We live in a rational world. In a world where there are no ghosts, angels and demons, and the creaking of the floorboards at night is the result of badly laid parquet, and not the next visit of a recently deceased grandmother. But if the ghosts and everything else is not real, why are so many people convinced that somehow they witnessed something otherworldly? The answer to this question is hidden in the peculiarities of our brain. Science is able to find answers to sometimes very strange questions, but when it comes to paranormal phenomena, the scientific basis for these events is sometimes even more fantastic than the myths themselves.
The ideomotor effect: how does the uijah board work?
Having gathered in the company of friends and decided to conduct a spiritualistic session using the uijah board, you may notice that a tiny plastic (well, or wooden) pointer at some point will start moving on its own. Moreover, people who touch and actually move it will be sure that they do not. Although, of course, they will. They just will not realize it. This is called the “ideomotor effect”, and for its demonstration there is a very interesting experiment that you can yourself hold at home.
Take a thread, hang on it some weight. Grab the thread with a suspended weight and hold it tight. Now ask yourself a question about yourself and say to yourself that if the answer to this question is “yes”, then the weight will start spinning clockwise, and if the answer is “no”, then it’s against the hour. If you believe in magic, then the weight should really change the direction of rotation, depending on your answer. Moreover, you will be sure that he does it himself, and not your hand.
This is explained by the fact that our bodies create subtle subconscious movements. When you ask yourself a question, your subconscious mind responds to it and barely noticeably forces the muscles to move without your conscious involvement. As a result, your fingers will move by themselves, spinning the weight and trying to answer the question posed. You will also feel that the Georgian is spinning by itself.
Absolutely the same effect occurs with the uijah board. Your subconscious mind discreetly starts to move the plastic pointer, and it seems to you that it is moving itself.
Experiment with “Philip”: an even more stunning result
In 1972, a group of psychologists gathered eight people and told them the story of a man named Philip Eislesford, and then invited the assembled people to summon his spirit through a seance. The room was dimmed, sang songs and began to ask questions to Philip. To the surprise of people, unusual things began to happen.
At first the table began to move. At one point, one of his sides bent, and he remained standing only on two legs. Then people began to think that the lighting in the room had acquired some kind of flicker. After that, the audience began to hear some tapping sounds and felt that thus Philip answered their questions. And he answered correctly for each of the questions asked. In any other situation, this would be a direct proof of the existence of the otherworldly world of spirits and the call of the ghost of the deceased person, if not for one thing: no Philip Eyesford never existed.
The person of Philip was completely invented by psychologists. Every detail of his elaborate biography was a fiction of scientists. Nevertheless, a group of people gathered somehow managed to convince themselves that they really caused his ghost.
The organizers of the experiment used several other psychological effects (tapping sounds and flickering of light), but in general all that has happened can be called the same ideomotor effect. People themselves moved the table on an unconscious level.
Psychologists have published the results of their research. Later, the experiment was repeated several times with other participants and organizers. The effect was the same. The volunteers who took part in the experiment were completely sure that they called upon the spirit of the man who never existed.
Experiment with placebo Henry IV: how exorcism works
The obsession with demons is one of the most popular explanations of many things. For decades, people have explained schizophrenia, epilepsy and a heap of other mental disorders by the fact that demons have moved into humans. But if it is not so, then how can exorcism be explained? If the whole thing was in schizophrenia, then why were people cured of incomprehensible spells in Latin?
The answer lies in our minds. At the end of the 16th century, King Henry IV assembled a consultation, which was to conduct an experiment on a woman who claimed that she was possessed by demons. The woman was told that the assembled were exorcist priests, and it worked.
First, the woman was given holy water from the church. She was poured into a regular mug and told that it was plain water. The real holy water had no effect. Then the woman was given ordinary water, but said it was holy water, and the woman shook with pain.
Then a piece of iron was put on the woman and said that this is part of the true cross. The woman began to roll on the floor in agony. In addition, tried to read the book in Latin, saying that this is the Bible. The woman began to shake again, although they read Virgil’s Aeneid.
And this was not at all a pretense. It was the result of her imagination. And almost every person can be convinced that something is affecting him. Quite recently a group of psychologists undertook to convince a few skeptics in the reality of demons. By the end of the experiment, 18 percent of the subjects had not only believed in demons, but also were convinced of their own obsession.
The Forer effect: why people believe in their horoscopes
One day, someone Michael Gaukelin posted an advertisement, offering everyone to do a free personal analysis of their personality, based solely on their astrological sign. All that was required was to send him the date of his birth. On its basis, a person was ready to give an exhaustive answer to the question of what personality you really are. Incredibly, 94 percent of the people who went for it said that Gaukelin had described them beautifully.
And this is strange, because Gaukelin sent everyone the same analysis. In fact, his guessing of personal traits was not based on horoscopes. He simply used very vague formulations, and everyone found in them what he wanted.
This is called the “Forer effect”. Describe it can be an attempt by the brain to tie an unrelated event to the desired result. The phenomenon is named after Bertram R. Forer and his experiment.
He distributed a group of students the same descriptions of their personality, which said: “You have a great need for other people to love and admire you.” 85 percent of his subjects were sure that this is their description.
Paradigm of false fame: why people believe in past lives
The reason why some people are convinced that they are able to remember how they were Jeanne d’Arc or the ancient Egyptian workers can be very simply explained: they have a very bad memory.
