All posts by Dr. Bernard Beitman

A Non-Statistician’s Approach to Coincidences: Part 5

Photo by Lesho Ward
Photo by Lesho Ward

We are sensitive to coincidences for good reason. Coincidences help us to see new patterns.

We seek patterns to navigate through space and time. Patterns provide maps for the territory of our lives—where to go, how to get there, what to say to whom. The surprise of coincidences raises a question: am I seeing a new pattern?

At 11 p.m. on Feb. 26, 1973, when I was 31 years old, I suddenly found myself bent over the kitchen sink in an old Victorian house on Hayes Street in the Fillmore District of San Francisco. I was choking on something caught in my throat. I couldn’t cough it up. I hadn’t eaten anything. I didn’t know what was in my throat. I’d never choked for this long before. Finally, after 15 minutes or so, I could swallow and breathe normally.

The next day, my birthday, my brother called to tell me that my father had died in Wilmington, Del., at 2 a.m. EST. He was 3,000 miles and three time zones away; 2 a.m. in Wilmington was 11 p.m. in California. My father had bled into his throat and choked on his own blood at about the same time I was uncontrollably choking. He died on Feb. 27, my birthday. (from Connecting with Coincidence)

The timing was too tight for me to think it was “just random.”

My research at the University of Missouri-Columbia and the work of psychiatrist Ian Stevenson make it clear that many other people have experienced similar correlations in time. I named this pattern “simulpathity”—the experience of the pain of a loved one at a distance.

One dramatic, surprising coincidence became a clue to the existence of a new pattern.

One of the participants in my coincidence study at the University of Missouri-Columbia told this story about her near suicide:

“There was a very dark period in my late teens, a confused time to say the least. I cannot explain the rationalization, or rather, I should state, there was none. I couldn’t seem to withstand all the suffering in the world … and one afternoon, I took my dad’s gun, got in my car, and drove to an isolated place on the lake. The intention was to end my own life. I sat there, with gun in hand, without truly understanding why … It was if I didn’t have any clue how I managed to arrive at this moment in time. But, as tears slowly came down my cheeks, I heard the sound of another car pulling up beside [me] … and my brother stepped out of the car, asking me to hand him the gun.

“I was breathless; I was totally shocked. All I could do is to ask him how on Earth he knew I was feeling this way; how did he know I even had this gun, and, most important, how did he find me? He said he had no answers. He didn’t have any idea why he got into his car; he didn’t know where he was driving, nor why he was going there; or what he was supposed to do when he arrived.”

How did her brother know that she needed him? What made him make these complex decisions without a conscious intention? He seemed drawn to his sister by her distress, without consciously knowing that she was about to kill herself.

Subsequently, I began to think of this as simulpathity coupled with an uncanny knowledge about where she was and how to get there.

Many similar stories led me to hypothesize the idea of human GPS—that we can find our way sometimes to people, ideas and things we need without knowing how we got there. (from Chapter 1, Connecting with Coincidence)

Coincidence detection is no anomaly of the human mind. Through reading and research, I could confirm that my experience with my father was no anomaly. It was an example of something frequently experienced. Coincidence recognition is part of a rational process for finding new patterns.

Magda Osman, a senior lecturer in experimental psychology at Queen Mary University of London, wrote in a Scientific American article: “Searching for patterns is essential to our cognition and survival, and the cost of not having this ability far out weights the false paths we take when we see patterns that aren’t there. If we observe a pattern then we have detected a regularity in the world, and a regularity is likely to have a causal basis. We can use this regularity to make a prediction, and if we can predict, we can control future events more reliably–to our great advantage.” (Osman)

Coincidences drive the search for causal explanations because we need to understand how the world works.

Co-authored by Tara MacIsaac a reporter and editor for the Beyond Science section of Epoch Times. She explores the new frontiers of science, delving into ideas that could help uncover the mysteries of our world.

