New research suggests humans have the ability to “predict the unpredictable,” or sense future events. An analysis by Julia Mossbridge with Northwestern University; Patrizio Tressoldi with the Universita di Padova, Italy, and others, conducted a meta-analysis of experiments from seven different laboratories published since 1978; all of which studied how the human body could apparently detect randomly occurring stimuli up to 10 seconds in the future.
The key observation was that the physiology of humans could distinguish between dichotomous future stimuli, unpredictable or random. The phenomenon regarded by Mossbridge et al. is considered presentiment (feeling the future). In a paper published in 2014 they call this phenomenon predictive anticipatory activity (PAA).
Changes in cardiopulmonary, skin, and nervous systems were identified. PAA is specifically designated to refer to unconscious phenomena that allegedly could be “time-reversed reflection” of a usual physiological response.
Their study controlled for influencers that would hint at the upcoming event; the physiological data that was recorded included skin conductance, heart rate measure, respiration rates, EEG activity, and more. Over 40 experiments investigating PAA have been published within the past 36 years, including Bradley, Gillin, McCraty, & Atkinson, 2011, and other studies on “intuition.”
Mossbridge’s 2012 meta-analysis tested the hypothesis that pre- and post-event physiological differences were in the same direction (negative or positive) as the emotional/physiological response of the stimuli. The analysis found a small, but highly significant Effect Size in support of the hypothesis; the higher the quality of the study produced a larger overall Effect Size, and greater level of significance; a finding the researchers believe proves the stronger the physiological response is right before the event, so too follows (in the same direction) a physiological response of congruency.
Mossbridge alleges a meta-analysis is only as good as the data it examines. “Questionable research practices” and “physiological artifacts” have the potential to produce results that mimic PAA. However, the researchers allege the study results could be explained by neither questionable practices (bias) nor artifacts.
A metaphor used to describe this phenomenon is discussed in detail in the meta-analysis post-review. If one can envision a river flowing with an upbeat current, and a thick stick is placed inside the current, the flow (analogous to time) is not only interrupted beyond the stick downstream, but there is a ripple in the current just before the stick, as if the flow is demonstrating PPA, or an anticipatory response. This augmentation in the current is what is described as the water flow, or a human ability to sense the future.
Roger Nelson, director of Princeton’s Global Consciousness Project, believes our consciousness, inside humans’ skulls, extend out into the world and intermix with others. “We are like neurons, in a giant brain, that we know nothing about.” In 2001, Nelson published a report on the Coherent Consciousness and Reduced Randomness: Correlations on September 11 in a scientific journal. The paper reported that the attack witnessed on 9/11 had an emotional effect so powerful that computer networks were disrupted. With a Chi-square test, and other studies rendered, Nelson discovered a fluctuating deviation throughout the study period–10 minutes after American Airlines Flight 11 crashed, and four hours afterward.
In an attempt to validate their results, the researchers compared their findings to a pseudo-data they created for September 11. They did not find strong deviation from the expectation. Another finding they allegedly discovered was an increase of a specific measure four to five hours prior to the first plane crashing. Nelson claims, for this reason, people show not only a collective consciousness, but to a degree, some form of precognition.
Jeffrey D. Scargle, NASA scientist at Ames Research Center in California, disagrees with Nelson and Princeton scientists. He does not believe any “anomalous effects had been unequivocally established.” Scargle lists and describes statistical flaws in the research paper, but other scientists intrigued with the “collective conscious,” or PAA subject matter, are still interested in following in Nelson, Mossbridge, and other researcher’s drift. People still question to how much a degree the future can be sensed in humans, if at all, but there is enough scientific observation to warrant further study.
By Lindsey Alexander