The use of pendulum to answer all sorts of questions is quite widespread. People use it to make decision about their lives or to find a lost object. Talking about several people believing in these things, two of them argued that the efficiency of pendulum has been demonstrated.

So my question. Are there any scientific studies that investigated the efficiency of pendulum to answer question or to make any kind of prediction?

Examples of sites claiming that pendulums can help with decision making: here, here and here.


Some links to scientific studies who tested the predictive/divinatory abilities of pendulums are very welcome.

  • 1
    Often, any decision is better then no decision at all. If pendulums help with that, all the better.
    – Pieter B
    Commented Jan 21, 2014 at 13:18

1 Answer 1



Yes, one can "ask" a pendulum questions about one's choices in life.

But no supernatural prediction of the future is involved.

The pendulum operator is determining the "answers" received.

Early psychologists made efforts at explaining such phenomena. As humans we are able to fool ourselves about objects answering questions unless careful "blind" experimental designs are used that rule out not only dishonesty but also mere suggestion or other knowledge of the correct answer.

Contemporaneously, from the 1600s onward the science of physics developed an excellent understanding of what actually makes pendulums move in various ways and how that can be put to practical use.

The Claim

From the first link, pendulums are claimed to be useful in these areas:

Appropriate Types of Questions to Ask It is appropriate to ask a pendulum about things that are within your control, about situations where you have the right to make a choice, or about things your subconscious already has access to. For example, it is appropriate to ask whether it would be good for you to marry a particular person, but it not appropriate for you to ask whether he is going to ask you to marry him, because that is not your right to choose. In the same way, it is not appropriate to ask if you are going to meet your prince charming today, because that is not within your control. However, it is appropriate to try to divine other people's motivations or who they are inside, because you already know this at a subconscious level anyway. For example, it is appropriate to ask "Can I trust him? Does he want me for a friend, or only for what I can give him?"

Furthermore, and mostly consistent with the above principles, they provide a list of applications:

The pendulum can be used for choosing between alternatives in a relatively wide range of areas. To get an answer from the pendulum, simply ask any yes/no question about a specific thing that would be good for you, but only in areas where you have the right to make the decision, for example, anything to do with health & healing, love or domestic relationships, career. Here are some typical areas where the pendulum can be used to good advantage:

Making a Choice of any kind. (Do I want to travel for my vacation or stay home?) Figuring out what is best to do. (Would it be better to keep my present job or look for a new job?) Figuring out how you really feel about something. (Do I want children in the near future?) Becoming more conscious of who someone is inside, to know his motivation, his compatibility with you. Determining your probability of success in a situation.(Do I have what it takes to complete this course?) Finding the cause of physical symptoms. (Is my diet causing my migraines?) Determining what foods or vitamins to take. (Would it be good for me to double my Vitamin C intake?) Determining what is causing an allergic reaction. (Am I lactose intolerant?) Prospecting for water, oil, treasure. (Is there gold over here?) Finding missing people or pets, or lost objects. (Is my key under the bed?) You can even use the pendulum with a map. Put the pendulum over a small area of the map and ask "Is Bowser here"?, and narrow it down in this way. Part of the knowledge that comes with experience in working with the pendulum is learning to sometimes start with broad questions, and then narrow them down.

I find the second link unreadable. Maybe someone with IE can try it.

The third link http://askyourpendulum.com/Tips.asp

also places various restrictions on how the pendulum functions. According to the headings, you have to:

  1. Prepare Yourself
  2. Ask Well Phrased Questions
  3. Troubleshoot -- if you didn't get the answer you wanted.

Furthermore, you must

"Always cite the source before asking questions. "

Sounds a lot like advice on how to ask a Stack Overflow question, doesn't it?

Except for this bit of boilerplate that has to go in front of all the questions:

"I call upon the higher self to answer these questions. I will only accept answers from the higher self and not from my conscious mind. I seek absolutely truthful answers that are aligned with the highest and greatest good for all concerned." You can definitely craft your own version of this – just make sure you use it each time.

I'm so glad Stack Overflow doesn't require that, instead deprecating pleadings and thanks.


Now many of these applications can be explained as simply a person taking the time to recall or think about the facts and circumstances of their situation.

The use of objects, places, or situations as cognitive or meditation aids to assist in the recall or processing of personal mental information is well known.

In this way. the usefulness of a pendulum in determining the cause of an allergy or the truth about a girlfriend or boyfriend is similar to that of a rubber duck debugging a computer program.

