Following on from our earlier article “Is free will an illusion ?” we look here at a new study that claims that “Our Bodies Can Predict The Future!” – or at least people’s bodies know a big event is coming just before it happens.
If true, the research, published in October 2012 in the journal Frontiers of Perception, suggests something fundamental about the laws of nature has yet to be discovered.
The claim is that events can be predicted without any cues. The evidence suggests the effect is real but small. So the question is: How does it work?
Of course with such a sensational claim there are other scientists who are skeptical of this interpretation. They suggest some bias in which studies get published could play a role in seeing an effect where there is none. We look at both here.
A Real effect?
Many studies have shown that physical responses including heart rate, pupil dilation and brain activity change between one and 10 seconds before people see a scary image (like a slithering snake). In most of these experiments, frightening pictures were randomly interspersed with more-neutral ones, so that in theory participants didn’t have any clues about which photo would pop up next. But because the finding seemed so unnatural, those studies were understandably met with skepticism.
To see whether the effect was real, researchers analyzed over two dozen of these studies. As part of the analysis, they threw out any experiments in which they saw bias or flaws.
They still found a “presentiment” effect, in which measures of physiological excitement changed seconds before an event. The finding suggests that people’s bodies subconsciously sense the future when something important is about to happen, even if the people don’t know it.
For instance, if you were a day-trader betting lots of money on one stock, then 10 seconds beforehand you might predict your stock tanking.
The research doesn’t claim that people are psychic or have supernatural or paranormal powers. Instead, the authors believe presentiment is a real, physical effect that obeys natural laws — just ones that nobody understands
But others doubt presentiment exists at all.
While the statistical methods used in the study are sound, that doesn’t mean presentiment is real. All it means is that there is a statistical trend for scientists who search for these so-called presentiment effects to actually find them.
Instead, it’s possible that the experiments are biased, perhaps unintentionally, in a way the study authors missed. It’s also possible that scores of researchers looked for this result, failed to find it and forgot all about it.
So – still inconclusive but it is intriguing and tantalizing to consider that presentiment may well be real.