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Metaphysics & Psychology

Psychology: The truth about the paranormal

Psychology: The truth about the paranormal 86

In the 21st Century, why do so many people still believe in the paranormal? David Robson discovers that there’s good reason we hold superstitions – and a few surprising benefits.

Soon after World War II, Winston Churchill was visiting the White House when he is said to have had an uncanny experience. Having had a long bath with a Scotch and cigar, he reportedly walked into the adjoining bedroom – only to be met by the ghost of Abraham Lincoln. Unflappable, even while completely naked, Churchill apparently announced: “Good evening, Mr President. You seem to have me at a disadvantage.” The spirit smiled and vanished.

“We create beliefs because we don’t like believing that the universe is random” — Adam Waytz, psychologist

His supposed contact with the supernatural puts Churchill in illustrious company. Arthur Conan Doyle spoke to ghosts through mediums, while Alan Turing believed in telepathy. Three men who were all known for their razor-sharp thinking, yet couldn’t stop themselves from believing in the impossible. You may well join them. According to recent surveys, as many as three quarters of Americans believe in the paranormal, in some form, while nearly one in five claim to have actually seen a ghost.

Intrigued by these persistent beliefs, psychologists have started to look at why some of us can’t shake off old superstitions and folk-lore. Their findings may suggest some hidden virtues to believing in the paranormal. At the very least, it should cause you to question whether you hold more insidious beliefs about the world.

Some paranormal experiences are easily explainable, based on faulty activity in the brain. Reports of poltergeists invisibly moving objects seem to be consistent with damage to certain regions of the right hemisphere that are responsible for visual processing; certain forms of epilepsy, meanwhile, can cause the spooky feeling that a presence is stalking you close by – perhaps underlying accounts of faceless “shadow people” lurking in the surroundings.

(Thinkstock)
(Thinkstock)

Out-of-body experiences, meanwhile, are now accepted neurological phenomena, while certain visual illusions could confound the healthy brain and create mythical beings. For example, one young Italian psychologist looked in the mirror one morning to find a grizzled old man staring back at him. His later experiments confirmed that the illusion is surprisingly common when you look at your reflection in the half light, perhaps because the brain struggles to construct the contours of your face, so it begins to try to fill in the missing information – even if that leads to the appearance of skulls, old hags or hideous animals.

So any combination of exhaustion, drugs, alcohol, and tricks of the light could contribute to single, isolated sightings, like that reported by Churchill. But what about the experiences of people like Conan Doyle, who seemed to see other-worldly actions on a day-to-day basis?

Protective shield

Psychologists studying religion have long suspected that a belief in the paranormal can be a kind of shield from the even harsher truths of the world. The idea is that when something unexpected happens – a death, natural disaster, or job loss – the brain scrambles around for answers, looking for meaning in the chaos. “It’s such an aversive state that if it can’t gain control objectively, we will get it by perceiving more structures around us, even if they don’t exist,” says Jennifer Whitson at the University of Texas, who studies pattern perception, and judgment and decision making. Even simply asking people to remember a time when they felt out of control, can make people see illusory forces at work, she has found. That included seeing patterns in the random movements of the stock market, for example, but it could also manifest itself by linking two unconnected events, such as the belief that “knocking on wood” for good luck would improve your chances in a job interview.

(Thinkstock)
(Thinkstock)

Anthropomorphism is another common way that we try to understand events, says Adam Waytz at Northwestern University in Illinois. So we might think that a spirit lies behind a storm or that a demon is causing us to get ill – rather than acknowledging that we have no control over the matter; and if a branch is tapping on your window, you might be more inclined to imagine that it is a ghost sending you a message. “We create beliefs in ghosts, because we don’t like believing that the universe is random,” says Waytz. Again, this seems to be more common when we feel less control over our lives.

