How Does Focused Attention Interact with Light?

May 12, 2019
Nina Fry-Kizler, Science Team

Between 2008 and 2016, a series of experiments were conducted by the Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS) to explore possible mental interactions with photons. These experiments were motivated by the quantum theory concept that a “nonphysical factor” (i.e., consciousness) was required to cause the transition between quantum potential states and classical actual states. What does that mean? It means the consciousness and/or the mind has the capacity to influence matter — also known as Mind-Matter Interaction. The experiments used a double-slit apparatus (which is used to track the trajectory of light) to measure whether a person’s focused attention on perceiving or perturbing one of the two photon paths changed the photo (light) trajectory. Overall, the results of those experiments suggested that focused attention does appear to affect the pattern of light.

With those results in mind, IONS conducted two more experiments (2015-2016) to see if focused attention could affect another property of photons: spin. The test apparatus consisted of a laser beam sent first through a horizontal polarizer (optical filter that lets light waves of a specific polarization pass through while blocking light waves of other polarizations) and then through a vertical polarizer in a light-tight box. In such a system, very little light should pass through the second polarizer unless something affects photon spin in the space between the two polarizers. The hypothesis was that focusing human attention between the two polarizers while holding the intention to twist the light beam might cause an increase in the amount of light passing through the second polarizer. Both of the exploratory experiments yielded significant but surprising results: Focused attention resulted in less light passing through the second polarizer while mentally concentrating on the beam. While this serendipitous discovery suggested that the mind might be able to alter the way light behaves, the outcome warranted further exploration to determine what caused the laser beam illumination level to decrease instead of increase.

This was the question motivating the present experiment: Where did the photons go? And specifically, could the mind be conceived as a kind of “matter” or “energy” that interacts with photons? The assumption of both the double-slit and the photon spin experiments was that focused attention directly interacted with light in some way. But how, exactly?

Wanting to investigate this further, members of our Science Team at IONS just completed a study to explore what might have happened to the “missing photons” associated with the decline in light. We hypothesized that focused attention might slightly deflect the light beam, causing some photons to scatter from their original trajectory. We built a device with sensors that recorded both the original laser beam power and scattered light, with the prediction that the data from the two sensors would show that as the beam illumination declined, scattered light would increased, and vice versa.

Thirty experimental sessions were conducted with subjects alternating between periods of focused attention on the apparatus and relaxed states. While no significant effect (i.e. differences) was found in relax periods, as well as in the matched control sessions (where participants were instructed to do an unrelated task), a significant effect was found during the concentration periods. This effect corresponds to a negative correlation between the two sensors: meaning one sensor (i.e. beam illumination) measured an increase in values while the other (i.e. scattered light) showed a decrease. Interestingly, this effect goes in the opposite direction of our initial hypothesis — we expected a decrease in illumination and an increase in scattered light. This surprising outcome warrants further exploration.

The article from this study will be published shortly and we will share it with our IONS community as soon as it is available! Stay tuned…

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