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Anomalous Sensitivity: The HISS of the ASP – David Ritchey (Is.16)

David Ritchey, Ph.D.

David Ritchey is continuing his exploration of Anomalous Cerebral Dominance, which he now calls “Anomalous Cerebral Laterality (ACL),” that he began in his Journal article of 1993. “The role of neurological differences in facilitating past-life experiences.” In the paper below he presents the concept of the “Anomalously Sensitive Person (ASP).” Ritchey has developed a questionnaire, the “Holistic Inventory of Stimulus Sensitivities (HISS),” to identify the characteristics of “ASPs.” The HISS is now in its fourth and final round of testing, with over 500 participants. Here he shares with us his preliminary results from the 66 participants in the third round of testing.


In an article that appeared in Volume VII, No. 1 of The Journal of Regression Therapy (Ritchey, 1993), I proposed the theory that certain neurological differences played a role in facilitating past-life experiences. This present article is an update of that theory and provides some preliminary statistical evidence to support its validity.

The 1993 article suggested the following:

1) “Anomalous Cerebral Dominance,” which involves an enlargement of the right cerebral hemisphere relative to the left, facilitates accessing of altered states of consciousness.

2) Altered states of consciousness organize the mind holographically and set the stage for holographic perception of a (quantum mechanical based) holographic reality.

3) The “implicate order,” an aspect of (holographically organized) quantum reality postulated by physicist David Bohm (1980), is beyond both space and time. Within it, all aspects of existence are intimately and meaningfully connected with each other and with the whole.

4) A holographically organized mind exploring the implicate order has access to all possible “alternate realities.”

5) Alternate realities are the matrix out of which arise all transpersonal experiences, including the experience of other lives.

Changing Some Terms

The further I have gone in my explorations, the clearer it has become that terminological problems are a major impediment to the understanding of mind-related issues. I’ve needed to change a number of terms and/or to introduce new terms in order to avoid a host of inappropriate connotations. My reasons for doing so are explicated in greater detail elsewhere (Ritchey, 1998). For the purposes of this paper, let us note the following:

The term “Anomalous Cerebral Dominance” places too much emphasis on the “dominance” of one hemisphere over the other. A better term is “Anomalous Cerebral Laterality (ACL).” A person whose neurological structuring involves “Anomalous Cerebral Laterality” is functionally a “Psychologically Sensitive Individual” (Ring, 1992).

Conceptually, both terms can be incorporated within the term “Anomalously Sensitive Person (ASP).” “ASP” implies both structural and functional brain/mind anomalies. My research indicates that the ASP has unusual sensitivities in a number of other realms besides the psychological. More on this later.

Previously, I have included “Past-Life Experiences” within the larger set of “Transpersonal Experiences.” However, the term “Transpersonal Experiences” has become encumbered with a host of connotational loadings and may also be too narrow in its focus. Henceforth, I will use the term “Anomalous Experiences,” instead. Its intended meaning is:

“experiences which occur beyond the ordinary differentiated boundaries of the ego; experiences which suggest the essential interconnected unity of all that ever was, is, or will be; experiences which imply the existence of mind (as distinct from brain), of spirit, of soul.”

My use of the word “Anomalous,” in the context of “Sensitivity,” implies a quantitative difference. In the context of “Experiences,” it implies a qualitative difference. In neither context is it intended to have the connotation of “weird.”

The term “Altered States of Consciousness” is a lost cause and must be abandoned! “States” implies clearly defined, well-boundaried conditions, which so-called “altered states” most certainly are not. And even if they were, relative to what are they “altered”? Relative to normal waking consciousness? If so, are dreaming and sleeping then to be considered “altered states”? Scores of books have been written arguing about the nature, meaning, and definition of “consciousness.” No two authors seem to agree, except, perhaps, on consciousness involving cortical thinking and self-awareness, both of which can be decidedly absent in “altered states.” My best shot at handling this is to substitute “Aspects of Mentation (AOMs)” for “states of consciousness,” and “alternate” for “altered,” hence, “alternate AOMs.”

Some New Ideas

When we consider the issue of “regression,” our natural tendency is to think in terms of age regression, and/or past-life regression. From a neurological perspective, “regression” has to do with a slowing of cortical EEG brainwaves and a reduction in the functional efficiency of the cerebral cortex. The cortex is the logical, rational, thinking part of the brain. A slowing of cortical EEG brainwaves from the Beta pattern (14-22 cycles per second) to the Alpha pattern (8-14 cps) would be considered a regression, as would a slowing from Alpha to Theta (4-8 cps), or from Theta to Delta (0.5-4 cps). Interestingly, these changes in frequency do imply an age regression in terms of cortical functioning. The predominant waking brainwave pattern in adults is Beta, in youths (ages 8-13) it is Alpha, in children (ages 3-8) Theta, and in infants (ages 0-3) Delta.

