Remembering the future: Facilitating the recall of future events

Research output: Contribution to Book/ReportConference Contribution


The field of parapsychology is concerned with ‘impossible things’ - reported events or abilities that conflict with what the philosopher C.D. Broad (1949, p. 291) called the ‘Basic Limiting Principles’ of science, tenets that have been “so overwhelmingly supported by all the empirical facts … that it hardly enters our heads to question them”. Broad’s four principles can be summarised as follows:

– Effects cannot come before causes.
– A person’s mind cannot produce any direct change in the material world except those caused via the brain / senorimotor system.
– Any mental event is an event in the brain of a living body, and cannot occur in the absence of a functioning brain.
– All knowledge of the world comes to us through our conventional senses or by inference from known facts.

However, there is widespread belief in and reported personal experience of phenomena that prima facie are exceptions to these principles, which seems to be independent of culture, creed or historical period (e.g., Castro, Burrows & Wooffitt, 2014; Dagnall, Drinkwater, Parker & Clough, 2016). Examples of such phenomena include:

– Premonitions such as dreams that refer to (or are ‘caused by’) a future event.
– Psychokinetic events such as the movement or distortion of objects, or the production of wellbeing changes in another organism as a result of mental intention alone.
– Out of body experiences, where the centre of experience seems to be located away from the body; or near-death experiences, in which mental events seem to occur when the brain is apparently incapable of sustaining conscious activity.
– Telepathic and clairvoyant experiences, in which people seem to be able to acquire information from the mind of another person or directly from the environment without the mediation of the known sensory systems.

Parapsychology represents our best attempt to account for these phenomena, either in terms of existing constructs (such as misperception, errors of recall, and deception) or by invoking new constructs that can accommodate them. Given the theme of this symposium, I shall focus on the first of these, apparent violations of the cause-effect temporal relationship. With only limited space, I shall restrict myself to just one line of research that has been loosely (and rather inaccurately) labelled ‘feeling the future’.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAquém e Além do Cérebro
Subtitle of host publicationSono e Sonhos
PublisherFundação Bial
Number of pages14
ISBN (Print)978-972-99286-9-7
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2023


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