Comedy Central Gags on Coincidences

amy shimmer, coincidence

If you think noticing coincidences is getting popular, you are probably right. When well known comics start making fun of them, that’s evidence.

Amy Schumer and her gang of humorous cut-throats have taken the Universe and its coincidences under their carefully distorted comedic microscope. Their brief skits illustrate some basic types of coincidences. They also show the silly ways that some people misuse coincidences, funny distortions which mock the reality that many people exaggerate the value and importance of some synchronicities.

As you watch this video notice a few common coincidence themes:

  • Accidentally going a different way and running into something that offers a needed alternative. Here: Seeing a Vitamin Shop means she should take calcium.
  • Using a vague symbol to encourage you to make the decision you want to. She sees a shirt with “Chill” on it, which to her means she can continue having sex with her married boss.
  • Imagining something you want without doing anything. She wants an apricot puggle (it’s a dog) “The universe is totally going to bring you an apricot puggle.”, says her friend.
  • A random event jars you into a yet more selfish consideration—coverage of a disastrous tornado interrupts a cable TV program. Annoyed, the woman decides interprets the “message” to mean she should watch programs on Hulu to avoid being interrupted on cable TV again.

Autism String

On March 14, 2016, Carole Thorpe was interviewing me on her Charlottesville, Virginia radio show, “The Fat Lady Sings with Carole Thorpe”.  Carole described a coincidence involving her best friend from young adulthood who died 25 years ago, at age 29, and his sister whom she had never met.

The day before and unrelated to our interview, Carole decided to look for her friend’s sister online. Through several internet iterations. Carole discovered that the sister was living in London, England and has a son named Matthew who is on the autism spectrum.  Carole also has a son named Matthew who is on the autism spectrum.

Carole felt a connection to her long-lost friend and felt a little less alone knowing that someone else had a son with a similar problem.

I found the story personally significant because I specialize in helping people with high functioning Asperger’s. It was even more surprising because a person associated with programming for my radio interview the previous week also wondered if her daughter was on the spectrum.

Carole then broke for commercials. The first was a community service announcement about people with autism which was followed by five or six commercials.  These commercials all had been pre-programmed for airing more than 24 hours prior to the show.

What were the odds of that community service announcement showing up after four mentions of autism? Pretty low!

The meaning of a shared coincidence varies from person to person. After all, witnessing any event, each of stands in a different place providing a different perspective. For me, the autism string was more evidence that I tend to be involved in coincidences. Shortly after watching me in the middle of another coincidence, a good friend of mine said, “You not only talk the talk, but you walk the walk.” Here was another example.

Dr. Beitman presents His Alter Ego, Dr. Coincidence

dr coincidence Please allow me to introduce myself, I’m a man of stealth and fate.

I’ve been around for a long, long year, shifting the course of history

How do you think the sun and the moon millions of miles apart

Seem to be from where you stand almost the very same size?

Pleased to meet you. You don’t have to guess my name.

I am Dr. Coincidence.

I specialize in similarity especially simultaneous similarities. For centuries humans have called on me to help them know the future. The I Ching uses yarrow sticks and coins to create controlled randomness. The Tarot mixes cards heavy with symbols and spreads them for meaning. These mantic artists, these seers of the future, create controlled coincidences.

These twirlers of randomness attribute the information about the future to their favorite theories about how the world works.

And what about you out there, living life in all its bumps and glory?

Coincidences slide into your mind, occasionally with a flurry.

They trip you up and turn you around, make you wonder and make you hurry.

The time is now ripe to marry synchronicity to the scientific method. This marriage creates a new discipline, Coincidence Studies.

Dr. Jung laid the groundwork by piercing the veil of hyper-rationalism with the symbolic spear of a scarab that appeared both in a woman’s dream and at the window of his office. This scarab, this symbol of transformation, in the deft hands of Carl, opened our materialist minds to the mysterious hiding in plain sight.

