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Metaphysics & Psychology

Apophenia: why people “animate” inanimate objects

Apophenia: why people "animate" inanimate objects 86

The phenomenon, which is called apophenia – from the Greek “I make it explicit”, otherwise also called “false realization”. This term was proposed by the German scientist Klaus Konrad in 1958. He described the acute stage of schizophrenia, during which unrelated details of the surrounding reality and their perception are united in the patient’s mind by strange common signs and meanings, which, as Konrad believed, are born only in a diseased brain.

However, numerous studies of scientists have given grounds to put forward a theory that apophenia is also characteristic of completely healthy people, and very many – almost all of us. In 2001, Swiss psychologist Peter Brugger coined the term into English with a paper on ghosts and poltergeists. Apophenia, he said, was at all times a feature of human knowledge. For example, a child hears a rustle in the grass – and believes that there is a tiger hiding there, which will jump out of the darkness at him. A few minutes later, the baby sees the outline of a tiger in a curved tree trunk. By the way, the faces of strange creatures, so similar to human ones, which we try to make out on the visible side of the moon on a clear night, are also “false realization”, that is, apophenia.

Apophenia can put a person in an awkward situation – for example, if a superstitious friend refuses to go to a party with the company on Friday the 13th, believing that trouble cannot be avoided. And if on this day he accidentally spills water, scatters salt or stumbles out of the blue, fear of inevitable disaster will drive him crazy. 

Literally. Virginia Woolf, a well-known author and manic-depressive person, once heard birds chirping in her garden and claimed that they were singing in Greek. Another example is the painting by Salvador Dali “The slave market with the disappearing bust of Voltaire” – the truth here is an illusion created on purpose.

The gambler thinks that he sees a logical system in the chaotic movement of chips. The coffee grounds make us gaze intently into the cup and look at the bottom for hints of what awaits us. The child sees the glint of headlights sliding along the wall of his bedroom, and thinks that this is a message from aliens and begins to believe that UFOs exist. Do you see a cross or a fluffy sheep in the clouds floating in the sky? Beware – you are at risk, do not let apophenia take over and control your consciousness.

The second side of the coin

The dual essence of apophenia is that this feature of human consciousness can both underlie adaptive behavior and encourage flights of fantasy, and cause all kinds of superstition and even paranoia. In 2001, scientists at the Institute for Brain Research in Zurich stated that “a hyperassociative cognitive impulse supports belief in magical or psychic phenomena and stimulates divergent thinking”, which is the foundation of creativity.

Scientists who consider apophenia as a stimulus for the development of mankind, a way of knowing the world and its development, cite as an example the words of the great Leonardo da Vinci, who told his students: “Look at the walls covered with many spots, and imagine some kind of scene, you will see in it resembles landscapes decorated with mountains, rivers, rocks, trees, plains, wide valleys and hills of all kinds, strange faces, costumes and an infinity of things that you can reduce to separate and complex forms. “

However, psychologists continue to scrutinize the link between apophenia and mental illness. Their patients are not just poets and suggestible fans of witchcraft, Bigfoot or magical aura, who tend to find signals in any surrounding objects and events. These are men and women with schizophrenia and possibly bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Scientists’ opinions

Researchers from University College London have found some evidence that people of this psychotype tend to see so-called patterns, that is, image patterns, in random configurations and meaning in random events. In one study, adult participants were divided into groups based on their personality scores on a psychotype scale, which measures a predisposition to psychosis. The volunteers watched the animation of two figures moving across the screen. In some cases, the shapes moved independently of each other, while in others they collided and triggered a chain of events. The subjects with a special type of nervous activity claimed a connection between the movement of the two figures, while the participants in the group who were less inclined to fantasies did not see such a connection.

In another experiment, people who scored high on the delusional thinking test attributed mental qualities to triangles randomly floating around the screen. They argued that one triangle “saw” the other, which is why it “ran away” or “crept” closer to explore. Peter Brugger and his colleagues have suggested that apophenia may be the result of excessive activity in the right hemisphere of the brain.

Scientists have named dopamine, the hormone of motivation and joy, as another possible “culprit” of apophenia. An experiment in 2002 showed that people with high dopamine levels are more likely to see logic in coincidence than people with lower dopamine levels. Scientists artificially raised dopamine levels in a control group of volunteers – and they began to see non-random chains in disparate events.

Rather than simply viewing apophenia as a kind of adverse side effect of cognitive “architecture,” Massachusetts psychoanalyst Kelly Adler suggests seeing meaning where it’s not obvious. He argues that apophenia often becomes a powerful creative stimulus, and the result is brilliant works of art and scientific discoveries.

American writer Christopher Moore said:

“In some cases, mild apophenia is a writer’s secret weapon that brings pleasure to readers and literary success to the author. We spend our working days observing the spontaneous connections between unrelated events, people and lives and putting meaning into those connections.”

Bruce Poulsen, Ph.D., a psychologist and associate professor at the University of Utah in the United States, believes that the human brain is an apparatus for identifying patterns that connect different points and allow us to identify meaningful connections between the many sensory inputs that we encounter: understanding we would not be able to make predictions about survival and reproduction. The natural and interpersonal world around us would be too chaotic.”