If it helps someone remember that dust preceded sneezes (and thus, helped determine the cause of an allergy), or that a friend is kind but seems to have stronger romantic interests elsewhere (and thus, might not be an ideal marriage partner), or that a particular message about a missing file preceded a program crash (and thus, help isolate a bug to a section of the program that depends on the missing file), it was useful.

However, as to causation, the most likely explanation is that the person asking the questions is making the decisions, or predictions, or insights, not the pendulum or the rubber duck or other cognitive aid -- since the person has a brain that is the store of information and source of processing, whereas the pendulum or rubber duck lack information storage and processing capability.

To go beyond this, and attribute to the object itself an ability to correctly answer questions and claim that they are not known to the person asking, is an extraordinary claim. It requires similarly strong evidence that the answers thereby obtained are correct and would be obtained by chance with low probability.

The ideomotor effect has been proposed as a credible alternative explanation to the extraordinary claim that the pendulum is making the predictions or decisions. Put more simply: people are suggestible, and fool themselves.

From Quackwatch, How People Are Fooled by Ideomotor Action, R Hyman, PhD:

This "influence of suggestion in modifying and directing muscular movement, independently of volition" was given the label ideomotor action by the psychologist/physiologist William B. Carpenter in 1852 [4]. Later the concept was more widely publicized by the Harvard physician-turned-psychologist William James [5]. Carpenter wanted to show that a variety of currently popular phenomena had conventional scientific explanations rather than the widely believed supernatural ones. The phenomena he tackled included dowsing ("water witching"), the magic pendulum, certain aspects of mesmerism, spiritualists' "table turning," and Reichenbach's "Odylic force." Carpenter did not question the reality of the phenomena, nor the honesty of the people who were involved. He only disputed the explanation, arguing that, "All the phenomena of the 'biologized' state, when attentively examined, will be found to consist in the occupation of the mind by the ideas which have been suggested to it, and in the influence which these ideas exert upon the actions of the body." Thus Carpenter invoked ideomotor action as a nonparanormal explanation for various phenomena that were being credited to new physical forces, spiritual intervention, or other supernatural causes. He published many books and articles during the latter half of the nineteenth century expounding his ideas about ideomotor action [6,7].

Disproving that a "exploring pendulum" identifies chemical substances involved some early applications of the "blind study", where the subject (who uses the pendulum to identify a substance) and/or the experiment manager purposefully are kept ignorant of which result is the correct outcome, thereby negating the possibility that the manager influenced the subject. In this case, an actual blindfold was used...

Hyman explains:

The first recorded use of the exploring pendulum occurred around 371 C.E. A priest would bow over a plate, the edge of which was marked with the letters of the alphabet. This "diviner" or "oracle" would hold a ring, suspended from a thin thread, over the center of the plate. A question would be put to the priest. The movements of the ring would then be observed. When the ring was set in motion, it would swing toward one of the letters. This letter would be recorded; then the same process would be used to select another letter. This would continue until one or more words, which answered the question, would be generated. In this, we see the origins of the modern Ouija board, used to this day by occultists for divining purposes [8].

In the early nineteenth century, certain chemists were advocating this method for analyzing the composition of substances. In 1808, a Professor Gerboin of Strasbourg wrote an entire book on use of the pendulum for chemical analysis [9]. As a budding scientist, Chevreul was intrigued, but he remained skeptical. He was surprised, however, to find that the pendulum worked as advertised when he tried it over a dish of mercury. He carried out more tests, however. To see if a physical force was responsible for the movement of the pendulum, he placed a glass plate between the iron ring and the mercury. To his surprise, the oscillations diminished and then stopped. When he removed the glass plate, the pendulum movements resumed. He next suspected that the pendulum moved because it was difficult to hold his arm steady. When he rested his arm on a support, the movements diminished but did not stop altogether.

Finally, Chevreul did what none of his predecessors had thought of doing. He conducted the equivalent of what we would call a double-blind trial. He blindfolded himself and then he had an assistant interpose or remove the glass plate between the pendulum and the mercury without his knowledge. Under these conditions, nothing happened. Chevreul concluded, "So long as I believed the movement possible, it took place; but after discovering the cause I could not reproduce it." His experiments with the pendulum show how easy it is "to mistake illusions for realities, whenever we are confronted by phenomena in which the human sense-organs are involved under conditions imperfectly analyzed." Chevreul used this principle of expectant attention to account for the phenomena of dowsing, movements of the exploring pendulum, and the then current fad among spiritualists, table-turning.

