Tech UPTechnologyIs the Ouija moving? This is how science explains...

Is the Ouija moving? This is how science explains it

Frominvention in the late 19th century, the Ouija board has become a hallmark of popular culture. Some may have felt ‘tormented’ during their childhood, but some people continue their enthusiasm well into adulthood. The appeal of a device that is supposed to help us contact the dead is undeniable.

However, what if there was a simple scientific explanation about how it “works”? A team of researchers led by Marc Andersen from the University of Aarhus (Denmark) set out todemystify the Ouija experience once and for all.

Using eye-tracking devices and data analysis, the experts examined the behavior of40 experienced Ouija board usersat a conference in the same field. The results were published in the journalPhenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences.

The participants were equipped witheye tracking devicesso researchers could study their largely unconscious predictive eye movements.

As the scientists explain, the feeling that one has control over one’s actions arises primarily from the brain’s ability to predict “the sensory consequences of an action, and then compare this prediction with the actual one. When the prediction and the consequence coincide, the result is the feeling of“hey, I did that”.

 

Andersen and his team examined the eye movements of the participants under two different conditions: the “voluntary action condition” and the “Ouija conditioning.”

In the first experiment, the participants, working in pairs, were asked to deliberately move the table to spell the word “Baltimore” or to mark “Yes” and “No”, respectively. In the Ouija experiment, participants were asked to use the board as they normally would.

Then, they analyzed the recordings of the participants’ eye movements. In analyzing the data, they examined individual and peer-level eye movements.

In addition, the researchers gave participants questionnaires about how strongly they believed in the “abilities” of the Ouija board, as well as their general level of religiosity and spirituality.

A Ouija user always predicts the letters

As expected, analysis of the data revealed that the participants performed more predictive eye movements in the voluntary condition than in the usual case. Given the underlying mechanisms of a sense of control over one’s actions, participants reported feeling much less in control with the Ouija board experiment than when they voluntarily moved it.

However, when the researchers looked at whether at least one participant in each pair performed a predictive eye movement, they found some interesting results.

“When we analyzed the situation at the peer level, we saw that Ouija-conditioned couples on average predict the letters of significant responses just as isolated individuals do when they deliberately spell responses in the ‘voluntary action condition,'” the authors explain. .

“In other words, a pair moving the Ouija board in a predominantly non-deliberate way collectively predicts letters , just as a person seen in isolation is moving the board on purpose.”

By using the Ouija board on a regular basis, at least one participant knew where the board was headed.

“Our study suggests that successful Ouija sessions are critically dependent on joint action.” Thus, the “creepy” or “paranormal” feeling that Ouija boards induce is due to the fact that participants take turns predicting the next letter or move.

Furthermore, “it appears that participants generally underestimate their own contribution to joint interaction.”

Finally, in addition to the joint predictive effort and underestimation of the movements themselves , the belief in the abilities of the Ouija board also added to the “spooky” feel. Participants who thought the Ouija board could facilitate communication with spirits were more likely to report that the board had moved on its own.

Reference: Predictive minds in Ouija board sessions. Marc Andersen, Kristoffer L. Nielbo, Uffe Schjoedt, Thies Pfeiffer, Andreas Roepstorff, Jesper Sørensen. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11097-018-9585-8

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