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Sensing Danger or When Others are Fearful

by Ron Kurtus (updated 18 May 2023)

Some animals and people seem to be able to sense danger or when others are fearful. There are a number of examples of this.

This capability is probably due to reading signals from the various senses that will indicate there is danger or fear.

Questions you may have include:

This lesson will answer those questions.

Examples of sensing fear or danger

Plants, animals and humans can sense danger.

Plants sense danger

Botanists at Rutgers University infected some tobacco plants with a virus. Within a few days, tobacco plants that were near the infected ones sensed the danger of the virus and then produced a chemical in their leaves that would protect themselves from the virus.

Mice sense danger and fear

At another university, researchers put mice in a box and gave them electric shocks. (Are some of these researchers mean or what?) After doing that a few times, whenever they put those mice in the box, the mice would scurry around in fear.

Then the researchers took those mice out of the box and put some different mice that had not been exposed to the shocks into the box. The new mice sensed the fear of the other mice, and they too started to scurry around in fear.

Chickens sense danger

In China, they found that farm animals such chickens can often sense when an earthquake is about to happen. Many of the animals will act nervous, as if something was about to happen.

Humans sense danger

Doctors used to be able to sense when a person had a serious disease. Some people say they can sense when others are going to die.

Although researchers had studied effects on plants and animals, not much has been done in this area on humans. One reason is that it is more difficult to be subjective with human tests.

Explanation of examples

Have you ever heard the expression: "There was the smell of death in the air?" That points to an explanation of some of the examples given above.

Detecting odors

The infected tobacco leaves gave off a chemical odor that the healthy leaves sensed, thus triggering their defensive mechanism. The mice that were in fear gave off odors that stayed in the box and were sensed by the other mice. They knew there was danger in that box.

Years ago, physicians used their noses to diagnose illnesses. Patients with serious illnesses would give off distinct odors that a trained doctor could sense. (It is too bad that skill has been replaced by expensive and sometimes inaccurate medical tests.)

Since humans are not as attuned to using our sense of smell as other animals and even plants, many do not notice the subtleties of using that sense.

Detecting small vibrations

In the case of the Chinese farm animals, scientists believe that they are sensing very subtle vibrations in the earth. This seems to get the animals nervous that something is just not right in their environment.

It is possible that signals other than vibrations are being given from the ground which are sensed by the animals. Whatever it is, their predictions have been accurate.


It is quite possible that people who claim psychic powers are really more attuned to using an existing sense-such as the sense of smell-to detect things about another person. Not only can smell communicate such things and fear and danger, but also visible signs and certain sounds can do the same.

An attuned person may be able to sense things that the average person couldn't, without having any extra senses.


Plants, animals and humans can sense fear or danger through a fine sense of smell or odor detection. Some do it through sensing subtle vibrations. Finely tuned standard senses may explain some psychic powers certain people seem to have.

"The only thing we have to fear is fear itself"
President Franklin D. Roosevelt

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