Metaphysics & Psychology

Research confirms that “near death experience” is not an illusion

Research confirms that "near death experience" is not an illusion 97

Dr. Alexander Batthyany, a professor of psychology at the University of Vienna, has studied thousands of cases of near-death experiences. Human thinking ability has nothing to do with the brain.

Near death experience case study

Dr. Batthyany and others collected thousands of complete cases describing near-death experiences , and recorded in detail the content of the near-death’s private prosecution and doctor’s consultation.

Doctors ask dozens of questions about what the patient sees (visual), what he hears (hearing), what he thinks (consciousness and thinking), life background (such as religious beliefs, life experience), etc., such as “Have this experience before Do you?”, “Do you see the light?”, “Who do you talk about your death experience?”, “Do you believe in your death experience?”, etc., to judge and evaluate the credibility of the patient’s narration of the near death experience Degree and the patient’s mental state after death (whether normal, etc.).

Dr. Batthyany said that the results of the study are reliable and fully confirm that the near-death experience is a real mental activity rather than an illusion. He also said that research methods have certain limitations, which will lead to underestimation of the proportion of near-death experiences.

Extremely credible near-death experiences

Dr. Batthyany explained that due to the limitations of the method, cases are likely to be missed, so the actual rate of near death experience should be higher.

Dr. Batthyany explained how he and his colleagues analyzed thousands of cases by compiling and integrating medical records into a resource library (such as the NDERF website), and then using search terms related to vision (vision) or cognition (such as “See” (saw) or “thought”> search for related medical records and score them according to visual or cognitive content, and then further narrow the scope of the study, such as selecting near-death experience cases with detailed medical records. This screening method based only on search terms is likely to miss cases where there is no such vocabulary in the expression.

Dr. Batthyany said that the near-death experience cases are highly credible. They considered that thousands of cases with near-death experiences are likely to have false reports, but in the process of sorting and analyzing, they noticed that only 1% of near-death cases were deleted due to validity.

Therefore, Dr. Batthyany believes that even if there are still false cases, the number is not enough to affect the overall conclusion.

Evidence of the phenomenon

In addition to these near-death experience studies, Dr. Batthyany also pointed out that the phenomenon of back light also shows that the phenomenon of thinking consciousness is extremely complex, even in the case of severe deterioration of brain function, there can be active thinking.

Dr. Batthyany studies the back-to-light phenomenon in patients with Alzheimer’s disease. Among patients with Alzheimer’s disease (ie, Alzheimer’s disease), some people have been completely incoherent for many years, but suddenly showed a marked improvement or normal thinking shortly before their death. This is what is commonly referred to as “return to light”.

According to the current neurological concept, as the brain function of Alzheimer’s patients gets worse and worse, their thinking performance should be that their memory and various thoughts and feelings are becoming more and more lost, and there is even no human thinking at all.

However, the actual situation is just the opposite. The whole state of mind of Alzheimer’s patients may suddenly become intact like a spark burst.

“Psychological Vision” of the Blind

In fact, there is also a phenomenon of “mindsight” or “mind intuition” which also illustrates the independence of thinking. “Psychovision” refers to the sight of a blind person who reports during a near-death experience.

Kenneth Ring of the University of Connecticut found that among 21 blind cases who reported near-death experiences, 15 blind people described seeing the scene and had vision.

Dr. Batthyany pointed out that some scientists believe that near-death experiences are hallucinations produced by human neurophysiological processes. However, “in this study, the results of near-death experience, rebirth, and psycho-visual phenomena suggest that patients experience near-death experiences when their condition deteriorates, die, or have no neurological activity, and it is common.”

Therefore, Dr. Batthyany concluded that even when the brain function changes or even the electrical activity of the brain stops (the EEG is flat), there is still a clear sense of self, complex visual images, and clear mental activities. And other thinking phenomena.

Even though back-lighting and psychological vision are very rare phenomena, the countless examples of near-death experiences are enough to illustrate the problem.

Dr. Batthyany wrote:

“Our research results show that the visual scene, mental state and self-awareness that people continue to appear in the near-death experience are a rule rather than an exception.”

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Metaphysics & Psychology

What people see after clinical death: Stories from survivors that they would rather forget

What people see after clinical death: Stories from survivors that they would rather forget 98

Humanity still does not know much about death. Of course, it’s easy to write it off as “nothingness,” but what if in reality everything is a little more complicated? In the selection below – ten creepy stories “from the other world” from people who survived clinical death.

Recently, the user Aidanmartin3 asked near-death survivors on Reddit to describe what it was like. The post quickly went viral, with hundreds of people sharing their stories in the comments.

I was about fifteen years old. Climbed onto the kitchen counter to grab something from the top cabinet, but slipped and fell headlong onto the marble floor. The next thing I remember is walking barefoot on water. Then I look to the right, I see a very bright light and a hand, as if calling me. I go to her and suddenly realize how peaceful and relaxed I am. Like the best deep sleep ever. Then I said to myself: “Dude, this is so cool, I would never wake up.” And then all of a sudden everything disappears, and I wake up because of my mother, who is crying over me.By that time, I was already numb, cold, pulseless and even managed to urinate in my pants. As an atheist who does not believe in all this, I often think about that case.


