New Scientist on how the occult device allows people to provide information they didn’t know they knew:
Believers think [Ouija board answers] come through from the spirit world. In fact, evidence points to the cause being the ideomotor effect, small muscle movements we generate unconsciously.
Take driving your car along a familiar route while planning your day. On arrival, you realise you were not in conscious control of the car, it was your “inner zombie”, said Hélène Gauchou at the Association for the Scientific Study of Consciousness conference in Brighton, UK, this week. “How can we communicate with that unconscious intelligence?”
Gauchou’s team’s approach is to turn to the Ouija board. They asked subjects to answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to general knowledge questions using the Ouija board, and also asked them to answer the same questions using the more orthodox method of typing on a computer. Participants were also asked whether they knew the answer or were just guessing.
When using the computer, if the subjects said they didn’t know the answer to a question, they got it right about half the time, as would be expected by chance. But when using the Ouija, they got those questions right 65 per cent of the time – suggesting they had a subconscious inkling of the right answer and the Ouija allowed that hunch to be expressed.