RE: changing traffic lights by the force of your personality

From: Harvey Newstrom (
Date: Fri Feb 08 2002 - 07:20:14 MST

Actually, this could be simply the power of the human subconscious at work.
Traffic lights are easy to predict. They have repeatable patterns. My
business partner always complains when we get to a light at the wrong time
of the cycle. He knows which light will go next, whether the crosswalks
will go or not this time, and whether cars are on the trip-switches or not.
He predicts this stuff very easily because he has noticed the patterns and
drives through them all the time.

He doesn't know exactly when he noticed this. He didn't consciously study
or memorize the patterns. His subconscious mind figured these patterns out
over years of experience in this neighborhood. I have no doubt in my mind
that before he consciously was aware that he knew all the patterns, he was
subconsciously or partially aware. He probably felt like he had good
timing, or felt like he was probably going to run late. I believe that a
lot of psychic powers are easily explainable by simple patterns that are
easy to predict. However, the human mind does a lot of this processing
behind the scenes where we are not consciously aware of doing it. Our mind
analyzes the patterns and pops up the right answer without us knowing
exactly how.

What's more, these patterns are very easy to manipulate. Driving faster or
slower between lights can easily influence whether you hit the next light on
a red or a green. Even easier than that is the fact that cars around you
get grouped into clumps that are delayed at red lights and allowed through
together at green lights. For each road, it is easy to figure out if the
speed limit hits all the greens (on streets with well-timed lights), or
whether the timing is off. If the timing is off, it is easy to go faster or
slower than other cars to hit the correct timing while everyone else hits
the red lights. Perhaps you can drive faster than everybody and breeze
through all the lights, or perhaps you can drive leisurely and have the
lights turn green before you hit them. In either case, there are only a few
minor adjustments to figure out for each road to get into the right pattern.

If the lights are timed correctly for the speed limit, or triggered
regularly for traffic flow, then it is easy to go with the flow and hit all
the green lights. That's how the traffic engineers designed the system.
Any impatience and driving fast will hit red lights that will slow you down.
Any pokiness and driving slow will let you get caught by red lights just as
you reach an intersection. It would not take very much for the subconscious
mind to figure out that if you relax and stop trying to hurry that you seem
to get all the green lights and breeze through faster.

This is how neural nets and pattern-matching works. Traffic lights are a
perfect example of predictable patterns that your brain absorbs every day.
I have no doubt that the subconscious pattern-matching software tries to
utilize these patterns to make driving more efficient. This is a simply
amazing part of the human brain. Instead of debunking such claims, I
embrace them and say that this phenomenon is surly happening. The brain is
more powerful than we think.

(I got this attitude from the great Randi, believe it or not. I noticed
that most of his "debunking" of psychic claims were not the exposure of
fraud, but the simple explanation of how things were really working. I
started noticing this myself. Most claims are not ludicrous. They actually
are occurring due to an explainable scientific reason.)

I say that attitude and driving style obviously affects whether you get
mostly green lights or mostly red ones. I say that it takes a genius mind
to tap into these patterns and exploit them. Whether you call this pattern
psychic or merely psychological, the brain is getting extra information
outside the conscious awareness of the individual, and is putting that
information to work to influence the outcome of events. Psychic people do
this all the time, but they don't consciously know how they do it.

Harvey Newstrom, CISSP <>
Principal Security Consultant, Newstaff Inc. <>
Board of Directors, Extropy Institute <>
Cofounder, Pro-Act <>

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