Given these strange turns of the mind, might some people be naturally inclined to see hidden patterns and motives, and could this explain why they are more superstitious than others? It is a question that Tapani Riekki at the University of Helsinki in Finland has tried to answer for the last few years. He says that believers often welcome his research, since they genuinely can’t understand why others don’t share their worldview. “They say that ’I don’t see why other people don’t feel what I feel, or believe what I believe’,” he says.

Hidden faces

Riekki recently asked sceptics and believers to view simple animations of moving shapes, while lying in a brain scanner. He found paranormal believers were more likely to see some kind of intention behind the movements – as if the shapes were playing a game of “tag”, say – and this was reflected in greater brain activity in the regions normally associated with “theory of mind” and understanding others’ motives. Riekki has also found that people who believe in the supernatural are more likely to see hidden faces in everyday photos – a finding confirmed by another team at the University of Amsterdam, who showed that paranormal believers are more likely to imagine that they had seen a walking figure in random light displays.

(Thinkstock)
(Thinkstock)

Added to this, Riekki has found that believers may have weaker cognitive “inhibition”, compared to sceptics. That’s the skill that allows you to quash unwanted thoughts, so perhaps we are all spooked by strange coincidences and patterns from time to time, but sceptics are better at pushing them aside. Riekki gives the example of someone who is thinking about their mother, only for her to call two minutes later. “Is it just that sceptics can laugh and say it is just coincidence, and then think of something else?” he wonders. Significantly, another paper reported that paranormal believers also tend to have greater confidence in their decisions, even when they are based on ambiguous information. So once they have latched onto the belief, you might be less likely to let it go.

Even so, most researchers agree that sceptics shouldn’t be too critical of people who harbour these beliefs. After all, one study has found that various superstitions can boost your performance in a range of skills. In one trial, bringing their favourite lucky charm into a memory test significantly improved subjects’ recall, since it seemed to increase their confidence in their own abilities. Another experiment tested the subjects’ golf putting ability. Telling them that they were using a “lucky” ball meant they were more likely to score than those simply using any old ball. Even something as simple as saying “break a leg” or “I’ll keep my fingers for you” improved the participants’ motor dexterity and their ability to solve anagrams.

And even if you think you are immune, you shouldn’t underestimate the power of suggestion. Michael Nees at the Lafayette College in Pennsylvania recently asked a group of students to listen to sound recordings from US ghost-hunting shows. Subtly priming the volunteers with the thought that they were involved in a paranormal study increased the number of voices they reported hearing in the fuzzy recordings – despite the fact that they mostly reported being sceptics. It seems that the merest expectation of hearing something spooky can set your mind whirring.

(Rachel Adams/Flickr/CC BY-ND-2.0)
(Rachel Adams/Flickr/CC BY-ND-2.0)

Whitson’s research, meanwhile, shows how easy it is for us all to imagine strange happenings when we feel unsettled. Her latest experiment found that even priming someone with a feeling of hope – normally considered a positive emotion – can still increase people’s belief in the supernatural, or conspiracy theories. The reason, she says, is that hope is still full of uncertainty; it makes you question the future, compared to a feeling like anger where you might be surer of your righteousness.

And if you tell yourself that you have reasoned yourself out of superstitions and ghost stories, you might still harbour other beliefs that are equally fanciful, she says. It could be a full blown conspiracy theory about the government, or just suspicions that your colleagues are ganging up on you, based on a few spurious comments.

We can perhaps see the brain’s ability to “spot” illusory patterns in the response to the Ebola epidemic – such as the emergence of folk remedies (including the belief that drinking salt water is a cure), fears in the West that it will spread through air travel, and theories that it was created by industrialised governments.

“It’s easy to think of yourself as the one holding the rational cards, but it’s wiser to understand that every one of us are going to be prone to those mistakes when we feel like we are lacking control,” says Whitson. “We should all be ready to evaluate our assumptions more thoughtfully.” As Churchill, Turing and Conan Doyle showed us, even the most astute minds can be given to fancy from time to time.