The coincidences of your life are the arrows to be placed in the bow of your curiosity and aimed at the shiny reflective curtain that we take to be reality. Let’s crowdsource coincidence theory. Together each of our coincidence arrows will tear holes in the shiny curtain to reveal more of the mystery that surrounds and guides us.

I’ll let Dr. Beitman tell you a story. It is about Dr. Beitman and Dr. Katon. Dr. Beitman is my alter ego. (He thinks that I am his alter ego.) He usually wears a V neck sweater and a collared shirt and tends to be on the serious side. He sees patients in a tiny, kind of messy office on East Jefferson in Charlottesville, Virginia. He likes to help people find their hidden powers.

“I didn’t know clearly what I was seeking, but when I saw it, I knew that was it. While on the faculty at the University of Washington, I had a colleague named Wayne Katon who was very smart and friendly, but with whom I felt competitive. (I asked him about the competitive feeling years later. He saw me as a mentor and friend. It was all in my mind.) For several years we were running parallel tracks. He was providing psychiatric consultation to the outpatient Family Medicine Clinic, and I was providing psychiatric consultation to the outpatient Internal Medicine Primary Care Clinic.

After ten years in Seattle, I was preparing to leave for Columbia, Missouri because I had been denied tenure. Standing in the hallways of the Psychiatry Department for the last time, I was deciding whether or not to say good-bye to him. Politeness and respect urged me to do the right thing despite my competitive feelings. I knocked on his door. On his desk was a paper on the relationship between chest pain and panic disorder. I asked him about it.

The researchers had interviewed patients who had undergone cardiac catheterization and found that more than a third of patients with normal coronary arteries fit diagnostic criteria for panic disorder. This finding meant that people with severe chest pain who didn’t have heart disease had a good chance of having panic attacks. Wayne had sketched out a one-page research protocol to build on this research. I tentatively asked for a copy, which he kindly gave me. This protocol helped lay the groundwork for his subsequent internationally acclaimed research integrating psychiatrists into medical clinics. With the protocol in hand, I hit the ground running at the University of Missouri–Columbia. With the help of three psychiatry-friendly cardiologists, I began two large studies of cardiology patients with chest pain and no heart disease.

These efforts led to my publishing approximately forty papers on the subject. Two of the papers were written collaboratively with Wayne.

As a result I was promoted to full professor with tenure and soon became chairman. It all began with my urge to be polite and tap on Wayne’s door.” (from Connecting with Coincidence)

This set of coincidences was great for me, Dr. Coincidence. I got Dr. Beitman to start doing coincidence research!

What do we learn from this story?

Several things:

  • Doing the right thing can turn out right
  • During times of transition (he was leaving Seattle), coincidences are more likely to occur
  • During periods of high emotion, (he was upset about not receiving tenure) coincidences are more likely.
  • When need is elevated, (he needed a research idea to get promoted in academia) coincidences also become more likely.

Pleased to meet you. Now you know my name.

I am Dr. Coincidence.

I’m here to Connect you with Coincidence.

Serendipity to the Rescue

On March 16, 2016 a man called into the Charlottesville radio station WCHV while I was talking about coincidences

He described one day having the very strong urge to go down the street where he knew some kids were playing under a tree.

He tried to tell them to get out from underneath the tree but they wouldn’t listen to him. Something then drove him to push the kids out from under the tree. A few seconds later a huge branch fell where they had stood.

He described having many experiences like this and included another example.

Last year I spoke with a man who had been a reporter for a newspaper. His beat was going places in the city where there were crises. He said he found himself at the scenes of fires before they began or at shootings soon after they started. Something told him to go to places where violence was taking place.

Both these men and, I imagine many others, have a strong sense of themselves in three-dimensional space. Through their simulpathity abilities they can localize a problem somewhere on the map in their minds and find their ways to the place they need to be.

