Many people believe in ghosts, but could there be scientific explanations for some of our paranormal experiences?
3. Carbon monoxide
Just as breathing in mold could lead us to see, hear, and feel things that aren’t really there, so too can breathing in too much carbon monoxide. We have carbon monoxide detectors in our homes to make sure we are not breathing in this odorless, colorless gas that slowly poisons us while going undetected by our senses.
But before a carbon monoxide gas leak poisons us, it can cause auditory hallucinations, a feeling of pressure on your chest, and an “unexplained feeling of dread.” An often-told ghost story from the 1920s about the H family who moved into a new house only to hear footsteps, see apparitions, and feel malicious paranormal presences, turned out to be the result of carbon monoxide poisoning from a broken furnace.
4. The power of suggestion
Studies suggest that we are more likely to believe in a paranormal experience if someone else who was there can back up our belief. So while we might be able to convince ourselves that we were somehow mistaken about what we saw or heard, we tend to put more stock into someone else’s eye witness account if it also backs our suspicions. So our belief in ghosts can be catching.
Similarly, I would like to extend an apology to anyone I ever played the game of Ouija with as a kid. The toy game board used to contact spirits always proved too tempting to resist so the one moving it was always me, and not a paranormal spirit, even though I was just as excited as everyone else.
As the days get hotter and air conditioning becomes more and more expensive, I rely more on opening windows to cool my home. Opening windows on opposite ends of a room can create a nice breeze, but it can also create cold spots as air flow outside changes, causing cooler air to enter a warmer room. Drafts can also sneak in through chimneys and cause doors to slam or door knobs to rattle. So before you schedule a séance, try closing a few windows.
6. We enjoy being afraid.
Neurologists have found that our brains release dopamine, a chemical associated with pleasure, when we are afraid. Exactly how much dopamine and how many receptors we have for receiving it can influence whether you are a person that enjoys being frightened or someone who would rather avoid scary movies or rides altogether. So for some, letting our imaginations run wild with the possibilities of cohabitating with ghosts, athough scary, may also produce a bonus euphoric high.
Of course, believing in ghosts also allows us to believe in an existence after death, which ultimately can be comforting. That is, if you can get past the feeling that someone is standing just behind you as you read this.
Until next time, this is Sabrina Stierwalt with Everyday Einstein’s Quick and Dirty Tips for helping you make sense of science. You can become a fan of Everyday Einstein on Facebook or follow me on Twitter, where I’m @QDTeinstein. If you have a question that you’d like to see on a future episode, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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