Almost every one of us has ever experienced this strange feeling that something is not quite right. That something has changed around, but you find it impossible to understand what exactly it is. All attempts to find a sensible explanation and rationalize your experience just fail.
The “sixth sense” is one of the favorite themes in literature and cinema: countless movies are filmed and numerous books are written about it…
A team of psychologists at the University of Melbourne decided to set up an experiment to find out whether it is possible to find a rational explanation of the sixth sense and what really lies behind this intriguing phenomenon.
The participants were shown two pictures of the same person. Each image remained on the screen for 1.5 seconds, while there was a one-second pause after showing each photo.
The participants were asked whether they noticed any change in the pictures. If the subject answered positively, he or she was asked to choose the type of change from a long list. Then the experiment was repeated with other photos – in total, 140 times.
The psychologists were particularly interested in the cases where the subject noticed the change but could not identify it, i.e. he or she only “felt” that something was wrong.
Sometimes, the scientists just showed the same picture without any changes. If a participant noticed changes, although there were none, the results had to be corrected.
The researchers found that if the general background of a photo did not change, the participants could accurately mark the changes in the appearance of a person in the photo.
But when there was a visual change in the general background, the subjects experienced difficulties in making sense of their feelings. They felt that “something was wrong”, but they could not make out what exactly had changed: whether it was a hairstyle, a lipstick color, or the clothes of people in the photos.
So what is a rational explanation of the sixth sense, according to this study?
As a result of the experiment, the psychologists concluded that the so-called “sixth sense” has a rational explanation. Depending on the circumstances, such as, for example, different lighting in the room, people unconsciously note changes in the appearance of others.
However, the inability to efficiently identify changes due to an excess of visual or acoustic information creates a strange contradictory feeling, which is usually called a “sixth sense”.
What do you think? To me, the methods and the results of this experiment seem overly simplistic. Phenomena such as the sixth sense, intuition, and gut instinct are way more complex than just noticing changes in someone’s appearance. More often than not, these vague feelings don’t involve visual perception at all.
When you experience anything of the kind, you just know, feel, and sense things. You don’t actually notice or see them. And of course, this feeling is not limited to visual stimuli. You can have a gut instinct about anything, sometimes, even the most profound aspects of a situation or a person.
So I doubt if there can be a rational explanation of the sixth sense at all, and I certainly doubt that this study has provided a convincing one.
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