Extrasensory perception: Debunking the sixth sense

January 14, 2014 by Liz Banks-Anderson, University of Melbourne

(Medical Xpress)—New research led by the University of Melbourne has helped debunk the common belief that a sixth sense, also known as extrasensory perception (ESP), exists.

The study, published today in the journal PLOS ONE, found that people could reliably sense when a change had occurred, even when they could not see exactly what had changed.

For example, a person might notice a general change in someone's appearance but not be able to identify that the person had had a haircut.

Lead researcher Dr. Piers Howe from the Melbourne School of Psychological Sciences said the research is the first to show in a scientific study that people can reliably sense changes that they cannot visually identify.

"There is a common belief that can experience changes directly with their mind, without needing to rely on the traditional physical senses such as vision, hearing, taste, smell and touch to identify it. This alleged ability is sometimes referred to as a sixth sense or ESP.

"We were able to show that while observers could reliably sense changes that they could not visually identify, this ability was not due to extrasensory perception or a ," he said.

In the study, observers were presented with pairs of colour photographs, both of the same female. In some cases, her appearance would be different in the two photographs. For example, the individual might have a different hairstyle.

Each photograph was presented for 1.5 seconds with a 1 second break between them. After the last photograph, the observer was asked whether a change had occurred and, if so, identify the change from a list of nine possible changes. Results showed study participants could generally detect when a change had occurred even when they could not identify exactly what had changed. For example, they might notice that the two photographs had different amounts of red or green but not be able to use this information to determine that the person had changed the colour of their hat.

This resulted in the observer "feeling" or "sensing" that a change had occurred without being able to visually identify the change. Thus, the result that observers can reliably feel or sense when a change has occurred without being able to visually identify the change could be explained without invoking an extrasensory mechanism.

Explore further: Study sheds new light on a classic question in psychology and neuroscience

More information: Howe PDL, Webb ME (2014) Detecting Unidentified Changes. PLoS ONE 9(1): e84490. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0084490

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not rated yet Jan 14, 2014
Extrasensory perception is not the same as extrasensory cognition, which is what is usually meant when people refer to a sixth sense. Derp.
1 / 5 (2) Jan 14, 2014
Explain this.


Somebody prove this is a hoax. It would be nice, but this is pretty solid.
1.2 / 5 (5) Jan 14, 2014
A characteristic example of fraud in "science".
A common scam, "disprove" something by redefining it, then disproving that deceitful redefinition.
"Extrasensory perception" is not noticing if a change has occurred. It is being aware of information without conventional physical contact. Reading others' thoughts, seeing objects behind a steel wall, knowing the future.
Anyone sitting for a minute or two at a traffic light can tell you if something changed!
Note the lie, among other things, in using conventional sense perceptions of pictures to "prove" extrasensory perception doesn't exist. In fact, Dr. Piers, The University of Melbourne and anyone else associated with deliberate and willful promulgation of the untruth of extra sensory perception being "debunked' is nothing but a liar.
3 / 5 (2) Jan 14, 2014
Probably I am super human -having seven senses:1.sight 2.hearing 3.taste 4.smell 5.temperature 6.tactile 7.gravity -balance
5 / 5 (3) Jan 14, 2014
Sorry, but this always annoys me. We already know that there are more than 6 senses. In addition to taste, smell, hearing, sight, touch there is proprioception, and balance (the vestibular sense). Also touch is in fact several senses -- pressure, heat, pain are all different. That's 8. And that's a scientific fact.
4 / 5 (4) Jan 14, 2014
Explain this.


Somebody prove this is a hoax. It would be nice, but this is pretty solid.

As he says at 1:20, he's not *completely* blind, only about 30%. The blindfold is translucent enough that I can see his eyes through it (e.g. at 2:03). If I can see the light reflecting off his eyes from inside it, he can see the light reflecting off objects through it.

He might also be able to see through the gaps in the blindfold around his nose by tilting his head back, but I think it's more likely that he's just seeing directly through the gaps in the fabric.
5 / 5 (2) Jan 14, 2014
Explain this.


Somebody prove this is a hoax. It would be nice, but this is pretty solid.

If we simply ask him to go get tested by the James Randy Foundation (JREF), either he will win $1 million, or be exposed as a hoax. How do we contact him? His response will be the proof we need.
not rated yet Jan 14, 2014
I worked in film and TV for 35 years now. We have an old saying. If the title to something is a question, then answer is always no. For instance, "Did aliens build the pyramids?" NO!

The videos posted here are TV shows. I hate to break it to you folks but TV shows are money making propositions. They are not there to teach you anything or prove anything. They are there to make money. That's all. Most TV shows, especially reality shows and shows with "amazing" type stuff are pure hokum.

I was a special effects guy for 12 years. I worked for one of the most famous magical trick building companies as well. My family has worked in the entertainment industry all my life. There is one common thread in TV and film and that is "everything is fake." Reality TV is not real, these "documentaries" are not real. There is no law anywhere saying a producer can't lie as much as he want's when making these shows. All that matters is getting people to watch and discuss the show so it makes money.

not rated yet Jan 15, 2014
The article does not debunk the sixth sense, to the point that it hard to find a mention of a sixth sense (ignoring that Aristotle proposed 5 senses a few thousand years ago, and science has moved on a little since then). The only decent thing to do is politely ignore the text above, and to try to debunk the article. I think I will write something on the plos.org site. When skeptics confidently write nonsense, as above, is it worse or better than when others write nonsense?
not rated yet Jan 15, 2014
This study is quite unrelated to ESP but examines an aspect of deja vu: the feeling of unexplained familiarity with a place, situation or outcome.

Whilst some people may attribute the feeling that accompanies deja vu, coincidences and unexpected surprises to extra sensory or non-physical phenomena, those people that do not hold such beliefs still have these experiences (such as deja vu) but assume that they have physiological or cognitive origins.

Scientific ESP investigations have tried to measure an individual's ability to predict events, such as which card will appear in a pack of cards next; the ability of individuals to influence outcomes such as the prayer studies where a congregation pray for particular individuals recovering from surgery and their efforts compared to a non-prayed for group and so on. Thus far there have been no consistent positive results.
not rated yet Jan 17, 2014
From observations of my own mind it seems to me that almost all the experiences I've had that I attributed to esp or cognition of future events can also be explained by my subconscious making calculations using a vast array of data gathered through my normal senses, coming to a conclusion and then relaying that answer to my conscious mind by way of an emotional feeling, sometimes accompanied by a mental picture or an idea. This makes sense if we assume the mental calculation is beyond the abilities of conscious logical thought processes. Then in hind sight it seems to be kind of magical ... ESP or psychic or whatever.
bad science
not rated yet Jan 17, 2014
A good example of bad science.

This method completely fails to (dis)prove ESP.

Further, why waste research funding on topics such as these?

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