Alec Nevala-Lee

Thoughts on art, creativity, and the writing life.

Archive for December 3rd, 2016

The logic of the ouija board

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Ouija board

The fact that ouija board automatism is more likely with groups than with individuals is significant in itself. Even if we assume that some proportion of the people in groups are actually cheating, there still seems to be a much greater likelihood of successful automatism in these social settings. [William James] observed that in the case of automatic writing, “two persons can often make a planchette or bare pencils write automatically when neither can succeed alone.” This is, of course, a usual feature of the experience of table turning and tilting as well…

When people work the ouija planchette together, for instance, or sit at a table to make the table turn, they may find that their slight movements combine with the other person’s movements, sometimes producing stillness but other times yielding new misdirected movements or amplifications as well. This is compounded when, as the co-actors make these minute and unconscious adjustments for each other, they don’t know just what part of the action they personally have created. With this obscured monitoring, the group performs a mystery dance, a collective automatism that occurs when no one has conscious and specific knowledge of what self or others are doing.

Daniel M. Wegner, The Illusion of Conscious Will

Written by nevalalee

December 3, 2016 at 7:30 am

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