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Ouija Board in the Laboratory

Here’s an interesting piece of recent research into the the decision-making influence of the unconscious mind, that uses a parlour game believed by many to allow communication with the dead. Hélène Gauchou, a psychologist at the University of British Columbia turned to the Ouija Board as a means of ‘communicating’ with the hidden side of our mind:

To keep things simple her team has just one person with their finger on the planchette at a time. But the ideomotor effect is maximised if you believe you are not responsible for any movements – that’s why Ouija board sessions are most successful when used by a group. So the subject is told they will be using the board with a partner. The subject is blindfolded and what they don’t know is that their so-called partner removes their hands from the planchette when the experiment begins.

The technique worked, at least with 21 out of 27 volunteers tested, reports Gauchou. “The planchette does not move randomly around the board; it moves to yes or no. It seems to move almost magically. None of them felt responsible for the movement.” In fact some subjects suspected that their partner was really an actor – but they thought the actor was deliberately moving the planchette, never suspecting they themselves were the only ones touching it.

Goucher’s team has not yet used the technique to get new information about the unconscious, but they have established that it seems to work, in principle.

For an excellent history of the Ouija, see Mitch Horowitz’s article devoted to the topic in Darklore Volume 1 (Amazon US or Amazon UK), and also check out The Museum of Talking Boards website for a great collection of designs through the past century or so.

Editor
  1. Any Oija Board Experiences to share?
    Mainstream psychologist believe the ouija board only reflects the unconscious mind leaving no room for paranormal activity.

    There are numerous stories of anomalous activity during Ouija Board use and even after, from telekentic activity of moving objects, possession, etc… I’m curious if any Grail readers have any genuinue experiences they are willing to share?

    1. In many of the better
      In many of the better television shows on hauntings such as “Paranormal Witness,” “The Haunted,” “A Haunting” and some others Ouija boards are often the beginning of trouble. If there is something hanging around looking for ways to break through and get attention the Ouija board seems to open a portal. If that “thing” is of ill intent then all hell can break loose – literally.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jPT64RUAScg

      My daughter was given a Ouija Board when she was about 9 years old. I immediately banished it from the house and got her something of equal perceived fun value to replace it. An uncle of one of my in-laws had a terrifying experience with a board in the 1960’s and thought they were quite dangerous tools. The better known ghost busters such as Ed and Lorraine Warren who appear often on the TV show “Paranormal State” to deal with demonic entities that are beyond the ability of the average researcher to handle think that Ouija boards are very, very dangerous.

      1. They scare me too. I toyed
        They scare me too. I toyed with one with a friend in my twenties but quickly got rid of it. Nothing strange happened though, just didn’t want to take any chances. With the current interest by psychologist in using it to delve into patient’s uncounscious minds will be interesting to learn if any of these “skeptics” who believe only in mainstream explanations of it have their worldview shattered 🙂

    2. No room for panarnormal activity
      It’s because they can’t accept the fact that the Unconscious *is* paranormal 😉

      It’s like the use of ‘placebo effect’. Just because you label some effect doesn’t mean you can save the trouble of explaining how it works.

      1. When the “un”-conscious
        When the “un”-conscious becomes apparent in this dimension it is no longer “un.” Several “uns” interacting with each other can create energy that is greater than the sum of their parts, and that energy can sometimes be out of control and dangerous.

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