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← Scientific evidence proves why healers see the 'aura' of people

Scientific evidence proves why healers see the 'aura' of people - Comments

dilated_in_disbelief's Avatar Comment 1 by dilated_in_disbelief

It almost seems obvious after reading about it. I feel like I should have been able to entertain this as a possibility!

Tue, 15 May 2012 17:21:33 UTC | #941634

gordon's Avatar Comment 2 by gordon

Personally, I think they are just taking the piss (and money). I don't think they are cross wired, just bent.

Tue, 15 May 2012 17:30:40 UTC | #941640

strangebrew's Avatar Comment 3 by strangebrew

Hmmm!...yea... whatever...moving on!

Tue, 15 May 2012 17:34:15 UTC | #941643

crookedshoes's Avatar Comment 4 by crookedshoes

kiss my aura, Dora.....

Tue, 15 May 2012 17:53:53 UTC | #941647

Ygern's Avatar Comment 5 by Ygern

Steven Novella (of Skeptics Guide to the Universe) has already cast some doubt on this story on his site.

Link here

He's a clinical neurologist at Yale, so this is more his area than your average journalist's, and says in summary:

Interesting, but circumstantial. Given the weight of the evidence it seems that the connection between auras and synaesthesia is speculative and based on superficial similarities that are likely coincidental. The new study, if anything, is a deeper look at the question, finding the hypothesis lacking.

Tue, 15 May 2012 18:21:31 UTC | #941657

strangebrew's Avatar Comment 6 by strangebrew

At the bottom of the article...

ALL healers "have abilities and attitudes that make them believe in their ability to heal other people, but it is actually a case of self-deception, as synesthesia is not an extrasensory power, but a subjective and 'adorned' perception of reality", the researchers state.

Fixed that tiny error for them free of charge! (Someone snorting the ether methinks!)

Tue, 15 May 2012 18:24:49 UTC | #941658

mtgilbert's Avatar Comment 7 by mtgilbert

I would like to see a scientific explanation for why people believe in the supernatural. They aren't hearing or seeing something that isn't there, but they still "sense" that it's there. There should be a neurological correlate, shouldn't there? I remember a study in which stimulating a certain brain region caused people to "sense" that there was someone behind them, specifically behind them and to the right.

Tue, 15 May 2012 19:11:18 UTC | #941662

Hume's Razor's Avatar Comment 8 by Hume's Razor

Comment 5 by Ygern :

Steven Novella (of Skeptics Guide to the Universe) has already cast some doubt on this story on his site.

Link here

You beat me to it... Unfortunately the original story has already gotten so much attention that it's probably too late to do much about it:

Unfortunately, the hypothesis seems to be wrong. The researchers analyzed the subjective reports of four people with face-color synaesthesia. They then compared this to reports and descriptions of people seeing alleged auras. They concluded:

“The discrepancies found suggest that both phenomena are phenomenologically and behaviourally dissimilar.”

That means they are probably not the same thing. [...] Amazingly, the media has universally (as far as I have seen so far) misreported this item and have come to the opposite conclusion. Science Daily writes:”Synesthesia May Explain Healers Claims of Seeing People’s ‘Aura’”. Other outlets remove the “may”, and some even substitute the word “prove.”

This is an example of terrible science news reporting, and a major weakness of the current internet-based news infrastructure. It seems that the many news outlets reporting this story are mostly just reprinting one original source – a news report from the University of Granada. Somehow they got the story exactly wrong (erring on the side of sensationalism), and this error has been propagated throughout countless science news outlets and paranormal websites throughout the web. No one, apparently, clicked through to the original article. The article is behind a paywall, but the freely available abstract plainly states the phenomena are not the same.

Tue, 15 May 2012 19:14:54 UTC | #941664

Chris Roberts's Avatar Comment 9 by Chris Roberts

Comment 7 by mtgilbert

I would like to see a scientific explanation for why people believe in the supernatural. They aren't hearing or seeing something that isn't there, but they still "sense" that it's there.


