This is the 2007 version. Click here for the 2017 chapter 04 table of contents.

Anniversary Phenomena

The anniversary phenomenon is a form of perception without awareness in which time of year is the unconsciously perceived cue.

Psychiatric patients often get depressed about the same time every year, perhaps because of a connection between the date and some traumatic event. Consequently, psychiatrists often experience ESP-like anniversary phenomena.

What is an anniversary phenomenon? Why did Seitz start to wonder if he had ESP? What was the explanation he discovered?

Psychoanalyst Philip Seitz thought he might possess extrasensory perception. Every few months he'd feel a sudden peculiar concern for one of his ex-patients. Within a day or so he'd almost always get a call from them, asking for help...

He recorded 47 ESP-like premonitions over a 16-year period, involving 21 different patients. Two-thirds proved justified—a rate clearly greater than chance. (Gregg, 1976)

When Seitz analyzed his notes, he found that the patients usually got depressed around the same time of the year. For example, one patient "had been regularly depressed each Labor Day." Another always called for help on December 26th. Before noticing these patterns in his appointment books, the ESP explanation seemed likely. After seeing the patterns, he realized he was basing his premonitions on correlations between time of year and contacts with particular clients. This sort of phenomenon might also account for the commonly reported type of "coincidence" in which a person thinks of a friend, then (shortly afterward) hears from that friend.


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