A Statistician’s Approach to Coincidences: Part 4

Illustration by Tom Brown
Illustration by Tom Brown

Coincidences emerge in the minds of the beholders. Without a human mind to detect them, most coincidences would not exist.

Cognitive processing errors serve for statisticians like Persi Diaconis and David Hand as a bulwark against the potential meaning of coincidences. Their perspective shows us how our minds help to create meaningful coincidences.

We can pop coincidences into existence by perceiving patterns where there are none. When taken to an extreme, this tendency has a name: “apophenia.”

The Oxford dictionary defines coincidence as “a remarkable concurrence of events or circumstances without apparent causal connection.” We can perceive a concurrence by overemphasizing or stretching the similarities of the events and by selectively remembering events.

Let’s examine these two very common tendencies.

Just how similar is “similar”? Computer software developers are actively seeking an objective answer to this question. But, for now, degree of similarity remains subjective. Human beings are still better than computers at finding patterns and judging similarity.

Sometimes we may stretch similarity beyond what is reasonable to create coincidences out of two or more unrelated events. We see similarities that may not be there because we want the connection to be there.

But what are the limits of “reasonable” similarities? It’s hard for me to clearly say.

Similarity between two specific patterns can be judged on a gradient by human raters, and eventually by computer programming. For now we can be satisfied with knowing that we probably aren’t too bad at discerning similarities and that there will always be someone who will claim that my similarity is not similar enough.

Degree of similarity plays an important role in judging the probability of a coincidence. The more similar the two (or more) events of the coincidence are, the lower the probability of the coincidence.

Let’s say you and a friend meet up and you’re both wearing the exact same shirt and pants bought from the same store. The probability of that happening is lower than both of you wearing pants and shirts that are the same color but different designs. The closer the similarity, the lower the probability.

We select what we see and remember. What else is new? We have to select information from the huge onslaught of stimuli coming at us. To not select is to overload our brains.

We can, and do, selectively remember certain details and then match those details to a current event. If we did not do that, there would be many fewer coincidences. We also would be living in an ever-present now without links to past experience.

Some people overdo this remembering and matching—selecting just the right memory to create the coincidence. Others may be smacked in the face with a coincidence and not notice it.

What other factors could be influencing the probability of the coincidence? This question challenges students of Coincidence Studies to examine the variables contributing to the coincidence beyond the base rates of each intersecting event. For example, actor Mike Myers was visiting famed author, physician, and alternative-medicine advocate Deepak Chopra. As Mike walks into Deepak’s office, he sees a card on the wall. Mike pulls out his own deck of cards, the first one of which is the same card as the one on the wall. Mike is amazed at the coincidence.

This coincidence was perhaps more probable than it seemed to Mike. The deck contained images of Hindu gods. Deepak relies heavily on Hindu ideas for his teaching. Mike knew that. In preparation for their meeting, Mike seemed to want to show Deepak what he knew that might be relevant to their discussion.

While the coincidence seemed amazing to Mike the context of their relationship increased the likelihood of a matching card. However, if you watch the video, you can see that there were many cards in the deck so Mike’s came placing this one, the Goddess of Wealth, on the top lowers the probability.

In summary, the main cognitive errors people make in estimating the probability of a coincidence include: stretching the similarities to make the two elements fit, selectively remembering past events to find a match with a current event, and neglecting the contextual influences that could increase the probability.

Co-authored by Tara MacIsaac a reporter and editor for the Beyond Science section of Epoch Times. She explores the new frontiers of science, delving into ideas that could help uncover the mysteries of our world.

St. Joseph of Copertino and the Baal Shem Tov

St Joseph of Copertino

Breaking out of our standard daily routines seems to increase the likelihood of coincidences. In May, 2015, I did something out of the ordinary. I went with a friend to the downtown mall of Charlottesville and waited while she got her hair trimmed. While walking around, I ran into another friend Mike Grosso. We had not seen each other for several weeks.

I had been clearing out unneeded stuff from my house. Some of that stuff was in my car ready to be given away.