My father died for a short while and then said that at that time he was walking along a long corridor to the door. But when he was about to open it, his father felt himself being “sucked” into his own body

What people see after clinical death: Stories from survivors that they would rather forget 99

GIF © Giphy

He died of an overdose for several minutes.In reality, there was nothing. It’s just darkness and an incomprehensible period of time. It was almost like waking up after hanging out all night and feeling like a horse kicked in the chest.


It seemed to me that I was kind of floating in a long tunnel and I felt very tired. I remember how I fell asleep then and had a dream that I was in the kitchen of my childhood home, and dad was preparing breakfast. I heard turmoil and chaos at one end, and at the other, there was a warm light that seemed soothing. But then all of a sudden I ended up in the chaos of the emergency room.


The story of my ex-girlfriend’s mom. Her heart stopped for 28 minutes. The doctors had already told the family that she had left, and even brought in a priest to bless the room. But in the end she returned. She said that she recalls running around the field with a little girl, who, according to the woman, was her niece, in the dress in which she was buried.

What people see after clinical death: Stories from survivors that they would rather forget 100

GIF © Giphy

I heard a loud, high-pitched noise telling me that I am still too young to die. Then he got even higher, and I saw a bright light and woke up. The ambulance driver was shining a flashlight in my eyes


Anaphylactic reaction to the deadly sting of the Irukandji jellyfish. I saw this white glow and how I soared up, then my family and the doctors and nurses who were saving me. Came back and felt a lot of pain


It felt as if my body was being filmed on a CCTV camera from a third person. Then the camera gradually moved away and rose. I became very cold and began to hear loud clanking sounds. Woke up in an ambulance to the sound of a gurney bouncing on a rough road. It was so surreal. Since then I have not been afraid of death, to be honest. It was almost six years ago, but I still think about that case several times a month.

What people see after clinical death: Stories from survivors that they would rather forget 101

GIF © Giphy

I was hit by a car. I could see everything, blood had not yet got into my eyes. I heard all the commotion. I felt myself being pushed in the back, and then doing artificial respiration … After that I felt only the first beats of the heart and how the blood flowed through my body. The pain began to build up with renewed vigor, and then everything went black


I was pronounced dead three times. But “after death” I have never seen anything. At least i don’t remember


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Metaphysics & Psychology

Psilocybin mushrooms sprout in the blood of an ‘experimental’ patient

Psilocybin mushrooms sprout in the blood of an 'experimental' patient 102

US doctors described the story of a man who tried to relieve depression with psilocybin mushrooms in an unconventional way. He injected an intravenous infusion of mushrooms, causing the mushrooms to continue to multiply in his blood and cause multiple organ failure. The case was reported in the Journal of the Academy of Consultation-Liaison Psychiatry.

Many drugs that people traditionally use as psychedelics are increasingly becoming the focus of medical attention. Some of them have already been repurposed and started clinical trials: for example, micro-doses of LSD have proven to be at least safe in the case of Alzheimer’s disease, and psilocybin has helped patients with  migraines and  depression. Often in such experiments we are talking about microdosing – that is, the mass of the substance is not enough for a psychoactive effect.

The story of an American who decided to experiment on his own was described by doctors led by Curtis McKnight of Creighton University School of Medicine. According to relatives, the 30-year-old American suffered from bipolar disorder, but shortly before the incident stopped taking his prescribed medications and suffered from alternating states of mania and depression.

When he stumbled upon research on the potential benefits of psychedelics, he boiled psilocybin mushrooms and injected the filtered solution into his vein. A few days after this experiment, relatives found him in a lethargic state with jaundice, diarrhea and bloody vomiting and took him to the hospital.

Doctors discovered the patient had a problem with multiple organs at once: acute renal failure, liver damage, tachycardia, and low blood saturation and ionic imbalance. He was prescribed droppers to normalize the composition of the blood, vasoconstrictors to raise blood pressure, antibiotics and antifungal drugs. Despite this, he developed septic shock and DIC (excessive blood clotting) and needed plasmapheresis. Only eight days later he was discharged from the intensive care unit, and at the time of publication of the article he had already been in the hospital for 22 days.

In the patient’s blood tests, in addition to the Brevibacillus bacteria , there were also Psilocybe cubensis fungi  – the same ones from which he injected himself intravenously. Apparently, due to insufficient filtration of the solution, the fungi entered the bloodstream and multiplied there, causing intoxication and multiple organ failure.

Psilocybin mushrooms sprout in the blood of an 'experimental' patient 103

The authors of the work note that this is not the first such case – at least in the 80s of the 20th century, doctors already described a patient with similar symptoms after an intravenous injection. Therefore, McKnight and coauthors warn their colleagues: since psychedelics are increasingly used as a medicine (at the end of 2020, they began to legalize it in the United States), it is important to remind patients of the inadmissibility of self-therapy. Intravenous administration can be dangerous – doctors still do not know if it has the same psychoactive effect as the classical methods of administration.

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