That Extra Sensory Perception (ESP) feeling, that knowing which can only be explained by a so-called sixth sense, may not be so strange after all.
Australian scientists, senior lecturer Piers Howe and researcher Margaret Webb at the Melbourne School of Psychological Sciences, have an explanation.
Their scientific study is the first to show that people can reliably sense changes that they cannot visually identify.
The research led by the University of Melbourne, published today in the journal PLOS ONE, found that people can reliably sense when a change had occurs even when they can’t see exactly what has changed.
For example, a person might notice a general change in someone’s appearance but not be able to identify that the person had a haircut.
Lead researcher Piers Howe said there is a common belief that people can experience changes directly with their mind, without needing to rely on the traditional physical senses such as vision, hearing, taste, smell and touch.
“This alleged ability is sometimes referred to as a sixth sense or ESP,” Dr Howe says.
“We were able to show that while observers could reliably sense changes that they could not visually identify, this ability was not due to extrasensory perception or a sixth sense.”
In the study, observers were presented with pairs of colour photographs both of the same female.
In some cases, her appearance would be different in the two photographs. For example, the individual might have a different hairstyle or gain a pair of glasses.
Each photograph was presented for 1.5 seconds with a 1 second break between them. After the last photograph, the observer was asked whether a change had occurred and, if so, identify the change from a list of nine possible changes.
Results showed people can generally detect a change even when they could not identify exactly what had changed.
For example, they might notice that the two photographs had different amounts of red or green but not be able to use this information to determine that the person had changed the colour of their hat.
This resulted in the observer “feeling” or “sensing” a change without being able to visually identify the change.
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