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Metaphysics & Psychology

The woman who died of cancer and came back from another dimension

The woman who died of cancer and came back from another dimension 99

Anita Moorjani, experienced something that most of us will never experience. She was diagnosed with cancer, lived with it, died of it, then came back to life and returned home healthy.

Moorjani had been battling Hodgkin’s lymphoma for four years when she woke up one morning and couldn’t move at all. Her husband rushed her to the hospital and was diagnosed with grade 4B lymphoma. Her organs were shutting down, and doctors believed she had only 36 hours to live. She eventually passed out.

However, she was still aware of what was happening around her. She could hear her husband in the lobby and observe his conversations with the doctors. She could see her brother desperately board a plane in India so that he could come and see her one last time at a Hong Kong hospital. Besides, she realized something completely different.

“… I actually ‘passed’ into another dimension. I was overwhelmed by a feeling of complete love. I also felt extraordinary clarity about why I have cancer, why I came into this life at all, what role all members of my family played in my life in the general scheme of things and how life in general works. “

“The clarity and understanding I received in this state is almost indescribable. Words cannot describe the experience. I was in a place where I realized how much more there is that we can imagine in our three-dimensional world. “

“I realized what the gift of life was, and that I was surrounded by loving spiritual beings who were always around me, even when I didn’t know it.”

She died, then came back to life. And there were even more surprises. The cancer left her body and she left the hospital healthy. The doctors did not believe it.

“The doctors were very confused, but told me it must have been a quick reaction to chemotherapy. Since they themselves could not understand what was happening, they made me pass test after test, and I passed all this with honor.

Passing each test gave me even more options! I had a full body scan and since they couldn’t believe they hadn’t found anything, they made the radiologist do it again! “

Many people who have experienced near-death experiences describe something similar to what Murjani tells, but it seems that she traveled somewhere that many of us will never get until we change ourselves.

When you learn to love and appreciate yourself, you can experience a piece of heaven! In this video, Anita Moorjani talks about her experience of near death with lymphoma and how it helped her understand what our diseases can teach us and what really matters most in our lives.

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Metaphysics & Psychology

Human biocomputer. Is it true that thought is material?

Human biocomputer. Is it true that thought is material? 100

Recently there have been reports that American researchers have been able to calculate the weight of human thought. It ranges in their opinion, from 10 to 30 grams. 

What is Consciousness?

Consciousness is our ability to think, reason, determine our attitude to reality. It reminds our muscles how to ride a bike or drive a car, tells us that we have a business meeting next Monday, and participates in many decisions. Consciousness can be imagined as a large organizer right in our head, in which we keep all the information we need.

But does consciousness belong to us? Scientist say that the brain is a kind of “being in being”. It seems to live and act within us, but according to its own laws, unknown to us. There are thousands of documented cases from medical practice, when people live and retain their mental abilities with complete or partial absence of a brain or with complete cerebral hydrocephalus.

Such facts and evidence make scientists recognize the fact that consciousness exists independently of the brain. So, John Eccles, the largest neurophysiologist and Nobel Prize winner in medicine, believed that the psyche is not a function of the brain. Together with his colleague, neurosurgeon Wilder Penfield, who has performed more than 10,000 brain surgeries, Eccles wrote the book ‘The Mystery of Man‘. In it, the authors explicitly state that they have no doubt that a person is controlled by something outside his body.

Two more Nobel Prize winners, neurophysiologists David Hubel and Thorsten Wiesel, have repeatedly said in their speeches and scientific works: in order to assert the connection between the brain and consciousness, you need to understand what exactly reads and decodes the information that comes from the senses. However, as they emphasize, this is not yet possible.

A research team led by Dr. Sam Parnia conducted an experiment for 4.5 years with 2060 patients in 15 hospitals. Scientists have collected evidence that the human consciousness is still working, even if the rest of the body (including the brain) can already be considered dead. 

“The brain, like any other organ of the human body, consists of cells and cannot think. However, it can work as a device that detects thoughts – like a television receiver, which first receives waves, and then converts them into sound and image “, – this was the conclusion of Sam Parnia.

