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PeerJ. 2017 Mar 28;5:e3149. doi: 10.7717/peerj.3149. eCollection 2017.

The Sensed Presence Questionnaire (SenPQ): initial psychometric validation of a measure of the "Sensed Presence" experience.

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Department of Psychiatry, University College London, University of London , London , United Kingdom.



The experience of 'sensed presence'-a feeling or sense that another entity, individual or being is present despite no clear sensory or perceptual evidence-is known to occur in the general population, appears more frequently in religious or spiritual contexts, and seems to be prominent in certain psychiatric or neurological conditions and may reflect specific functions of social cognition or body-image representation systems in the brain. Previous research has relied on ad-hoc measures of the experience and no specific psychometric scale to measure the experience exists to date.


Based on phenomenological description in the literature, we created the 16-item Sensed Presence Questionnaire (SenPQ). We recruited participants from (i) a general population sample, and; (ii) a sample including specific selection for religious affiliation, to complete the SenPQ and additional measures of well-being, schizotypy, social anxiety, social imagery, and spiritual experience. We completed an analysis to test internal reliability, the ability of the SenPQ to distinguish between religious and non-religious participants, and whether the SenPQ was specifically related to positive schizotypical experiences and social imagery. A factor analysis was also conducted to examine underlying latent variables.


The SenPQ was found to be reliable and valid, with religious participants significantly endorsing more items than non-religious participants, and the scale showing a selective relationship with construct relevant measures. Principal components analysis indicates two potential underlying factors interpreted as reflecting 'benign' and 'malign' sensed presence experiences.


The SenPQ appears to be a reliable and valid measure of sensed presence experience although further validation in neurological and psychiatric conditions is warranted.


Psychometric scale; Religiosity; Schizotypy; Sensed presence; Social cognition; Unusual experience

Conflict of interest statement

The authors declare there are no competing interests.

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