We are pattern-seeking mammals, and we often see patterns that arn't there - like shapes in the clouds - because the cost of false positves are generally minimal, the cost of false negatives can be fatal (if you fail to see the predator creeping up on you)

Tue, 15 May 2012 19:36:58 UTC | #941670

Schrodinger's Cat's Avatar Comment 10 by Schrodinger's Cat

Scientific evidence proves.......

This might be a scientific explanation.....

Why do journals keep doing this ? It's not the first time here that I've pointed out an article with 'proves' in the title......only to find the accompanying article arrives at a 'may be...'.

Tue, 15 May 2012 20:39:52 UTC | #941683

MilitantNonStampCollector's Avatar Comment 11 by MilitantNonStampCollector

So is this bull? Are the "intensely interconnected stimuli" not to blame for bat-shit aura delusions?

Tue, 15 May 2012 20:53:31 UTC | #941685

aquilacane's Avatar Comment 12 by aquilacane

As a person who experiences a minor amount of synesthesia (ideas, design, numbers, letters, dates and so forth) I can understand how this may be the case, but I would not say this article concludes the issue.

Tue, 15 May 2012 21:31:33 UTC | #941697

Neodarwinian's Avatar Comment 13 by Neodarwinian

" Scientific evidence proves why healers see the 'aura' of people "

Really!? ( in the voice of Kyle )

Tue, 15 May 2012 22:35:53 UTC | #941708

mmurray's Avatar Comment 14 by mmurray

Comment 10 by Schrodinger's Cat :

Scientific evidence proves.......

This might be a scientific explanation.....

Why do journals keep doing this ? It's not the first time here that I've pointed out an article with 'proves' in the title......only to find the accompanying article arrives at a 'may be...'.

That is just the crappy title the website chose. The title of the actual article is

Auras in mysticism and synaesthesia: A comparison


Tue, 15 May 2012 23:09:55 UTC | #941714

HellFireFuel's Avatar Comment 15 by HellFireFuel

So faith healers are not right in the head?

I've been saying that for ages.

Tue, 15 May 2012 23:32:33 UTC | #941720

RobertJames's Avatar Comment 16 by RobertJames

Lying might be another possible explanation

Tue, 15 May 2012 23:34:42 UTC | #941721

Macaron's Avatar Comment 17 by Macaron

Why is this article here?! It is horrible journalism. Both the headline and the very first sentence say the complete opposite of the findings of this study!

Story posted above:

Researchers in Spain have found that many of the individuals claiming to see the aura of people –traditionally called "healers" or "quacks"– actually present the neuropsychological phenomenon known as "synesthesia" (specifically, "emotional synesthesia").

Actual study:

The discrepancies found suggest that both phenomena are phenomenologically and behaviourally dissimilar.

The story posted here couldn't be more wrong...

Wed, 16 May 2012 01:22:02 UTC | #941733

QuestioningKat's Avatar Comment 18 by QuestioningKat

Here is my take:

Faith healers in general see connections where there are none or a rational explanation can be found.

** People who are seeing auras are most likely experiencing the optical effect of viewing a complementary color.

Remember the optical illusion of staring at a black dot that is in the center of a green apple with a red leaf? When you look at a piece of paper you will see a red apple with a green leaf. If you stare at someone's head or shoulders long enough, you will see a lighter halo because the person usually has an opposite value of dark hair. If you stare at someone with an orange shirt, depending on the exact shade of orange you will experience the optical after effect of a shade of tealish blue. If that person is standing against a yellow wall the so-called aura will possibly be more bluish to violet.

I was with a group of about 15 people who were learning to see auras. I listened to their comments. Every single person was actually describing this after effect, but considered themselves to be experiencing an aura. Even when I commented that I thought was happening, several people refused to listen to my view.

** Migraines

** I have noticed that during certain mental states, my sense of color is more vivid. My guess is that people are doing this also.

** Hallucination brought on by a manic or near manic state.

Once I saw a vivid, fully dimensional aura. I was talking to some guy I had a crush on and my eyes were focused at a slightly further distance from him. It seemed as if his face became transparent as if a light was coming from within his head. Mostly white light rays were streaming from the orifices in his head - eyes, nose, ears, mouth. The rays were moving slowly outward like streams of curling smoke. Rays were also emanating from (boney areas of) his face, but they were even slower in movement and not as well defined. On the left side of his face I could see a pinkish colored area.

