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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.
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. 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". 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.
- Applied kinesiology
- Automatic behavior
- Ideo motor response
- Pendulum use by dowsers
- Pendulum use by mystics
- Rom Houben
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- Randi, J., "Ideomotor effect". An Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural. 1995. ISBN 0-312-15119-5
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- 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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