Precognition (from the Latin præ-, "before" and cognitio, "acquiring knowledge"), also called future sight, and second sight, is an alleged psychic ability to see events in the future.
As with other forms of extrasensory perception, there is no evidence that precognition is a real ability possessed by anyone, however it still appears within movies, books, and discussion within the parapsychology community.
Scientific investigation of extrasensory perception is complicated by the definition which implies that the phenomena go against established principles of science. Specifically, precognition would violate the principle that an effect cannot occur before its cause. There are established biases affecting human memory and judgment of probability that sometimes create convincing but false impressions of precognition.
Precognition is the direct knowledge or perception of the future, obtained through extrasensory means. Precognition is the most frequently reported of all extrasensory perception (ESP) experiences, occurring most often (60 percent to 70 percent) in dreams. It may also occur spontaneously in waking visions, auditory hallucinations, flashing thoughts entering the mind, and the sense of "knowing." Precognitive knowledge also may be induced through trance, channeling, mediumship, and divination.
Usually the majority of precognitive experiences happen within a forty-eight hour period prior to the future event, most often it is within twenty-four hours. In rare cases precognitive experiences occur months or even years before the actual event takes place. Severe emotional shock seems to be a major factor in precognition. By a ratio of four-to-one, most concern unhappy events, such as death and dying, illness, accidents, and natural disasters. Intimacy is also a major factor, 80 to 85 percent of such experiences involve a spouse, family member or friend with whom the individual has close emotional ties. The remainder involves casual acquaintances and strangers, most of whom are victims in major disasters such as airplane crashes or earthquakes.
The difference between precognition, premonition, and prophecy: premonition generally involves knowledge of a future event while premonition involves the sense or feeling that something is going to happen; whereas all prophecy is precognition, but not all precognition is prophecy.
The reliance upon precognition reaches back to ancient times, when prophets and oracles were sought for their access to the future. The Greeks considered the future immutable. Free will, however, can change the perceived future, as seen in the many incidents of individuals saving their lives and escaping disasters by changing their previously formed plans based on precognitive information. Psychical researchers estimate that one-third to one-half of all precognitive experiences may provide useful information to avert disasters.
This apparent ability to alter the perceived future makes precognition difficult to understand. If precognition is a glimpse of the true or real future, then the effects are witnessed before the causes. Such conditions do occur in quantum physics. The most popular theory holds that precognition is a glimpse of a possible future that is based upon present conditions and existing information, and which may be altered depending upon acts of free will. That theory implies the future can cause the past, a phenomenon called "backward causality" or "retro-causality."
A different and controversial theory contends that the precognitive experience itself unleashes a powerful psychokinetic (PK) energy, which then brings the envisioned future to pass. Such self-fulfilling prophecies were examined in the 1960s by the London psychiatrist J. A. Barker, who contended in his book, Scared to Death, that people who died in the manner and at the time predicted by fortune-tellers were literally "scared to death" and contributed somehow to their own demise. Barker studied more precognitions surrounding the coal slide disaster in 1966, at Aberfan, Wales, which killed 144 people. He established the British Premonitions Bureau, which collected precognitive data in order to avert disasters. Barker succeeded in finding a number of "human seismographs" who tuned in regularly to disasters but were unable to accurately pinpoint the times.
Despite the difficulty in understanding precognition, it is the easiest form of extrasensory perception to test in the laboratory. J. W. Dunne, a British aeronautics engineer, undertook the first systematic study of precognition in the early twentieth century. In 1927, he published the classic An Experiment with Time, which contained his findings and theories. Dunne's study was based on his personal precognitive dreams, which involved both trivial incidents in his own life and major news events appearing in the press the day after the dream. When first realizing that he was seeing the future in his dreams, Dunne worried that he was "a freak." His worries soon eased when discovering that precognitive dreams are common; he concluded, that many people have them without realizing it, perhaps because the do not recall the details or fail to properly interpret the dream symbols.
Dunne's Theory of Serial Time proposes that time exists in layers on dimensions, each of which may be viewed in different perspectives from different layers. The origin of all layers is Absolute Time, created by God. Needless to say, the scientific community rejected Dunne's theory.
