The Ideomotor Effect

So it’s been a while, after a much needed break from the usual para-drama that follows being in the position that I am, I’m ready to start writing again.

So let’s look at the Ideomotor effect some may recognise what this is, others will recognise it in its more popular paranormal uses like the Ouija board or the human pendulum among many others,

The Ideomotor effect can be known by a few names such as ‘the ideomotor reflex’ or ‘response’ and even ‘the carpenter effect’ after William Benjamin Carpenter who first coined the phrase back in 1852, the effect is the brains subconscious ability to perform sometimes subtle motor functions usually without the knowledge of the individual performing the task

The effect creates the illusion that the object/individual is moving without consciously wanting to although subconsciously that would be the most expected outcome in the situation.

For example – an individual using dowsing rods to discover water or a crystal/mineral of sorts (either hidden by somebody or naturally occurring), will subconsciously manipulate the rods to direct to an area where the individual would expect to find it, this is usually based on personal knowledge or experience (not a conscious act or personal decision, the rods direction will be guided subconsciously by the ideomotor effect).


Now if the individual was to be blind folded the ideomotor effect cannot be utilised to full effect by the subconscious, when this is tested the chances of an individual finding the subject becomes the same as chance.


See the below video of Chris French testing Dowsers in this exact situation:

Why is this important for investigators to understand?

Well as many investigators are aware this response is common place within the paranormal community, in all fairness it was the actions of the spiritual community back in the day that brought forward the scientific research into the effect.

It can be witnessed through the use of Ouija boards, pendulums (including the human pendulum), dowsing rods, ghost writing (paper and pen scrying) and most other forms of communication involving an individual or group within the paranormal field.

This is just as, if not more effective in a group situation take the Ouija board for example:

An individual in a group using a Ouija board may want to communicate with a relative that has passed, that individual will hold that information within their subconscious thoughts even when they ‘believe’ they aren’t, once the planchette begins movement on the table the ideomotor effect kicks in giving the illusion that the planchette is moving on its own.

Each member of the group attempts to keep their finger(s) on the planchette some can even take them off and put them back on with minimal effect on the movement.


As one individual subconsciously assumes they know what the answer to the question is and the ideomotor reflex will lead them toward the letter or word (this movement is not huge and not noticeable to the individual)


This in turn leads the rest of the group to subconsciously assume the correct answer and the effect is magnified and the planchette moves to the seemingly correct letter or word.


Now given this effect, the individuals using the board all have varying viewpoints in regards to what the board is doing, some may believe it is an evil thing as suggested regularly in popular media, others may believe it is a portal to ‘the otherside’ and will enable them to contact the deceased, others may see it as fun or even dangerous this gives way to an array of ‘personalities’ coming through to communicate.

On top of this the location in which the board is being played can adjust what is communicated, individuals can be manipulated subconsciously by their own surroundings, is it taking place in an old spooky house, is it the comfort of their own living room, is it in an old castle, are the aesthetics of the location obvious or are people aware of the history of the location.

This can give way to any communication the individuals can imagine for example:


If an individual / group fear the board they may end up communicating with a demon or a nasty individual

If an individual / group are desperate to communicate with a loved one they may be able to communicate with them (and indeed know all the things that no one else does)

If an individual / group are doing it for fun they may communicate with a person that none of the group know but they can have a full conversation


Then on top of the above add the aesthetics of the location:


An old castle – you could communicate with Knights, slaves, archers, chamber maids and all of them could have died in battles, from disease, murder or imprisonment / punishment.


An old mansion – You could communicate with lairds or ladies, house servants, soldiers or children that could have died from disease, murder or suicide.


This list can go on as far as my imagination could take me, the reason I chose these 2 is because they are pretty obvious, a castle naturally brings up thoughts of knights and battles etc, an old mansion makes you think of important/rich individuals which naturally comes with house help / servants and children growing up in the grounds but would not be the scene of a battle but could be the scene of a murder or suicide due to a love affair or unsupervised accident.


We are creative beings and our subconscious uses this as often as possible in order to gauge what is happening in any given situation, the ideomotor effect is just a physical show of that creativity.

We are in effect giving our subconscious a voice.


The Ouija board is a complicated way to understand the power of the ideomotor effect but it is one of the best to witness/experience as it is able to communicate clearly through the use of words.


Add in a little Confirmation Bias and you have a recipe for a belief changing experience!

ParaRationalise will soon be conducting an in-depth investigation into the Ideomotor effect in the paranormal – look out for updates on the Facebook page over the coming months