Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Beyond Normal

Why the 'Paranormal' Is Just Normal - Cosmic Log 10/31/11

Timely piece by Alan Boyle of the Cosmic Log. What people perceive as the paranormal really can be explained away by natural phenomena that we do understand. Thinking you've seen a ghost, heard a strange noise, the ouija board moving on its own, cold spots and EVPs, alien visitations in your sleep... these are all manifestations in your brain. Sometimes hindered by faulty information through the senses, sometimes vamped up by our own imaginations or dreamt in REM sleep. It really boils down to what information is being processed into your brain, and based on what we know, the more likely explanation is one in which you were mistaken to have experienced something paranormal as opposed to the other way around. Our brain can be tricked very easily, as shown by those Brain Games episodes I linked to in a previous post. We also psych ourselves up for feeling paranormal things: going to a "haunted house" or playing Ouija, you have already prepared your mind to be on edge for something strange. This can manifest itself in various ways to give you the effect you are feeling something paranormal, when in fact it's really in your own mind. EVPs are really fascinating because our brains are trained from birth to recognize speech and to see faces in random, inanimate objects. Why do we always see jesus in toast? why do we see faces in telephones and bushes? When we hear sounds we automatically look for things we can recognize and process because that is how we evolved. So, someone can hear a "bump bump" on a recorder and think they've heard "go home!" Our sensory detectors are far from efficient, just think of the scales on the spectrum that we can actually hear and actually see and all of the other information beyond our boundaries can still have subtle inputs like feeling cold spots or getting goosebumps by infrasounds. Fascinating, but explainable.

It is fun to investigate these mental breakdowns and the feelings they can convey, and it is also fun to just let loose and run through a halloween haunted house for the thrill of it. Knowing full well you are safe and there is nothing "paranormal" to fear... it's kind of like a mental roller coaster. It can be fun to let loose and pretend for bit and let your mind get carried away, but if you really wanted to understand these types of phenomena, there is always a scientific explanation grounded in facts and supported by evidence.

(do you see the face?)

Great article on brain tests for schizophrenia... another sort of brain paranormal delusion:

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