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Debunking the ideomotor effect

  1. May 23, 2006 #1
    I have heard that there have been research done with a controlled experiment that the answers the ouija board gives back is not always random letters. Do you have a site or something for this?
  2. jcsd
  3. May 24, 2006 #2
    I asked my ouija board about that. It said, "Csrkls'tika'dkjgjhaisieoit'a'ejgj."
  4. May 24, 2006 #3


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    The first letters may be random. After two or three letters, the participants try unconsciously to form words. The ideomotor effect does the rest.
    The only way to do a controlled experiment is to have all people that touch the cursor to be blindfolded and independent persons noting the letters. In this way, if intelligible words are formed we may assume that perhaps there is some ESP taking effect.
  5. May 24, 2006 #4
    Unless they have a mindmap of the layout of the board (like a blindfolded person may still type properly on a keyboard). A better test would be to ask the participants a question to which they dont know the answer, but the ouija ghost does.
  6. May 24, 2006 #5
    Facilitated Communication, a technique for supposedly helping autistics to
    communicate, shows how the ideomotor effect works and how dangerous it can be.

    Last edited by a moderator: May 2, 2017
  7. Jun 17, 2006 #6


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    In addition to PIT's suggestion about asking tough questions, it would be a simple measure to randomise the order of the symbols on the OB. The blindfolded participants can never see the board.
  8. Jul 7, 2006 #7
    Quite. If the selection of letters is due to the ideomoter effect then it should be very easy to demonstrate this. Strangely, however, it has not been demonstrated. I've participated in many sessions - with a wine glass and letters in a circle - and have no idea why sentences come out rather than gibberish. However, it is clear to me that chanting 'ideomoter effect' whenever someone raises this issue is not science but quackery. Only someone who has little experience of doing it could believe this. It is quite easy to rule out this explanation, since it would require that the participants are able to manipulate the glass. This requires the application of pressure on the glass. If you do it with just two people it is very obvious if either of you is applying such pressure. Even if you do it yourself inadvertently the other person will spot it.

    On one occasion, just myself and my mother present, the Bishop of Bath and Wells, this was the name the glass spelled out, came on with the message that 'the only way to eternal life is through holy communion'. Some ideomoter effect for two non-Christians. Try spelling out this message on purpose without it being perfectly obvious what you're doing. At the time I thought this message was complete nonsense. However, at the time I thought it refered to the wafer and wine ceremony, and hadn't heard of the communion of the mystics.

    On another occasion, for four days in a row, the glass claimed to be James Joyce. A few friends had been 'talking to him' for a while. When I asked to join he told me to **** off, which I felt lent some authenticity to the events. After it/he changed his mind I joined in. Usually the movement is very weak. In this case every now and again the glass would take off round the table at breakneck speed and knock all the letters onto the floor. It was a right pain in the neck continually sorting them out again. We tried many times to recreate this movement intentionally but could not do it. The glass would just tip over when pushed from the top with such vigour.

    I make no claims about what is actually happening and do not believe in supernatural occurences. I assume it is a natural phenomenon. However, imho it is about time scientists explained it since it is very easy to replicate experimentally. But all they do is chant 'ideomoter effect', as if that's the end of the matter. But I want to know the answer to this conundrum and will not accept an implausible and unproven guess.
  9. Jul 7, 2006 #8


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    Why don't you videotape one of these events, and post it on a website so that we can see what you're describing first hand?
  10. Jul 7, 2006 #9


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    Staff: Mentor

    How many times have you done this blindfolded and completely unaware of the positioning of the letters? If you get the same results without being able to see the board, then you have something worth looking into. Try it and let us know what happens.
  11. Jul 8, 2006 #10
    I haven't tried this, and anyway don't do it at all any more. It might be interesting to try, but fairly pointless. Whatever the result it would prove nothing about the ideomoteor effect. In any case, it's not my job to figure this stuff out, at least not without a research grant. I don't have a view on what is happening, other than that the ideomotor effect does not explain it. I find it hard to believe that it is possible for the dead to communicate with living, so maybe it's group telekenesis. I have no idea, but do get bored with pseudo-scientific explanations based on received opinions and a lack of research.

    There is no need for video evidence by the way, anybody can do the experiments for themselves. Sometimes one sits for a long time and nothing happens, but in my experience something happens more often than not.
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2006
  12. Jul 8, 2006 #11


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    Let's suppose that "anybody can do the experiments for themselves" and get results that are consistent with ideomotor effect as described http://skepdic.com/ideomotor.html" [Broken].
    When you say that "in my experience something happens more often than not", do you mean that something not explainable as ideomotor effect happens more often than not? If so, then video evidence of such a thing would be useful.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 2, 2017
  13. Jul 9, 2006 #12
    Why would anyone suppose this? The idea would be to prove it, not suppose it.

    I think from a video it would not be possible to tell whether the participants were cheating or unconsciously moving the glass. A live experiment with the researchers participating would be much better.

