New Paper: Qualitative Analysis of First-Person Accounts of Noetic Experiences

May 11, 2022
Helané Wahbeh, PhD

Have you ever had an ineffable experience, an experience that seemed to defy the laws of space and time? Such as communication with spirits or passed loved ones, experiencing something before it happens, or getting goosebumps telling you a decision you’re pondering is right? 

If so, you’re far from alone. However, you may feel more or less alone due to society’s skepticism toward these kinds of experiences – known as noetic experiences, that is, experiences beyond the five senses and the conventional notions of time and space. These experiences are very common worldwide and have been given many names, like ESP, psi, clairvoyance, intuition, synchronicity, precognition, etc. 

In a newly published peer-reviewed study, IONS researchers looked at first-person reports from 521 people about their noetic experiences,  The goal of the study was to learn about the variety of characteristics the experiences entail.  Did they help the person having the experience, and if so, how? Most importantly – could our noetic experiences be used to help humanity?  This study was the first step in developing the Noetic Signature Inventory, a questionnaire designed to discover people’s unique expression of noetic experiences. 

Five hundred twenty-one people completed a survey where they wrote out their experiences of receiving and expressing information and energy from beyond our conventional notions of time and space. The survey was designed so participants could describe their experiences without being biased by specific terms already used (e.g., precognition, clairvoyance). Participants could include as much text as they wanted. The study team then analyzed the text using qualitative analysis. This is where the text is reviewed multiple times, and common themes are extracted from the data. 

In the words of IONS Director of Research, Dr. Helané Wahbeh, who led the study: 

​​These everyday human experiences are not new. What is new with the Noetic Signature is that it provides a cohesive model for understanding each person’s unique expression of extended perception phenomena. The Noetic Signature is a good entree to honest and transparent conversations about all of our intuitive capacities. It is time for them to come out of the closet and into the light.

Summary of results 

In general, the data showed that people’s experiences were specific and unique to them but quite varied overall. Through the qualitative analysis, the researchers found five themes: ways of engagement, ways of knowing, types of information, ways of affecting, and ways of expressing.

1. Ways of engagement 

Ways of engagement refers to how participants access the noetic experience. Some participants reported internal ways, such as through an inner voice/inner knowing, while others reported external ways, such as seeing signs/symbols repeatedly. 

Another difference was intentional vs. spontaneous experiences. Intentional means that the participants actively sought to access noetic information or energy, such as through meditation with intention-setting. Spontaneous means events like having a “download” in everyday life or noetic events in dreams or altered states of consciousness. Even near-death experiences and out-of-body experiences count as spontaneous noetic occurrences. 

2. Ways of knowing

Ways of knowing could come from within, in the form of an inner voice, or embodied experiences like chills, goosebumps, a knot in the stomach, or feeling hot or cold. Participants said that when having these physical sensations, they knew they were receiving information beyond the five senses.

Heightened empathy, as in feeling other people’s emotions as if were they your own, or having “memories from the future” were other reported ways of knowing. 

The ways of knowing can be conveyed through the ordinary five senses in extraordinary ways – such as seeing energy or energetic beings or feeling a taste aiding in decision-making, where the taste in question is understood as indicating that the option being contemplated is correct. 

3. Types of information

Information about future events was the most commonly mentioned type of information. It could be in the form of warnings or simply information about an event that ended up happening (such as a person having a dream about the tsunami in Japan in 2011 a few weeks before it happened). Information about the nature of reality and the person’s role in it was another vastly reported type. 

Remote viewing is a fascinating kind of noetic information – perhaps the one with the most practical implications. This implies getting a visible image of a distant location that the person has never visited. Remote viewing was used in the US military Stargate project (May, 2018) and has been applied to predict the outcome in the stock market (Smith, 2014).

4. Ways of affecting

This covered how people affected others through noetic information or energy. Most often, people affect others through healing, decision-making, or influencing others with their minds and intentions. Healing of self or others was the most frequent answer.

Another remarkable way of affecting was through thoughts. People reported shared dreams and synchronistic connections across time and space. 

Visualization was also counted as a way of affecting. Many participants reported visualizing something and then seeing it happen in the near future. 

A more rare phenomenon was influencing systems, objects, or the environment. One example was a man who allegedly manipulated the electric meter in his house through thought to stop counting the power used. He got free electricity for two months. After worrying that the power company would come to exchange the meter, he willingly turned it back on. 

5. Ways of expressing 

Ways of expressing mentioned were sharing about noetic experiences through discussions with others and social media. Even creative outlets like dancing, painting, creating music, and movie-making were mentioned. 

How can the results help humanity?

Why study these phenomena besides pure intellectual curiosity? It has been repeatedly reported that experiences transcending ordinary space-time and our sense of identity can have a profound healing and transformative impact. This IONS study sought to better understand these extraordinary occurrences through the lens of science, which can provide guidance on how to interpret these experiences in therapeutic and healing settings. 

Overall, participants reported the events as being highly significant and yielding positive benefits – both for the participants themselves and the people around them. 

On a more informal level, it can help people feel less alone in their experiences and make sense of them to enhance wellbeing and self-growth. Deepened knowledge about noetic experiences thus provides value on an individual as well as a collective level.

Do you want to learn more about your unique Noetic Signature while contributing to the latest research in noetic experiences? Apply to participate in our upcoming study!


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