Extrasensory perception has gone from science fiction to science fact. Researchers at Northwestern University have analyzed the results of 26 studies conducted from 1978 to 2010 and found that evidence for presentiment may exist. Julia Mossbridge of the Visual Perception, Cognition and Neuroscience Laboratory at Northwestern has been working with her team to determine whether the human mind is capable of predicting a future occurrence without any external clues. 

There has already been sufficient evidence showing that the subconscious mind can be actively aware of an event before it actually takes place — when subjects have been presented with an unfair deck of cards, the physiological signs of arousal (sweating, heart rate, etc…) appear before conscious awareness. According to Mossbridge, the implications of the team’s analysis suggest that an employee playing computer games could be able to detect when his boss will walk in.

“Our analysis suggests that if you were tuned into your body, you might be able to detect these anticipatory changes between two and 10 seconds beforehand and close your video game,” she said. “You might even have a chance to open that spreadsheet you were supposed to be working on. And if you were lucky, you could do all this before your boss entered the room.”

These findings back those of other well-known scientists on the subject, such as Russell Targ, author of The Reality of ESP. Targ says that the effect size of his studies is greater than the effect size of scientific research on aspirin lowering the risk of heart disease. Whereas the medical community takes the latter study on aspirin seriously, the former is dismissed. The Northwestern researchers found “for the 26 studies that fit our inclusion criteria), the estimated overall ES is small (most conservative estimate: 95% CI = 0.15–0.27), and is statistically significant. Though the ES is small, it is important to note that important scientific and health advances have been made by further examination of effects about half the size of this one (e.g., achievement scores vs. classroom size ES = 0.11, health outcomes vs. social support ES = 0.11; Rosenthal and Rosnow, 2008).”

Furthermore, the experiment was not poorly designed, and Mossbridge’s team originally did not intend to seek evidence for presentiment with these studies. ABC News reported, ”Mossbridge said that researchers are not sure whether people are really sensing the future, but added that her group’s findings were particularly interesting because the 26 studies she examined had purposes other than to look for evidence of presentiment.”

Parapsychology is a field in which much research is needed. Although there are many parapsychologists and researchers studying psi – such as Dean Radin, Russell Targ, Hal Putoff, Ed May, Brenda Dunne, Robert Jahn, Marilyn Schlitz, Daryl Bem, and Charles Tart – the amount of research being done is relatively small, leaving many questions to explore. 


Image by nandadevieast, courtesy of Creative Commons licensing.