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Do mental expectations create the effects of physical reality?



Burnt State

Paranormal Adept
I was camping with the family this past week and had something truly odd take place. We were at a provincial park campground and had our vehicle parked amongst some cedar trees at the front of our site. On our third night there I was about to send kids and partner off to the bathrooms with flashlights at night. After searching in the van with the interior lights on i got them a flashlight, sent them on their way and closed the van door. That's when I saw to the right of the vehicle a six inch tree trunk where there should not have been a tree. I knew where I was parked and knew the closest tree was about five feet away from the vehicle but I coud distinctly see its outline, reflected by light, like an afterimage. I knew there could be no tree there but I coud see the image of a slender tree trunk right in front of me. I reached out my arm towards this afterimage and scraped the rough bark with my fingers. That's when I freaked out. In my brain I knew there was no tree there but I just felt a tree - very creepy. I went back to the tent and got a lantern, walked back to the vehicle and saw that the nearest tree trunk was easily more than four feet away. There were absolutely no trees within arm's reach of the van's door. I was perplexed to say the least.

I started to think about this - had the physical sensation been a product of my brain's expectations? I saw a reflection of trees in the window of the vehicle. I turned and saw the afterimage of the tree and stretched out my hand to touch the tree and I felt the scratchy bark of a tree that was not there. This was a real conundrum for my usually doubtful brain, but here I was actually feeling something that was not there.

But when you think about paranormal experiences how often do our brains impregnate our physical senses with actual expectations of experience? Perhaps when we front load our minds with strangeness because of location or heightened experience we will have the sensation of a real experience? Just prior to the bathroom break we were all gathered around the campfire listening to Mysteries Abound, which featured the ten most scary places in America that included a segment about moving trees. It reminded me of an old Stephen King short story about three large rocks that mived ad killed on their own. I felt like the narrator of that story, like the tree had suddenly moved to freak me out. And it did.
 

Randall

J. Randall Murphy
I'm sure the skeptics would say that hallucinations ( including yours ), misinformation, fabrication, confabulation, hoaxes and so on, together explain everything out of the ordinary. Personally I've never experienced anything like that. Yes I've seen afterimages when the lights go out, but to also get the sensation of touch is something I've never heard of before. How sure were you that there seemed to be something there? For example could you grip it and feel resistance, or was it purely a textural thing?
 

Burnt State

Paranormal Adept
I'm sure the skeptics would say that hallucinations ( including yours ), misinformation, fabrication, confabulation, hoaxes and so on, together explain everything out of the ordinary. Personally I've never experienced anything like that. Yes I've seen afterimages when the lights go out, but to also get the sensation of touch is something I've never heard of before. How sure were you that there seemed to be something there? For example could you grip it and feel resistance, or was it purely a textural thing?

I have a pretty short arm reach and I knew that there was no tree but I saw a tree and told myself I had to reach out to see what was really there. When I reached out to touch it I felt the tips of my fingers scrape across a solid object with the familiar rough texture of bark. This would be one of only a handful of experiences I've had across my lifetime that I could count as bizarre or 'paranormal.' After I touched the tree I backed off quickly, instinctively.

I personally believe that a lot of odd things that people see are products of the brain fudging the data and producing results people might expect to see, like seeing ghosts in a supposedly well known haunted house. So I as wondering if other, tactile sensations could also be a brain confabulation, like when people claim that they were choked or pushed by the ghost?
 

Goggs Mackay

Administrator
Staff member
I'm not buying that your brain created all that. I'm not saying it's impossible but short of drugs or something, I've never heard of such a thing - although I don't claim to know everything!

I'm a little confused with some details, when you say 6" tree trunk, do you mean in height or in diameter? Any tree 6 inches tall doesn't really qualify as a trunk does it? As in, it wouldn't have the rough bark at that stage in its growth? Did I misunderstand?

