Can Humans “Feel the Future”?

March 14, 2024
IONS Science Team

Can humans “feel the future”? Experiments about how people react to events they shouldn’t be able to predict suggest there might be something to this idea of a mysterious human ability.

One of these lines of research involves the Global Consciousness Project (GCP), which uses a global network of electronic random number generators located in cities around the world. The GCP tries to figure out if big global events that capture the attention of millions of people can somehow affect data produced by random number generators (RNGs). It’s based on the idea that there might be a connection between our minds and the physical world. So, when lots of people are on the same mental wavelength, it could show up as unusual patterns in random data from RNGs, suggesting some kind of order emerging. 

In one study, the GCP analyzed RNG output data that was collected during 500 exceptional world events (e.g. an act of terrorism, an international sporting championship, etc.) between 1998 and 2015. The study showed that during these events, the RNG output was less random at an extremely high statistical level of 7.3 sigma beyond chance (that’s associated with odds against chance of 3 trillion to one), providing unusually strong evidence for a correlation between collective consciousness and the behavior of physical systems.

Another set of experiments suggest that our bodies may unconsciously respond before exposure to unpredictable emotional stimuli – which should be impossible according to mainstream science. This phenomenon has been dubbed a “presentiment” or “predictive physiological anticipation” effect, and happens about half a second to 10 seconds before the actual stimulus. It has been found in measures like skin activity, blood pressure, heart rate, pupil dilation, brain activity, and brain oxygen levels. Results like these suggest that people can subconsciously sense events that are intentionally designed to be unpredictable.

If these phenomena are real, it suggests that our minds might be subtly connected to the world, and we could be unconsciously sensing what’s going to happen. For instance, if a lot of people are about to experience an unexpected emotional event, especially a negative one like an act of terrorism, our collective mood might darken before the event.

If emotions about a future event can somehow influence our present mood, could this collective mood shift be noticeable in social media posts (i.e. reflected in the words we use)?

To find out, we conducted a study analyzing 13 years of daily Twitter sentiment data – or the emotional quality of words used in tweets – two weeks prior to significantly negative unpredictable events. 

Can tweets predict negative unpredictable events?

To assess the emotional tone of tweets, we used the University of Vermont’s Complex Systems Center project (, which calculates sentiment on a daily basis by automatically retrieving Twitter posts in ten languages, and calculating a “happiness score” for each word. The words are rated from 1 to 9, with 1 being the most negative and 9 being the most positive. For example, the word “love” had an average score of 8.42 and “terrorist” had an average score of 1.3. 

We wanted to isolate events that were both negative and unpredictable. To extract days with unpredictable negative sentiment, we used a four-step process: (1) chose especially negative days when the average ratings were significantly more negative than other days; (2) the negative event was required to fall beyond 7 days of a previously identified negative event to prevent a rollover of negative sentiment; (3) events on the selected dates were evaluated to determine if they were truly unpredictable, such as political or ideological terrorism, lone actor tragedies such as mass shootings, unexpected deaths of celebrities, and major environmental disasters; and (4) compared the dates across all ten languages to remove duplicates. After identifying the events, we examined a time range from fourteen to two days pre-event for our analysis.

What did we find?

The results showed a clear two-week downward trend in sentiment, indicating that collective feelings expressed through tweets significantly anticipated unforeseeable negative events. 

The results of the study suggest that emotional reactions to a future event that cannot be anticipated or inferred might “ripple backwards” in time to affect one’s present mood, and that this can happen on a collective scale.

It also implies that human minds may be collectively and continually interacting with the physical world in subtle ways, and that we may be unconsciously and continually “feeling the future.”

If this is the case, can we predict future events that are usually unpredictable this way? It might be possible to use these results in a practical way in counterterrorism, law enforcement, and mental health contexts through a forward-looking analysis.

The findings from this study challenge the traditional understanding of cause-and-effect relationships and suggest a more complex interplay between the world and human consciousness. They may provoke philosophical discussions about the nature of reality and the limits of our current understanding, leading to a reevaluation of philosophical frameworks and perspectives.

One possibility is that consciousness could be a fundamental element of the universe, akin to space and time. Such insights encourage us to rethink our position in the cosmos and contemplate the relationship between our thoughts and emotions and the world around us.

Read the publication this blog is based on.

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