Sensing somebody who isn’t actually there: what’s felt presence?


Those that have had the misfortune of experiencing sleep paralysis; a typical situation the place your mind turns into aware after sleep whereas the remainder of your physique stays paralysed (BBC, 2023a), might have had the sense that somebody non-existent was within the room with them. This unusual phenomenon is understood within the scientific literature as ‘felt-presence’; an expertise of feeling that another person is within the room with you though there isn’t any concrete proof of them being there (BBC, 2023b). Those that have skilled sleep paralysis will not be the one ones who’ve had felt-presence, nevertheless. People with circumstances resembling psychosis, Parkinson’s, epilepsy, and mind tumours have additionally reported felt-presence sooner or later. Individuals who take sure psychoactive substances, have sure religious/non secular beliefs, or expertise excessive stress or bereavement have additionally skilled it.

Analysis has been rising round this topic to know why it occurs, and a latest literature evaluate by Barnby and colleagues (2023) has supplied an summary of the proof base. The evaluate summarises what we all know up to now about felt-presence, but additionally highlights areas that require extra investigation.

Felt presence is the feeling that someone else is in the same room as you, even though you are actually by yourself.

Felt-presence is the sensation that another person is in the identical room as you, though you might be truly by your self.


Barnby and colleagues (2023) carried out a literature evaluate to gather related analysis papers about felt-presence and summarise it. They searched by PubMed and Google Scholar utilizing related key phrases resembling “felt presence”, “sensed presence”, “extracampine hallucination”, “non-clinical voice hearers” and “heautoscopy” to slim right down to papers that explored experiences of felt-presence. Additionally they included key phrases resembling “mind lesion”, “epilepsy” and “psychosis” to seek out papers that checked out episodes of felt-presence in sure scientific populations. This can be a literature evaluate not a scientific evaluate, in order that they didn’t observe a scientific and complete strategy to looking and as a substitute centered on key papers that have been both identified to the researchers or have been included within the reference lists of those key papers. A lot of the included literature was written in English, although there have been just a few exceptions on the discretion of the researchers.


This evaluate breaks down the present analysis into three classes: the philosophy and phenomenology of felt-presence, scientific and non-clinical correlates, and theoretical fashions and mechanisms. Based on the researchers, research on the expertise of felt-presence present how there may be not one widespread means that it’s skilled; completely different folks expertise it in several methods. Measures which were used to gather an individual’s episode of felt-presence are likely to measure it throughout two dimensions: the identification of the felt-presence and its location. Nonetheless, experiences of felt-presence can fluctuate over time. You’ll be able to’t be assured {that a} measure taken at one cut-off date will signify the expertise at one other.

The analysis summarised on this evaluate explored how completely different scientific and non-clinical teams look like extra vulnerable to experiencing felt-presence. It seems to be widespread in these with psychosis in addition to different circumstances that have an effect on the mind, resembling Parkinson’s, epilepsy, and mind tumours. Nonetheless, additionally it is comparatively prevalent in non-clinical teams resembling those that take psychoactive medicine, notably ayahuasca, and folks experiencing bereavement of a liked one.

Present theories on how felt-presence takes place often contain neuropsychological fashions, which have highlighted the potential involvement of the temporoparietal junction, insula, and frontoparietal cortex as these are concerned in associated programs resembling multisensory integration, physique processing, and distinguishing between the self and others. The researchers highlighted how the proof seems to assist the concept that felt-presence comes from a malfunction within the mind’s capability to know the place your physique ends, and one other begins. The concept is that circumstances or experiences that influence these mind areas might induce an episode of felt-presence. A examine within the evaluate supported this concept through the use of electrical stimulation in these mind areas to extend the possibility of experiencing felt-presence. Research which have explored the influence of psychoactive medicine additionally seem to point out how felt-presence arises from the disruption of your mind’s capability to differentiate your self from others.

Research suggests that felt presence comes from a disruption in brain areas related to distinguishing between our own bodies and another person.

Analysis means that felt-presence comes from a disruption in mind areas associated to distinguishing between our personal our bodies and one other individual.


Barnby and colleagues (2023) concluded that, whereas we’re creating a superb understanding of felt-presence from analysis, there are nonetheless numerous gaps that require additional exploration. It appears probably that felt-presence is because of one thing disturbing traditional mind processing, however we’re nonetheless lacking a complete theoretical framework to completely clarify the precise processes concerned. In different phrases, analysis remains to be in its early days. Regardless of this, we nonetheless know that this expertise is kind of widespread, notably in sure scientific teams.

More studies are needed to develop a comprehensive theoretical framework for felt presence.

Extra research are wanted to develop a complete theoretical framework for felt-presence.

