Intuition: The Sense That Defies The Physical

"The only real valuable thing is intuition." — Albert Einstein

"Happy; angry; happy… definitely happy". With an apparatus monitoring the brain and after two cerebral haemorrhages which left the visual processing centre of the brain seriously damaged, "Patient X", at 52 years of age, did not seem to be guessing faces at random.

Though blind, he was being shown photographs of faces expressing fear, happiness, and other emotions, and correctly "perceiving" them at a percentage much higher than would be expected by pure chance. Is this a means of 'sight' that lies outside of regular vision? A mode of receptivity yet to be recognised?

In particular, Dr Alan Pegna from the University of New South Wales in Australia and his investigation team in Geneva, Switzerland, were amazed at the results of this study. The brain of Patient X during the scan showed marked activity in the right amigdala, which gave a reading identical to that made by a person with an undamaged brain engaged in the same activity.

For many neuroscientists, the recent experience with X suggests an exciting possibility—of adding one more sense to the five thus far known. For others, it is no more than science's prelude to investigating the already well-known capacity of intuition.

Though having been met with little scientific recognition over the last century, the idea of the existence of intuition has gained momentum in the field of neurophysiology over recent years. This supposed capacity of "knowing" things that have not yet happened, far-away events, or imminent changes in the immediate environment, has been well known by basically all native peoples across the world for millennia—despite its long-held rejection by skeptical scientific circles.

Hypersensitivity, or the Sixth Sense?

"The sea has brought up hundreds of human bodies, but there is not a single dead elephant. Nor is there to be found even one cat or hare (…) it is very strange that no animal deaths have been registered." These declarations made after the Asian tsunami in 2004 by a Sri Lankan government official seem to raise some interesting questions.

Notably, do animals have the capacity to sense, by one way or another, imminent danger? How did they escape the tsunami? Only minutes before the sea surged forth, tearing up three and a half kilometers of solid earth, the animal life fled desperately toward the high areas of the island.

At the same time the native tribes in the region, with their sixty thousand years of contact with the natural environment, emulated the animals' behavior, also fleeing to higher grounds. The result was that practically all of the native inhabitants survived the waters' harsh treatment.

But how did they perceive, the indigenous peoples and the animals, the imminent threat? Is it reasonable to posit, or perhaps even to assert, intuition? But how does this enigmatic biological mechanism work?

This is surely not as easy to answer as it is to ask. According to the conjecture of investigators, the native people of the island have, over the years, unconsciously learnt some important lessons. For example, they felt the resonance of the footsteps of the wild elephants as they rushed towards the interior of the island, and also took note of the strange behavior of the dolphins and iguanas, and the wild revolt of the birds. In this way they effectively managed to perceive what our sophisticated radars, which were not functioning on the date of the tsunami, could not.

According to an article in the popular publication "Science", investigators from Washington University, St. Louis, say that the indigenous peoples' key to anticipation lies in an area of the brain called the anterior cingulate, which becomes active in situations of environmental change imperceptible to the conscious mind, but which are, however, necessary for the survival of the individual.

How the animals intuited the danger in the first place may be more difficult to answer. Debbie Martyr, dedicated to animal conservation programs on the island of Sumatra (one of the islands most affected by the tsunami) gives her opinion that "There would have been vibration and there may also have been changes in the air pressure which will have alerted animals and made them move to wherever they felt safer", and she "Wild animals in particular are extremely sensitive… They've got extremely good hearing and they will probably have heard this flood coming in the distance." This may represent strong evidence for the sensibility of wild species to practically imperceptible stimulus.

However, many scientists think, in this case as well as with Patient X, that there must exist a different method through which life-forms may perceive their environment; different to sounds, vibrations, smells, images or taste. It is documented that birds and other animals abandon the area before a volcanic eruption. In the same way, Chinese biologists have made studies that determine that several minutes before an earthquake, the cats, dogs and other domestic species in the area become quite agitated, and in some cases even howl, bark and meow uncontrollably. The investigators describe that during these episodes, snakes abandon their holes, birds flutter in their cages, and rats run around frantically.

The Dormant Capacity

The initial experiment was simple: forty volunteers and one pair of photographers per test. The director of the experiment, Canadian Ronald Rensink, Assistant Professor in Computer Science and Psychology at the University of British Columbia, set out to describe the causes of car accidents in cases where the driver who caused the collision did not see the car he crashed into. The study was published in the journal "Psychological Science."

Initially the volunteers were shown a photo of a road, which refreshed periodically with an identical image. At a random moment during an image refresh, a change to the image was made—items removed, altered or added, for example—these alterations, even when large, were often found to be difficult to perceive.

The test required that the subjects press a buzzer at the moment they noticed the change in the sequence of images. A big surprise to the experiment came when a few of the volunteers asked Rensink if they had to press the buzzer only when they actually saw the change, or if they could press it at the moment they intuited that it was going to come.

The investigation then changed drastically, and Rensink noticed that not only did the majority of the volunteers realize at the exact moment that the change was made, but that one third of them were buzzing immediately before.

These studies seem to demonstrate that intuition could well be an unconscious way of detecting infinitesimal changes in the environment, a capacity to perceive stimuli impossible to detect with our scientific technology. Either that, or it is both an astonishing and useful latent sixth sense, which has slept through years of human technological evolution.

Observing in an experiment that when we do not think too much with the conscious mind on difficult decisions, but take a break, step back and "sleep on it", the results always turn out better, the investigator Ap Dijksterhuis from the University of Amsterdam in Holland concluded that "At some point in our evolution, we started to make decisions consciously, and we're not very good at it. We should learn to let our unconscious handle the complicated things."

Source: By Leonardo Vintini - The Epoch Times



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