A person can be compared to a biocomputer participating in the exchange of information on the “Internet” of the noosphere. The fact that our brain is a transceiver of electromagnetic signals is a reliable fact, but modern methods of registering them are not yet sensitive enough. And our consciousness is just an instrument that is given to us for the perception of this world. And his activity has a creative power. 

Scientists from the Canadian Queens University conducted an experiment in which volunteers were seated in the center of a room and another person’s gaze was periodically directed to the back of their heads. Approximately 95% of the subjects noted that they clearly felt the effect of the gaze on themselves as “passing pressure on the back of the head.” 

Human biocomputer. Is it true that thought is material? 101

Can thought change reality? 

Modern science has evidence that thought is material. With our thoughts, we create our own personal reality, which is formed on the basis of our beliefs and beliefs. And this reality can be changed. How? With the help of all the same thoughts! 

American researcher in the field of neurophysiology and neuropsychology Joe Dispenza was one of the first to study the influence of consciousness on reality from a scientific point of view. It happened after the tragedy. Dispenza was hit by a car, doctors suggested that he fasten the damaged vertebrae with an implant, which could subsequently lead to lifelong pain. But only in this way, according to doctors, he could walk again. However, Dispenza decided to challenge traditional medicine and restore his health with the power of thought. Just 9 months later, he went again. 

The key discovery made by this scientist is that the brain does not distinguish between real and imagined experiences. For example, Dispenza conducted such an experiment. Its members were divided into two groups. People from the first group pressed the spring mechanism with the same finger every day for an hour. People from the second only had to imagine that they were clicking. As a result, the fingers of the subjects from the first group strengthened by 30%, and from the second – by 22%. So, Joe Dispenza proved that for the brain and neurons there is not much difference between real and mental experience. This means that if we pay attention to negative thoughts, our brain perceives them as reality and causes corresponding changes in the body. For example, illness, fear, depression, outburst of aggression, etc.

Human biocomputer. Is it true that thought is material? 102

How to rejuvenate with your imagination? 

The idea that thoughts and emotions generated at the same time by several people can affect reality has been expressed for a long time. But this idea belonged more to the sphere of esotericism than science. In the 1990s, scientists at Princeton University decided to test it with an experiment. 

They worked with a random number generator. It usually outputs roughly equal numbers of zeros and ones. During the experiments, the operators had to “inspire” the machine to produce more zeros or, conversely, ones. To do this, they intensely thought about the desired. And the results that the generator showed exceeded the probabilities. The experimenters also noticed that when two people participated in the experiment, their “influence” on the generator increased. However, the result looked more impressive if there was a strong emotional connection between the participants.

Imagination is one of the most dynamic human capabilities. In the UK, scientists have proven that the power of thought can even rejuvenate. In a study of volunteer participants, older men who had crossed the 70s, they were asked to change their way of thinking. They were asked to think and act as if each of them suddenly “dropped” 20 years.

The subjects followed the recommendations by changing their way of thinking, daily routine, and their usual activities. Less than a week later, the authors of the experiment noted the first changes, and they were physiological, and therefore easily amenable to elementary checks. In tests and analyzes, it was found that all participants who began to think and act like younger men had improved vision and hearing. Their joints became more flexible and coordination of movements improved. And these changes were by no means short-term: they were “entrenched” in those who, even after the end of the study, continued to think and act like a young man. 

In conclusion, we will mention one more experiment, or rather, an interesting experience. A Chinese physicist, head of the department of Tsinghua University, Bohai Dui, once asked the students to whom he was lecturing to mentally wish him ill. This happened in a lecture. 300 people got down to business at once. Someone imagined terrible situations with the professor, someone inwardly swore at him. And what? The next day he was unable to go to work! The results of the blood test, which he donated for verification, were close to critical. 

The professor was treated on the principle of “like like”. This time, 300 students mentally wished him well. The scientist regained strength, the analyzes returned to normal. By the way, Bohai Dui later wrote a book on this topic. In it, he popularly explained that man is not the king of nature at all, but only an electromagnetic system.

