Coincidence or Intuition?


A new study by HeartMath provides evidence that the heart responds to future events and indicates women may be naturally more attuned to their intuition.

The phone rings and the person calling is an old high school friend who you were just thinking about the day before. You spontaneously decide to take a different route home and later find out that your usual route was closed due to a big rig accident. What a coincidence! Or is it? Were those happenings coincidences or were you, unknowingly, exercising intuition?

Intuition has often been thought of as a mysterious sixth sense. However, a new research study conducted by the Institute of HeartMath ( helps to solve some of the mysteries that surround intuition, revealing the role the heart plays in processing and decoding intuitive information.

We've all heard of a mother who feels the need to check on her young son, only to find that he has left the yard and wandered into the street. Many of us have had our own intuitive experiences, yet there has been a longstanding dilemma in the scientific community over whether intuition is based on memory of a past experience, or whether it involves an actual perception of something that lies ahead.

Dr. Rollin McCraty, Director of Research for the Institute of HeartMath in Boulder Creek, California, directed a recent scientific study that examined physiological indicators of intuitive perception. The study sought to test whether we somehow receive information about a future event before it happens, and, if so, to determine where and when in the brain and body the intuitive information is processed.

HeartMath's new research is discussed in two parts in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. The first part (published 2/2004; paper posted at: ) focuses on the surprising role of the heart in intuitive information processing. The second part of the study (posted at: ) was released in April 2004, and focuses on where and when in the brain intuitive information is processed, and on how the heart and brain appear to interact in intuitive perception.

HeartMath researchers found that we can actually be aware of an event five to seven seconds before it happens. In the recent study, subjects were shown a series of images. Most of the images were peaceful and calming, such as landscapes, trees and cute animals. Other photos, randomly dispersed in the succession, included violent, disturbing and emotionally stimulating images such as car crash, a bloody knife or a snake about to strike. The subjects were monitored during the viewing for changes in respiration, skin conductance, EEG (brain waves), ECG (electrocardiogram) and heart rate variability. Participants' physiological indicators registered an emotional response five to seven seconds before an emotionally disturbing image would appear on the viewing screen.

The main findings show that the heart receives and responds to intuitive information. Significant changes in heart rate variability occurred prior to disturbing and emotionally stimulating images appearing on the screen, compared to calm and serene images appearing. The fact that the heart is involved in the perception of future external events is an astounding result. The classical perspective assigns the brain an exclusive role in information processing. This study opens the door to new understandings about intuition and suggests that intuition is a system-wide process involving at least both the heart and the brain working together to decode intuitive information.

Another noteworthy finding of the study was the fact that there were significant gender differences. Women appeared to have a greater sensitivity to future emotional stimuli. Female participants demonstrated a significant heart rate variability pre-stimulus response, whereas the males' pre-stimulus response was smaller. McCraty says, "Based on our study and other research findings, we believe that the greater the emotional significance of a future event to the individual, the larger the intuitive response will be prior to the actual experience of that event."

The heart has been regarded as a conduit for wisdom beyond our normal awareness by virtually all human cultures, ancient and modern. HeartMath believes the greatest significance of this study lies in the finding that the heart is directly involved in the processing of intuitive information.

McCraty says, "To our knowledge, this is the first study to measure the heart's connection with intuitive perception, and this implies that the brain does not act alone in this regard. This is an important finding that may open the door to larger scientific studies and greater understanding of the heart's role in human perception and behavior."

Intuitive perception plays an important role in everyday decision-making in areas such as business, medical diagnosis, law enforcement, playing sports, choosing relationships, driving defensively, mothering a child and teaching students. If the heart is playing such an important role in intuitive perception, then learning to attune ourselves more to how we feel -- or acknowledging our heart promptings -- could help to increase our ability to draw on our intuitive awareness.

The Institute of HeartMath was founded by Doc Childre in 1991. For over a decade, the Institute of HeartMath has conducted leading-edge research on the relationship between the heart and brain and the ways in which this relationship affects physical, mental and emotional health and human performance.

Based on this research, the Institute of HeartMath has developed a system of scientifically validated tools and technology to help people reduce stress and improve health, learning, performance and quality of life. HeartMath's research has been published in numerous peer-reviewed journals and is regularly presented at psychological and biomedical research conferences both nationally and internationally.

To learn more about the Institute of HeartMath's research go to

Editor's note: For a copy of the research paper e-mail

For Information
Telephone: (02) 9412 2500 (Australia)
Telephone: +61 2 9412 2500 (International)