Science Ponders: Can Humans Sense The Future?

I’m not the biggest believer in the paranormal. I think most esoteric topics are interesting – time travel and witchcraft seem to be my current favorites – but I also think they usually have a rational, scientific explanation. That doesn’t mean weird things don’t happen.

Take a “sixth sense,” for example, extrasensory perception. I have no doubt people are occasionally able to sense or feel things they logically shouldn’t. Some would argue it’s just chance, but I’m not so sure. Case in point: A new analysis covering 26 studies, published in Frontiers In Perception Science, seems to confirm that humans possess an uncanny ability to “sense the future.”

It’s called presentiment, an intuitive feeling of the near future.

“This meta-analysis examines a subset of these experiments allowing us to test the hypothesis that seemingly without experience and perceptual cues, human physiological measures anticipate what seem to be unpredictable future events by deviating from a baseline before an event occurs, in the same direction that they will continue to deviate after that event occurs.”

This doesn’t mean people are psychic, of course. It could be related to perfectly normal biological processes, another form of instinct. Maybe.

I believe I’ve experienced this, myself, especially when playing certain types of video games. I remember the old Burnout series, dodging and weaving through traffic and perfecting near-misses to the point where I almost intuitively knew how close I could get without wrecking. Or even a small 3DS game called SpeedX 3D, which had players doing mostly the same thing, only dodging obstacles on a cylinder that turned inside and out, with ever increasing speed. If you play enough of those types of games, you get into this almost zen mode of thinking, where, despite how fast things are moving, you can just feel what you need to do in the next half second to succeed.

That might be a bit different from what the study here shows, but it’s along the same lines, I think.

I’ve also read that humans, and other living creatures, may experience a kind of sensory latency, in which we don’t actually experience the universe in “real time.” What we see is already in the past. This would mean there’s a slight delay between physical actions and our ability to sense the world on a conscious level. Does our instinct know before we do? That’d open a whole pandora’s box involving the existence of free will, though, and I don’t feel like getting into that right now.

But it’s something to consider.


Rob Schwarz

Writer, blogger, and part-time peddler of mysterious tales. Editor-in-chief of Stranger Dimensions.