The sixth sense DEBUNKED: Psychic powers don't exist and are just a trick of the brain, claims study

Daily Mail, UK/January 15, 2014

Throughout the ages mystics have claimed to have a 'sixth sense' - that they can predict whether or not something good or or bad is about to happen, or that they have links to another, paranormal world.

But, according to recent research, being able to see into the future or sense strange happenings is merely a trick of the mind that has been misinterpreted for millenia.

While experts did find that people reliably 'sensed' when changes occurred in a scene - even when they couldn’t tell exactly what had altered - they said that the idea that it was down to a special power was fundamentally wrong.

They said the ability to notice subtle changes was not down to extra sensory perception (ESP) - the supposed ability to unconsciously detect things beyond our five senses of vision, hearing, taste, smell and touch.

Instead it was because people's brains had not been given the time to process the information that they had seen, giving a vague sense of change they could not fully explain.

In the study, participants were given pairs of colour photographs, both of the same woman.

In some cases her appearance, for example her hairstyle, would be different in the two photographs.

Each photo was shown for 1.5 seconds with a one second break between each.

After the second picture, the observer was asked whether a change had occurred and was asked to choose it from a list of nine possible changes ranging from earrings, necklace, glasses, hat, lipstick, eye shadow, eyeliner, clothing, and hair worn.

Results showed participants could generally detect when a change had occurred even when they could not identify exactly what had changed.

It was discovered that people could still 'feel' or 'sense' that a change had occurred without being able to accurately describe it.

Researchers believe this proves that people were not using an extrasensory mechanism or sixth sense.

Instead they were relying on something they had actually observed but not had time to process.

When the same test was carried out using another 'spot the difference' test that did not contain faces, the results were still the same.

Dr Howe from the Melbourne School of Psychological Sciences said: 'There is a common belief that observers can experience changes directly with their mind, without needing to rely on the traditional physical senses such as vision, hearing, taste, smell and touch to identify it.

'This alleged ability is sometimes referred to as a sixth sense or ESP (extra sensory perception).
'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 this study we have provided direct behavioural evidence that observers can regularly detect when a change has occurred without necessarily being able to identify what has changed.

'We found that this ability to detect unidentified changes is not unique to images containing faces.

'It is possible that the purpose of detection is to alert the observer to the possible presence of a change so that the observer then knows to search for the change using focal attention.'

The study was published in PLOS ONE.

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