Saturday, August 15, 2009

Intuition Through Time: What Does the Seer See?

My latest presentiment study, published in Explore, coauthored with Ana Borges.

Title: Intuition Through Time: What Does the Seer See?

A great deal of human activity is involved in anticipating the future, from predicting the next influenza strain to the expectations that underlie the placebo effect. Most models of anticipation take for granted that events unfold in a unidirectional flow of time, from past to future. Two experiments were conducted to test this assumption.


Pupillary dilation, spontaneous blinking, and eye movements were tracked before, during, and after participants viewed photographs with varying degrees of emotional affect. Photos were selected uniformly at random with replacement. Experiment one used 592 photos from the International Affective Picture System; experiment two used a custom-designed pool of 500 photos. Eye data before exposure to the photos were compared by using nonparametric techniques.

Outcome Measures

Eye data were predicted to show larger anticipatory responses before randomly selected emotional photos than before calm photos, under conditions that excluded sensory cues, statistical cues, and other conventional means of inferring the future.


Data contributed by 74 unselected volunteers in two experiments showed that: (a) pupillary dilation and spontaneous blinking were found to increase more before emotional versus calm photos (combined P = .00009), (b) horizontal eye movements indicated a brain hemisphere asymmetry before viewing photos, appropriate to both the emotionality (P = .05) and the valence of the future images (P = .01), (c) participants selected for independently obtaining significant differential effects in pupillary dilation showed positive correlations between their eye movements before versus during exposure to randomly selected photos (P = .002), and (d) a possible “transtemporal interference” effect was observed when the probability of observing future images was varied (P = .05 [two-tailed]). Gender splits on these tests showed that overall females tended to perform better than males.

These studies, which replicate conceptually* similar experiments, suggest that sometimes seers do see the future. This implies that developing comprehensive models of anticipatory behavior, from understanding the nature of intuition to the placebo effect, may require consideration of transtemporal and teleological factors.

* The paper has the word "conceptual," which is a typo.


Atheistic Mystic said...

Very cool. Looks like very strong results.

Is this your presentiment study first to use pupillary dilation, spontaneous blinking, and eye movements?

Patrick said...

sorry to bug you Dean, but may I have your thoughts on this exchange I'm having?

am I leaving out something important? Should I add anything?

Dean Radin said...

> ... first to use pupillary dilation ...

As far as I know.

Dean Radin said...

> on this exchange I'm having?

Your replies are reasonable. I'm afraid that your debating partner holds a common but naive view about the use of statistics in science.

Also, like many people he may be confusing science with technology. The former is engaged in exploring the unknown, so besides all the theoretical uncertainties there will always be measurement uncertainties. And thus statistical arguments are unavoidable.

Also, technologies may seem reliably solid and statistics-free, but the reliability doesn't come for free. E.g., modern communications methods and computers would not work as well as they do, and in some cases wouldn't work at all, without sophisticated statistical methods used to suppress errors and noise.

Consider why statistics play such a vital role in sports betting, and why Tiger Woods does not win 100% of his competitions. Human performance is ultra complex and highly variable. Psi is no different.

Roulette said...

Dean, could you lay out the timeline of this study a bit more explicitly, please? Specifically, what was the time interval between when the picture was chosen for presentation and 1) when it was actually presented, and 2) when the eye measurements were made?

I'm asking because I'm trying to make sense of this result - "a possible “transtemporal interference” effect was observed when the probability of observing future images was varied".

Dean Radin said...

> Specifically, what was the time interval ...

In a single trial, a participant presses a button, a blank screen is presented for 3 seconds, then a randomly selected picture is presented for 3 seconds, and then a blank screen for 3 more seconds. All eye data were collected continuously throughout each session.

In the second experiment reported in this paper the probability of receiving an emotional or calm picture was randomly altered from one trial to the next, to explore whether people were "presponding" to the probable future or to the actualized future. In this study they tended to respond to the actual future.

Gareth said...

