So there you are involved in some innocuous mundane task, when suddenly thoughts about a friend or relative you haven’t thought about in a long time leap into your mind. Shortly thereafter, surprisingly, that person contacts you.
Or perhaps, for no apparent reason, you experience ominous or uneasy thoughts about someone, a distant family member perhaps; you get this strange feeling of foreboding or danger. Out of concern, you call this person only to confirm your worst fears that that indeed something terrible has happened to them.
These experiences are remarkably common; most people can recall experiencing similar events or likely know someone else who has. So what’s going on here; is this evidence of some sort of telepathy or ESP?
The first thing to bear in mind is that experiences such as these are often memorable. In fact, one of the primary reasons we attach such significance to them is because they ARE memorable; we have judged them worthy of retaining.
The human brain has evolved to be extremely adept at detecting patterns and attempting to establish relationships between observed causes and effects. The end product of this process results in our capacity for formulating assumptions. From these assumptions we are able to make projections regarding the potential consequences about acting on what we perceive.
Take for example, ancient man coming to a conclusion he could be in danger simply in response to hearing rustle, or catching a glimpse of movement, behind a nearby bush – is that a bear about to attack him or just the wind? Our ability to make connections, draw conclusions and even project potential outcomes, can carry strong implications regarding our survival.
Establishing connections between cause and effect is not only vital for human survival; it was also an essential early strategy that, over time, drove the progression of our species’ toward a better understanding of the world around us. Today we draw on these cognitive skills in creating successful strategies for living; be it to live in financial comfort in our old age or assuring ourselves that our consciousness might continue to exist forever beyond our death. You see, as carefully as we may believe we apply our cognitive skills, they still have the potential of coming to quite different, and incorrect, conclusions.
There are several major functions that our brains must process in order for us to posess sufficient understanding of the reality in which we must exist. One issue is dealing with the tremendous volume of data that is processed by our brains (even while we are asleep). Second, the brain is tasked with evaluating the validity or accuracy of the information it draws in. As the old computer adage warns – “Garbage in, garbage out”. Third, our brains need the ability to sort out between what information potentially carries significance and therefore worth retention versus that which is irrelevant, inconsequential and not worth retaining. Most importantly a significant proportion of these decisions and deliberations are accomplished below the conscious level, automatically and without our knowledge.
We know that the brain can be fooled. Optical illusions can cause objects to appear as our cognitive mind believes they “should” appear, even though they may exist quite differently in actuality. Magic tricks can deceive the brain into thinking actions have happened that defy our understanding of what we know the laws of physics tell us is possible. Seeing is not necessarily, believing.
So what about these apparently telepathic experiences, what do they mean? Let's take a closer look at what is going on here.
Think about your last trip to the grocery store; you operated a motor vehicle through traffic without needing to look at your hands and feet in doing so. You negotiated obstacles, calculated the speed, direction and location of other vehicles, obeyed traffic laws, negotiated intersections and took in countless pieces of information about environmental conditions, all the while thinking about work, friends, family, American Idol – maybe you even talked on your cell while driving.
Now home from the store, how much of that trip did you remember? How many cars passed you, how many red lights, pedestrians, dogs… your brain processed thousands of actions and thoughts during an uneventful trip. Most of what we experience we don’t remember. That is quite normal; if we recalled every fact of every moment, we simply couldn’t function.
But suppose instead you had witnessed an accident on your outing. You are likely going to remember it because it has significance – you will have likely felt a emotional impact from the experience, relief that it didn’t happen to you, thoughts of how you probably should be more diligent in the future regarding your own safety. The incident is stored in your brain as worth remembering.
But what your brain seldom does is store the insignificant, the inconsequential, the unremarkable. The countless times you thought about an old friend or felt concern or worry about a relative, these thoughts pass through your brain constantly. The key concept here is: If nothing further attaches any significance to those thoughts they are quickly forgotten.
But because our brains are wonderfully adept at detecting and establish patterns, we invariably place significance for the experiences that appear to us to be “hits”. When we give weight to the "hits", but dismiss the "misses", biases can cause us to paint a statistically incorrect picture about how we think the world works.
Yet again recently I decided that I hadn’t heard from my daughter Kara in a while nor had her her blog been updated for some time. Normal Dad that I am, I began worrying that some unpleasantness had befallen her. My call to her went to voicemail, further raising my concern. But a short while later Kara called; she had just been out with friends and was doing fine. Based on that "non-incident" I chocked-up yet another mark in the “miss” column on my Psi chart.