Science fiction author Phillip K. Dick gave us the notion of precogs, gifted humans used to predict the near future in his short story, "The Minority Report." Now a research group has taken data culled from years testing that indicates human may, in fact, have some natural predictive ability.
The study, conducted by researchers at the Visual Perception, Cognition and Neuroscience Laboratory at Northwestern University in Chicago, as well as the Universitàdi Padova in Padova, Italy, and the University of California, Irvine, parsed data from 26 published reports between 1978 and 2010. Titled "Predictive Physiological Anticipation Preceding Seemingly Unpredictable Stimuli: A Meta-Analysis," the paper examines the possibility that humans can sense near-term events just before they occur.
Team member Julia Mossbridge calls this phenomemon "anomalous anticipatory activity." How this effect is expressed, according to the researchers, is as a "physiological [change] in response to an important event without any known clues." This dynamic, also known as presentiment (a indistinct feeling that something somewhat significant is about to happen) doesn't offer the promise of predicting specific events, but does appear to play an important role in our daily lives. For example, if you were at work, slacking off and playing a video game, and your supervisor walked in, Mossbridge says, "our analysis suggests that if you were tuned into your body, you might be able to detect these anticipatory changes between two and 10 seconds beforehand and close your video game."
According to the research group, understanding this phenomenon will require more testing, but the unexplained aspects of the phenomenon have tantalizingly vague implications. In the paper, the researchers offer this final, fascinating passage: "The cause of this anticipatory activity, which undoubtedly lies within the realm of natural physical processes (as opposed to supernatural or paranormal ones), remains to be determined."