Do you believe in dowsing or the magic of Ouija boards?
I don’t want to be a downer but the magic in both comes from… you. In both, the spooky effect of mysterious movement is explained by a natural behavior called the ideomotor effect. This term was coined by William B. Carpenter in 1852 in his explanation for why the rods, pendulums, or sticks move during a dowsing demonstration. The participant is not even aware that ever so slight muscle movements cause the precariously held rods or easily influenced pendulum or planchette (on the Ouija board) to move. Here’s a video explanation with dowsing rods.
Dowsing has been REPEATEDLY tested scientifically to see if it was some real sensory ability. It failed. It is clearly a result of the ideomotor effect. If you see or suspect how to react, you will react. If you are blind to the outcome, you will not react correctly.
This article by Barrett Dorko explains how the ideomotor effect is rarely discussed but easily demonstrated. Because it’s hard to accept that we are unintentionally influencing whatever is in our hands, we are easily fooled into thinking some amazing power is at play – the “spirits” are moving the planchette or the “energy” is guiding the rods to react.
Professor Chris French describes in this piece how a glorified dowsing rod was used as a bomb detector. (It was fake and as a result, people certainly died.) In facilitated communication, where the disabled are said to communicate through the hands of a helper, the ideomotor effect was behind false hopes that caused great tragedy. Such tragedy could have been prevented had observers been diligently aware of this indisputable explanation.
The test for the effect is easy – blind the person doing the moving so that they can not see the target(s). They will miss all the time. They need the visual cues for the effect to work. That is conclusive evidence that there’s no magic.
There are scores of people who insist dowsing and Ouija and facilitated communication is real. But hopeful belief does not make it true. There is a perfectly demonstrable and natural explanation for such things. It’s not practical or at all reasonable to invoke a mysterious other force.
The ideomotor effect is something EVERYONE should be aware of.
More indepth info:
- How People Are Fooled by Ideomotor Action – Ray Hyman
- Dowsing | Doubtful News
- Yes, no, goodbye: The ouija board used for spirit communication – JREF