The evidence continues to mount...

Theophrastus said...

The philosopher AJ Ayer argues, on purely logical grounds, that there is no reason to assume that effects cannot precede causes (so the usual temporal sequence is reversed). It's in "The Problem of knowledge", pp.170-5 (Penguin edition).

THe upshot is that cause and effect mutually engender each other. They only seem to have the temporal sequence they do because of the way our memories function. It's a very interesting argument, and may be relevant to an explanation of precognition.

David Bailey said...


Did you find that pupil dilation was subject to less noise than SCL? Also, did you analyse the data to look for an anticipatory effect - people always cling to that idea as the only 'rational' explanation for your results!

Dean Radin said...

> was pupil dilation subject to less noise than SCL?

PD bears some similarities to SCL, but it's closer to heart rate in that PD reflects a balance between sympathetic and parasympathetic activity. Presentiment studies so far suggest that HR may be a better measure than SCL, perhaps because of this balance. So PD and HR may be about the same, except that eye tracking offers additional information not provided by the heart.

> Also, did you analyse the data to look for an anticipatory effect

Presentiment is a differential anticipatory effect, so it definitely involves anticipation. The question is whether it can be explained as a kind of physiological gambler's fallacy. I was aware of this possibility from the start (I began running presentiment experiments in 1994). And the answer is no -- there is no evidence in this or in any of my prior studies, nor in the data of any of my colleagues who have conducted similar studies, suggesting that presentiment effects can be adequately explained by conventional anticipatory strategies.

That said, the anticipatory critique is not unreasonable, and so I suppose I should write a paper some day explaining in detail why that model is insufficient. Given many other things I'm involved in, it will be a while before I get to that.

Tor said...

The presentiment paper by Spottiswoode and May; "Skin Conductance Prestimulus Response:
Analyses, Artifacts and a Pilot Study" is to my mind the best refutation of any anticipatory behavior as an explanation of the presentiment effect.

From the paper:


"We now have the following three conditions: An excess of skin conductance responses in the prestimulus epoch prior to audio stimuli, no such excess over chance expectation in the preceding epochs and a randomized inter-stimulus interval of 40 to 80 seconds. Any expectation effect must appear as an increase in the dependent variable (i.e., rate of production of SCRs), which is a monotonically increasing function of the time since the last arousing stimulus. Such an effect, were it to occur, could not give rise to an increase in the SCR rate solely in the epoch prior to the next startle stimulus, a fortiori when the timing of that stimulus was randomly varied and unknown to the participant." (My emphasis)

This would rule out any anticipation effect as being the cause of audio-presentiment, especially this random timing of stimuli, and thus it seriously undermines any attempt to explain other similar experiments in this way.


Gareth said...

This is not directly related, but Dr. Charles Tart makes mention of Dean's presentation of an optical double-slit experiment at the recent PA meeting:

It sounds fascinating and I look forward to reading more about it.

Dean Radin said...

Tor has a good point. The free-running, random timing protocol in Spottiswoode and May's design effectively rules out anticipatory strategies because the subjects don't know when the stimulus will appear.

Incidentally, I've been examining EEG data collected within a audio oddball ERP paradigm, and I'm finding presentiment effects. This is a broadly accepted, standard experiment within the cognitive neurosciences, and it's based on random stimulus timing.

dawnow said...

Did the protocol rule out some form of psychokinesis by the subject having the effect of nudging the supposedly random selection to be in favor of emotional responses?

On the very strong p = .00009 result, would that alone rule out any anticipitory strategies as the mechanism?

Dean Radin said...

> Did the protocol rule out some form of psychokinesis ...

No, but we could check the distribution of stimulus pictures obtained, and there was no evidence that the RNG had been "pushed" to produce say, more pleasant than unpleasant images.

> On the very strong p = .00009 result, would that alone rule out any anticipitory strategies as the mechanism?

By itself, no.

Andy said...

I know for a fact that if you see the future you cannot change it. I tried once and my actions after the premonition created the reality of and confirmed the premonition.