J. B. Rhine and Louisa Rhine began the next significant systematic research of precognition in the 1930s at the Parapsychology Laboratory at Duke University. J. B. Rhine's original goal was to prove telepathy, but his experiment with ESP cards also revealed precognition and PK; however when other perused psychical researchers Rhine's work, precognition continued being an ongoing research project.
One peculiarity concerning precognition is that one rarely perceives one's own death; perhaps one explanation is the trauma it too great for the ego to accept. Some notable exceptions do exist: Abraham Lincoln dreamed of his own death six weeks before his assassination. However, his dream was not of being shot and dying, but of being an observer after the fact. He saw a long procession of mourners entering the White House. When he entered himself and passed the coffin, he was shocked to find himself looking at his own body. American presidents John Garfield and William McKinley experienced foreknowledge of their deaths. A.G.H.
Over the past few decades a significant and noteworthy amount of scientific research has emerged contributing to the notion that human precognition could very well be real, and that we all might possess this potential -amongst various other extended human capacities. Thanks to the research by various scientists presented in this article, extended human capacities are beginning to exit the realm of superstitious thinking, delusion and irrationality and find their way into the world of confirmed phenomena. Claims of precognition or “future telling” have occurred “throughout human history in virtually every culture and period.”
It’s not hard to see why we are so fascinated with these concepts, they are embedded in popular culture today throughout various outlets such as movies -which can sometimes be counter productive given the fact that they are merged with fictional stories and events. Similar to the extraterrestrial phenomenon, the validity of these concepts seems to shrink due to the fact that they are “just movies.” Although the stories that accompany these types of phenomena in movies is probably largely factious, the concepts do hold some validity. Let’s examine the truth behind pre cognition and claims of “future telling.”
“There seems to be a deep concern that the whole field will be tarnished by studying a phenomenon that is tainted by its association with superstition, spiritualism and magic. Protecting against this possibility sometimes seems more important than encouraging scientific exploration or protecting academic freedom. But this may be changing.”
– Cassandra Vieten, PhD and President/CEO at the Institute of Noetic Sciences
So what exactly is precognition? It’s basically the ability to have a premonition of a future event that could not otherwise be anticipated through any known process. It’s the influence of a future event that has yet to take place on an individuals responses. These responses can come in the form of their biology, they can be conscious responses the individual is aware of, or they can be non-conscious responses that the individual is not aware of (which is mostly the case when it comes to the scientific examination of pre cognition) and more.
“Pre cognition refers to the noninferential prediction of future events.”
A recently published study (meta analysis) in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience titled “Predicting the unpredictable: critical analysis and practical implications of predictive anticipatory activity” examined a number of experiments regarding this phenomenon that were conducted by several different laboratories.
These experiments indicate that the human body can actually detect randomly delivered stimuli that occur 1-10 seconds in advance. In other words, the human body seems to know of an event, and reacts to an event that has yet to occur. What occurs in the human body before these events are physiological changes that are measured regarding the cardiopulmonary, the skin, and the nervous system.
It’s important to note that these types of responses to future events that are measured in the body are unconscious responses, meaning that the subject (human) is not aware that they are actually taking place. So it is a form of pre cognition, but not full blown conscious premonitions.
The fact that changes in our physiological activity in the autonomic nervous system changes and prepares for future events is remarkable, and the fact that this is “unconscious precognition” should not take away from the fact that it helps us better understand the phenomenon of conscious precognition in a scientific sense. We are still waiting for science to catch up and provide an explanation for conscious precognition, regardless of whether the phenomenon has been observed or not.
More than 40 experiments investigating this phenomenon in humans have been published over the past 36 years (including: Hartwell, 1978; Radin et al., 1995, 2011; Bierman and Radin, 1997; Radin, 1997, 2004;Don et al., 1998; Bierman, 2000; Bierman and Scholte, 2002; McDonough et al., 2002;Spottiswoode and May, 2003;McCraty et al., 2004a,b; Sartori et al., 2004; May et al., 2005;Tressoldi et al., 2005, 2009, 2011; Radin and Borges, 2009; Bradley et al., 2011). This is what promoted the meta-analysis.
The analysis concluded that:
“The predictive physiological anticipation of a truly randomly selected and thus unpredictable future event, has been under investigation for more than three decades, and a recent conservative meta-analysis suggests that the phenomenon is real.”
