Predicting the unpredictable: critical analysis and practical implications of predictive anticipatory activity

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    • Published: 06-14-2015 04:14 pm

      "A recent meta-analysis of experiments from seven independent laboratories (n = 26) indicates that the human body can apparently detect randomly delivered stimuli occurring 1–10 s in the future (Mossbridge et al., 2012). The key observation in these studies is that human physiology appears to be able to distinguish between unpredictable dichotomous future stimuli, such as emotional vs. neutral images or sound vs. silence. This phenomenon has been called presentiment (as in “feeling the future”). In this paper we call it predictive anticipatory activity (PAA). The phenomenon is “predictive” because it can distinguish between upcoming stimuli; it is “anticipatory” because the physiological changes occur before a future event; and it is an “activity” because it involves changes in the cardiopulmonary, skin, and/or nervous systems. PAA is an unconscious phenomenon that seems to be a time-reversed reflection of the usual physiological response to a stimulus. It appears to resemble precognition (consciously knowing something is going to happen before it does), but PAA specifically refers to unconscious physiological reactions as opposed to conscious premonitions. Though it is possible that PAA underlies the conscious experience of precognition, experiments testing this idea have not produced clear results. The first part of this paper reviews the evidence for PAA and examines the two most difficult challenges for obtaining valid evidence for it: expectation bias and multiple analyses. The second part speculates on possible mechanisms and the theoretical implications of PAA for understanding physiology and consciousness. The third part examines potential practical applications."

      Summary and Conclusions
      In summary we have made the following points in this article.
      • PAA, 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.
      • Neither QRP, expectation bias, nor physiological artifacts seem to be able to explain PAA.
      • The mechanisms underlying PAA are not yet clear, but two viable yet difficult-to-test hypotheses are that quantum processes are involved in human physiology or that they reflect fundamental time symmetries inherent in the physical world.
      • The evidence indicates that there is a temporal mirroring between pre- and post-event physiological events, so that the nature of the post-event physiological response is a reflection of the characteristics of the PAA for that event.
      • Temporal blurring, in which closely overlapped emotional events may confuse or minimize both post-event responses and PAA before the event, may be a critical factor in isolating and amplifying PAA. %However, the noise introduced by this blurring may be limited by strictly “closing the temporal loop” between pre-stimulus and post-stimulus responses.
      • The principles of temporal mirroring and temporal blurring both guide the recommendations for designing reliable PAASTs.
      • Future research with multiple stimulus modalities, long inter-trial intervals, multiple individuals simultaneously exposed to the same stimulus, and machine-learning techniques will advance our understanding of the nature of PAA and allow a better harnessing of the delay before future events unfold.

      So in short they come to the conclusion that the brain can predict random unpredictable events.
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