Sixth Sense? Extrasensory perception isn’t so extrasensory, say scientists

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People who say they have a sixth sense, or extrasensory perception (ESP), actually detect changes with their usual senses and find them difficult to identify or articulate.

The research carried out at University of Mebourne is the first to suggest that ESP is experienced by people when they experience changes that they cannot explain visually.

The effect is similar to noticing a change in a friend’s physical appearance but not being able to identify that it is because of a new haircut.

“We were able to show that while observers could reliably detect changes that they could not visually identify, this ability was not due to extrasensory perception or a sixth sense,” said lead researcher, the Dr. Piers Howe.

Participants were asked to look at two photos, both of the same person but one with a small change in the subject’s appearance. Each image was displayed for 1.5 seconds with a 1 second interval in between, after which they were asked if they could identify any differences, from a list of nine possible changes.

The results, published in PLOS ONE, showed that while participants were able to detect general change, they could not identify what had actually changed. They could notice that the two images had different amounts of red or green, but could not determine that it was because the woman in the image had changed the color of her hat.

The researchers concluded that people could sense a change without being able to identify it, but this did not involve any extrasensory mechanism.

[University of Melbourne]
[PLOS ONE]

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