The Greyson Scale Quantifies Near-Death Experiences

Near-death experiences, or NDEs, are experienced by people across time, culture, and condition. Written records of NDEs date back to the times of ancient Greece, and humans have tried to uncover their mysteries for just as long. As research into these events became more rigorous, researchers needed a way to quantify and categorize the stories recounted by those who had experienced them. Enter Dr. Bruce Greyson.

Go into the Light

In 1983, Greyson published a 16-point questionnaire he called the Near-Death Experience Scale. The survey, which is in regular use today, is divided into four components with four questions each. The cognitive component, for example, asks "Did scenes from your past come back to you?" and "Did you suddenly seem to understand everything?" whereas the paranormal component includes questions like "Did you feel separated from your physical body?".

See the Test

Survey takers can give each question a 0 (did not experience) through 2 (vivid experience) rating, and for the event to be considered a real NDE, it must score a total of 7 or higher on the entire questionnaire. Here are the questions:


1. Did time seem to speed up or slow down?

(0) No

(1) Time seemed to go faster or slower than usual

(2) Everything seemed to be happening at once; or time stopped or lost all meaning

2. Were your thoughts speeded up?

(0) No

(1) Faster than usual

(2) Incredibly fast

3. Did scenes from your past come back to you?

(0) No

(1) I remembered many past events

(2) My past flashed before me, out of my control

4. Did you suddenly seem to understand everything?

(0) No

(1) Everything about myself or others

(2) Everything about the universe


5. Did you have a feeling of peace or pleasantness?

(0) No

(1) Relief or calmness

(2) Incredible peace or pleasantness

6. Did you have a feeling of joy?

(0) No

(1) Happiness

(2) Incredible joy

7. Did you feel a sense of harmony or unity with the universe?

(0) No

(1) I felt no longer in conflict with nature

(2) I felt united or one with the world

8. Did you see, or feel surrounded by, a brilliant light?

(0) No

(1) An unusually bright light

(2) A light clearly of mystical or other-worldly origin


9. Were your senses more vivid than usual?

(0) No

(1) More vivid than usual

(2) Incredibly more vivid

10. Did you seem to be aware of things going on elsewhere, as if by extrasensory perception (ESP)?

(0) No

(1) Yes, but the facts have not been checked out

(2) Yes, and the facts have been checked out

11. Did scenes from the future come to you?

(0) No

(1) Scenes from my personal future

(2) Scenes from the world's future

12. Did you feel separated from your body?

(0) No

(1) I lost awareness of my body

(2) I clearly left my body and existed outside it


13. Did you seem to enter some other, unearthly world?

(0) No

(1) Some unfamiliar and strange place

(2) A clearly mystical or unearthly realm

14. Did you seem to encounter a mystical being or presence, or hear an unidentifiable voice?

(0) No

(1) I heard a voice I could not identify

(2) I encountered a definite being, or a voice clearly of mystical or unearthly origin

15. Did you see deceased or religious spirits?

(0) No

(1) I sensed their presence

(2) I actually saw them

16. Did you come to a border or point of no return?

(0) No

(1) I came to a definite conscious decision to "return" to life

(2) I came to a barrier that I was not permitted to cross or was "sent back" against my will.

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Get the full story on near-death experiences in "The Handbook of Near-Death Experiences: Thirty Years of Investigation," edited by Bruce Greyson himself. We handpick reading recommendations we think you may like. If you choose to make a purchase, Curiosity will get a share of the sale.

Written by Ashley Hamer September 15, 2016

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