No, the Matrix isn’t real. Actually, the Matrix is a non-falsifiable concept, so there is no point in arguing whether it is true or not. But that’s irrelevant. What’s important today is that you are about to read about studies from a highly reputable source suggesting a high likelihood that precognition or premonition actually exist in a very tangible way. Let’s begin…
Priming is a classic cognitive psychology phenomenon. It occurs when, after seeing a word or image, a person’s future behavior is in some way altered according to the word or image they saw. For instance, if I say the word “LIGER” and then ask you to choose from the following pictures given the prompt ”NAPOLEON“, you will choose differently than if I say the word “FRANCE“. Your mind has been “primed” to think in a certain way, which influences your subsequent choice.
Well, what if I told you that your choice would also be influenced if I were to say one of these two words after you choose between the pictures? You would probably say that I was crazy. A day ago, I would have agreed 100%. Now, I’m only about 90% sure.
Researchers at Cornell University have demonstrated, through a series of experiments, the first empirical evidence of “retroactive priming“- or, in slightly more common terms, “precognition“.
Consider one of the Cornell experiments, entitled Retroactive Priming I:
In this experiment, two sets of trials were given, a Forward Priming Trial and a Retroactive Priming Trial. The Forward Priming Trial is very common in cognitive psychology. After looking at a fixation point (a dot in the middle of the screen, to focus the participant’s attention), a “prime” is given for 150 ms, which is either a positive (i.e. beautiful) or negative (i.e. ugly) word. A blank screen is shown for another 150 ms, followed by a picture, which is also either positive(i.e. a flower) or negative (i.e. an armpit).
Fixation Point – Prime – Blank – Picture (record response time)
Participants must then select the appropriate button using a keyboard- either “positive” or “negative”. Anyone who does this experiment will find that congruent pairings- BEAUTIFUL followed by FLOWER or UGLY followed by ARMPIT- result in faster response time than incongruent pairings- BEAUTIFUL followed by ARMPIT. In this experiment, participants selected the appropriate response for congruent pairings 23.6 ms faster than for incongruent pairings (as expected).
In the second set, the Retroactive Priming Trial, the same experiment was done out of order…
Fixation Point- Picture (record response time) - Blank – Prime
What should happen here? Obviously, there should be no difference in response time between congruent and incongruent pairings- all negative pictures should elicit the same response time and all positive pictures should elicit the same response time- regardless of what “prime” comes after them. Shockingly, the participants STILL demonstrated the priming effect (albeit at a lower level) when the prime came after the picture. In effect, participants selected “positive” for flower faster when the word “BEAUTIFUL” appeared after their choice than when the word “UGLY” appeared after their choice. The rate in the Retroactive Priming Trial was 15.0 ms faster, as opposed to 23.5 ms faster in the Forward Priming Trial.
In another experiment, Precognitive Detection of Erotic Stimuli, participants were placed at a computer screen for 36 trials. In each trial, they would be asked to choose which of two curtains was covering up a romantic image. After choosing, the curtains were removed to reveal which contained the hidden image. Common sense tells us that the revelation (part 2) should have no impact on the guess (part 1)- the participants should, on average, choose the correct curtain 50% of the time. According to the results of the study, this is not always the case. The researchers divided the romantic pictures into two categories: erotic and nonerotic.The thinking is that whatever psychological (or metaphysical?) mechanism that can “predict” the future responds more readily to salient stimuli. Thus, the researchers found a highly salient stimulus indeed: nudity. Going back to the results, the “prediction rate” for nonerotic images was what we’d expect: 49.6%. On the other hand, the prediction rate for erotic images was a very statistically significant 53.1%. You may not think that is an extremely high number. But given the sample size, 53.1% is a number that implies a very real effect- and one that is hard to attribute to anything but “precognition”.
The researchers suggest 4 possible explanations:
1. Precognition or retroactive influence: The participant is, in fact, accessing information yet to be determined in the future, implying that the direction of the causal arrow has been reversed.
2. Clairvoyance/remote viewing: The participant is accessing already-determined information in real time, information that is stored in the computer.
3. Psychokinesis: The participant is actually influencing the RNG’s (the randomizing computer algorithm) placements of the targets.
4. Artifactual correlation: The output from the RNG is inadequately randomized, containing patterns that fortuitously match participants’ response biases. This produces a spurious correlation between the participant’s guesses and the computer’s placements of the target picture.
As you can see, option #4 is really the only non-spooky one in the lot. But it can essentially be ruled out by the fact that the erotic and non-erotic images were chosen based on the same algorithm. How could whatever mysterious pattern in the algorithm affect responses to one set of stimuli and not the other?
What we must, then, address is option #5: the statistical possibility that every once in a while we can arrive at results that appear statistically significant when, in fact, they are not. This, according to my Westernized mind, has to be the answer. Barring the reputable scientists at Cornell risking their careers in a foolish attempt to make headlines (I guess, all things considered, this isn’t so outlandish compared to the alternatives), the results of these experiments have to be mere outliers… right?
If not, the world we lived in just turned upside down- because what you see tomorrow affects what you do today… the needle of time does not always point in the same direction… the entire framework of physics on a macroscopic level (outside of the quantum) is shattered.
The beauty of the scientific process is that as I type this, there are likely hundreds, if not thousands, of researchers across the globe attempting to replicate the Cornell findings. Soon, we will have either confirmed or denied the bizarre physics-altering results. I have no idea which I would prefer if given the choice… but, of course, perhaps some event in the future will make that choice for me.
For further reading…