Ok, I know what you're thinking. No I never use/used drugs. Not manic either. One person told me that it sounded like an acid trip. No, no drugs. Of course, I ran to the nearest metaphysical book store to read up on auras and only one other book described something similar to what I experienced. All of them were consistent with the meaning of pink though.

Here is my explanation. I was in such an emotionally altered (loving) state that my brain chemistry caused me to hallucinate without actually taking any drugs. Being a theist at the time, I prayed deeply the day before for a "sign." (I primed myself up for having an experience.)

Frankly, I'd like to experience this again, but never had. What was odd about the experience is that streams, light, color, etc conformed to this man's face and did not look as if it was superimposed at all.

** Some people may actually be wired differently.

To sum it up, seeing auras has an explanation far from woo.

Wed, 16 May 2012 01:34:02 UTC | #941736

QuestioningKat's Avatar Comment 19 by QuestioningKat

Oh well, I tried to delete the previous post...

Wed, 16 May 2012 01:51:01 UTC | #941739

QuestioningKat's Avatar Comment 20 by QuestioningKat

Shit, it didn't work and I somehow triple posted.

Wed, 16 May 2012 01:53:16 UTC | #941740

Alternative Carpark's Avatar Comment 21 by Alternative Carpark

Bollocks. I find synæsthesia fascinating, but I doubt most of these clowns have ever even heard of it. And even if they had, I don't think they would like to have their perceived powers written off as a genuine physiological anomaly. Anyway, if this was indeed the case, it could quite easily be tested for. I believe it the Amazing Randi himself who conducted a test to disprove auras.

As I remember it, he set up 6 or so screens just high enough to obscure a person standing behind it, and only half of the screens actually had anyone standing behind them. As a person's aura presumably extends beyond their body, it should be "visible" above the screen and, therefore, it should be trivial for someone who claims to be able to see auras to determine which screens had someone standing behind them.

The results were the same as you would expect from pure chance.

Anyone interested in synæsthesia should try and track down the interesting BBC documentary "Derek tastes of earwax", featuring, though not presented by, the splendid VS Ramachandran.

Wed, 16 May 2012 01:53:46 UTC | #941741

Border Collie's Avatar Comment 22 by Border Collie

I keep trying to sneak up on my aura in the mirror ...

Wed, 16 May 2012 02:35:55 UTC | #941752

justinesaracen's Avatar Comment 23 by justinesaracen

What might have been an attempt at a serious study turned out to be a pop-science article that by now I am sure hundreds of wooists have posted to their Facebook pages.

Synesthesia itself is an interesting neurological phenomenon, and certainly deserves studying, but allowing it to in any way legitimize witch-doctory is shameful.

Wed, 16 May 2012 07:29:11 UTC | #941784

Andy Mcquillan's Avatar Comment 24 by Andy Mcquillan

More scientific research like this is needed not for those who do believe or those that dont but for the people who claim to have magical powers,and are willing to take money from vulnerable people.It does not take scientific research to prove that so called mystics are criminals that stoop to any level to make a fast and easy buck.

Wed, 16 May 2012 10:53:48 UTC | #941804

Roedy's Avatar Comment 25 by Roedy

For a period of about a year starting 1974-11-30 I experienced just about every flaky impossible thing imaginable. [Link to personal blog removed by moderator]

I finally decided to interpret things this way.

Your mind has access to all sorts of information. That information is in in form of frequencies of various neurons firing -- in other words only extremely loosely mapped onto what is going on in the real world.

The experience of reality is much like a guided dream, where this information warps and guides the dream. What you experience is NOT reality in any direct sense. We presume the connection is much more direct than it is. The consistency fools us into failing to notice what we experience is a constructed illusion.

Therefore, in principle, you can present information to conscious experience in whatever way you like, so long as it is consistent. An aura then is just a dream special effect. It is not really as special as we imagine. In constructing a dream you can for example construct visually an alarm clock based on the sound of an alarm. Waking consciousness is not all that much different. It is more a matter of degree how tightly the dream is coupled with sensory input.

