Members in the Media
From: The Washington Post

You think you’re clairvoyant, but your brain is just tricking you

Have you ever felt as though you predicted exactly when the light was going to turn green or sensed that the doorbell was about to ring? Imagine the possibility that these moments of clairvoyance occur simply because of a glitch in your mind’s time logs.

What happened first — your thought about the doorbell or its actual ringing? It may have felt as if the thought came first, but when two events (ringing of doorbell, thought about doorbell) occur close together, we can mistake their order. This leads to the sense that we accurately predicted the future when, in fact, all we did is notice the past.

We supposed that if some people are prone to mixing up the order of their thoughts and perceptions in this way, they could develop a host of odd beliefs. Most obviously, they might come to believe they are clairvoyant or psychic — having abilities to predict such things as whether it is going to rain. Further, these individuals might confabulate — unconsciously make up — explanations for why they have these special abilities, inferring that they are particularly important (even godlike) or are tapping into magical forces that transcend the physical world.

Such beliefs are hallmarks of psychosis, seen in mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, but they are not uncommon in less-extreme forms in the general population. Would even ordinary people who mistime their thoughts and perceptions be more likely to hold ­delusion-like ideas?

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The brain can mix up the order of some events, that does not begin to explain paranormal phenomena. There is a large body of evidence on clairvoyance, and the phenomenon is not in dispute. See some articles in the reputable Journal of Scientific Exploration. It’s silly to attribute verifiable phenomena to schizophrenia.

The evidence on paranormal phenomena is far from conclusive. Reputable investigators end up failing to be convinced, especially if they have worked in the field for some time. Time after time, studies that appear to support the phenomena cannot be reproduced, or have been well debunked by skeptics and magicians. No-one has claimed the million dollars offered by the James Randi Foundation for providing actual verifiable and reproducable evidence of a paranormal phenomena. Randi even sent in some stooges who managed to fool senior researchers for years.

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