Technology

When the Economy Tanks, We Suddenly "Develop" ESP

Reality BaseBy Melissa LafskyOct 27, 2008 6:18 PM

Newsletter

Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news
 

If you've picked up a newspaper, watched a TV, or checked your 401K in the past few months, there's a near-perfect chance that you've experienced the full miasma of fear, anxiety, and helplessness that accompany loss of control. We hate that feeling—it's a trait embedded in the human condition. And we'll go to any lengths—including "developing" the ability to talk with the dead, see invisible patterns, and read the stars—in order to avoid it. Sharon Begley at Newsweekwrites that a whopping 90 percent of Americans either think they've experienced a paranormal event, or believe that they can happen. And when occurrences—like oh, say, worldwide financial crises—remind us just how futile our desire for order and control really are, our "ability" to see the future in tea leaves by no coincidence begins to rise. As Begley puts it:

Historically, such times have been marked by a surge in belief in astrology, ESP and other paranormal phenomena, spurred in part by a desperate yearning to feel a sense of control in a world spinning out of control.

There's also the study in this month's issue of Science finding that lack of control directly increases our "invisible pattern-seeing" ability (or perception of one). People primed with a sense of powerlessness saw more images in static, found more conspiracies in written stories, and imagined more patterns in financial markets than those who were left alone. Granted, all of this is great fodder for scientists looking to study how the brain responds to the unknown. The truth, of course, is that the mind creates "supernatural abilities" and patterns to cope with the fear of random events, and the brain "fills in blanks" when things happen that don't gel with our desire for a controlled order. This gap-filling might even have a beneficial purpose, providing answers (who cares if they're wrong?) in times of crisis so the mind can focus on the tasks of survival. Still, even knowing all this, it's hard to resist the instinct to heed the occasional omen. Related: RB: The Hindenburg Omen Was Right Again: Stock Market Plunges Bad Astronomy: A brilliant debunking of psychic powers

1 free article left
Want More? Get unlimited access for as low as $1.99/month
Already a subscriber? Log In or Register
1 free articleSubscribe
Want unlimited access?

Subscribe today and save 70%

Subscribe

Already a subscriber? Log In or Register
More From Discover
Recommendations From Our Store
Shop Now
Stay Curious
Join
Our List

Sign up for our weekly science updates.

 
Subscribe
To The Magazine

Save up to 70% off the cover price when you subscribe to Discover magazine.

Copyright © 2021 Kalmbach Media Co.