I have never heard anything quite like this before but for some reason I just don't think it's something that your brain created out of expectation, it seemed too 'real' and the strength of the tactile experience is really weird, if there was no actual tree.

A strange one....
 

Randall

J. Randall Murphy
I have a pretty short arm reach and I knew that there was no tree but I saw a tree and told myself I had to reach out to see what was really there. When I reached out to touch it I felt the tips of my fingers scrape across a solid object with the familiar rough texture of bark. This would be one of only a handful of experiences I've had across my lifetime that I could count as bizarre or 'paranormal.' After I touched the tree I backed off quickly, instinctively.

I personally believe that a lot of odd things that people see are products of the brain fudging the data and producing results people might expect to see, like seeing ghosts in a supposedly well known haunted house. So I as wondering if other, tactile sensations could also be a brain confabulation, like when people claim that they were choked or pushed by the ghost?

Interesting. So the sensation of touch was limited to texture only. In other words you didn't make an attempt to grip it and move it. Hmm, I've heard of similar things happening on rare occasions. However I would say that it's an exaggeration to say that, "a lot of odd things that people see are products of the brain fudging the data and producing results people might expect to see." The evidence indicates that the vast majority of the time, we actually see what is there. Just consider your own experience here. Out of everything you've ever seen and touched in your life, how many times has this happened? Now take into account the fact that it never happens to most people. Out of all the people I've talked to about their strange experiences, you are only the second person to relay a story that is similar. If anything, these experiences are rare.

Also, as pointed out in my previous post. Most UFO sightings are random experiences. No preconceived desire is applicable to them. Additionally, when people do go looking for them, they seldom find them. So this notion that paranormal experiences and UFO sightings are products of this peculiar psychological phenomenon cannot be reasonably substantiated. At the same time though, I'll grant that it can't be entirely ruled out when the circumstances are just right.
 

Burnt State

Paranormal Adept
I'm not buying that your brain created all that. I'm not saying it's impossible but short of drugs or something, I've never heard of such a thing - although I don't claim to know everything!

I'm a little confused with some details, when you say 6" tree trunk, do you mean in height or in diameter? Any tree 6 inches tall doesn't really qualify as a trunk does it? As in, it wouldn't have the rough bark at that stage in its growth? Did I misunderstand?

I have never heard anything quite like this before but for some reason I just don't think it's something that your brain created out of expectation, it seemed too 'real' and the strength of the tactile experience is really weird, if there was no actual tree.

A strange one....

Yes, it was a solid six inch diameter trunk, solid enough for me to not be able to move it when I brushed my fingers against it. When I did so I know that the tree appeared to be an afterimage of itself. When I went back to check there was no tree there. I found the whole thing to be both innocuous and unnerving at the same time. The closest tree to the veheicle was two steps away before I could touch it.
 

Randall

J. Randall Murphy
Yes, it was a solid six inch diameter trunk, solid enough for me to not be able to move it when I brushed my fingers against it. When I did so I know that the tree appeared to be an afterimage of itself. When I went back to check there was no tree there. I found the whole thing to be both innocuous and unnerving at the same time. The closest tree to the veheicle was two steps away before I could touch it.

This could have gotten really interesting if you had actually put a grip on it rather than just brushing against it.
 

Jeff Crowell

Paranormal Annoyance
This could have gotten really interesting if you had actually put a grip on it rather than just brushing against it.


That brings up my exact strategy for when/if I ever see a Big Foot or alien being.....I'm going to charge and tackle it. Of course I say that in jest but the fact remains that when you have a paranormal experience such as Burnt had, here, you're not always thinking straight. In that I mean you're reaction may not be one of reason as much of curiosity. This explains why people don't think to get their camera's out and take a picture of a flying saucer, or why people don't think to swing their video camera's in the direction of full-bodied apparitions, at times. They're just too in shock of the experience to react in such a manner.

