UBC research project uses Ouija boards to answer questions about the mind


Okay, let's just get this out of the way ... Ouija boards are, to put it politely, hokem.

However, whereas Ouija boards are not mystical conduits to the spirit world, it seems they are useful for picking through our unconscious minds — perhaps to see what kind of information we might retain during our daily lives without actually realizing it, and how we might put that information to use.

According to researchers at the University of British Columbia's Visual Cognition Lab, the idea for this project arose from questions about what's known as highway hypnosis:

The commute becomes so familiar to the driver that they can 'zone out' while still, somehow, being an effective driver. Dr. Rensink [the lab's principle investigator] reflected that he had entered a 'zombie-like' mindset and had totally disengaged from the events at hand, leaving some other force — an inner, nonconscious 'zombie' — with complete and autonomous control over the very complicated task of driving.

Highway hypnosis isn't the only situation where this 'zombie-like' mindset comes into play. They also give examples of athletes (such as a hockey goalie) who can perform well during the game when they aren't putting too much thought into the situation, but who's performance can suffer if they start to focus too much on the task at hand.

This is where Ouija boards come into the picture. Since these toys are famous for taking advantage of our unconscious thoughts, knowledge and movements (mostly just to freak people out), the researchers decided to put them to use, to see just what they can do to help us learn about our minds.

This led to the Inner Intelligence Project, which is led by Dr. Helene Gauchou:

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This crowdfunded research has been going on for a few years now, and it's very interesting to see the results they've had so far — showing that guessing answers to questions (usually giving a 50 per cent chance of being right) actually yielded a roughly 65 per cent accuracy when participants answered questions using the Ouija board.

As the researchers said on their website: "Regardless of what we believe about ourselves, our subconscious is smarter than our conscious mind, showing that we are all, in fact, smarter then we think."

(Photo courtesy: Martin Dee/Sarah Mae Worden/UBC)

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