The ability to see the future has long been a subject of mythology, folklore, and science fiction. While remote viewing of far-distant events is likely the stuff of fiction alone, there is a scientific precedent suggesting that some forms of precognition or prediction may be possible. Advances in quantum physics, four-dimensional “time crystals,” and even predictive artificial intelligence systems are beginning to complicate our understand of time and our ability to foresee the future.
All of these methods of time-bending rely on advanced technologies or materials, though. True human precognition - the ability to predict or ‘see’ the future using only one’s psychic abilities - remains the stuff of fantasy. While throughout history there have been many reports and tales of people seeming to foresee their immediate futures, these remain unexplained anomalies or the result of confirmation bias.
However, a new study published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience is reporting scientific evidence of a phenomenon researchers are calling “predictive anticipatory activity,” or PAA. While the researchers don’t come anywhere close to calling this precognition, they do note that this phenomenon “appears to resemble precognition (consciously knowing something is going to happen before it does).” The team of neuroscientists who published the study did not conduct experiments of their own, but instead conducted a “meta-study” in which they examined research published over the last three decades which examines similar predictive phenomenon. Their conclusion?
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.
That’s a pretty heavy statement for a journal like Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, one of the foremost sources of peer-reviewed neuroscientific research. The authors write that while these phenomena aren’t well-understood yet, their analysis suggests that these findings cannot be explained by questionable research practices (QRP) or physiological artifacts, activity generated by participants’ bodies which can affect brain scans:
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.
Does that mean that evidence of human precognition has been ‘hiding’ in plain sight among scattered, disparate data sets? It’s possible. Of course, the authors have already taken their share of criticism from skeptics who question their methods. Still, this study, no matter how valid its claims are proven to be, seems to be part of a larger trend of paranormal studies making their way into “mainstream” research circles. Are the ivory towers of ‘Big Academia’ finally taking a serious interest in the unexplained?