With that being said, I believe that such initial shock would wear off in a longer-lasting experience. People claiming to see a UFO hovering over a field for 15 minutes...well, after 30 seconds I'd think you'd gather your wits about you to take a picture of the thing, but a fast-fly-by experience like what Burnt had? I think he reacted fairly reasonably in gathering another light source and investigating as quickly as he could. Hind-sight is 20-20 and all that.

J.
 

Tyger

Paranormal Adept
There is a lot we don't know - where were your family members at the point of the experience? What were their flashlights doing? 'After image' suggests very little color in what you saw - 'ghostly' - which would jive with a weak light coming from somewhere - there wasn't enough light to produce color.

You explain that you had just been in the car searching for something using the car interior lights. Once in the dark, your seeing an after-image is very reasonable. We 'see' all sorts of stuff as our eyes adjust back to the dark.

If it was an after-image from having just come from inside the car, nothing was there.

It then becomes a matter of figuring out where your hand really was when it felt something. Orientation in the dark at the best of times is dicey. You have to really analyze the sequence and be honest with yourself about these aspects of the sequence ~

~ did you move even slightly, is it possible that when you closed the van door and you sent the fam off and on their way you were positioned not where you thought you were positioned? Even by a pace, because from what you are saying it was a fairly tight space. Meaning you were far closer to a tree than you thought. (I would go with physical facts are wrong/askew before I'd touch 'hallucination'.)

~ was there anything near you, like on the car, top of the car, that could have given the same tactile sensation?

You are describing two sensory inputs - a 'sight' and a 'touch' - and you are linking them. They are not necessarily linked. This is where your headline question comes into play - did or could your mental expectations impact how you interpreted the event? Absolutely - we do that every day and usually to good effect. But the moment you 'freaked out' the adrenalin started to pump - scrambling the situation even further. Time sequencing can be off because of that. The 'sight' is already uncertain because your eyes were adjusting. The cause of the touch-sensation is already uncertain because you were already visually impaired. If you were seeing an after-image from the car you were not touching a 'tree' though that was what your mind interpreted it was seeing - so you interpreted the touch sensation accordingly.

One always hears how people prepare themselves to 'catch' a UFO - cameras and tripods and all that. I'd say the best preparation is training oneself in 'presence of mind'. A wildly racing pulse and consequent racing mind are not the best conditions under which to accurately assess anything imo - especially if there is any sense of being under threat with an unknown, unexplained, new-to-one event. I speak from experience. :p;)

And just my opinion.
 

Tyger

Paranormal Adept
Do mental expectations create the effects of physical reality?

I'm looking more closely at what you are positing. Just to be clear, this is what I am saying in my answer above - that once your mind interpreted what you were 'seeing' as a tree trunk, you were then more inclined to interpret (not 'create') all other sensory input to align with that initial identification. (In every day life, we do this all the time and this usually works swimmingly well for us - we actually infer a lot very quickly and correctly as we walk through the physical world).

In this instance your sight is not trustworthy - it's why you went to get a lamp.

In this instance your sense of touch is reliable (I would say) - it just becomes a question of what you were actually touching and where you were actually standing (perhaps not exactly where you thought you were).

Just my opinion, of course, and trying to be helpful. :)
 

Burnt State

Paranormal Adept


I'm looking more closely at what you are positing. Just to be clear, this is what I am saying in my answer above - that once your mind interpreted what you were 'seeing' as a tree trunk, you were then more inclined to interpret (not 'create') all other sensory input to align with that initial identification. (In every day life, we do this all the time and this usually works swimmingly well for us - we actually infer a lot very quickly and correctly as we walk through the physical world).

In this instance your sight is not trustworthy - it's why you went to get a lamp.

In this instance your sense of touch is reliable (I would say) - it just becomes a question of what you were actually touching and where you were actually standing (perhaps not exactly where you thought you were).

Just my opinion, of course, and trying to be helpful. :)

Sorry for the long delay on responding. I have thought quite clearly about it - when I went back with a flashlight (the family departed before I touched my phantom tree) I was very clear about how close I was to the vehicle vs. the two full strides needed to touch the nearest tree to the car.