Among the many things to be donated was a copy of two different chapters from a book by Martin Buber on the Chasids, a mystical branch of Judaism. The leader of the movement, the Baal Shem Tov, Master of the Good Name, (1698-1760) was said to be able to teleport himself and his carriage to distant places in the service of good. I wanted to give the extra copy of these chapters to someone who would appreciate them. Perhaps the local synagogue?

Mike has written a book about St Joseph of Copertino (1603-1663), The Man Who Could Fly. Joseph often elevated when praying. The book is a great read. Mike marshals rich historical detail to support the claim of levitation and provides a compelling explanation for how Joseph may have done it.

Over coffee I asked him whether he knew about the Baal Shem Tov another man of extraordinary talent. He did not.

I went to the car and got the chapters for him. He was delighted to receive them and once having read them called them “a treasure”.

The chapters had found a good home!

It was as if we had arranged to meet.

This apparently chance encounter offers a clue to underlying, subconscious activities of our minds. Freud discovered and therapists now know that slips of the tongue and out-of-context behaviors can reveal underlying subconscious dynamics that influence our daily thoughts, emotions and behaviors. By following the trail of these unexpected occurrences I help patients find hidden forces that when brought to the light of awareness can be integrated into living life more fully. And so it is with certain groups of coincidences that reveal hidden aspects of our minds— the ability to find our way to needed people and situations without knowing how. In this case Mike and I found a good person to receive the chapters about the Baal Shem Tov.

Our Finely Tuned Universe

A total solar eclipse occurs where the moon completely covers the sun's disk, as seen in this 1999 solar eclipse.Solar prominences can be seen along the limb (in red) as well as extensive coronal filaments.
A total solar eclipse occurs where the moon completely covers the sun’s disk, as seen in this 1999 solar eclipse.Solar prominences can be seen along the limb (in red) as well as extensive coronal filaments.

Look up at the sky. They are about 93 million miles apart. Yet the moon and the sun appear to be the same size. To make it even more obvious, look up at the sky during a solar eclipse. The moon completely hides its heavenly companion from view. Yet they are not the same size. They appear to be because their diameters are proportional to their distance from the Earth. The diameter of the sun is 400 times the diameter of the moon, and the sun is 400 times more distant from the earth. No other moon in our solar system or anywhere else has been found with this relationship between its planet and the sun.

The odds for this heavenly coincidence are very small.

There are other very improbable coincidences in our corner of the universe, many of which sustain our life on this planet.  As Stephen Hawking has noted, “The laws of science, as we know them at present, contain many fundamental numbers, like the size of the electric charge of the electron and the ratio of the masses of the proton and the electron. … The remarkable fact is that the values of these numbers seem to have been very finely adjusted to make possible the development of life.”

An essential product of this fine tuning is chlorophyll, the magic green molecule that transforms sunlight into plant food. Photosynthesis through chlorophyll provides all of our food and most of our energy. Without it, there would not be life as we know it.

The many finely tuned coincidences necessary for life on Earth have been gathered together as the Anthropic Principle. The word comes from the Greek “anthropos” meaning human. In its broadest sense it would appear that the universe was made for us. We run into many complicated arguments about how these realities evolved. In considering the anthropic principle, Nick Bostrom, Professor of Philosophy, Oxford University wrote:

“Few fields are so rich in empirical implications, touch on so many important scientific questions, pose such intricate paradoxes, and contain such generous quantities of conceptual and methodological confusion that need to be sorted out.”

By just glancing up at the sky or noticing the green growing around us, we can wonder. Was all this an accident? Is there some divine intervention making it happen? Or do we have something to do with it?

This last possibility has some strong support. The key to this perspective comes from quantum physics where researchers have proven how the simple act of observation changes outcomes. In the case of light waves, observation “collapses the wave function” and creates a particle from the wave. According to this argument, multiple universes were possible but could not come into existence until one of them was observed. An observer must then come into existence to make the observation that transitions the potential universe to a real one. The observer appears to be necessary for the creation of our reality.


