Can Collective Consciousness Affect Physical Matter?

November 3, 2023
IONS Science Team

Do moments of profound human attention – such as major global events or historic moments that capture the collective gaze and evoke shared highs and lows – leave an indelible mark on the physical world? The philosophy of dual-aspect monism proposes just such an intimate relationship between mind and matter. According to this philosophy, one might predict that when many minds become collectively coherent by focusing their attention toward the same captivating event, then aspects of the physical world might also become more coherent. 

Mind Over Matter

The Global Consciousness Project (GCP), founded in 1998, set out to test this question. Normally, random physical systems behave in unpatterned, unpredictable ways. Under special conditions, however, these systems can become more orderly and coherent, and scientists can measure these changes using statistical methods. The physical system the GCP used was a global interconnected web of electronic truly random number generators (RNG) – devices that generate numbers or bits that are fundamentally indeterminate because they are based on quantum effects. 

In one study, the project analyzed RNG output data that was collected during 500 exceptional world events between 1998 and 2015 to see whether there was a correlation between collective human attention toward those events and the output of the network of RNGs. Specifically, they were looking to see if the RNG output was less random, or more orderly during either unexpected events of mass interest (e.g. an act of terrorism) or planned events (e.g. an international sporting championship).  

The study showed that during these, 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). But, since those special events only comprised 5% of the total data, it made sense to wonder about the rest of the dataset. Presumably, if mind and matter interact, these interactions occur not only during events that attract worldwide attention, but also during other periods of time. In fact, other studies have shown a similar relationship between RNG output and daily news metrics, as well as global stock market indices, further supporting the hypothesis that mind and matter really are connected. 

Our New Research: Patterns over Time

In our latest study titled Anomalous entropic effects in physical systems associated with collective consciousness, we aimed to dig even deeper. We wondered if the unusual RNG output patterns that were found were only linked to high-profile global events, or if there’s a hidden connection between our thoughts and the world around us that shows up all the time in subtle ways. 

We hypothesized that the output generated by the GCP RNG network would exhibit patterns or hidden structure, continuously. Think of it like zooming in with a microscope on different time spans, like 8 minutes or 30 minutes, to see if things looked completely random versus more organized. If the RNG output was just random noise at both small and large time scales, then perhaps the ordering effects we observed in the RNG data during very large-scale events were quite unique. But if it followed a clear pattern on all scales, that would suggest there are subtle mind-matter interactions going on all the time, driven by the collective thoughts, attentions, and emotions of innumerable groups, large and small, every day. 

What did we find?

We found that there was indeed on-going connections between collective mental attention and the behavior of physical systems. We were able to spot these patterns more clearly when we looked at longer time intervals, like 8 to 15 minutes, which corresponds to periods of attention in human groups, rather than shorter intervals, like a minute or two. This suggests that these deviations from pure randomness often lineup with times when lots of people, in groups of many sizes, are paying attention to the same thing within each group. This implies that the collective focus that arises during everyday events like choral practice, sports teams, meditation groups, and so on, apparently do have a subtle impact on the world around us, whether we know it or not! 

The Cosmic Connection

Could it be that collective consciousness is intricately woven into the very fabric of the cosmos? These exciting findings open a door to a world where mind and matter are continually engaged in a wondrous dance. That is, this connection isn’t limited to major global events; it seems to be an inherent part of our existence.

The implications of these findings for human life are nothing short of mind-boggling. If there is indeed a connection between our collective thoughts and the behavior of the physical world, it suggests that our minds have a far more profound influence than we’ve ever imagined. It also hints at the idea that when we collectively focus our attention on something, whether it’s a global event or a shared experience, it might have a more significant impact on the world around us than we thought. 

This research challenges traditional scientific boundaries and opens the door to a broader understanding of reality. It suggests that consciousness might be a fundamental aspect of the universe, just like space and time. This could reshape how we perceive the world.

In essence, these findings invite us to reconsider our place in the universe and how our thoughts may play a role in shaping the world. It’s an exciting frontier that could transform our understanding of ourselves and the role of consciousness in the physical universe. 

While GCP is still collecting data, the next-generation project called GCP2.0 is also in the process of being launched. This new project will have many more RNGs around the world, and newer and more sophisticated methods of analysis to help us better understand the nature of collective mind-matter interactions.

Read the publication this blog is based on

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