size and a greater level of significance than lower quality studies.

We conclude that to further examine this currently unexplained anticipatory activity, multiple replications arising from different laboratories using the same methods are necessary. The cause of this anticipatory activity, which undoubtedly lies within the realm of natural physical processes (as opposed to supernatural or paranormal ones), remains to be determined.

It’s an interesting study so if anyone wants to have at it and tell us what they find, dig in, the paper is free at the above link.

It may sound encouraging, I hate to be the party pooper. We have a long way to go before declaring that humans have enhanced senses (or a sixth sense). If a study is to suggest something so revolutionary, it deserves to be strongly examined.

Tip: Al Crooke

  8 comments for “Research study hints we can sense future events. Don’t get too excited…

  1. Am_Sci
    October 23, 2012 at 11:43 PM

    So-called “high quality” psi studies have so often proved to be shoddy. They have a lot of work to do to earn my trust. I have seen some such studies performed and they have problems like vague definitions of what constitutes a positive outcome and not being double blind. They also seem highly susceptible to measurement errors.

    I think those without a proper understanding of cognitive bias will be very receptive to these results. It can often seem that we have the ability to predict dangerous outcomes before they occur. However, a far more likely explanation is that we forget all those times we had a “bad feeling” and everything turned out just fine.

  2. John Davis
    October 24, 2012 at 10:07 AM

    So humans don’t have ESP – they have AAA (anomalous anticipatory activity)?

    If a re branding of a phenomenon as old as time is what it takes to get scientist’s and skeptic’s willing to listen without putting up mental walls – than AAA it is!

  3. October 24, 2012 at 10:15 AM

    Not at ALL the same. AAA has not been proven either. Like I said, it’s not too exciting.

  4. October 24, 2012 at 12:17 PM

    I read through this but in order to take it seriously I’d need to see detailed descriptions of the tests they’re surveying. As the authors of this article point out, this kind of research is very susceptible to sensory cueing. Even a team with no conscious fraudulent intent in their hearts can unintentionally influence the outcome of such experiments through subtle faults in their method or minute body language cues to participants. From the paper: “A more reasonable explanation for the predictive anticipatory effect could be sensory cueing. Sensory cueing occurs when an experimenter allows information about a future stimulus to be obtained by the participant.”

    In my line of study, this biasing effect has been one of the great troubles with police line-ups. Even a seemingly simple, “objective” task like picking out a suspect from a line-up of subjects or photos can be heavily influenced by presentation method and unconscious cues of police, attorneys, advocates, etc..

  5. John Davis
    October 24, 2012 at 2:50 PM

    I’m guessing AAA is the most basic form of ESP… time will tell

    Dean Radin’s presentiment experiment isolates the subject so there is no body language or other queue’s that can be picked up by the subject. His results – which are easy to replicate – show that the subject’s body (autonomic nervous system) reacts to stimulus coming from the future.

    I believe Dean’s experiment would eliminate the bias problem you mention.

  6. John Davis
    October 24, 2012 at 2:50 PM

    Dean Radin explaining his presentiment experiment:

  7. Demon
    October 24, 2012 at 7:38 PM

    The biggest red flag is the fact that they seem to be purposefully steering clear of the recent Bem 2011 debacle and subsequent replication failures by Ritchie, Wiseman, and French: Also of concern is they excluded “multiple related studies published in 2011 and 2012, all of which claim to show effects similar to those investigated by the studies we included in the meta-analysis” (from footnote 2) because “we did not perform an exhaustive search for studies published after 2010” This sounds pretty lazy at best and intentionally deceitful at worst. Why would any honest researcher want to exclude the most recent studies that could have been analyzed in your study?

  8. Al
    October 27, 2012 at 12:10 AM

    The most credible line in the report is “[Mossbridge] and other researchers are not sure whether people are really sensing the future.” Not sure indeed! This wasn’t exactly a “study” since they did no experiments themselves but analyzed other study results. Carl Sagan (and many others) hit the nail on the head: extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. This is no earth-shaker.

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