A Statistician’s Approach to Coincidences (Part 3)

Photo by Peter Rosbjerg
Photo by Peter Rosbjerg

As my previous post suggested and contrary to the views of some statisticians, we non-statisticians are pretty good at knowing whether or not a coincidence is random.  If we sense that a coincidence is neither random nor explainable, we are then tempted to wonder about a cause.

To want to look for causes is just the nature of human thinking. Yet some well-recognized statisticians want to eliminate the coincidence as a trigger for our curiosity by declaring randomness the fundamental explanation. Let me take you through the maze of their reasoning.

The ‘Law’ of Truly Large Numbers

Statisticians avoid the difficulties of trying to define probabilities for different kinds of coincidences. [TM1] They analyze coincidences as a single phenomenon, ignoring the details and variations, and they say that all these multi-varied phenomena can be explained statistically.

To explain how they happen,  Stanford statistics professor and magician Persi Diaconis  proposed the Law of VERY Large Numbers, also known as the Law of TRULY Large Numbers.

According to the Law of Truly Large Numbers, in very large populations, very low probability events must happen. To quote Diaconis and his colleague, Frederick Mosteller:

“…With a large enough sample, any outrageous thing is likely to happen. The point is that truly rare events, say events that occur only once in a million [as the mathematician Littlewood (1953) required for an event to be surprising] are bound to be plentiful in a population of 250 million people. If a coincidence occurs to one person in a million each day, then we expect 250 occurrences a day and close to 100,000 such occurrences a year.”

To use a specific example, recall the common coincidence we discussed in the first post of this probability series: you think of a friend whom you have not thought of in a long time and soon afterwards, that friend contacts you.

So with 7 billion people on Earth and millions of people calling, texting, and emailing each other and millions of people thinking of each other, there must be many times when one person thinks of another who then contacts her.

Using this idea, Diaconis and fellow statisticians, including David Hand, dismiss these low probability events as simply random.  To them “random” means “meaningless.”

They believe that people just do not understand how randomness works. If they did, they would understand that there can be no meaning in randomness.

But can these statisticians prove that there is no meaning in randomness? I ask that they try.

Nevertheless, within mathematics, Hand described a stunning example of meaning in randomness. Despite his claim that coincidences can best be explained by the Law of Very Large Numbers, to his credit, he notes that at least occasionally, coincidences can point the way to important new information.

In 1978 the number 196,833 was independently found to be highly important in two very different branches of math—group theory and  number theory (p 107-8).

Known as “Monstrous Moonshine” this accidental discovery, first thought of as a mere coincidence, revealed a deep connection between two diverse branches of mathematics.

Like many of the coincidences of daily life, this coincidence called out for an explanation. Rather than dismissing it as random, a few mathematicians looked into it and found previously unknown connections.

As these mathematicians show us, meaning can sometimes be found in apparent randomness if you allow yourself to look for it.

How Large Is ‘Truly Large’?

No statistician has defined how large is “truly large.” A strong advocate for this concept, David Hand, does not know what makes a number truly large enough. He is not sure if [TM5] 7 billion is truly a large number. Maybe, he says. (P. 108)

I can ask: how about infinity? With infinity, the ultimate large number, anything can happen if we just gather an infinite number of events. That would be impossible to do. Since we don’t know how large “truly” large enough is, this idea cannot be a law.

Incidentally, this “law” adds more confusion to the probability nomenclature because there is already a central concept in statistics called the “Law of Large Numbers” (Not VERY or TRULY, just Large[TM6] ).

The  Law of Large Numbers is provable. It states that as a sample size grows, its mean will get closer and closer to the average of the whole. It works with tangible numbers. The Swiss mathematician Jakob Bernoulli proved it in 1713.

The “Law” of Truly Large Numbers, however, cannot be proven.