For me it was strong evidence for Fate, which bothers me enormously. Maybe we all have the ability to see the future but subconsciously choose not to because knowing the ending of the book before time is a real bummer, especially if you can't change it if you don't like it.

Just a thought.

Keep up the good work Dean, It's fascinating stuff.

Tor said...

Andy said:

Maybe we all have the ability to see the future but subconsciously choose not to because knowing the ending of the book before time is a real bummer, especially if you can't change it if you don't like it.

It may be that worrying about fate isn't necessary. The evidence gathering up in physics and psi/consciousness research strongly suggest that our common view of causation and time is wrong. Sure, retrocausal effects, seeing the future, and similar time craziness give headaches. But this may be because we all cling to "common sense". I wouldn't be surprised if time isn't fundamentally real, but some kind of construct arising out of how our mind works and interacts with our body and the environment.

It's hard to shake the feeling that the mystical states described through the ages, weather coming about spontaneously or through skilled practise of some method (like meditation), show a deeper truth. The experiences say that the world of our ordinary mental state is an illusion, and that behind the curtain of illusion time doesn't look the same or doesn't really exist at all. It is also interesting to note that NDErs frequently state that when the mind disconnects from the body, time changes. They often speak of a timeless time, and if they are correct it may give another clue that points to time being a product of the mind-body relationship. It may seem like a paradox for our ordinary state of awareness, but who says this ordinary state of awareness is any guide to deeper issues like this? We have already had a 90 year long headache in physics because we use this ordinary mental state and "common sense" trying to figure out what is going on.

The experiments are quite clear: We are beings of a non-local essence. Our core don't exist just now and here. It exist everywhere and everywhen. In a universe that works like this I'm not sure the concept of fate is meaningful. Choices and consequences may still exist, but not step by step along a uniform arrow of time.


dawnow said...

How can time not really exist? A fundamental measure of time is change. There can be no change in the ultimate realm of no time, and action of any kind including that of any form of consciousness is impossible. Seems to be an irrational concept.

FB said...

"my actions after the premonition created the reality of and confirmed the premonition. "

"spontaneously or through skilled practise of some method (like meditation), show a deeper truth. "

Open question, not just for Andy, Tor, and Dean, but for everyone: has anyone done a study on the best way to teach remote viewing students to meditate?

Lots of people are doing remote viewing through space and time. Presumably most of them have some favorite means of meditating or relaxing. Has anyone tried to catalog the development methods?

Andy said...

My "premonitions" don't come through meditation generally.'

They are random, they just pop into my head from out of nowhere, i cannot connect the thought to a previous thought and they are about trivial things, that happen. Some are 5 mins in the future others 10 years or so.

I did meditate in my early 20's. After my mother said she had an experience i gave it a try just out of curiosity.

There was one time my sexy french girlfriend was snoring in bed:( so i got up and went out into the lounge room and slept on the couch, as i did i meditated, focusing just on my breathing (which is very difficult because i have a very active mind) Suddenly i woke up to a massive boom sound and i thought a bomb had gone off and in it there was a female voice saying "andrew, what are you doing where are you going?"

So i got up, backed away from the couch of the damned slowly, completely spooked and went back to the snoring girlfriend. I figured the snoring was not as bad as whatever happened just then...i was really tired. I dozed off and the sexy french girlfriend started snoring again and woke me decided the couch was the place to be and what were the odds of that thing happening again, best not to meditate this time and besides the snoring was very very loud.

So i got up from the bed and as i did i woke up my sexy french girlfriend and she said...wait for it...

"Andrew, what are you doing where are you going?"

Still gives me chills but is very exciting...i need answers!?

That's why Deans segment on the What the Bleep video about us being entangled with our future self got my attention.

If i hadn't heard that boom and the voice, i would never have left the couch and so my girlfriend would never have said that but i did hear it causing me to leave the couch leading to a chain of events that created it.

FB said...