Strengths and limitations

The evaluate provides a superb overview of the important thing analysis into felt-presence, which is necessary for a subject that doesn’t but have a big physique of research. The authors of this paper are consultants in felt-presence, so it’s probably that they’re conscious of the important thing papers at the moment obtainable within the literature. Additionally they searched two giant analysis databases throughout a protracted time vary, to enhance probabilities of discovering different related papers. The search phrases used appear acceptable for felt-presence, which additionally would have helped to uncover as many appropriate papers as potential.

The principle downside to this analysis paper is that the authors didn’t use a scientific strategy to the evaluate. Whereas they acknowledged the search phrases and time interval they used, they didn’t point out the inclusion or exclusion criterion used to pick out papers for the evaluate. This implies it is extremely troublesome to duplicate this evaluate independently to check whether or not its findings are dependable. The authors additionally didn’t totally define the query that they have been aiming to reply on this paper. Have been they seeking to simply give a quick overview of the literature or have been they hoping to spotlight the constraints of the present analysis? Or did they need to do each? It is rather arduous to know for certain the principle goals of the paper when it isn’t clearly acknowledged.

A advantage of systematic critiques is that there’s an expectation to incorporate a top quality evaluation of the research which were included (Siddaway, Wooden & Hedges, 2019). This sadly didn’t appear to happen for the evaluate in query, so we should not have an goal measure of how legitimate and dependable the findings from the included research are. Offering the reader with a measure of high quality is essential to assist them know the way sturdy the proof is for the conclusions made within the evaluate. The impression I get is that the researchers used their discretion to determine which research can be included. This opens up the potential for biases in direction of, or towards, specific research. The researchers have been proper to spotlight one bias, that the majority research included have been written in English. Nonetheless, what about different potential biases? How do we all know that the authors didn’t predominantly select research written by researchers they’ve private or skilled relationships with, over researchers they have been much less conscious of? What if research used low-quality strategies, making their outcomes much less legitimate or dependable? A scientific evaluate is designed to handle these considerations, and so this strategy would have been most popular in comparison with what Barnby & colleagues (2023) selected.

The review would have benefitted from a more systematic approach to allow readers to understand more about how studies were selected and their level of quality

The evaluate would have benefitted from a extra systematic strategy to permit readers to know the examine choice course of and their stage of high quality.

Implications for follow

Though there are some drawbacks to this evaluate due to the shortage of a scientific strategy, the paper has actually highlighted how widespread felt-presence is, in addition to which teams usually tend to expertise it. A number of scientific consumer teams usually appear to get the sensation that another person is within the room with them, regardless of any proof of this being the case. This may be very scary, particularly alongside different signs they is likely to be experiencing. An individual coping with psychosis might have distressing auditory hallucinations alongside felt-presence, which solely provides to their total struggling. This evaluate has highlighted how clinicians ought to think about asking their sufferers whether or not they have skilled any felt-presence in order that they might help normalise it in addition to work with the consumer to seek out methods to ease any damaging results from it.

The evaluate has additionally clearly outlined a number of avenues for future analysis. For instance, it appears that there’s at the moment no psychometric measure devoted to felt-presence, which might be helpful in order that we might higher perceive an individual’s expertise of this phenomenon. It might then be in contrast with others throughout the inhabitants to look at whether or not somebody’s expertise is extra intense or frequent than common. It’s also clear that we’d like a complete framework to know why felt-presence is skilled. A number of research that the evaluate highlighted have explored a few of the neuropsychological literature to handle this, however extra analysis is required to develop strong theories.

One of the crucial necessary outcomes of this evaluate is that felt-presence is a traditional variation of human expertise. Most individuals can encounter it in the precise circumstances, whether or not that be from an episode of sleep paralysis or dropping somebody very near them. For those who ever get the sensation that you just’re not alone in an in any other case empty room, don’t fear an excessive amount of about telling your loved ones, pals, or healthcare professionals. You’ll be stunned by what number of different folks have gone by this expertise too!

Felt presence is a common occurrence that is just a part of being human.

Felt-presence is a typical prevalence that’s a part of being human.

Assertion of curiosity

No pursuits acknowledged.


Main paper

Barnby, J. M., Park, S., Baxter, T., Rosen, C., Brugger, P., & Alderson-Day, B. (2023). The felt-presence expertise: From cognition to the clinic. The Lancet Psychiatry, 10(5), 352–362.

Different references

BBC (2023a). Why some folks get up unable to maneuver. Retrieved 12 November 2023, from

BBC (2023b). ‘Felt presence’: Why we typically really feel invisible others. Retrieved 12 November 2023, from

Siddaway, A. P., Wooden, A. M., & Hedges, L. V. (2019). Easy methods to Do a Systematic Assessment: A Greatest Follow Information for Conducting and Reporting Narrative Critiques, Meta-Analyses, and Meta-Syntheses. Annual Assessment of Psychology, 70(1), 747–770.

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