Most conceptualizations of consciousness in the past have dealt almost exclusively with the cerebral cortex and the relationship between its two hemispheres. Hence all of the platitudes about “left-brain thinking” and “right-brain thinking,” both being aspects of cortical mentation. Given the predilections of Western society for logical, rational, cortical thinking, any reduction in the efficiency of cortical functioning is considered to be “bad;” hence, for example, the all-too-common dismissal of creativity as nothing but “regression in service of the ego.”

It might be more appropriate, however, to suggest that, under the right circumstances, a slowing of cortical brainwaves should be thought of as “evolution in transcendence of the ego.” This thinking parallels that of the Eastern mystics in implying that perhaps the cortex is not the only place “where it’s at.” There is now considerable evidence indicating that research needs to focus on the dichotomy of cortical mentation versus sub-cortical mentation, rather than on overly-simplistic concepts like “left-brain thinking” versus “right-brain thinking.”

Modern holistic brain researchers are beginning to consider the cerebral cortex not so much as a creator of consciousness, but as a filtering mechanism that allows only a small part of a much larger reality to find its way into mentation. When the cortex is “up to speed” (i.e., “in Beta”), it performs this filtering function quite effectively. When the cortex is “idling” (i.e., when its brainwaves are slow), filtration becomes less efficient and greater interaction can occur between the “older” parts of the brain (most notably the limbic system) and the environment.

This is an especially important concept, because the limbic system has a central role in bodily homeostasis, in emotions, in attention, and in memory. What is more, the limbic system appears to have primary responsibility for determining the degree of cortical filtration appropriate to any given situation. Indications are that the neurohormones serotonin and melatonin, produced by the pineal gland (which has strong reciprocal links with the major components of the limbic system), are the chemical messengers that modulate filtration efficiency.

Specifically, when it is necessary to dampen the brain’s reaction to incoming stimuli, additional serotonin is released by the pineal gland. When serotonin levels are low, cortical brainwaves tend to be slow, and sub-conical (limbic system) mentation can occur. In sub-cortical mentation, the mind is aware of extremely subtle stimuli, all perceptions have a heightened sense of reality, and the distinction between “self” and “not-self” ceases to exist. Under these circumstances, an individual’s responsiveness or reactivity to stimuli will be enormously elevated. This is true whether those stimuli be in the physiological, neurological, cognitive, emotional, or anomalous realm. The down-side of sub-cortical mentation is that sensitivity to these stimuli has the potential for overwhelming the experiencer. (The above reasoning is grossly oversimplified for the sake of brevity. Low serotonin levels are also associated with violent ideation and behavior. The serotonin/melatonin relationship is a complex and delicate one, and these two neurohormones certainly are not the only ones involved in the big picture.)


This, then, is the essence of what I am calling the “Anomalously Sensitive Person (ASP).” The ASP is a person who is prone to sub-cortical mentation and, as a result, has an elevated sensitivity to stimuli in one or more realms and is at risk for being overwhelmed by those stimuli.

Development of the HISS

As I progressed in my research, the theoretical aspects held together quite nicely, but I kept hearing an insistent internal voice saying, “I’m from Missouri. Show me.” Not being one to ignore hallucinations, I set about developing a questionnaire designed to explore my hypothesis about the nature of the ASP. After four years and three rounds of preliminary testing, this questionnaire, entitled the “Holistic Inventory of Stimulus Sensitivities (HISS),” is now in its fourth and final round of testing.

As it now stands, the HISS consists of 364 line items grouped into 3 sections: Personal and Familial Data, Experiences and Preferences, and The Anomalous; completion time is approximately 60 minutes. The final version will, ideally, have less than 250 line items and will require less than 45 minutes to complete. Each line item is responded to on a 0 to 4 basis; responses generally indicate frequency or applicability, depending on the item being responded to.

