Monday, 24 November 2014

Sound may be key to some anomalous experiences

Nothing spectrogramIn this week's New Scientist there is an account of some research where sound has been used to give participants an illusion that their arms were longer than really were! This, and other, experiments show that sound can affect the mental image we have of our own bodies, in terms of size, weight and shape.

Previous experiments, aimed at altering a person's perception of their extent and position in space, have involved vision and touch. They have led to people experiencing OBEs! Participants were given conflicting sensory information that led to them feeling that there body was a different size, or even in a different position in space, compared to reality. See here for a discussion on how the temporoparietal junction, in the brain, determines our sense of our shape and position in space, and how it can be fooled.

So, the question now arises, can someone be made to have an OBE, purely with appropriate sounds? I don't know but it might well be possible. Other recently reported experiments have demonstrated how conflicting sensory information can lead to a sense of presence, where someone thinks there is an invisible person nearby. These experiments (see here) also primarily involved the sense of touch. But, as I pointed out at the time, my own 'sense of presence' experiences appeared to strongly implicate conflicting sound and vision as an important factor.

All of this tends to suggest that research using sound may be a way forward in producing anomalous experiences. It is certainly beginning to look as though conflicting sensory information may be an important source of apparent paranormal experiences. And while laboratory experiments have tended to concentrate on touch, it may be far more likely that sound is the key to spontaneous experiences outside the lab.

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