Extending Beyond the Traditional Five Senses

November 9, 2018
Nina Fry-Kizler, Science Team

People all over the world believe in Anomalous Information Reception (AIR), a variety of extrasensory perceptions that extend beyond the traditional five senses. An example of AIR is the ability to sense or see past, present, or future emotional states of other people. These capacities are often depicted in modern entertainment as “supernatural” and “paranormal” content. While three in four Americans believe in paranormal phenomena, others argue that these experiences are a dissociative form of pathology, meaning they are part of a psychological disorder and are periods of dissociation. Dissociative disorders are characterized by an involuntary escape from and a disconnect between thoughts, identity, consciousness and memory. People from all age groups and racial, ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds can experience a dissociative disorder. Some studies have shown that people who claim AIR have higher levels of dissociative symptoms but that these symptoms do not reach pathological levels.

IONS Research Director and Scientist, Helané Wahbeh along with co-authors Kelly McDermott and Amira Sagher, recently published the paper, “Dissociative Symptoms and Anomalous Information Reception,” in Activitas Nervosa Superior: The Journal for Neurocognitive Research about their investigation into the relationship of dissociative symptoms to self-report AIR experiences in 2,215 participants. These participants came from around the country and from diverse racial, ethnic, age and work backgrounds. Participants who claimed AIR experiences most often reported that the experiences began in childhood. The most common AIR experiences reported were Clairempathy (87.9%) and Claircognizance at (88.1%). Clairempathy is the ability to feel the emotions of another person or non-physical entity (also known as an empath). Claircognizance is the ability to understand or know something without any direct evidence or reasoning process. Some other AIR phenomena that were reported were lucid dreaming, animal communication, telepathy, mediumship, levitation, psychokinesis and remote viewing, among others.

While we may never know if AIR is “real,” people’s subjective perceptions of them and the effect they have on their lives can be acknowledged. For example, patients who reported dissociation during near-death experiences showed consistent patterns of changed beliefs, attitudes, and values after the experience that were more reflective of integrative and transpersonal states of consciousness rather than disintegrated states.

In conclusion, AIR experiences and dissociative symptoms appear to be related in a sample of high-functioning adults. This relationship holds even when the person’s characteristics and spirituality is taken into account. These findings suggest that in the instance of AIR experiences, some dissociative symptoms may not be pathological and may instead relate to associative or pleasurable states of absorption or the embodiment of an external experience. Further investigations using additional measures and objective methods would support us in understanding this phenomenon more fully.

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