IDEOMOTOR MOVEMENTS +
OUR INNER ZOMBIE
The word 'ideomotor' has its roots in the words 'idea' and 'motor', and was intended to mean a movement which occurs when thinking of a specific idea. Most of these movements are not purposeful or goal-directed, but happen entirely automatically, as if directed by a subconscious mechanism.
Our original experiment showed that an amazing thing happens when triggering the ideomotor effect with a ouija; players don't answer questions randomly, but actually engage their autopilot to answer these questions much like they would in a normal state. When answering consciously, players draw from knowledge that they are consciously aware of, but when answering using ouijas, players are able to draw from a larger subconscious knowledge store. Our original experiment shows that this subconsious knowledge store exists, and that players are able to utilize this knowledge to yield more correct responses than they would when they answer using only their consious knowledge.
To learn more about our experiments and previous research, take a look at our manuscript, or view our video below.
HISTORY OF OUIJA IN SCIENCE
To learn more about the history of Ouija in science, check out this great article from the Smithsonian Magazine!
IDEOMOTOR MOVEMENTS + OUIJA
THE OUIJA BOARD
The classic ouija board is a flat board with all the letters of the alphabet printed on it, as well as the numbers 0-9, the words 'yes,' 'no,' and usually 'hello' and 'goodbye'. Along with the board, the game is played with a movable platform called a planchette, which players can move around and use to answer questions using the letters and words printed on the board.
When playing the ouija game, the players (usually two or more people) will:
place their hands on the planchette and ask a question.
They will then wait for the planchette to start moving and then follow it to whichever letter or word it wants to indicate.
While playing the game, neither participant is meant to consciously direct the planchette towards any particular answer, but to take a back seat and wait for the device to start moving on its own and simply follow it to wherever it wants to go.
THE OUIJA WIKI
Ouijas may be a window into our innermost knowledge stores, working because they access an inner intelligence system below our consciousness and express the knowledge held there in meaningful movements....
Ouijas have long been advertised as a means to communicate with the supernatural, which may be an easy misconception. The movements ouijas make have been studied in the past by psychologists, and are classified scientifically as ideomotor movements. This is the phenomenon we investigate at the lab, in order to see whether a connection between these involuntary movements and our subconscious really does exist.
Despite the fact that neither player is consciously trying to move the planchette, it will usually start moving anyway, and will answer questions sometimes in great detail. The reason the planchette moves is believed to be a phenomenon called ideomotor movements, which will usually leave the players confused as to who was actually directing the movements and answering the questions.
In the Ouija game, players are told to expect a movement to occur without their own contribution, and this is very important for the ouija to work. A movement usually occurs, but in reality someone is responsible for its presence.
Have you ever tried to hold perfectly still? Try it out! You'll probably quickly find out that it is a difficult task to achieve. In the ouija game, participants are to stay still until they feel a movement. The truth is, it is impossible for people to stay completely still -- and when playing the ouija game with another person, and the planchette can simply begin to move if one player feels one of these random movements and proceeds to following it.
The fact that ouijas move is not all that surprising; what is strange is that they are capable of producing meaning ful messages. The chance that random movements would spell English words are next to none, yet it is actually normal for ouijas to spell out long and complicated messages. This indicates that something more complex must be at work.
The explanation? The movements produced by the ouija game are defined as ideomotor movements. If the people responsible for the answers produced are the people actually playing the ouija game, then the only good culprit available is the subconscious of the people playing. If this is the truth, then we have a unique opportunity using the ouija game to take a peek behind the curtains of our consciousness, and start to get a feeling of what really is going on beneath our conscious awareness.
The ideomotor phenomenon is at the heart of the ouija game and how it works. There are many theories as to how we deal with ideomotor movements and how they are triggered in special situations, such as hypnosis or when playing ouija.
Normally, the progression of a thought is something like this:
This model assumes a couple things:
There are conscious and unconscious mechanisms to our mind; we have a set of pre-programmed responses to certain ideas (which seems to be true)
Our consciousness functions like a stoplight, giving a green or red light to what our subconscious wants to do
This is a really interesting model! It says allot about free will and what our conscious is really doing. The model further fits into an explanation for why ideomotor movements can be expressed by the ouija game.
Our mind is accustomed to a certain amount of subconscious movement every day, and we have trained our mind to recognize our own small subconscious movements and veto them once they begin. When playing ouija, this ability to recognize our subconscious movements is eliminated. The movements made by the planchette are ambiguous: they could be our own small unconscious movements or the movements of another player. Our brain has no way of knowing the truth, and is unable to assign the proper classification to them.
Players are thus forced to allow their subconscious movements to be expressed, taking away their veto power and reorganizing the model something like this:
While the model seems to fit in this case, there is a deeper question: why is there a subconscious mechanism triggering automatic movements in the first place, and why is it answering questions accurately? This is much more difficult to answer.
How much are you thinking while you drive? Hopefully enough to get home safely, but many people have found that an incredibly small amount of attention can be paid to this very complicated task and we will still successfully get around (not to be advocating this sort of driving, stop texting!). We can do this because we often don't over think traffic decisions, but instead follow our instinct when a decision needs to be made. The truth is, many of the actions we make in everyday life can be characterized by this sort of 'auto-pilot' mode of thinking, in which our subconscious. This mechanism is hypothesized to be at the root of ideomotor actions - that merely thinking of a familiar concept (especially one with a familiar procedure like tying your shoes) triggers our autopilot mechanism and it is up to our conscious mind to reject or veto the actions.
What's more, there have been countless psychological studies showing how advertisements can subliminally influence people's decision-making in significant ways. Research shows that even things we aren't consciously paying attention to can still be subconsciously processed. The fact that this extra information is affecting our brains is not new, but we know very little about how our brains are storing this extra information, whether we have a subconscious store of information that we are acting upon, or if our conscious mind can only access a part of our total intelligence. In fact, we have never had any proof that a subconscious intelligence actually exists... until now.
Here are a few classic, everyday examples of the ideomotor phenomenon:
Thinking of tying your shoes
When you hold this idea in your head, you may begin to make small movements with your hands which you would make if you actually needed to tie your shoes. These small involuntary movements occur merely due to the though, but we don't actually exercise the movements, because our conscious mind vetoes the intention if there is actually no need to do so.
We don't consciously mean to begin crying, but sometimes when we are watching a movie, an idea enters our minds which is so powerful that it triggers an automatic physical response.
Anxiety on flights or from vertigo
Simply thinking about anxiety-triggering situations can prompt a very strong physical response from a person, such as sweating, nervous movements, muscular tension, and much more. In fact, confronting these anxieties through simply imagining the stress-triggering situation is a common way to deal with anxiety disorders such as fear of flying.
Calling a tell in poker
In poker, sometimes a player will reveal what they are thinking by making a small unconscious movement whenever they are in a certain mindset. Simply the thought "I think I'm going to win this hand" can trigger small unconscious movements, which a skilled player can pick up on.