Another recently published paper via the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology by Cornell university professor Dr. Daryl J. Bem suggests that precognition may be real. Dr Bern is a leading social psychologist and has been well-respected throughout his long and esteemed career. So his work suggesting that precognition may be real is quite a large leap for this type of phenomenon.
Dr. Bem’s study outlines nine experiments that involved more than 1000 participants that “test for retroactive influence by time reversing well-established psychological effects so that the individual’s responses are obtained before the putatively causal stimulus events occur.”
After going through and examining these experiments, Dr. Bem concluded that all but one of them yielded statistically significant results. The paper and experiments are provided within the sources listed.
Again, pre cognition has been well documented and observed in laboratories all over the world. Just because there is a lack of ability for psi research to provide an explanation for the observed phenomena does not discredit the phenomenon itself.
“Historically, the discovery and scientific exploration of most phenomena have preceded explanatory theories, often by decades or even centuries.”- Dr. Bern
Another study from Dr. Dean Radin, one of the several authors noted in the first study used in this article conducted four double blind experiments that also show that some intuitive hunches, measured by fluctuations in the autonomic nervous system involve unconscious perception .of future events that have yet to occur, and the experiments supported this idea
Another significant study (meta-analysis) that was published in the Journal of Parapsychology by Charles Honorton and Diane C. Ferrari in 1989, examine a number of studies that were published between 1935 and 1987. The studies involved attempts of individuals to predict “the identity of target stimuli selected randomly over intervals ranging from several hundred million seconds to one year following the individuals responses.” These authors investigated over 300 studies conducted by over 60 authors, using approximately 2 million individual trials by more than 50,000 people.
It concluded that their analysis of precognition experiments “confirms the existence of a small but highly significant precognition effect. The effect appears to be repeatable; significant outcomes are reported by 40 investigators using a variety of methodological paradigms and subject populations. The precognition effect is not merely an unexplained departure from a theoretical chance baseline, but rather is an effect that covaries with factors known to influence more familiar aspects of human performance.”
Why is this type of precognition unconscious? And does it have the potential to become conscious?
Again, as mentioned earlier in the article, the science behind precognition refers to unconscious precognition. This means that the response to future events prior to when they happen is measured through physiological changes, and that seems to be quite clear.
But why should this be the case? If our body (parts of our nervous system) can obtain information about events seconds in the future, why would we not have the inability to not make this information conscious? Maybe we do have that potential.
Researchers in the first study used in this article suggest that this might be the case because the information is not useful, similar to the majority of information that is usually processed unconsciously. They also suggest that the conscious mind may not be able to make such quick decisions. They state “it might be evolutionarily advantageous for unconscious processing to assess upcoming events, filter them, mobilize resources, and only then inform conscious awareness.”
Parapsychological Phenomenon, Consciousness & How They Relate To The Nature Of Our Reality
Precognition is one small aspect of a much larger body of what is termed as parapsychological phenomenon. For more information from CE on some areas of this larger body of information you can check out this article:
Scientific Studies That Prove Consciousness and Our Physical Material World Are Somehow Intertwined.
If you want to further your research even more, a great place to start would be the The Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS)
MOST SCIENCE PAPERS don’t begin with a description of psi, those “anomalous processes of information or energy transfer” that have no material explanation. (Popular examples of psi include telepathy, clairvoyance and psychokinesis.) It’s even less common for a serious science paper, published in an elite journal, to show that psi is a real phenomenon. But that’s exactly what Daryl Bem of Cornell University has demonstrated in his new paper, “Feeling the Future: Experimental Evidence for Anomalous Retroactive Influences on Cognition and Affect,” which was just published in The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
Bem’s experimental method was extremely straightforward. He took established psychological protocols, such as affective priming and recall facilitation, and reversed the sequence, so that the cause became the effect. For instance, he might show students a long list of words and ask them to remember as many as possible. Then, the students are told to type a selection of words which had been randomly selected from the same list. Here’s where things get really weird: the students were significantly better at recalling words that they would later type.
