We all know that our bodies are a whole mess of weird or what, but what about the human mind? Do we all have untapped mental potential? Are some of us just special? Or are we just kidding ourselves?
In 1980, Etta Smith claims to have experienced a psychic vision that led her directly to the site of a brutal murder. She immediately reported her findings to the local authorities and found herself jailed and added to the list of suspects as a coconspirator! How did she know where to find the body?
Weird or What's resident paranormal expert, Joe Nickell, believes that there are two kinds of psychics: Fantasizers and charlatans. Professor of Psychology Tim Moore ultimately agrees with this conclusion, but is a bit more forgiving in his classification of Etta's unexplainable foresight. He believes that she happened to subconsciously retain information that she overheard while about her business that was triggered and brought to her conscious awareness upon viewing the news report about the murder. Even if that is the case, it's still a pretty nifty parlor trick!
A Man who Never Forgets
Bob Petrella can remember every detail about every day of his life. Conjure a date from thin air, and Bob can tell you what he ate for lunch, the score of the big game, and what time he went to bed. In the world of Weird or What, this is called a super-autobiographical memory and is attributed to an enlarged Caudate Nucleus - the section of the brain responsible for memory making.
Gary Marcus, a cognitive scientist, believes that Bob's ability is simply due to an inflated ego - an obsession with himself. He explains that super-autobiographers retain information about their own lives with incredible ease, but have no greater aptitude for rote memorization.
Others, like the University of East London's professor of psychology, Dr. Mary Spiller, classify Bob's ability as temporal synesthesia. She explains that synesthetes often can "taste" colors or "feel" sounds attributing various musical pieces with different textures and different splashes of color with various foods. However, she believes that there may be an extension of this phenomenon that allows an individual to categorically organize moments in time across a spatial matrix thus allowing for easier, more reliable access to information that that which is available to those functioning with a more traditional method of memory.
Oh Ye of Little Faith; You're Missing out on Health Benefits!
Millions of people across the globe believe in the power of faith healing - the notion that a religious or spiritual leader can act as a conduit for a god to banish illness and restore health in opposition to modern medicine. Of course, the scientific community takes issue with such blind faith. The endorphins and adrenaline that can be produced during an episode of faith healing may provide temporary relief as well as the misguided notion that proper medical care is no longer necessary, and yet some experience full recovery without relapse after being cured at the hand of god.
Most doctors are quick to invoke the Placebo Effect. Explaining that the human mind and body, in clinical trials, has been able to overcome chronic pain or anxiety under the treatment of only sugar pills and the belief that they actually contain medicine.
And while it's nice to believe in miracles, even the mind's capacity to invoke the placebo effect speaks to the power of that lump of grey matter we carry around in our skulls.