Feeling of a Presence, is There Someone Here With Us?

February 15, 2018

Maybe you have at some point felt like there was someone in the same room as you. However, you look around and find that you’re alone. That feeling of a presence, of feeling like someone is near you, is a phenomenon that happens more frequently than we’d like to think. And that doesn’t make it any less terrifying…

The phenomenon we’re referring to is a very real thing for many people. Those who experience it feel like there is someone close to them, even though they can’t see the being. The person has the feeling that they are not alone, even though there is no one around them. They are also not able to clearly identify any stimulus which can support the sensation. Such as a voice, music, or any other similar sign.

A woman is afraid of blurry figures behind her.

Is there really a ghost standing next to you?

Scientists have tried to explain this phenomenon in a rational and scientific way. In order to do this, an experiment was conducted in which some people were allowed to “feel” this experience. The scientists recruited 48 volunteers who had never experienced this feeling of presence before. They did so with the goal of altering certain neuronal signals in specific areas of the brain.

With their eyes blindfolded, the volunteers had to manipulate a robot manually. At the same time, another robot copied the same movements they made behind the volunteers. The are surprising. When the movements happened at the same time, the individuals didn’t feel anything out of the ordinary.

However, when the movements didn’t happen simultaneously, they felt the presence of a ghost. Specifically, a third of the volunteers stated that they felt someone in the room with them. Some individuals even became so frightened they asked for the blindfold to be removed and the experiment to end.

This same team of researchers performed a brain scan of 12 people with neurological alterations who had already experienced this feeling of presence. The objective was to determine what part of the brain was associated with this phenomenon. The experiment confirmed that the implicated cerebral regions were those associated with self-awareness, movement, and the spatial positioning of one’s own body.

Woman manipulating a robot.

The brain is the only thing responsible for the feeling of a presence

The results of the previous studies clear up the fact that the robot’s movements temporarily changed our brain function. When the individuals felt the presence of a ghost, what was actually happening was that the brain was confused. The brain miscalculated the position of the body and identified it as belonging to another being.

When the brain presents some type of neurological anomaly, or when it’s stimulated by a robot, it can create a second representation of its own body. This is perceived as a strange presence by the individual. This presence performs the same movements as the individual and maintains the same position.

“The human mind works as a whole. It is not the senses, but the individual, which perceives.”
-J.L. Pinillos-