Wed, 16 May 2012 11:52:50 UTC | #941811

gsmonks's Avatar Comment 26 by gsmonks

I don't buy this explanation of "auras". I can see them, and by fiddling with various light sources, long ago came to the conclusion that the "seeing" of "auras" has something to do with the refraction of light within the eye itself, the "aura" appearing as a corona around every object from which light is reflected, and not just people.

The so-called "rays coming off the fingertips" aspect is what tipped me off. I found that by holding a light-source at just the right angle, that there were faint echoes of inverse images, especially when looking at the hand almost end-on under a very bright light.

I don't know what the technical explanation is, but were I to work under the supervision of an expert in optics, I'm sure we could get it sorted in short order, and that there's no "cross wiring" involved.

I can teach literally anyone the knack of seeing auras. It's not mysterious or rare or a "gift" or some kind of pseudoscientific mumbo-jumbo. It's an every-day phenomenon that anyone can see.

Wed, 16 May 2012 13:05:48 UTC | #941828

old-toy-boy's Avatar Comment 27 by old-toy-boy

This is fasinating but old news, I first heard about it in New Scientist, in Nov 2010. For those who do not have a paper copy, try

I do not have synaesthesia, but having been interested and trained in engineering. I cannot help but see the stresses in mechanical components. I do not actually "see" anything different from other people, but I can percive the weak parts in a component most of the time just by looking at it.

Wed, 16 May 2012 14:26:16 UTC | #941847

Geoff 21's Avatar Comment 28 by Geoff 21

What is the proportion of the population with synaesthesia and to what degree do those with it concur about what they perceive? Is the condition more common in some families than others?

"El Santón presents face-color synesthesia (the brain region responsible for face recognition is associated with the color-processing region); touch-mirror synesthesia (when the synesthete observes a person who is being touched or is experiencing pain, s/he experiences the same); high empathy (the ability to feel what other person is feeling), and schizotypy (certain personality traits in healthy people involving slight paranoia and delusions). "These capacities make synesthetes have the ability to make people feel understood, and provide them with special emotion and pain reading skills", the researchers explain."

Leaving aside a quibble about 'empathy' (I'd suggest 'sympathy' is the word that's needed) there's an element of circularity here since a trait like touch-mirror synaesthesia might, as easily, be engendered by chemical imbalance as be the result of unusual sinaptic connectivity. Are these synaesthesia types and character traits supported by neurological scanning data or simply convenient psychological typifications (a politico-legal area of dispute recently)? I'd like to know.

Any consistencies between the perceptions or behaviours of synaesthetes of these different types would bear investigation. It seems quite likely that unusual ways of receiving sense-data would demand new cognitive strategies. Lateral thinking in a literal rather than Glass Bead-game sense. With enough rationalist synaesthetes it would be interesting to check points of agreement/difference and where they have found the condition useful or an impediment. If useful at all then in what way (...apart from the obvious 'commercial' applications); does seeing music, for instance, make it easier to analyse?

Wed, 16 May 2012 19:43:27 UTC | #941903

Son of Mathonwy's Avatar Comment 29 by Son of Mathonwy

Simply disgraceful journalism. I struggle to see how that article could have honestly been based on the paper.

Wed, 16 May 2012 20:26:17 UTC | #941912

Katy Cordeth's Avatar Comment 30 by Katy Cordeth

I know that this this isn't strictly germane to the topic, and I don't really expect any responses; but because this thread is about people who are supposedly able to perceive light when no light source is available, can I just ask......all right, this may sound weird to anyone who hasn't experienced it, but how comes, right, when I'm in a darkened room and my hay fever is acting up and I rub my eyes....I see light?

And I don't just mean little fleeting pinpricks of luminescence either: if I press on either eyeball through the eyelid in a certain way, it's like turning on a low-wattage torch. Come on, RD net cleverclogses, explain that away with your Jesus-hating science, if you can.

Wed, 16 May 2012 22:10:30 UTC | #941923