Imagine a person who has 'passive' precognitive abilities. During sleep, they dream of random future events-these can range from events that will happen in a few hours to events that will happen in a million years. During their waking hours, they 'remember' events that will happen in the next few days. They can force the ability to get a glimpse of the future, but it causes headaches and cramps that can seriously ruin their day

So for example, take Alice. On Monday night, she dreams of a future catastrophe where a massive meteor slams into the earth, from the point of view of a random person on the street.Next day, her friend Bob mentions a job interview and Alice sympathises on how badly it went for him- only for him to say it isn't going to happen until Saturday. She then tries to find out why it'll go badly, catches a snatch of their conversation and ends up with a nosebleed and a migraine.

What kind of effects would that have on a person's mental health, if they have the ability their whole lives? Assuming that the forward remembrances happen a couple of times a day and that the future is fixed- Bob's interview is going to go badly and he can't change that. The longer the time they try and look forwards, the longer and worse the pain- looking more than 10 years into the future causes fainting and can take over a week to recover from.

  • $\begingroup$ When did humans gain this ability? If it's been around forever then I imagine that society (and people) would different than if this ability popped up suddenly. Also how common is this ability? I gather that only a few people have this ability but you don't actually mention this. $\endgroup$
    – amziraro
    Jun 13, 2015 at 16:35
  • $\begingroup$ It's been around for as long as humans have and possibly longer. About one in five thousand people have this ability $\endgroup$
    – Titanide
    Jun 13, 2015 at 17:00
  • $\begingroup$ How can the future be fixed? Knowledge will change behaviour, which will change outcome. For example tell him it goes badly, he doesn't bother going.... $\endgroup$
    – Tim B
    Jun 13, 2015 at 21:02
  • $\begingroup$ The future is fixed because I say so. It's my book I'll butcher the laws of physics if I want $\endgroup$
    – Titanide
    Jun 13, 2015 at 21:11
  • $\begingroup$ What's the point of figuring out in advance why it will go wrong, then? Just wait until Saturday. It isn't worth the nosebleed if he will fail the interview anyway. And if she is able to discover in advance that Bob will be asked X in the interview (he didn't know the answer), if Alice tells him, he will look up the answer in advance, so he will know the right answer, and thus the future would be different than what Alice predicted. Being able to get more details also makes it more complicated, as you can't play the "dream was too ambiguous so she couldn't help Bob" card. $\endgroup$
    – Ángel
    Jun 13, 2015 at 22:09

2 Answers 2


These are just my initial thoughts on the matter, keep in mind that I'm not a psychologist:

  • If people can faint, get nosebleeds or a migraine, etc, then they are going to avoid looking into the future unless they have a reasonably good reason. What exactly a good reason is is subjective, if Alice knew her good friend Bob was going for a job interview later in the day (but didn't know the outcome) then she might be motivated to risk a little dizziness or nosebleed to help him out. If you don't know the future then, from your point of view, its not really fixed.

  • I expect that knowing the future would effect people's moods in interesting ways. Alice would be pretty depressed if she knew that one of her friends is going to get hit by a bus. Uncertainty and nervousness would also be prevalent in these precognitive people. If Alice doesn't know whether or not her friend will survive she might be more inclined to being depressed, clingy, etc. Likewise, she would be happy all week if she knew she was going to win the lottery.

  • Distant events won't effect Alice very much. The potential destruction of the world in a few million years isn't going to sound very important, Alice probably won't care about a bushfire in some another county unless someone she knows is involved. Your precogs will primarily care about people and events in the here and now. Regular people usually only care about things happening within a few weeks usually to people they know. I expect it would be the same for precogs.

  • Precogs that are willing to look at the future might not get the full picture and might end up speculating about the future a lot more than regular people. Constant uncertainty and speculation would probably drive most people mad. Regular people don't go mad because they don't spend all their time worring about fragments of the future. Precogs might make a conscious effort to not worry all the time. Precogs might also benefit from their power if it gives them certainty about the future. Alice would be more confident about her job interview if she already knew she was going to get hired. So the ability has mental pros and cons.


Mental Health

One thing worth noting is that the emotional state of a precognitive will show itself as a time-shifted copy of a 'normal' version of the individual. Given that a disaster happens next week, the precognitive's mood will shift based on their character. Likewise, mental health will depend greatly on their outlook just as it does normally. Precognitive people would generally be similar in mental health to others, though they will react and recover from disasters sooner due to knowledge ahead of time.

A misconception

Actually, a precognitive won't experience more disasters than average human being, meaning that they will have the same mental strain as others suffering the loss as well. The only difference is that they won't have peer support until the event actually takes place meaning highly sociable precognitives must contain the loss until then.


More loss of sanity will spring from others taking a toll on a precog. Assuming knowledge of the ability is commonplace, (how are you going to keep 1.4 million a secret) friends and manipulators will cause expectations to flock around beholders. The misunderstanding of precognition could make others very easily turn bitter towards their precog friend while looking for an outlet. After all, how would you feel if your (insert something here) was stolen, and Alice didn't even warn you. Even if you understand perfectly well that it would be pointless, the potential lack of rationality could very trivially direct the anger towards them.


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