That's an interesting premonition/precognition experience.

I have heard Dr. Radin mention Charles Tart more than a few times, so I have been reading Tart's blog at:

and I wonder if Vipassana can be self-taught.

I currently have a lot of Taiwanese neighbors who like Chan, the Chinese form of Zen, but I need something slightly more non-religious.

Apparently Dr. Tart also has a meditation teacher:

The point of Vipasanna is probably not to obtain premonitions and remote viewing ability. However, if one knows the basics of parapsychology and one wants to tell one's research subjects to relax and concentrate, some kind of meditation training might be essential when the subjects say, "I don't know how to concentrate."

It would be great if we could measure a subject's pulse, weight, and blood type, and look up the combination on a chart and say, "Oh, your type always does best with breathing exercises" or "Your type always does best with visualization meditation." However, the parapsychology studies on those indicators, so far as I can tell, haven't been done yet.

Dean Radin said...

> It would be great if we could measure ... and say, "Oh, your type always does best with breathing exercises" or "Your type always does best with visualization meditation."

I agree. Such a survey would probably also include personality and personal history questionnaires. As for what method works best, there are many styles that result in many different skills. I have yet to read a good description for which method is best for what purpose. And some people are not likely to do well at meditation for the same reason that not everyone can become equally good at running or mathematics or the creative arts.

Apropos, I was somewhat surprised to see last week, while testing myself with our new EEG system, that my brain idles like the brain of a typical long term meditator. In the past I spent up to an hour a day meditating (various methods), but I haven't done this for years. I guess if you rewire your brain through some serious self-reflection, and practice long enough, it sticks.

anonymous said...

"I have yet to read a good description for which method is best for what purpose."

Vipassana is good for releasing emotions. When you observe the sensations in your body, you begin to notice that emotions are accompanied by bodily sensations: muscle tension, effects on facial expressions, effects on posture, a sinking feeling in the stomach, a lump in the throat, etc etc. When you practice observing bodily sensations, you become more aware of the emotions that cause them.

Concentration meditation is good for calming a turbulent mind. All types of meditation (including vipassana, visualization, and relaxation exercises) are forms of concentration meditation because you have to pay attention on the technique when you do them.

Visualization is good for psychic development. Any meditation will calm the verbal and analytical left hemisphere which interferes with intuition. When the mind is quiet you are better able to percieve faint mental impressions that might be psychic impressions or might be rising up from the unconscious mind. But I suspect visualization also stimulates the visual and intuitive right hemisphere inhancing psychic mental awareness. Visualization promotes theta brain waves which have been reported to be correlated with psychic experiences. Spiritualist meditation typically involves visualization. The medium John Edward also uses visualization in his psychic development tapes.

To say what type of person is good at what type of meditation, I would rank meditations in terms of active or passive. Chanting, yoga, guided imagery, would be active forms of meditation. Observing the breath or mentally repeating a mantra would be more passive forms of meditation.

The more turbulent your mind is the more difficulty you will have with a passive form of meditation. Some people might have a turbulent mind all the time, some might only some of the time.

If you want to test people to determine what types of meditation they would be good at you would need a test that could tell if their mind was calm or turbulent or prone to be calm or turbulent.

The simplest way to do this is to try a passive form of meditation. If you can't concentrate try a more active form.

There are web pages on meditation, relaxation exercises, and psychic development on my web site

karim said...

An insightfull post. Will definitely help.

Karim - Mind Power

Lost Pilgrim said...

A little off topic but the question of PK made me think about an experiment I read about years ago. IIRC there was a test of Beta fish that showed they could effect a random generator that gave them a mirror to display at. If we can do it and betas can do it, how common is micro PK?

N said...

Pilgrim, if your question is 'Do all living creatures have this ability?' then we'll probably never definitively know the answer, as we must always assume that any effect we observe might ultimately be the result of our observation.

If your question is 'Is this reflective of something that goes on all the time?' then I would say 'Some of us think so.'