Sixth sense of humans

Life as we experience is not just a series of random unconnected thoughts and events. It is a coherent narrative, unfolding in a timely orderly universe. But sometimes we have experiences that do not fit our expectations. They may even contradict what science and logic has taught us is possible. In our attempts to understand such outlier phenomenon, we often turn to unproven forces or entities. We start to believe in the paranormal to accommodate the attached teasing cognitive burden.sni

Anomalous experiences are real and life-changing. They range from sensing a strange vibe in a room to feeling outside our own body. People often explain such experiences using concepts related to spirits, luck, witchcraft, psychic powers, life energy, or more terrestrial (and extra-terrestrial) entities. Such explanations are often more appealing, or at least more intuitive, than blaming an odd experience on a trick of the mind.sni

While anomalous experiences may be associated with stressful circumstances, personal pathologies, or cognitive deficits, the experiences themselves may not always be so bad, and may actually be healthy inventions. They are just our attempts to make sense of a weird situation. After all, there is nothing the mind likes better than a good story.sni

Our senses

Human beings have senses. The five basic senses are smell, sight, taste, touch, and hearing. These senses are based on material sensations. They allow us to perceive things that physically exist around us. The sixth sense of humans is attuned to subtler, non-physical sensations that are not obvious or perceptible by our other five senses.sni

The sixth sense of humans is sometimes described as intuition, or the sense of knowing something without previous stored knowledge about it. It also includes our ability to understand the subtle cause and effect relationship behind many events This too is beyond the understanding of the intellect. Extrasensory perception (ESP), clairvoyance, premonition, intuition are synonymous with sixth sense or subtle perception ability.sni

Sixth sense is something that people know or think likely based on instinctive feeling rather than conscious reasoning. When they get an instant liking or disliking for someone they have just met, or have a good or bad feeling about something about to happen.sni

Developing sixth sense

Sixth sense is a form of quick information processing, and it is a skill that can be developed with practice and attention. The ability to use sixth sense develops out of repeated exposure to various situations and outcomes. The more rich and complex are the experiences, the more likely people are to develop unconscious, sixth sense knowledge about a wide range of situations and experiences.sni

Interestingly some people can reliably detect a change in their surroundings, even if they cannot accurately describe what it was. This is not due to a supernatural ability, but rather from cues picked up from more conventional senses such as sight. But while people can sense a change had occurred, they may not sometimes verbalise it completely. Spontaneously feeling a prescient knowledge of danger however does explain the existence of a sixth sense of humans.sni

What people are doing is simply processing information that they could not verbalise but are picking up on, often subconsciously. It is a bit like an abstract painting. It does not depict anything you can label, such as a sea or mountain, but you can still get a lot of information on what is going on.sni

In our daily life we receive a lot of information we do not or cannot verbalise. For example, when something disappears or if children are being very noisy and then they are suddenly quiet. It is difficult to realise that what has startled. Whether it is the lack of noise that has alerted us subconsciously to go into the room and find what is keeping them quiet or an instinct that something strange has happened. And if we do actually find them in distress, we feel it is a sixth sense. People who believe they possess a sixth sense may take a little more convincing they are wrong.sni

Unconscious pattern recognition

Unconscious pattern recognition underlies a variety of automatic processes, including those we associate with accurate intuitions or a sixth sense. Sensing danger in a combat zone or suddenly knowing that child may be in danger or a strange feeling that friend is unwell are instances in which we have pieced a pattern together wholly unconsciously. The suddenness with which it bursts into our consciousness can feel as if the hunch is born of clairvoyance. It would be difficult to explain  every particular instance of presumed sixth sense, but some known psychological forces are at play. One is our selective attention.sni

We probably think about our friends a lot, and they probably call us a lot. But when those thoughts and calls overlap we note a coincidence, ignoring all the times they do not overlap. We also have unreliable memory. Just imagining a past experience can create the false impression that it really happened. So, memories of precognitive dreams can be twisted to fit the event mind already was having a prior knowledge in the first place. Such sensations are evidence that people can be aware of and can use visual information without necessarily consciously seeing.sni

We have a distinct, fast-acting mode of visual perception that takes in visual input and leads us to sense rather than see a change in a scene. That system, mind sight, could explain why people sometimes have a sixth sense about a situation before they can consciously understand why. In a way, it is like a first strike system that we use without conscious thought.sni

By: Prof. Dr Fawad Kaiser, Psychiatrist

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