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'Mindsight' could explain sixth sense

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    From New Scientist.com http://www.newscientist.com/news/news.jsp?id=ns99994638 Mindsight could explain sixth sense 19:00 04 February 04 Exclusive from New
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 9, 2004
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      From New Scientist.com
      'Mindsight' could explain sixth sense

      19:00 04 February 04

      Exclusive from New Scientist Print Edition. Subscribe and get 4 free

      Some people may be aware that a scene they are looking at has changed
      without being able to identify what that change is. This could be a
      newly discovered mode of conscious visual perception, according to the
      psychologist who discovered it. He has dubbed the phenomenon "mindsight".
      Ronald Rensink, based at the University of British Columbia in Canada,
      showed 40 people a series of photographic images flickering on a
      computer screen. Each image was shown for around a quarter of a second
      and followed by a brief blank grey screen. Sometimes the image would
      remain the same throughout the trial; in other trials, after a time
      the initial image would be alternated with a subtly different one.
      In trials where the researchers manipulated the image, around a third
      of the people tested reported feeling that the image had changed
      before they could identify what the change was. In control trials, the
      same people were confident that no change had occurred. The response
      to a change in image and control trials was reliably different.
      Our visual system can produce a strong gut feeling that something has
      changed, Rensink says, even if we cannot visualise that change in our
      minds and cannot say what was altered or where the alteration occurred.
      "I think this effect explains a lot of the belief in a sixth sense."
      He has no idea what physical processes generate mindsight, but says it
      may be possible to confirm it exists using brain scanners.

      Attentional mechanism
      Mindsight is not simply a precursor to normal visual perception, he
      argues, because there seems to be no correlation between how long it
      takes someone to feel the change, and the time taken to identify what
      it is. The two sometimes happened almost simultaneously, while at
      other times the subjects did not report seeing any difference until
      seconds after they were aware of it.
      Vision researcher Dan Simons of the University of Illinois in
      Urbana-Champaign says Rensink's finding "suggests the existence of an
      interesting and previously unknown attentional mechanism".
      He cautions that people can sometimes believe they have perceived
      something when they clearly have not, pointing out that Rensink's
      volunteers sometimes reported seeing a change in the image when in
      fact it remained consistent. But he says Rensink's study is an
      important first step in distinguishing accurate sensing from believing.
      Rensink acknowledges that not everyone seems to sense something, and
      that the experimental setting might encourage people to simply guess.
      But he also thinks that people who do not experience mindsight may be
      screening out what appear to be gut feelings in favour of what appears
      to be more rational information, while those who do are happy to trust
      their instincts.
      Mindsight may also be at work when someone goes into a room and senses
      something is different but cannot put their finger on what. "It could
      well be an alerting system," he says. There is no reason the effect
      shouldn't operate with other senses too, he says. Knowing someone is
      behind you may be the auditory equivalent.
      Journal reference: Psychological Science (vol 15, p 27
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