Otherworldly Words: ideomotor effect

April Fools’ Day is long gone, but I’m still exploring words about trickery throughout the month.

The ideomotor effect fits the bill. This term offers a scientific explanation, a Scully if you will, for such phenomenon as moves a Ouija board. (Other than a cheesy GIF.) Basically, the effect suggests that mental expectation involuntarily influences motor action. That is, when someone swears that he wasn’t moving the planchette on the Ouija, he truly may not realize that he was.

Originally coined “ideomotor action” in 1852 by William B. Carpenter, the phenomenon has been used to explain such happenings as table levitation during a seance.

While the term seems to dismiss the spectral, I enjoy the possibilities it opens about the power of the human mind. Just the suggestion of one or the expectation of another can cause us to involuntarily levitate a table or drag a plancette across a lettered board. How otherworldly!

Learn more: http://www.barrettdorko.com/articles/ideomotor.htm

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