ArmoredSkeptic said on a recent video about ghosts that:

EM fields actually trigger our fight or flight response

Is that true?

  • 2
    I want to note that the review cited talks about the biochemical stress response on a cellular level. So it is not related to a behavior like "fight and flight" and therefore irrelevant to your question. The review cited here is scientific, however the argumentation seems to me not too coherent and very much like cherry picking. I would like and will open the question here with this paper:" Does EM radiation elicit a robust cellular stress response?" Nov 21, 2018 at 3:34
  • @TimMMarsouin It seems like I can't find the paper you mentioned. Also, consider the situation with you touch something hot and react: isn't that biochemical stress on the cells triggering fight or flight? Genuine question, I'm really not intricately familiar with the definitions here. Nov 21, 2018 at 10:41
  • To my understanding of physics, this question is really vague and unlikely, BUT we should try to understand what the claim is from context. The claimant is clutching (what appears to be) a K-II EMF Meter, which claims to detect EMF in the 30-20,000 Hz range.
    – Oddthinking
    Nov 21, 2018 at 13:48
  • @someonewithpc I was talking about the review from M.Blank you cited. In this case, you are right, touching a hot plate will trigger a biochemical stress response in the damaged cells as well as a flight response. But both phenomena can be just on their own, for example, high alcohol consumption can trigger a stress response in your liver cell, or seeing a big snake can trigger just your behavioural stress response. Nov 22, 2018 at 17:18
  • @TimMMarsouin But it's about effects of electromagnetic fields on cellular stress, from what I understood Nov 22, 2018 at 18:39

1 Answer 1


It may be helpful to look at different regions of the EM-spectrum one by one to attempt an answer.

The spectrum ranges from static fields, over very low frequency and radio waves to high and ultra high frequency fields, equivalent to photons of very high energy.

A rough overview:

  • static electric fields: some animals, such as sharks, have fine tuned sensors that detect the very weak fields created by other animals. Humans can only feel static electric fields if they have very high intensities (think your hair standing off when touching shift voltage generator). This may trigger some response, though (as far as I see) no immediate fight or flight.

  • static magnetic fields: again, humans do not have sensors for them

  • low frequency fields up to radio waves: no sensory in humans, no fight or flight.

  • high frequency fields, as used by cellular phones: no sensory in humans. It is disputed (and considered unlikely) that these have adverse effects on the human health, in any case, they do not cause fight or flight response. The associated photons have too low energy to excite any molecules in the human body, however, very high intensity fields cause some amount of local warming in the body due to absorption.

  • infrared light: contains enough energy to excite molecules. This is the radiation warmth you feel coming from a heater or a fire. (You may consider for yourself under which conditions this triggers “fight or flight”).

  • visible light: can excite molecules, e.g. in your eyes:-) Can obviously cause fight or flight. Then again, why not just say “flash of light” instead of “EM-field”? I guess this is not what the video was talking about.

  • higher energy than visible light: UV, X-rays, gamma radiation. Can cause huge damage to the human body, but no fight or flight (this makes radiation damage so treacherous).

Summary: fight or flight may occur for those regions of the EM-spectrum where the human body has some form of sensors (e.g. your eyes reacting to light). But then, you would probably not call that an "EM-field".

See also:

  • Good answer :) For completeness, you don't consider non static magnetic fields. Nov 21, 2018 at 10:47
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    Welcome to Skeptics! Wikipedia isn't a well-respected reference here. Please follow up as necessary to find primary, rather than tertiary resources.
    – Oddthinking
    Nov 21, 2018 at 13:50
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    As commented on the main question, we should try to understand what the claim is from context. The claimant is clutching (what appears to be) a K-II EMF Meter, which claims to detect EMF in the 30Hz-20,000 Hz range - i.e. Super low to very low frequencies. So most of this answer is superfluous. It boils down to whether humans can (even subconsciously) detect such fields, and you should directly reference that.
    – Oddthinking
    Nov 21, 2018 at 13:54
  • Detecting EM is not necessary to have reactions to it. Gamma and x ray will still give you cancer. The same is true for molecules. CO is odorless and invisible. It'll still kill you. And that's why theoretical answers have issues.
    – user11643
    Nov 22, 2018 at 16:28
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    @Oddthinking Perhaps a better example would be the microwave radiation. Humans don't have sensors for it, but if you start microwaving me alive, I may get slightly mad :) The cited Wikipedia articles simply don't cover the question. Nov 23, 2018 at 14:47

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