The Truly or Very Large Number proposal appeals to those who wish to believe that meaningful coincidences are random events. Believing it says more about the biases of the believer than the nature of coincidences.

Since The Law of Truly Large Numbers idea does not answer our need for understanding the role of probability in coincidences, in the next post we turn to psychological perspectives on coincidences.

tara2Co-authored by Tara MacIsaac a reporter and editor for the Beyond Science section of Epoch Times. She explores the new frontiers of science, delving into ideas that could help uncover the mysteries of our world.

Couvade: When Men Feel Pregnant

Photo by Mike Murphy
Photo by Mike Murphy

A Wisconsin woman had tried for 5 years to become pregnant. One day her husband woke up feeling nauseous at the smell of breakfast. He rushed to the bathroom to vomit. He repeated the scene the next morning. Did he have an ulcer? No. She was pregnant.

He was experiencing morning sickness and she was not. His symptoms continued for the next four months while she had none. His symptoms persisted even when he was miles away from her. (The Gift, p. 91)

Sympathetic pregnancies (couvade) have their basis in parallel physiological responses in the expectant father.

In a study by researchers at Memorial University in Canada, men and women were found to have similar levels of the hormones prolactin and cortisol in the period just before the babies were born. After the births, the mothers and fathers had lower concentrations of sex steroids (testosterone and estradiol). Men with sympathetic pregnancy symptoms had higher prolactin levels and greater reductions in testosterone.

Since increases in prolactin seem to increase interpersonal bonding, they speculated that these hormone changes played a role in preparing males for bonding with the infant.

There are several psychological theories which seem inadequate. These theories involve the man’s jealousy of the soon to arrive new born, his feeling of being displaced and marginalized.

In my view the man with sympathetic pregnancy becomes highly attuned to his pregnant partner. In that attunement, he feels what she is feeling at a depth he did not consciously seek.

He experiences physiological empathy.

I think the attunement is mediated through the energy fields circulating within and around our bodies. With pregnancy, the shift in her energy field is so strong that his attunement gives in to her new vibrational level and equilibrates to it. Physiologically, he becomes more like her.
Theresa Santos reported a practical version of this spousal dance.

“On our last morning in New York we had a ton of things left to do before leaving for our flight that evening. I particularly needed to do a lot, because there are just some things I take care of better and more efficiently than my husband (cleaning, laundry, some final packing … he’s very organized with packing, but I’m quicker) and a lot of those things needed to be done. My husband’s chores for the morning consisted only of going to the mall to pick up a few things, including another suitcase.

I’d experienced morning sickness almost every day last week and the week before. I’ve usually been really slow in the morning. But, on Sunday, I woke up early and felt really well. I was energetic and efficient, which I haven’t been lately. My husband, instead, was nauseous and fatigued. He seemed to have taken on the morning sickness for me that day.”

She took care of the more demanding tasks symptom free while her husband took on the easier chores loaded with morning sickness.

If we understood the mechanisms behind couvade, we might take a step toward explaining simulpathity, the experience of the distress of a loved one at a distance.

Most men do know their partners are pregnant, whereas in most cases of simulpathity, the root of the sympathetic symptoms is unknown at the time. This is a key difference, yet understanding the mechanisms of couvade may provide a first step in coming to understand the mechanisms of simulpathity. In simulpathity one person somehow picks up the physiological experience of another person at a distance. Like courvade, this physiological resonance is not done consciously. The big difference of course is not only does the husband know she is pregnant but he is living near her. With simulpathity, the resonating pair are away from each other and the experiencer does not know that the other is in distress.

So physical closeness and conscious awareness make couvade different from simulpathity. Yet aside from these two factors, there are many similarities that suggest shared underlying mechanisms.

Co-authored by Tara MacIsaac a reporter and editor for the Beyond Science section of Epoch Times. She explores the new frontiers of science, delving into ideas that could help uncover the mysteries of our world.