I liked how you divided up those two senses, as it was the case of me not believing what my eyes were seeing as in, " how could there possibly be a tree there I asked myself shocked?!", and then reached out to touch what I already knew was not there. But then i toched it. I'm pretty confident about my sense of orientation, but perhaps between the two senses there is some margin for error? Still, my incredible sense of conviction that I had just toouched something incorporeal was tantamount.
 

Randall

J. Randall Murphy
Sorry for the long delay on responding. I have thought quite clearly about it - when I went back with a flashlight (the family departed before I touched my phantom tree) I was very clear about how close I was to the vehicle vs. the two full strides needed to touch the nearest tree to the car.

I liked how you divided up those two senses, as it was the case of me not believing what my eyes were seeing as in, " how could there possibly be a tree there I asked myself shocked?!", and then reached out to touch what I already knew was not there. But then i toched it. I'm pretty confident about my sense of orientation, but perhaps between the two senses there is some margin for error? Still, my incredible sense of conviction that I had just toouched something incorporeal was tantamount.

I heard a similar account over on the JREF about a waiter who had mildly burned himself on some hot plates as he rounded a corner in the kitchen, and some time later rounded the same corner anticipating at the last moment that he was about to do it again, and he claimed he actually felt the heat, but it turned out there were no plates stacked there at that time. So can mental expectations create the effects of physical reality? I think it's possible under the right circumstances. Also consider the effects of hypnosis where people are led to believe they are experiencing certain sensations or seeing certain things. Are those just actors playing a part? Sometimes. But are they always? I don't know. Maybe someone else could verify that.
 

Burnt State

Paranormal Adept
I heard a similar account over on the JREF about a waiter who had mildly burned himself on some hot plates as he rounded a corner in the kitchen, and some time later rounded the same corner anticipating at the last moment that he was about to do it again, and he claimed he actually felt the heat, but it turned out there were no plates stacked there at that time. So can mental expectations create the effects of physical reality? I think it's possible under the right circumstances. Also consider the effects of hypnosis where people are led to believe they are experiencing certain sensations or seeing certain things. Are those just actors playing a part? Sometimes. But are they always? I don't know. Maybe someone else could verify that.
Well that was exactly my line of thinking and explanation - that the phantom tree was all in my mind, much like the front-loading of the hypnotist who makes subjects believe that the imaginary is real.
 

exo_doc

Foolish Earthling
I understand where you are coming from Burnt. I have had a similar experience years ago which I won't go into right now, but the point I'm thinking is this: If mental expectations can create an actual physical object simply because you beleive it to be there, why is this not a more common occurance with people? Do you have to be in a certain frame of mind for it to happen? Are expectational creations influenced by sunspots? Or magnetic disturbances? Or something you ate? Cosmic rays? Your higher self?
I don't think you had a hallucination, I think you actually felt the bark of a tree. How's that possible?:confused:

On an offhand note, I buy lottery tickets with the full expectation of winning. Hasn't happened yet. Are my expectations in a different class than the one you experienced?
 

Burnt State

Paranormal Adept
I understand where you are coming from Burnt. I have had a similar experience years ago which I won't go into right now, but the point I'm thinking is this: If mental expectations can create an actual physical object simply because you beleive it to be there, why is this not a more common occurance with people? Do you have to be in a certain frame of mind for it to happen? Are expectational creations influenced by sunspots? Or magnetic disturbances? Or something you ate? Cosmic rays? Your higher self?
I don't think you had a hallucination, I think you actually felt the bark of a tree. How's that possible?:confused:

On an offhand note, I buy lottery tickets with the full expectation of winning. Hasn't happened yet. Are my expectations in a different class than the one you experienced?
yes, i too have tried the will to power lottery win while purchasing but it just never happens - so much for all that "if you think it, you can make your own reality." i suppose we should not give up work or pension plans anytime soon consequently.