For scoring, the individual line item responses are grouped into scales for averaging (generally unweighted), and the final score for each scale can range from 0 to 4. The “primary scales,” those which are independent of each other and without overlap, are divided into three groups of “first-level scales:” Predispositions (toward anomalous sensitivities); Indicators (of anomalous sensitivities); and Anomalous (beliefs and experiences of an anomalous nature). Each of these three first-level scales is divided into second-level scales and, in some cases, third- and fourth-level scales as well. That is, scales are embedded within scales for a total of 46 primary scales. The array of first- and second-level primary scales is as follows:


1) Anomalous Cerebral Laterality (ACL)

2) Trauma and Abuse (TAB)

3) Temperament Type Preferences (TTP)


1) Physiological (PHS)

2) Cognitive (COG)

3) Aspects of Mentation (AOM)

4) Emotional (EMO)


1) Anomalous Experiences (AEX)

2) Anomalous Beliefs (ABL)

In addition to the primary scales, there are also a number of “miscellaneous scales” (14 as of this writing) which have been developed by recombining, for special purposes, line items from the primary scales. Noteworthy among the miscellaneous scales are those that have been developed to explore areas of particular interest. The miscellaneous scales, by their very nature, are more open to subjective interpretation than are the primary scales; they contain line item overlaps; and from a statistical standpoint, they are not as “clean” as the primary scales. Among the miscellaneous scales are the following:

Temporo-Limbic Lability (TLL); Kundalini Arousal (KUN): Alien Abduction Experiences (ROP); Extra-Sensory Perception (ESP); and Creativity (CRE).

Preliminary Findings

All of these preliminary findings are based on a sample of 66 subjects. It is not a properly representative sample, nor is it sufficiently large for the results, however suggestive, to be treated as being definitive. No advanced statistical techniques have been applied to the data. Useful statistical information arrived at so far consists of correlations only, and correlations, no matter how strong, are only correlations; they do not demonstrate cause-and-effect. Therefore, the findings below are merely evidence and should not be considered to be proof of anything. Nevertheless, there are some extraordinary correlations (Table 1).


    100 110 120 130 200 210 220 230 240 300 310 320
100 PREDISPOSITION 1.00 0.78 0.89 0.81 0.83 0.82 0.70 0.76 0.79 0.70 0.73 0.54
110 ANOM. CER. LAT. (INNATE) 1.00 0.57 0.52 0.59 0.62 0.53 0.47 0.53 0.52 0.55 0.39
120 TRAUMA & ABUSE 1.00 0.54 0.71 0.72 0.57 0.66 0.67 0.60 0.62 0.46
130 TEMP. TYPE PREFS. 1.00 0.76 0.69 0.67 0.73 0.77 0.63 0.65 0.49
200 INDICATORS 1.00 0.96 0.87 0.96 0.90 0.77 0.80 0.58
210 PHYSIOLOGICAL 1.00 0.74 0.88 0.87 0.79 0.83 0.59
220 COGNITIVE 1.00 0.81 0.73 0.58 0.53 0.51
230 ASPECTS OF MENTATION 1.00 0.81 0.74 0.80 0.53
240 EMOTIONAL 1.00 0.68 0.71 0.51
300 ANOMALOUS 1.00 0.92 0.89
310 ANOMALOUS EXPER. 1.00 0.64


Perhaps the most striking point immediately revealed by the data is that extremely high correlations exist among the scores for all of the first and second level primary scales. All coefficients of correlation (r values) are 0.39 or higher; higher r values mean lower probabilities. For 66 subjects, an r value of 0.40 indicates a probability of chance occurrence of less than 1 in 1000 times.

What’s relevant about these data is this: They tell us that if a person is predisposed, either by nature, by nurture, or by both, to be Anomalously Sensitive, that person is very likely to manifest indicators of that sensitivity. These indicators of Anomalous Sensitivity can be in the Physiological, Cognitive, Aspects of Mentation, and/or Emotional realms. Sensitivity to Anomalous Experiences will probably exist as well.

There was one major surprise for me in all of this. Namely, the average correlations of the PHS (Physiological Sensitivities) scale with the other scales (.71) were somewhat higher than were the average correlations of the AOM (Aspects of Mentation Sensitivities) scale (.68) with the others. When I went digging, I found out why.

The fourth-level Electrical/Magnetic/Light Sensitivities (EML) scale, which is subordinate to the PHS scale, had astronomically high correlations with the other miscellaneous scales (Table 2)!


211b 230 233 421 422 431
211b Electrical/Magnetic/Light 1.00 0.83 0.82 0.72 0.82 0.82
230 ASPECTS OF MENTATION 1.00 0.87 0.82 0.96 0.94
233 HYPNOGOGIA 1.00 0.79 0.82 0.79
421 ALIEN ABDUCTION EXP. 1.00 0.83 0.86
422 TEMP.-LIMB. LABILITY 1.00 0.96

The correlations among all of these miscellaneous scales, for Electrical Hypersensitivity (EML), Aspects of Mentation (AOM), Hypnogogia (SWO), Alien Abduction (ROP), Temporo-Limbic Lability (TLL), and Kundalini Arousal (KUN), are so high (average r value of 0.84) that they might as well be considered to be measuring the same thing. The correlation between the Temporo-Limbic (TLL) scale and the Kundalini Arousal (KUN) scale is sufficiently high so as to stimulate incredulity (r 0.96).