    The ideomoter effect is not an explanation for my experiences in my opinion. For a start, one would expect the ideomotorised movements of the participants to conflict with each other, not to produce lengthy and meaningful messages. I suppose there may be some sort of unifying force at work, where all these movements are somehow resolved into a group effect but this implausible to me, and there is no evidence for it that I know. How would we explain how the ideomotor effect operating independently on, say, five people, produces just one coherent sentence? We would have to assume that they all had the same sentence in mind (unconsciously) right at the beginning of the sentence. Either that, or they each adjusted the sentence independently as it unfolded. But in this latter case, most sentence would trail off into nonsense. If five people, acting independently deliberately try to cheat and create sentences on purpose nothing but havoc is the result as they all try to impose their will.

    Btw I'm not arguing that science is nonsense, rather that scientists are sometimes unprofessionally quick to ignore anomalies which cast doubt on their paradigm. Nor am I arguing that the i-effect is not the explanation for many other so called psychic or paranormal phenomena.

    Last edited: Jul 9, 2006
  14. Jul 9, 2006 #13


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    In post #7 you claimed that
    You seem to be claiming to have witnessed something that cannot be explained by the ideomotor effect nor as a voluntary act of any of the participants. I can't tell by your statement that "in my experience something happens more often than not" whether you mean something along the lines of "my wine glass claims to be James Joyce and cusses me out more often than not", or "my wine glass takes off around the table on its own more often than not". So, please answer my question: "When you say that "in my experience something happens more often than not", do you mean that something not explainable as ideomotor effect happens more often than not? If so, then video evidence of such a thing would be useful."

    That isn't why I asked you for a video. What I want to see on a video is evidence of inanimate objects moving around on their own with no possible way that any of the participants could have induced the motion either by ideomotor effect or voluntarily.
    You seem to be focused on the "my wine glass just claimed to be James Joyce and cussed me out" bit when the other bit about inanimate objects moving around on their own is what I'm focused on.
  15. Jul 10, 2006 #14
    Not exactly. I'm claiming that it has not yet been explained in this way. Perhaps it will be one day. This seems very unlikely to me, but I may be proved wrong.

    I meant that the glass starts spelling out words more often than not.

    Ah, this does not happen more often than not. It happened to my brother, who now refuses to go anywhere near wine glasses and letters. Frightened him half to death. But I only have his word for that. It's never happened to me.
  16. Jul 10, 2006 #15


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    You haven't personally witnessed any motion of an inanimate object that couldn't have been induced by the muscle contractions of one or more human beings present, right? If so, then let's suppose that any such motion of an inanimate object that you witnessed was in fact induced by the muscle contractions of one or more human beings present, ok? All that remains is to explain why the muscles of one or more human beings present were instructed by their respective central nervous system(s) to contract in the way(s) that they did, right?

    Let's agree to dismiss this claim and not consider it any further, ok?
  17. Jul 11, 2006 #16
    You're missing my point here. I feel that I've personally witnessed events that cannot be explained by supposing that the participants manipulated the glass. However, of course I cannot prove this, and would not expect a skeptic to believe it on my word alone, or anyone else's. My suggestion was that anybody who is serious about explaining this phenomenon would not simply assume it is caused by the ideomotor effect but, rather, would conduct experiments. This is often not possible with anomalous phenomenona since they are difficult to reproduce under controlled conditions. This is not the case here, since the effects are fairly easy to reproduce. Thus, we ought to have some proper data to work on, and not simply assume we know the solution. I've seen no research which shows the ideomotor effect explains what I've witnessed. All I've seen are a few papers speculating that it does.

    I think it's worth considering this claim since so many people have made it. But I agree that it makes sense to explain the less extraordinary cases first. I make no claims about the possibility of the glass moving by itself since I've never seen it happen.
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2006
  18. Jul 11, 2006 #17


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    Please answer my questions directly. If that leaves you feeling like there is something more that you want to say, then say it.

    What events have you witnessed "that cannot be explained by supposing that the participants manipulated the glass"? Why wouldn't a video show why you think these events "cannot be explained by supposing that the participants manipulated the glass"? It sounds like all of the events that you have witnessed can be explained by supposing that the participants manipulated the glass, and the only issue that remains is to know why they did this.

    Let's define "this phenomenon" first, ok? It isn't clear yet exactly what you are claiming to have witnessed, and whether or not it involves mysterious physical forces (which should be evident on a video), or just some psycho/neurological wierdness (assuming it's not just an outright hoax).

    We could consider evidence for the claim if/when we had any, but we don't have any so for now the claim is dismissed, ok?
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2006
  19. Jul 11, 2006 #18

    Sorry, but I don't want to get into a petty argument about this. I've said all I have to say, and I've already answered these questions.

  20. Jul 11, 2006 #19


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    Sorry that you feel like you're getting into a petty argument. First you said:
    and now you're cutting and running rather than face the facts of your own story.
  21. Jul 12, 2006 #20
    Oh well, I'll keep going then. The fact is that nobody has yet shown that the ideomotor effect explains the phenomonon we are discussing. When they do we'll all be happy. Until then it seems profoundly unscientific to simply assume that it does, as you seem to do. I make no assumption either way.
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