A group of researchers from the University of Maastricht conducted a test called “Paradigm of false fame.” It was attended by several groups of people who are confident that they can remember their past lives. Participants were given a list of names. Then, the next day, they were read a list of names in which unfamiliar names were mixed with yesterday. People who believed that they remembered past lives insisted that yesterday’s invented names were the names of famous personalities.
In other words, the memory of these participants was not very stable. When they could not remember where they had heard some familiar name, their brains made up a story to explain who these fake people were. It is believed that the same happens when people make up stories about past lives.
Experiment on the sense of presence: why do people feel the sinister presence
Here is another unusual experiment with even more unusual results. A group of scientists tied people’s eyes and put them between two robots. The fingers of people were attached to the robot in front of them. Machines were set up so that whenever people moved their hands, the robots behind their backs imitated these movements on their backs.
At first, this gave little. People were tapping their fingers and felt the robot’s finger tapping the same way on their back. But in fact, they did not care.
Oddities began to occur when researchers added a delay to the system. When the finger of the robot began to react with a delay of half a second, people began to feel that someone was standing behind them. Some even felt that they were surrounded by several invisible people, while others were so worried that they asked to stop the experiment.
Researchers believe that this happened because people lost a sense of control. When the delay was added, people ceased to feel a direct response to their movements. The inability to control the consequence of their own movements the brain perceives as a sign of someone else’s presence.
Researchers think that something like this happens with schizophrenics, as well as emaciated people and those who have experienced severe stress. They lose the ability to track the connection between their thoughts and movements, and this makes them feel that there is someone else in the room with them.
Why do people feel that they are hovering over their own body?
Many people felt that they seemed to hover above their own body, looking at themselves. Most often this was observed in the dying state, when people were on the verge of life and death. But is this really happening or is it just our imagination?
To find this out, a group of researchers wrote a message on the card and placed it on top of the apparatus in the hospital room. Then, when the patient left this room, they asked if the person had a feeling that he was hovering over his own body, and if so, what was written on the card. Three people reported that they had such moments, but none of them could remember the card.
The strangest thing is that these people did not pretend. Another group examined a woman who claimed to be able to perform “astral travel” at will, leaving her own body. The woman was hooked up to the device, which fixes the activity of the brain, and was asked to “get out of the body” to look at the brain reaction in this case.
The part of the brain responsible for vision was almost completely deactivated, and those parts that were associated with mental images flashed, and this meant that the woman was not completely lying. She really started to see her body from the side. But, based on the data of the work of her brain, it can be concluded that in reality the woman did not leave her body, but spontaneously caused hallucinations.
Mourning widows: why do people see ghosts
Not all those who claim to have seen ghosts are lying. Some people really believe that they saw dead people near them or how God came down from heaven to talk. And this is not necessarily schizophrenia.
It is difficult to explain this, but the psychologists who studied this phenomenon noticed a single pattern. In most groups of people, finding someone who saw the ghost is difficult. But here with elderly widows the picture is quite different. According to surveys, about 50 percent of elderly American widows saw their dead spouses.
Most often they were widows who lead an isolated lifestyle, and these phenomena are associated with some period of extreme stress. By the way, this is almost always so, other people also see ghosts under similar circumstances. Almost all of them are lonely and find themselves in unusual circumstances or under severe stress.
Psychologists believe that this is the real reason why these people see ghosts. It’s not that the deceased husbands come. Just extreme stress and loneliness can provoke the appearance of hallucinations.
Lucid dreams: why do people think they were abducted by extraterrestrials
The reason why many people think that they were abducted by aliens at night can be much easier than you imagine. The conclusions of one experiment show that these people just dreamed about it.
The researchers collected a group of 20 people who mastered the method of lucid dreaming (the ability to control their dreams). They were faced with the task: when they take their own dreams under control, they had to separate from their bodies and find a UFO.
Among the participants of the experiment, 35 percent saw in a dream how the aliens come to them and try to kidnap them. All they had to do for this was to think about extraterrestrials before bed, then the brain itself was the story of abduction by aliens.
It is believed that the same thing is probably happening with people who believe that they were abducted. Most often this occurs at the time of the so-called “sleep paralysis”, when the paralysis of the muscles occurs before falling asleep or the awakening occurs before its fall. This gives rise to hallucinations about the fact that intruders are chosen for your bed.
Several hundred years ago, people with paralysis of sleep reported that at night they were attacked by demons. Today, demons are not in vogue. Therefore, instead of demons, “aliens” are now coming.
Infrasound: why it seems that there are ghosts in the house
While working in a factory where ghosts were rumored to be, a scientist named Vick Tandy had a strange experience. Suddenly, he was seized with chills and apathy. Then, from the corner of his eye, he noticed that a somber figure was watching him. All this was so frightening that it took a person time to pull himself together. When he managed to do this, the ghost disappeared.
Most people would just run away to save their lives. However, Tandy was a scientist, so he decided to test one theory. He was sure that all these strange phenomena were the result of the impact of infrasound – sound waves, whose frequency is lower than human hearing can. He turned off the ventilation, which, in his opinion, could be the cause of infrasound. And, of course, once the ventilation was turned off, ghosts ceased to appear at the plant.
A few years later, the researchers decided to test the theory of Tandy. When people wandered along winding corridors, some of them were affected by infrasound. Those people who were exposed, felt the temperature change and in some cases saw strange phenomena. All the others did not see anything.
But this is only a partial reason, although the most basic one. Additional impact was that the employees of the same plant had already told Tandy about the ghosts. That is, most people see ghosts precisely because they expect to see them.