Almost every one of us has ever experienced a strange feeling that something has changed around, but it is impossible to understand what it is. All attempts to find the reason to rationalize what has happened fail.
The “sixth sense” is one of the favorite themes in pop culture: movies are filmed, books are written about it… A group of psychologists of the University of Melbourne decided to set up an experiment to find out what really lies behind the sixth sense and whether it is possible to find a rational explanation for it.
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 was asked to choose the type of change from a long list. Then the experiment was repeated with other photos – totally 140 times.
The psychologists were particularly interested in 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 showed the same picture without any changes. If a participant noted 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 had problems in identifying 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.
The psychologists have 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 normally called a “sixth sense”.