These early efforts to dispel the notion that one can obtain answers to questions by asking objects like pendulums and moving them around to get the answer should hopefully suffice in showing that the modern pendulum claims are no different and are not credible.

Quackwatch: references cited by Hyman

[4] Carpenter WB. On the influence of suggestion in modifying and directing muscular movement, independently of volition. Proceedings of the Royal Institution of Great Britain. 1852;1:147-153.

[5] James W. Principles of Psychology. New York, NY: Holt; 1890. Carpenter WB. Mental Physiology. London, UK: C. Kegan Paul; 1874.

[6] Carpenter WB. Mesmerism, Spiritualism, Etc. New York, NY: D. Appleton; 1874.

[7] Carpenter WB. On the influence of suggestion in modifying and directing muscular movement, independently of volition.

[8] Jastrow J. Wish and Wisdom. New York, NY: Appleton-Century-Crofts; 1935.

[9] Faraday M. Experimental investigation of table turning. Atheneum. July 1853:801-803.

Another approach: replication and principles of operation

On a separate note, suppose we take as a null hypothesis the statement given in the initial article that Pendulums can answer only certain types of questions (questions related to things one can control, choose or things one has seen and remembers subconsciously).

But then we find that pendulums in fact reliably answer other kinds of questions in a very different way.

Then that null hypothesis about how pendulums work in discovering knowledge will be falsified.

It turns out Pendulums are able to answer certain physics questions. 400 years of study in science and engineering have shown pendulums useful in measuring time, determining that the planet is rotating, measuring latitude, standardizing length, measuring gravitational pull and variations in gravitational pull. [Wikipedia: Pendulum ]

What is interesting about this latter class of scientific and engineering questions is that they are not personal questions, or questions of choice, or things likely to have been seen previously by a person and stored in memory and the answers do not occur in the mind of the user but instead require the application of mathematical skills to careful observation of the behavior of the pendulum. Mathematical skills can also be applied by 3rd parties to the observations to obtain identical results, something that might be difficult to do with using a pendulum to answer questions of a personal nature. In the case of the pendulum clock, the motion of the pendulum is measured by a primitive single purpose "computer" consisting of various gears (instead of transistors or modern CPUs) attached to a display of rods (clock "hands") that could be read (via a clock dial) with minimal training. This allows multiple people to get the exact same answer from the pendulum clock without concern as to variations in mathematical or magical training or whether they had the right to ask what time it is or had cleared their mind of negative influences.

The nature of this latter class of questions calls into question the operational principles of how pendulums work in the realm of knowledge if we were to assume the null hypothesis advocated in that first link. It is clear that it falsifies the requirements proposed by advocates of the pendulum as a prognosticator separate from the human operator. The alternative explanation, founded over 400 years, is that pendulum motion is the result of physical laws, including force inputs from someone at the top of the pendulum.

  • 4
    This answer takes advantage of the somewhat clumsy wording of the title from a non-native English speaker to sneak around answering the question. Sure, pendulums have scientific and engineering uses, but are they able to achieve any of the claims in the links, such as "Determining what is causing an allergic reaction.", "Becoming more conscious of who someone is inside, to know his motivation, his compatibility with you"?
    – Oddthinking
    Commented Jan 20, 2014 at 22:55
  • 1
    @Oddthinking There was no intention on my part to take advantage of the OP's English usage. In any event their question had the benefit of an editor whose 1st language is English. Science does not preclude the utility of a pendulum as a meditation device to reflect on the important decisions of one's life. Others might prefer to use a quiet room, prayer, a rolling ocean, ripples on a lake, a mountain meadow, wildlife or pet, amulets, crystals, incense, etc, none being universal. The difference is in the nature and reliability of repetition of the phenomena and consistency of explanation.
    – Paul
    Commented Jan 21, 2014 at 0:59
  • I have edited the answer and marked it community wiki, as it will need help with references. If no one is willing to help edit or add references, then it can be deleted (or I will delete it).
    – Paul
    Commented Jan 21, 2014 at 2:35
  • incorporated suggestion from @Articuno
    – Paul
    Commented Jan 21, 2014 at 4:07
  • 1
    Thanks for this long answer. I would love to have some links to scientific studies who tested the predictive abilities of pendulums.
    – Remi.b
    Commented Jan 21, 2014 at 10:42

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