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The "Sensed Presence" in Unusual Environments

Peter Suedfeld and Jane S. Mocellin
Environment and Behavior, Vol. 19 (1), January 1987 pp. 33-52.


The literature on human reactions to certain kinds of extreme and unusual environments indicates the occasional experience of another entity appearing to provide help or advice, when no such entity was in fact present. Sources of such reports include spirit quests, solitary sailing, polar and mountain explorations, and the traumatic experiences of shipwreck and air-crash survivors. The experience is frequently interpreted as a sign of psychiatric symptomatology, whereas it is not only common in such situations but may in fact be an adaptive reaction. This type of experience can be described in terms of Julian Jaynes's theory of bicamerality, but its specific etiology and characteristics have not been adequately investigated.