Clairvoyants are just very intuitive

Sixth Sense - Myth or Real?

Clairvoyance describes an alleged ability to perceive things beyond the reach of one's own sight. It can be a question of the future as well as insights into the past or to distant places. The so-called “second face” is another term for this type of “seeing”.

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The five senses

Seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting and touching describe the five human senses. The sixth sense is a real or supposed ability to perceive things beyond that which are neither tangible nor comprehensible with these five senses, but which seem to be, ostensibly or really turn out to be true.

However, there are more to the five senses: the sense of temperature, the sense of balance, the sensation of pain, and the sense of depth.

The sixth Sense

The “sixth sense” includes premonitions and a feeling for moods that later turn out to be real or supposed to be true. For example, some mothers feel that their child is doing badly even though they are physically far away from the child.

Or when the phone rings, people know who is calling them. You drive the tram and not the car out of “a gut feeling” and later find out that an accident has occurred.

Or in a dream something bad happens to a person, and weeks later the doctors discover that this person has cancer.

Esoteric versus psychology

Esoteric and religious see the sixth sense and the second face as supernatural blessings or a special connection to supernatural powers. Many scientists reject the idea of ​​a “sixth sense”: According to them, it is primarily a matter of fallacies that give coincidences a special meaning.

So if someone does not drive the car on a certain day and an accident occurs just then, he interprets this coincidence as a result of his actions. He could just as well have taken the train without a connection.

As a result, we are dealing with cognitive short circuits that place events in a causal context that does not exist. It would be similar with people who believe that they know in advance who is calling them when the phone rings.

On the one hand, it could be a matter of experience that it is precisely time for this person to contact you; on the other hand, those affected forget the many moments in which they thought of this person without them answering.


Another explanation that many psychologists prefer is intuition, i.e. unconscious perception and action, also called fast thinking. This is closely related to experiences and associations that the brain forms and processes in the dream.

A dream that a person is doing badly would not be clairvoyance directed towards the future, but the brain would process information in the unconscious that the person in question is not even aware of: That is, if this other person appears to him in a dream, the dreaming unconsciously perceived signals beforehand which indicate that he is sick.

The same applies to parents. When they are close to their children, they are consciously or unconsciously preoccupied with them. If the child does not answer for a long time, even though it usually does, the maternal brain sounds the alarm: Something is wrong.

The countless situations in which mothers worry about their children without anything happening to the children or even about protective mothers who are always worried and feel confirmed when something finally happens to the child are not taken into account.

Or they frighten the child so much that they create the dangerous situation themselves.

What does science say

The second face and the sixth sense have preoccupied religion for millennia, as has modern science.

Eberhard Bauer from the Institute for Frontier Areas in Psychology and Mental Hygiene wrote: “Premonitions, visions, true dreams and a second face are human experiences that have always been part of cultural history.

There is no doubt that there are such extraordinary reports of experiences - the question is how they can be interpreted. Studies in parapsychology indicate that there are indeed anomalous interactions between people and their environment, which - so far! - withdraw from a satisfactory conventional explanation. "

He concluded: “Either we learn from this that we are being deceived in very subtle ways, or we find a new model for explaining such anomalies. Science and society can only benefit from it. "

Bernd Harder from the Society for the Scientific Investigation of Parosciences, on the other hand, considers the sixth sense to be nothing more than the ability to draw conclusions from unconscious observations: “When driving a car, a man says to his wife:“ We could go dancing again. ”His wife is amazed - she had just thought the same thing. A supernatural phenomenon?

No. Shortly before, they had seen a poster advertising a type of cheese from a vacation spot. The couple had often been dancing there during the holidays.

The sixth sense is little more than the ability to draw correct conclusions from limited information. Apprehensions are based on observations that we perceive unconsciously.

Anyone who still believes they are paranormally gifted can be tested by the US skeptic James Randi. He pays a million dollars in prize money for a verifiable real phenomenon. "

The example of dancing can be applied to countless situations. Let's say a young student is in a life crisis. He studies in Hamburg and comes from Buxtehude. One night he wanders lonely through St. George, then he gets on the train, only half consciously, because he is drawn to his old home.

