Friday, 22 February 2013

Feeling things that aren't there!

WaterfallI don't like being splashed! I don't suppose I'm the only one but, in my case, if I hear something splashing I will instantly look for the source and try to get out of the way. So far, so almost normal! But sometimes, in spite of my rapid reaction, I feel the tell-tale pin-prick sensation of a tiny droplet of water hitting my skin. Now here's the weird bit! Sometimes I know I must be physically too far away from the splash to get caught, even in wind-blown spray! And just to confirm this, I've felt myself getting 'splashed' when there is a solid wall between me and the water. And that's indoors with no chance of any wind propelling the spray around!

So I think we're clearly into the territory of feeling a touching sensation without any physical stimulus! My theory is that it is an inter-sensory phenomenon based on expectation. We all know that smell affects taste. Less well-known is that all the senses interact to some extent. So could the sight and / or sound of splashing water cause me to 'feel' it, even when I'm out of physical range? Well, it's reproducible (for me anyway) so apparently the answer is yes.

I guess it's probably an example of a conditioned response. It is well known that a feeling of being touched without physical stimulus is possible through things like the cutaneous rabbit illusion. Interestingly, this illusion also seems to rely on some kind of (unconscious) expectation in the subject.

So WDTHDWP? It made me think about times when people report physical sensations in paranormal cases. For instance, in several road ghost cases, a motorist apparently runs over a pedestrian only to find that there is no physical evidence for that person having ever been there. But, intriguingly, the motorist often reports hearing or feeling a bump at the point where they hit the ghost. Maybe there was no 'bump' at all but the motorist was expecting one so they 'felt' it.

And what about people who report being touched in some ghost cases? It would be interesting to know if these reported touches ever correspond with some other sensory stimuli, like a certain sound or smell. There could be something similar going on to the non-existent splash.

When someone reports being touched, with nothing visible that might be responsible, it is easy to think 'ghost'. But there are other possible non-paranormal reasons for this sensation to consider too.

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