Canadian researchers have come up with an unconventional technique for investigating the unconscious using a Ouija board—a wooden board marked with the words “yes” and “no.”
The University of British Columbia (UBC) team hopes to apply what they learn to make things like planes, cars, and objects in the home more intuitive and safer to use.
“Most people think they have complete control of their minds, but they are wrong,” said study co-author Ron Rensink in a press release. “The truth is, we perform thousands of unconscious mental and physical tasks every day.”
Rensink gives driving as the perfect example: “In many cases, we are navigating through dangerous situations, thinking only about what we want for dinner,” he explained. “We get home and often remember very little about the trip.”
The researchers found that people gave more accurate responses when guessing the answers to questions with a Ouija board (65 percent) versus answering verbally (50 percent). In contrast, when participants thought they knew the answer, both response types had almost equal accuracy.
“These surprising findings suggest we have a powerful ‘second intelligence’ resting beyond our conscious minds that can be accessed under the right conditions,” said study co-author Hélène Gauchou in the release.
“We may believe we don’t know an answer consciously, but actually have the answer right there in our subconscious. Maybe we heard it on the radio, but weren’t really paying attention.”
The study may have triggered the ideomotor effect whereby small muscle movements are generated unconsciously, as happens during driving for instance.
The team is refining this technique to develop a faster response using a computerized version of the Ouija board.
Their findings were published the journal Consciousness and Cognition in June.
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