It is seven in the morning and he meets his father on the platform in Buxtehude, who is driving to work. Otherwise he always drove the car.

The father notices that something is wrong with the son, calls his mother and she picks him up from the train station.

In the short circuit it is about the sixth sense, because the student could not have known that his father was at the train station.

However, the young man longed for warmth in the nest, but did not dare to tell his parents directly.

Without anchoring it in his consciousness, he had noticed that his father was currently taking the train to work. So it is an intuitive act.


Prägoknition describes the ability to grasp future events that cannot be rationally inferred. There were various experiments with random generators. Another name for it is clairvoyance.

For one thing, we are constantly predicting the future, and since people are planning their future, so too must we. We include our knowledge, our experience, our observations and the assessments of other people.

We do this consciously, but mostly unconsciously and automatically, the brain works sparingly and conscious thought processes need time and energy.

What do skeptics say?

Skeptics consider the belief in psychic clairvoyance to be psychologically conditioned:

1) Psychic predictions are seemingly accurate, but only until they are scrutinized and analyzed.

2) We all have dark visions of the future and they appear in our dreams

3) A seemingly low probability that the predictions will come true by sheer coincidence

4) Exaggerated coverage of supposed clairvoyants in the tabloid media who are far removed from scientific minimum standards - for example, when "clairvoyants with psychic abilities" discuss on an equal footing with reputable psychologists on talk shows

5) a lack of knowledge of intuition as the sum of acquired knowledge and applied experience. What appears as clairvoyance would therefore only be a knowledge of human nature

6) selective perception and selective memory

7) unconsciously adding memories, dreams and visions after the event

8) lack of understanding of the law of large numbers

9) believe what we want to believe

Manipulation and experience

Bad cases of manipulation by the mass media are deliberate lies: The “clairvoyant” Tamara Rand worked with talk show host Gary Greco in Las Vegas. Both posted a video in which Rand allegedly predicted the attempted murder of Ronald Reagan on January 6, 1981. In fact, the team fraudulently filmed the tape on March 31, 1981, after the assassination attempt.

Predictions from clairvoyants come true, as do predictions from non-clairvoyants. In everyday life we ​​very often make true predictions about the future: if someone predicts that his partner would like him to vacuum the apartment, he does not need psychic abilities. Rather, they are acquired experiences with which I can predict thoughts.

People who have knowledge in one area that others lack can easily pass as clairvoyants: If someone has no idea about floods and is building their house right on the riverbank, and a local predicts that the basement will be flooded, this may appear to the unsuspecting as a supernatural gift - this is a head start in experience and knowledge.

The Forer Effect

We call the Forer effect the rule that the more vague a prediction, the more likely it will be, the more precisely it seems to us.

In doing so, we forget on the one hand the “prophetic” dreams that did not (!) Come true, and on the other hand certain premonitions that we did not tell in order not to be considered cowards. For example, if we did not take a flight because we believed, feared or “suspected” that the plane would crash but it did not.

A classic Forer effect is the belief in weekly or daily horoscopes. On the one hand, we read them at breakfast in the morning and unconsciously adjust to the predictions. The formulations are so vague that they can always apply.

For example, it says the zodiac sign Pisces: In the first half of the day you have to make a decision, in the second half of the day you are successful in your projects if nothing comes of the way.

Everyone makes loads of decisions every day. So if I decide to put on the black coat instead of the blue jacket, the horoscope is telling the truth.

If I'm about to write my tax return in the second half of the day and my husband persuades me to have an ice cream and I can't finish. Something comes up. If I finish the tax return, it is also correct.

Anecdotes, "experiences" and testimonies are not scientific evidence, often quite the opposite. Judges, prosecutors and empirical scientists know that witness statements are insufficiently true - not because those affected would lie, but because our brains tinker with stories that work and not those that correspond to the objective truth.

What do controlled tests say?

Controlled tests with clairvoyant abilities that exclude coincidence or natural causes have always failed. Esotericists explain this with the fact that the test situation disturbs the "vibrations" or "energies". Scientists, on the other hand, say that clairvoyants fail in testing their skills because they don't have these skills.