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Metaphysics & Psychology

Back to the future: Five concepts of time travel, reflected in pop culture

Back to the future: Five concepts of time travel, reflected in pop culture 103

We have collected five concepts of time travel, reflected in pop culture, and try to explain if they could ever become reality.

Turn back time, like in Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet”

The plot of the “Tenet” is based on the artistic assumption of the creators of the picture that time can be inverted. That is, to move along the same time axis, but in a different direction. It is not a parallel dimension or a return to the past. An inverted person does not get younger, but all processes around him are going in the opposite direction. For example, oxygen is exhaled and carbon dioxide is inhaled – therefore an oxygen mask is needed. In the inverted time axis, the explosion cools objects, rather than ignites them – the opposite entropy occurs. 

Despite the fact that Nobel Prize laureate in physics Kip Thorne contributed to the creation of the film, upon careful analysis, the concept of time inversion does not stand up to criticism. The theoretical scientific basis of the film is based on several concepts: antiparticles, CPT invariance, one-electron universe. 

Ilya Deriy, an employee of the Center for Nanophotonics of the National Research University of Information Technologies, Mechanics and Optics, explains: An antiparticle to a particle is the same particle, the moduli of the main parameters of which – mass, charge – are equal to the moduli of the particle parameters, but differ in sign. If particle “a” has mass m, then “anti-a” will have mass -m.

CPT invariance implies the symmetry of physical laws when changing a particle to an antiparticle and changing the sign of time. The theory of a one-electron universe is a hypothetical model of the universe in which all electrons are one electron located alternately at different points in space.

Without going into the details of complex mathematical calculations and equations, it can be said that there are at least three main obstacles on the way back to the future or forward to the past. Speaking about “Tenet”, one can recall one of them – the principle of causality. It consists in a simple question: “If I kill my grandfather, will I die too?” Nolan’s film responds elegantly, “How do I know?” 

The director decided not to flirt with unpleasant logical paradoxes. Another plus in Nolan’s piggy bank – people in inverted time just go towards us, changing, for us – the past, for them – the future, but we do exactly the same thing, just the opposite. Moreover, at a certain point in time, we always have the same result. This is similar to how films were played on film in old cinemas. 

Whatever it is, the picture at 12:05 will always be the same. In order not to break the logic, it is necessary to accept the requirement that “everything” exists “always”. Plus or minus does not contradict anything if we take it for granted that there is a time loop that has always existed, because in this case the principle of causality is not violated. 

We just walk in a circle and everything is arranged in such a way that the starting point always coincides with the ending point. Model,

Technology portal to the past, like in the novel “11/22/63” by Stephen King

English teacher Jacob Epping learns that in the back room of an ordinary diner there is a portal to the past, which operates according to several strict laws. A person always moves at the same time, on the same day – 11:58 on September 9, 1958. Regardless of the duration of the trip in the past, in the present it will take only 2 minutes. 

It is possible to influence and change events that have already occurred in the past, but if you use the portal again, this will cancel all changes. By the way, the past resists change – the larger the traveler’s influence on events, the more it resists. Jacob uses the portal to try to prevent the assassination of John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963.

Back to the future: Five concepts of time travel, reflected in pop culture 104
Photo: Reddit

In this case, one can recall the Heisenberg uncertainty principle. He says that quantum particles do not have a specific momentum and coordinate. These two characteristics simply take on a value in a certain interval. And the smaller this gap for one of the variables, the larger it is for the other. 

The following conclusion suggests itself: even if it turns out to turn the past backwards, this principle will not change. And various quantum processes will always happen with a certain degree of randomness. That is, the past will no longer be the same as it was before we remember it. And the further in time we go, the more we will feel this effect. 

It is somewhat similar to the butterfly effect, when a minor impact on the system can cause unpredictable consequences not only in the system itself, but also in a completely unexpected place.

