Yes, You Were Probably Moving the Ouija Board Thingy

Illustration for article titled Yes, You Were Probably Moving the Ouija Board Thingy
Image: AP

A new buzzkilling study suggests that the Ouija board is probably not summoning dead people. Slumber parties are ruined. Your gateway to the spiritual realm has closed. Your powers of divination are pure delusion. You are a muggle.


Researchers from Denmark and Germany studied forty Ouija board players, hooked them up to eye trackers, and found that while people initially have a hard time predicting where the planchette (the triangular thing) would go, over time the players will together (consciously or not) narrow down the random letters into more predictable words and phrases. They also found that in pairs, one person was able to predict the letters about as well as a single person who was deliberately moving the planchette, and that people “generally underestimate their own contribution to the joint interaction.”


Unsurprisingly, people with a low sense of agency, or, who are prone to believe that decisions are out of their control, tend to believe in Ouija magic. Combined with a BBC report from 2013 on the “ideomotor effect”–the tendency to make small, unconscious movements especially when a question is posed–this news has destroyed all of my remaining sense of childlike wonder at the great mysteries of the universe, which is now just plain ole boring-ass life.

They go on:

“It seems that meaningful responses from the Ouija board are an emergent property of interacting predictive minds that increasingly impose structure on initially random events in the sessions. While early letters in a meaningful Ouija board response appear to occur at random, meaningful word options available to the participants decrease as the response from the Ouija board unfolds. This, in turn, makes it easier for a pair of participants to collectively predict (and unconsciously construct) the responses from the Ouija board.”

Is it not possible, though, that dead people don’t have that much going on at the moment, so conversation topics are kinda limited and therefore predictable?

Food for thought.

Tarot cards are still okay.

Staff reporter, Gizmodo. wkimball @ gizmodo



That was me. I moved it. If you ever used the ouija board with me, I was jerking the oracle around slowly from letter to letter because your slumber party was annoying and that game was boring and I liked watching you freak out.