James Randi, who scientifically examined clairvoyance, came to the following conclusion

1) The subjects had never tested their skills under controlled conditions

2) Some offered grotesquely ridiculous reasons for their failure

3) Others were genuinely surprised by their failure

Self-fulfilling prophecy

People who think they are clairvoyant and interweave "premonitions", speculation and their own fears are particularly critical.

Martina (name changed), for example, is terrified of being raped. Her psychotherapist attributes this to the violence she was exposed to as a child by her father.

A doctor diagnosed the young woman as suffering from borderline syndrome. This also includes states of psychosis in which she cannot separate external and internal events.

Martina says of herself: “I have a very sharp intuition.” So she jogged through a park and saw two men in a dark corner. Immediately she felt a "warning" in her stomach and ran in the other direction. One thing she "knew" exactly: "The two wanted to rape me."

Nothing took place here that could have proven a “premonition”. This “gut feeling” has nothing to do with a clairvoyance into the future, but a lot to do with the fears of the “clairvoyant”.

These self-fulfilling prophecies also hit patients who fell into the clutches of clairvoyants warning them that bad was about to happen. Those affected behave particularly insecurely on the day when the “clairvoyant” predicted an accident, for example, and thus trigger an accident.

Cold Reading

Inge Hüsken and Wolgang Hund clarify at the Society for the Scientific Investigation of Parosciences: “In controlled tests, fortune tellers are not more successful than luck would suggest. The fact that many clients report amazing hits is attributed by psychologists primarily to the technique of "cold reading", with which fortune tellers give the interlocutor the misleading impression that they are fully informed about his personality and his life situation. "

But what is cold reading? The skeptics explain: “At its core, cold reading consists in drawing conclusions about the person concerned from the appearance and behavior of the client (e.g. clothing, posture, manner of speaking, seemingly harmless remarks). This can happen unconsciously or it can be used specifically to simulate access to supernatural sources of information. "

Then there is the Barnum effect: "Clairvoyants use general statements that the client relates to his or her individual situation and evaluates them as applicable."

People can be manipulated

Florian Freistetter wrote on the science blogs in 2012: “If a“ clairvoyant ”tells you something that“ no one else can know ”, then you have either fallen for a real cheater who has found out about you beforehand. Or you gave him the information yourself in the conversation and he just repeated it later. "

Nobody is immune from such charlatans. Freistetter writes: “We would like to believe that we will not fall for such tricks - but we are all not so smart and attentive as we secretly imagine it. We quickly forget, we think selectively and are too easily impressed. A trained clairvoyant, astrologer or map reader can use this and later present information that he has only recently received from us as "mysterious" knowledge. "

In fact, some people have special abilities that they call psychic clairvoyance. These talents include a trained ability to observe other people. The "clairvoyants" use the facial expressions, gestures and body language of a person to determine their fears, desires and interests. The “magicians” can then direct their victims in a certain direction to answer a specific question.

The intuition

Rational and irrational thinking, unconscious and conscious action, reason and feeling - intuitive and deductive understanding; psychology today brings some clarity to the way people process information.

Esotericists use the term intuition in an inflationary way and associate it directly with fortune tellers, clairvoyants, extrasensory powers, supposed hereafter encounters and higher consciousness.

The artists of the Romantic era also glorified intuition, the subjective, without, however, using the term.

Gerd Gigerenzer from the Max Planck Institute for Human Development writes: “An intuition is neither a whim nor a sixth sense, neither clairvoyance nor God's voice. It is a form of unconscious intelligence. "

Research has only been devoted to intuition as a source of human thought for a few decades.

Automatic thinking

Intuition includes feelings of deciding in a certain direction without consciously knowing why we are doing it.The feelings are so strong that we often act out of them.

The simplest explanation for this is that the brain quickly blocks most information and separates important information from unimportant information in order to enable quick decisions.

Most researchers agree that the more experience we have in a particular area, the better the intuition works. The brain then selects essential information faster and “more correctly” than if we were breaking new ground.

Gigerenzer considers the traditional division between logic and illogic, reason and feeling, intelligence and stupidity to be completely wrong. According to the psychologist, intelligence is by no means always conscious and considered.

