SCOTTISH scientists have found proof that we all have a “spidey sense” – just like superhero Spider-Man.
Although people might not be able to web-sling their way through the air like Peter Parker’s alter ego, the researchers claim people do have the ability to tap into their own ‘spidey sense,’ to detect and respond to threats without being aware of them.
The ground-breaking findings headed by boffins from universities in Edinburgh and New York show the differences between conscious and unconscious learning.
David Carmel from Edinburgh University’s department of psychology said the study examined how people react to danger.
He said: “How the brain reacts to threats is key to understanding how human beings function.
“This study shows that we are capable of learning very rapidly that something is a threat, even when we don’t perceive it consciously.”
Often in the movies, Spider-Man will pause in the middle of a task due to a sixth-sense, his spidey-sense, alerting him of immediate danger – he is then able to react with superhuman agility and avoid any sticky mishaps.
Mr Carmel added: “Such learning however is fleeting. With awareness, learning is slower but more stable.
“Conscious processes might therefore be less automatic but essential for forming stable impressions that allow us to hang on to what we learn.”
The study, in conjunction with Candace Raio from New York University, involved group trials.
One ‘awareness’ group looked at pictures and were given mild electric shocks whenever particular images were shown.
The other group were shown images through only one eye while the other eye would be distracted with colourful, bright and exciting pictures that would dominate their perspective.
Just like the first group, they were also given electric shocks when corresponding images were shown.
The scientists then measured the body’s fear response by calculating the amount of sweat on a person’s fingertips.
It found that people quickly learn to recognise threats even when they are unaware of it, while those who are aware of the threat took longer to learn to be afraid of it.
It is hoped the findings will go on to help patients suffering from anxiety disorders such as post-traumatic stress.
Mr Carmel said the results will help anxiety sufferers face their fears head on and anticipate problems before they happen.
He said: “The way to teach people with these disorders that there’s nothing to be afraid of is by showing them the very thing that they are afraid of, which can often cause some distress.
“Using these techniques we could show these things to them without them even knowing it.
Mr Carmel pointed out that nothing supernatural was carried out in the tests and it doesn’t confirm the existence of a sixth sense.
But he did say that the “instinct could now become switched on when we hear our bosses footsteps in the hall for example.”