Creation of a temporal field, as in the novel “The End of Eternity”, Isaac Asimov

The book describes the organization “Eternity” existing outside of time and space, which gained the ability to travel in time after breakthrough research in mathematics and physics was carried out on the basis of the temporal field generator. 

Based on these studies, it was possible to stretch a negligibly narrow temporal field into the future, when the sun turned into a supernova. It was the use of supernova energy that allowed “Eternity” to expand the field and place members of the organization in different centuries in order to keep an eye on “time” – ordinary people and prevent catastrophes. 

Back to the future: Five concepts of time travel, reflected in pop culture 105
Photo: Pinterest

Theoretically, the use of supernova energy is possible provided that it can be integrated into the developed device. You also need to remember about banal energy considerations. 

Let’s say there is a ball that is rolling down a hill. To return it to the top, it must first be stopped, and then also rolled to the peak. What if the same ball is not just rolling down a hill, but flying at a breakneck speed in outer space? It is necessary to spend energy not only to stop it, but also to stop all the processes that occur inside, the existence of many of which we do not even mean. This will have to spend a huge amount of energy, which, in my opinion, humanity does not yet have. 

Temporality is a special characteristic of temporal processes, which consists in the assumption of the temporal nature of phenomena. In the novel, this is an intertemporal cavity formed by an inexplicable paradox. 

Timeloop like in Duncan Jones’s “Source Code”

US intelligence agencies have developed the Source Code program . It allows you to place the consciousness of the agent in the body of any person in the last eight minutes of his life. The task of the main character Colter Stevens is to prevent the train explosion that happened the day before, destroying the bomb, and find out who created it. This will help find and neutralize another explosive device that has not yet been activated. 

The program is a skillful imitation, which means that it is impossible to change the course of events and evacuate the train. In this case, the activation of the “Source Code” leads to the creation of new timelines due to manipulations with quantum physics.

The time loop is a favorite plot move for many screenwriters and writers. The most striking example of this is the cult film Groundhog Day, where the hero is forced to live the same day over and over again. In real life, this term owes its appearance to the Austrian scientist Kurt Gödel. 

He wrote a paper on general relativity, where he proposed a solution to the Einstein equation by considering the role of the gravitational potential. It follows from Gödel’s solution that the universe can have a special structure, where the flow of time is looped. In theory, this could lead to time travel. Modern physicists believe that this solution has no practical meaning. 

If we add to the assumption about the temporal looping of the theory from quantum physics that there are parallel realities, then theoretically, time travel to alternative realities gets rid of all paradoxes. However, scientists did not even try to develop a mathematical apparatus that would take into account such an assumption. 

A natural portal to the past, as in the TV series “Dark”

The series takes place in the fictional city of Winden, located next to a nuclear power plant. Below it is a system of caves where a wormhole is found, allowing time travel 33 years into the past and into the future. 

In Dark, the approach to time travel and its consequences is quite realistic – it is impossible to change the course of history. Once in the past, a person cannot change destiny, only contribute to the predetermined future. 

All events will happen, and time loops will continue to exist. This is due to the  principle of causality , which was also used in “Tenet” – if event A caused event B, then A happened before B. The principle of the wormhole under Winden resembles the Einstein-Rosen bridge. The show also features a “particle of god” as a must-have for time travel. In reality, this concept resembles the Higgs boson. 

The Higgs boson is an elementary particle responsible for inert mass. It serves as a measure of the body’s inertia, that is, it determines the degree of its resistance to external influences. The more inert body mass, the slower and weaker the body reacts to the action of external forces.

The Einstein-Rosen Bridge is a wormhole, a hypothetical time travel vehicle that connects two points at any distance from each other in time and space. The implication is that space and time in this concept have neither end nor edge. That is, a particle trapped in a hole can continue its path to the future or past as far as desired. 

The concept of wormholes is consistent with general relativity, but no practical study or scientific work has proven their existence in real life. So far, they exist only on television screens. 

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