Intuition is gut instinct, and we would rely on this feeling even more than on mental decisions. Intuitive decisions, he said, were based on little information and would ignore all others.

Fast thinking, slow thinking

Daniel Kahnemann explored the pitfalls of intuition. He distinguishes fast thinking, i.e. unconscious thinking, from slow thinking, conscious thinking. Accordingly, there are two different modes in which the brain works, with intuitive thinking coming to the fore much more frequently.

It is therefore quick thinking, for example, when someone speaks to us and we immediately hear hostility or friendship.

The conscious system

The conscious system, on the other hand, analyzes and calculates and carefully considers choosing between different options, for example when shopping: which product has which advantages, which disadvantages.

However, this requires concentration, and conscious thinking only does one task at a time, calculating takes time and mental energy, because memory can only process a certain amount of information at the same time.

The unconscious system

The unconscious system, on the other hand, is fast, and that had enormous advantages in our evolutionary development: "It increased the chances of survival if you recognized the most serious threats or the most promising opportunities quickly and responded to them immediately."

With rustling in the bushes, with shadows on a branch, it was almost impossible to analyze step by step whether it was a big cat, a breath of wind or a harmless bird. If it had been a big cat, the slow thinking would have cost our ancestors their heads.

When intuition is deceptive

The unconscious situation usually works well in everyday situations: without thinking long and logically, we automatically change the road when we get the information out of the corner of our eye that there is no car in sight.

Without thinking, we scratch our shoulders when it itches. We smell the smell of coffee and automatically we close: This is a cafeteria.

According to Kahnemann, the trap lies in the fact that intuition uses information that is easily accessible to memory. As a result, intuition repeatedly falls into the trap of distortions, as Kahnemann has shown in years of experiments.

An example is the task:

A racket and a ball cost € 1.10 together. The racket costs € 1 more than the ball. How much does the ball cost?

The first answer of intuition would be 10 cents. But that is wrong. If the racket costs one euro more than the ball, then both cost 1.20 euros together. The correct answer that comes up with logical reasoning is 5 cents.

Clairvoyance in literature

Stephen King uses clairvoyance as a tool in his horror novels.

Johnny Smith can see into the future in "The Assassination" after an accident disrupted part of his brain. Then he wants to change the future by changing the present.

In “Affection”, the Bruja witch reads Mama Delorme's thoughts and says she has the second face. She knows immediately that Martha Rosewall is pregnant, about which the young woman does not know anything herself.

Psychic Detectives

Esotericists believe in, and the gossip press reports of "psychic detectives", that is, clairvoyants who would help the police with the investigation. In the heyday of esotericism, encounters in the hereafter and the back of glasses, for example in the 1880s and 1920s, such supposedly psychically gifted media actually sought out the police as “supernatural helpers”. The term “criminal telepathy” is even circulating on the Internet as if it were a science.

The specialist magazine “Die Kriminalpolizei” comments on this: “In this context, it is particularly important to the author that - according to the police officers questioned - the clairvoyants in question never gave any useful information or even remotely helped." (Dr. Utz Anhalt)

Author and source information

This text complies with the requirements of specialist medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical professionals.

Dr. phil. Utz Anhalt, Barbara Schindewolf-Lensch
  • Reiner Gebbensleben: The sixth sense and its phenomena: Physical and neurophysiological foundations of hypersonic perception, Books on Demand, 2013
  • Mel Slater: "Presence and the sixth sense", in: Presence: Virtual and Augmented Reality, Volume 11 Issue 4, 2002
  • Claudia Barth: Esotericism - the search for the self: Social psychological studies on a form of modern religiosity, transcript, 2012
  • Heinz Ryborz: Influence - Convince - Manipulate: Serious and unscrupulous rhetoric, Walhalla Fachverlag, 2019
  • Myram Borders: "Hollywood psychic Tamara Rand's prediction of the attempted assassination ...": (accessed: August 26, 2019), UPI
  • Patrick Converso; Cold Reading Tradecraft: The art and science of mentalism cold reading,, 2002

Important NOTE:
This article is for general guidance only and is not intended to be used for self-diagnosis or self-treatment. He can not substitute a visit at the doctor.