Mind Hacks: Have an out-of-body experience

by Stephanie Chasteen on May 2, 2011

As I wrote in an earlier post I’ve been reading this wonderful book called Mind Hacks, with tips on how your brain works (and how to fool it).

One that I found particularly interesting was the one entitled Have an Out of Body Experience.  The blurb reads:

Our regular experience of the world is first person, but in some situations, we see ourselves from an external perspective. These out of body experiences may even have a neurological basis.

Remember, they tell us, to when you were last lying down reading something.  I can imagine myself in bed, reading my book-before-bed.  Where is your “minds eye”?

Are you looking at yourself from an external point of view — much like someone wandering by might have seen you — or are you remembering yourself looking out through your own eyes as you are reading this book [or blog post] right now?

Now imagine the last time you were really angry at your partner.  What perspective do you remember that from?

Most people, apparently, remember it from the former perspective, from the 3rd person point of view.  And apparently asking someone to focus on their feelings at that particular time is more likely to make them remember the event from the 1st person point of view.  Weird!  Since reading a book is neutral, we’re more likely to experience it from a 3rd person point of view.  What about the second event?  Did you remember that from a 1st person point of view?

Studies of surgery patients have shown that out-of-body experiences can be triggered by stimulating certain areas of the brain.  One patient reported that she felt that she was floating near the ceiling, and looking down on the operating theater.  This brain area (the tempero-parietal junction) is involved in looking at situations from various points of view — like figuring out where to stand to get the best view.  So, that part of the brain has to switch between the outside world and our own personal perspective, which seems to make sense for a brain area that is involved in out of body experiences.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

JAE Sherman May 5, 2011 at 2:21 am

This is fascinating topic. Thanks for posting. Ramachandran does an excellent talk on this in the “Beyond Belief” series (although the series is about the existence of God, it’s a very informative talk regardless of your personal beliefs.) Here is a link. He starts at about 39 minutes in.

http://thesciencenetwork.org/programs/beyond-belief-science-religion-reason-and-survival/session-4-1

Louis Ruiz October 22, 2011 at 7:03 am

I have posted a journal online about my out of body experiences. If you would like to read it it is at http://louisobe.com
Thank you for sharing your knowledge and experiences.

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