Can we really see the future?
London: Events that haven`t taken place yet can influence our behaviour, reveals a new study.
Parapsychologists have made outlandish claims about precognition - knowledge of unpredictable future events - for years.
The study, set to appear in Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, describes a series of experiments involving more than 1000 student volunteers, reports New Scientist.
Daryl Bem of the Cornell University took well-studied psychological phenomena and simply reversed the sequence, so that the event generally interpreted as the cause happened after the tested behaviour rather than before it.
In one experiment, students were shown a list of words and then asked to recall words from it, after which they were told to type words that were randomly selected from the same list.
Spookily, the students were better at recalling words that they would later type.
In another study, Bem adapted research on "priming" - the effect of a subliminally presented word on a person’s response to an image.
For instance, if someone is momentarily flashed the word "ugly", it will take them longer to decide that a picture of a kitten is pleasant than if "beautiful" had been flashed.
Running the experiment back-to-front, Bem found that the priming effect seemed to work backwards in time as well as forwards.
The effects he recorded were small but statistically significant. In another test, for instance, volunteers were told that an erotic image was going to appear on a computer screen in one of two positions, and asked to guess in advance which position that would be.
The image`s eventual position was selected at random, but volunteers guessed correctly 53.1 per cent of the time.