i thought that ufology brought up a good parallel and how the hypnotist seems to have no problem convincing a subdued consciousness of a reality that is not present. in my case i was stone sober, but my brain had been impregnated and a little preoccupied in spare moments with thinking about all those examples of reality suddenly altering, people appearing to slip in and out of time as if they had suddenly stepped through a doorway to a distant past and then moved back into time again. while that's not what i was thinking about at the time, i know that reality can break every now and then during heightened experiences - though i would usually identify intoxicants/substances or very intense experiences (accidents, war, violence etc.) as the true source of the mental distortion. i don't know how common these are in the realm of human experience; perhaps these are the rare moments.

in my own specific case i truly feel like it was a little sample offering from the platter of the late night trickster waiter, just to remind me that all is not as it seems - sometimes. In bright daylight, in my backyard surrounded by trees, it seems like a real distant memory, and not as shocking as my UFO event as a kid - which reminds me, i should draw some pictures of that and post it as it is a real humdinger of an event and worthy of a good read.
 

Burnt State

Paranormal Adept
I did a google. :p Is JREF the James Randi Educational Foundation? LINK: JREF Forum

It looks pretty comprehensive. Enticing.
Just beware, Randi is also not all that he seems. Many of his devoted followers seem to easily look past his own personal hypocrisies. Out of the foundation comes a but of a rabid venom on occasion that is problematic. There's just too much enthusiasm there to make fun of what they feel are the deluded paranormal, ghost chasing, UFO tinfoil hat crowd - us. Sometimes there is some really good critical and skeptical thought located there, and I really appreciate that side of things when they are well researched, but in some areas they are not always so thorough, and will hang their hats on prosaic explanations that don't account for the full story or all the many unique details or histories. Please keep in mind that i say this as someone who has only gotten more and more skeptical as he's gotten older, while still retaining a healthy, renewed interest in the subject matter - must be a disease or something, this wanting to know.
 

Tyger

Paranormal Adept
Just beware, Randi is also not all that he seems. Many of his devoted followers seem to easily look past his own personal hypocrisies. Out of the foundation comes a but of a rabid venom on occasion that is problematic. There's just too much enthusiasm there to make fun of what they feel are the deluded paranormal, ghost chasing, UFO tinfoil hat crowd - us. Sometimes there is some really good critical and skeptical thought located there, and I really appreciate that side of things when they are well researched, but in some areas they are not always so thorough, and will hang their hats on prosaic explanations that don't account for the full story or all the many unique details or histories. Please keep in mind that i say this as someone who has only gotten more and more skeptical as he's gotten older, while still retaining a healthy, renewed interest in the subject matter - must be a disease or something, this wanting to know.

Thank you for this, Burnt State.

I did go on and attempted to sign-up but got stymied when the registration process asked me for my real name, address (I think), birthdate and other personal information I felt was unusual for a chat site (they asked not in a pro forma kind of way - they were stressing accuracy, claiming the info would be stored but not used). I have always been told three things about the internet: never give your real name, never give your real birth date (make it 'off' by days, months, if not years) and never give your precise location (generalities are best). I backed out of the registration process because of it. Ufology, I tried to send you a conversation to ask about it, but was unable to. So this is good - may as well have the dialog on a thread. Though from what you are saying, Burnt, I am thinking I would not want to spend my time there - though it is an impressive site, for sure.
 

Burnt State

Paranormal Adept
Tyger, I believe that the podcast, Monster Talk, is sponsored in part by JREF and they have some exceptional episodes, often with great primary source scientists, researchers, profs., and the occasional paranormal investigator. While passionate about monsters, they are more about skepticism and debunking. This can be both good and bad. Sometimes you have to take the hosts' banter with a grain of salt, but their historical pieces like the Lovecraft and infamous Beast of Gévaudan episodes are exceptional.
 

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