BBC has just become a major buzzkill for anyone who’s ever used a Ouija Board and thought they were communicating with the dead. Actually, they just did the reporting; recently deceased psychologist, Daniel Wegner, describes in his book The Illusion of Conscious Will describes that we are the ones making the movements even though we don’t realize we’re doing it. Bummer.
This is called the ideomotor effect which is when we unconsciously make motions. For example, when using a Ouija board or dowsing rods. The article cites a technique that’s akin to what many pregnant women do to learn the gender of their baby. The woman dangles a weighted string (preferably with your wedding ring) over their belly and depending on if the string moves in a circle or back-and-forth, this determines if you’re having a boy of a girl.
The phenomenon, known as Chevreul's Pendulum, after the 19th Century French scientist who investigated it, however, says that you are the one dictating the movement. So yeah, it’s not supernatural forces, just your mind pushing it in the direction you (probably) want it. My second son was supposed to be a girl according to the string...ahem, me.
But what about when you’re working the Ouija Board with more than one person and the planchette moves to spell out a message? This is referred to in the article as “facilitated communication” and is described as “a fad whereby carers believed they could help severely disabled children communicate by guiding their fingers around a keyboard. Research showed that the carers – completely innocently – were typing the messages themselves, rather than interpreting movements from their charges.”
This is obviously a controversial topic because many folks in the paranormal field, especially psychics, have had experiences with the Ouija Board where sometimes amazing messages are received, sort of cool things are learned, or nothing happens at all. How can the “nothingness” be explained if we sit down at the board with the intention that something will happen? Or might there be no intention at the time?
If anything, the article calls attention to the potency of our unconscious and the magic it’s capable of doing. And don't we all need a little magic in our lives? Science is a wonderful thing but it can't explain away everything, every time.