Apparently, people who are “Electrically Hypersensitive” (i.e., especially sensitive to electrical, magnetic, and light radiation) are extraordinarily sensitive to a host of other anomalous stimuli as well. My suspicion is that this is an extremely important finding.

Despite my warning above, I’m going to rebel and sneak off into speculation about cause-and-effect for a moment. It is known that the limbic system and the pineal gland are especially sensitive to electrical, magnetic, and light radiation. We saw earlier that the limbic system and the pineal gland are central to the modulation of cortical filtering and hence to the occurrence of alternate AOMs. Perhaps this data is telling us that electrical, magnetic, and light radiation can cause Anomalous Experiences by entraining brainwaves into an alternate — we might even say “anomalous” — AOM. Perhaps.

Now, having transgressed, it is time to return to the real world of the data. The first-level primary scale “Predispositions” turns out to be an effective predictor of the whole range of sensitivities, with an r value of 0.81. The second-level primary scale “Temperament Type Preferences,” which is subordinate to “Predispositions,” is also an effective predictor of sensitivities with an r value of 0.73. This finding deserves special attention in that determining Temperament Type Preferences alone might be an innocuous and non-intrusive way of testing for Anomalous Sensitivity. “Temperament Type Preference” could be considered to be synonymous with “Personality.”

In testing for Temperament Type Preference, I looked at four different factors in much the same way as is done with the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and Myers, 1980). In a departure from their approach, I reduced all data to a single number. I also used different terminology. My data indicate that Anomalous Sensitivity is correlated: First with a Subjective (“Intuitive” in Myers-Briggs terminology) Perceptual style; second with an Affective (“Feeling”) Determinative style; third with an Internal (“Introverted”) orientation (the role of an Internal orientation may be understated because of greater willingness on the part of those with an External orientation to reveal their sensitivities); and fourth, for those having an Internal orientation, with a preference for the Perceptive (“Perceiving”) function over the Determinative (“Judging”) function. In Myers-Briggs terms, then, the “INFJs” are most likely, and the “ESTJs” are least likely, to be Anomalously Sensitive.


The data for these 66 participants indicate that the Anomalously Sensitive Person (the ASP) is most likely to be a female who is non-right-handed, hypopigmented, intelligent, creative, and not conventionally heterosexual. She probably has an Internal Orientation, a Subjective Perceptual strategy, an Affective Determinative strategy, and a covert preference for her Perceptual strategy over her Determinative strategy. In all likelihood, she will be especially sensitive to (or facile with) alternate Aspects of Mentation. Chances are, too, that she will be Electrically Hypersensitive and will manifest multiple other sensitivities in the physiological, cognitive, emotional, and/or anomalous realms.

Finally, allowing myself the luxury of one last speculation, I suggest that the model for the mechanisms of Anomalous Sensitivity, and hence for the development of the ASP, is this:

1) Certain people are born with a predisposition toward Anomalous Sensitivity. This predisposition is what Geschwind and Galaburda (1987) speak of as Anomalous Cerebral Laterality. (It can be thought of as “nature” in the nature/nurture dichotomy).

2) Various environmental factors (“nurture” in the nature/nurture dichotomy), including trauma and abuse, play an important role in predisposing an individual toward Anomalous Sensitivity.

3) Nature and nurture together shape an individual’s neurology. Neurology manifests as Temperament Type Preferences or personality.

4) Neurology determines the degree of one’s sensitivity to a variety of stimuli including those in the Physiological, Cognitive, Aspects of Mentation, and Emotional realms.

5) Alternate Aspects of Mentation (which can be stimulated by electrical, magnetic, and light radiation) are a key factor in Anomalous Experiences.

6) Anomalous Experiences function as environmental stimuli which can influence neurology in such a way as to lead to further Anomalous Experiences.

This is a preliminary model based on my findings to date. This research is of course continuing, and I intend to report on the final results with the complete sample of over 500 participants in next year’s issue of the Journal.



Geschwind, N., and A. Gaiahurda. Cerebral Lateralization. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1987.

Myers, I. B. with P. B. Myers Gifts Differing. Palo Alto, CA: Consulting Psychologists Press, 1980.

Ring, K. The Omega Project. New York: William Morrow and Co., 1992.

Ritchey, D. “The role of neurological differences in facilitating past-life experiences.” Journal of Regression Therapy, VIII (1), 80-88, 1993.

——— The HISS of the ASP: Profiling the Anomalously Sensitive Person. in preparation, 1998.


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Topics on this article

Past Lives, Research, Study

Keywords on this article

altered states of consciousness, anomalous cerebral dominance, holographic organization, transpersonal experiences