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The ideomotor effect is a psychological phenomenon wherein a subject makes motions unconsciously. As in reflexive responses to pain, the body sometimes reacts reflexively to ideas alone without the person consciously deciding to take action. For instance, tears are produced by the body unconsciously in reaction to powerful emotions. Automatic writing, dowsing, facilitated communication, and Ouija boards have also been attributed to the effect of this phenomenon. Mystics have often attributed this motion to paranormal or supernatural force. Many subjects are unconvinced that their actions are originating solely from within themselves.

History[edit | edit source]

The term was first used in a scientific paper discussing the means through which the Ouija board produced its results, by William Benjamin Carpenter in 1852.[1] In the paper, Carpenter explained his theory that muscular movement can be independent of conscious desires or emotions.

Scientific tests by the English scientist Michael Faraday, the French chemist Michel Eugène Chevreul, and the American psychologists William James and Ray Hyman have demonstrated that many phenomena attributed to spiritual or paranormal forces, or to mysterious "energies," are actually due to ideomotor action. Furthermore, these tests demonstrate that "honest, intelligent people can unconsciously engage in muscular activity that is consistent with their expectations".[2] They also show that suggestions that can guide behavior can be given by subtle clues (Hyman 1977).

Some alternative medicine practitioners claim they can use the ideomotor effect to communicate with a patient's unconsciousness using a system of physical signals (such as finger movements) for the unconscious mind to indicate "yes", "no" or "I'm not ready to know that consciously".

A simple experiment to demonstrate the Ideomotor effect is to allow a hand-held pendulum to hover over a sheet of paper. The paper has keywords such as YES, NO and MAYBE printed it. Small movements in the hand, in response to questions, can cause the pendulum to move towards key words on the paper. This technique has been used for experiments in ESP, lie detection and ouija boards. The validity of these experiments has not been proven. This type of experiment was popularised by Kreskin [ref. needed] and has also been used by magicians such as Derren Brown to test the hypnotic suggestability of audience volunteers that are called onto the stage.

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

External links[edit | edit source]

  • Anderson, J.W., "Defensive Maneuvers In Two Incidents Involving The Chevreul Pendulum: A Clinical Note", International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, Vol.XXV, No.1, (1977), pp.4-6.
  • Carpenter, W.B., "On the Influence of Suggestion in Modifying and directing Muscular Movement, independently of Volition", [1]Royal Institution of Great Britain, (Proceedings), 1852, (12 March 1852), pp.147-153.
  • Carroll, R.T., "Ideomotor effect". The Skeptic's Dictionary. 2003. ISBN 0-471-27242-6
  • Cheek, D.B., "Some Applications of Hypnosis and Ideomotor Questioning Methods for Analysis and Therapy in Medicine", American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, Vol.5, No.2, (October 1962), pp.92-104.
  • Cheuvrel. Michel E., De la Baguette Divinatoire et du Pendule Dit Explorateur (On the Divining Rod and the So-called Exploratory Pendulum), Maillet-Bachelier, Paris, 1854.
  • Easton, R.D. & Shor, R.E., "An Experimental Analysis of the Chevreul Pendulum Illusion", The Journal of General Psychology, Vol.95, (July 1976), pp.111-125.
  • Easton, R.D. & Shor, R.E., "Augmented and Delayed Feedback in the Chevreul Pendulum Illusion", The Journal of General Psychology, Vol.97, (October 1977), pp.167-177.
  • Easton, R.D. & Shor, R.E., "Information Processing Analysis of the Chevreul Pendulum Illusion", Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, Vol.1, No.3, (August 1975), pp.231-236.
  • Erickson, M.H., "Historical Note on the Hand Levitation and Other Ideomotor Techniques", The American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, Vol.3, January 1961, pp.196–199.
  • Faraday, M., "Experimental Investigation of Table-Moving", Athenaeum, No.1340, (July 1853), pp.801-803.
  • Faraday, M., "Table-Turning", The Times, No.21468, (30 June 1853), p.8.
  • Le Baron, G.I., "Ideomotor Signalling in Brief Psychotherapy", American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, Vol.5, No.2, (October 1962), pp.81-91.
  • Montgomery, G. & Kirsch, I., "The Effects of Subject Arm Position and Initial Experience on Chevreul Pendulum Responses", The American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, Vol.38, No. 3 (January 1996), pp.185-190.
  • Randi, J., "Ideomotor effect". An Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural. 1995. ISBN 0-312-15119-5
  • Reed, H.B., "Ideo-Motor Action", The Journal of Philosophy, Psychology and Scientific Methods, Vol.11, No.18, (27 August 1914), pp.477-491.
  • Spitz, H.H. & Marcuard, Y., "Chevreul's Report on the Mysterious Oscillations of the Hand-Held Pendulum: A French Chemist's 1833 Open Letter to Ampère", The Skeptical Inquirer, (July/August 2001) Vol.25, No.4, pp.35-39.
  • Stock, A. & Stock, C., "A Short History of Ideo-Motor Action", Psychological Research, Vol.68, Nos.2-3, (April 2004), pp.176-188.
  • Sudduth, W.X., "Suggestion as an Ideo-Dynamic Force", pp.255-262 in Anon, Bulletin of the Medico-Legal Congress: Held at the Federal Building in the City of New York, September 4, 5th, and 6th, 1895, Medico-Legal Journal for Medico-Legal Society, (New York), 1895.
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