Or consider this experiment, which is a direct test of precognition. Bems provided the following instructions to subjects:
This is an experiment that tests for ESP. It takes about 20 minutes and is run completely by computer. First you will answer a couple of brief questions. Then, on each trial of the experiment, pictures of two curtains will appear on the screen side by side. One of them has a picture behind it; the other has a blank wall behind it. Your task is to click on the curtain that you feel has the picture behind it. The curtain will then open, permitting you to see if you selected the correct curtain. There will be 36 trials in all. Several of the pictures contain explicit erotic images (e.g., couples engaged in nonviolent but explicit consensual sexual acts). If you object to seeing such images, you should not participate in this experiment.
The location of the image was selected at random by the computer, which means that students should have correctly guessed the location of the pornography 50 percent of the time. However, it turned out that over 100 sessions, the subjects consistently performed above chance, and correctly located the porn 53.1 percent of the time. Interestingly, their hit rate on “non-erotic pictures” did not deviate from chance. (They found neutral pictures, for instance, 49.8 percent of the time.)
The power of Bem’s paper is cumulative. In total, he describes the results of nine different experiments, conducted on more than 1000 subjects. All of the experiments revealed slight yet statistically significant psianomalies, with an average effect size of 0.21 across all experiments.
However, the real contribution of this paper isn’t even these statistically significant results. Instead, it’s Bem’s attempt to create rigorous, well-controlled tests of psi that can be replicated by independent investigators. Because here is the dirty secret of anomalous phenomena like telepathy and clairvoyance: They’ve been demonstrated dozens of times, often by reputable scientists. (Bem is an extremely well-respected psychologist, best known for his work on self-perception.) Why, then, do serious scientists dismiss the possibility of psi? Why do rational people assume that parapsychology is bullshit? Because these exciting results have consistently failed the test of replication.
And this is why Bem’s paper is so important: It provides the first testable framework for the investigation of anomalous psychological properties. Unlike most tests of psi or ESP, Bem’s research builds upon well-known experimental paradigms, and minimizes the contact between the experimenter and the subject. The data collection was automated and accurate; the paper passed peer-review. (Charles Judd, who oversaw the review process at JPSP, said: “This paper went through a series of reviews from some of our most trusted reviewers.”) Only time will tell if the data holds up. But at least time will tell us something. Bem ends the paper with a reference to Lewis Carroll:
Near the end of her encounter with the White Queen, Alice protests that “one can’t believe impossible things,” a sentiment with which the 34% of academic psychologists who consider psi to be impossible would surely agree. The White Queen famously retorted, “I daresay you haven’t had much practice. When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
Update: The replication process has begun! (Isn’t empiricism neat?) See here and here for the negative results.
Precognition is understood to be a form of extra-sensory perception in which an individual may experience a sense of events before they take place. This acquisition of paranormal knowledge about the future is not always considered to be definitive, with some supporters of ESP noting that precognition is often a warning of what will come to pass unless there is some change in the current set of factors surrounding the event.
In general, precognition is used as a collective term for more than one type of foretelling future events. Some psychics receive information about the future through a process that is referred to as presentiment. Within this concept of precognition, the individual receives impressions that are based in the display of a range of emotions surrounding some person or event. For example, there may be a sense of great fear associated with a person in the near future, with the impression being that the person is going to be physically injured in some manner. Another form of precognition is clairvoyance. This idea has to do with the reception of images that allow the psychic to view events from the eyes of another person, or as a third party observer.
With all forms of precognition, there is usually some sort of trigger that leads to the psychic experience. The range of triggers is very broad, and may include such factors as words, smells, handling an object that was recently in the possession of the owner, and sound. There are instances of some sort of precognitive activity taking place when shown a photograph or passing by a particular home in a neighborhood.
Believers in precognition stress that these visions of the future are not mean to be carved in stone. Instead, they are meant to serve as a foretaste of something that will take place if there is not some type or change made in a short period of time. One example would be that is a psychic had a vision of someone being attacked while on a particular street, the individual could avoid that location until the psychic sensed the time for the potential event had passed.
While the validity of precognition, along with other types of ESP, continues to be debated, there is no doubt that many people place a great deal of faith in the reality of this form of psychic expression. For others, it is an interesting entertainment option, while still other people believe the activity is connected with evil forces. Whatever the thoughts about precognition, no one can deny it is a concept that continues to attract a great deal of attention in just about all parts of the world today.