Have Ouija boards been explained by science? And have they been shown to work under controlled conditions?


The Ideomotor response is when we make a movement without being aware of doing so, it isn’t always apparent to the person making the movement.

Spiritualists have used techniques such as table tipping, ouija boards, divination and automatic writing for a very long time, but these techniques came to ‘fame’ in the spiritualist movement of the early 1900’s and these techniques are still popular amongst not only spiritualists but also amongst amateur paranormal investigators who ignore the advances of modern science, and continue to believe that what they are witnessing through these methods is really a product from spirit communication.

“honest, intelligent people can unconsciously engage in muscular activity that is consistent with their expectations”

This is a quote from Ray Hyman who in the year 1999, alongside his fellow American Psychologist aswell as English scientist Michael Faraday, the French chemist Michel Chevreul actually conducted numerous tests that demonstrated that what some people believe the be spirits moving tables, glasses and planchettes IS down to the ideomotor effect. Earlier tests also showed that people can be subconsciously influenced when given subtle clues which can lead them to move the object in question (glass, pendulum etc.) without actually realising it, in response to the subtle clues given.

The science of scams team did a very good explination of how Ouija boards work and I put in on my blog a while ago. The response I got from those who believe it works and those who understand the science wer quite interesting to read.

You can find that post, and a video explaining things here.

Reproduced with permission from Hayley Stevens' blog

  • 1
    Is there more than one Michael Faraday? Or was Ray Hyman channelling his spirit? :)
    – Benjol
    May 2 '11 at 12:55
  • The reference to the post/video is broken.
    – Oddthinking
    Apr 2 '12 at 10:45
  • 1
    My current position (which I would dearly like to change, by seeing some counter-evidence) is that "ideomotor" is a name used with wavy hands to describe an effect that is not understood and that doesn't seem to offer any greater explanatory power than "black magic". This answer doesn't do much to change that. See the related question: skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/1779/…
    – Oddthinking
    Apr 2 '12 at 10:47

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