Do teenagers still play with ouija set ups? In my family, we never owned the board that was marketed as a sort of game, but once or twice someone (I think my sister) set up an upturned glass and letters of the alphabet on pieces of paper on a table and we tried it with no memorable result. It was also set up in high school by girls a couple of times, if I remember correctly. The feeling of how the glass moves is odd: you usually cannot quite tell whether anyone else is deliberating pushing it, and you feel certain that you are not doing it yourself. The sort of hesitant way it can initially move, before zooming off with some (apparent) determination to an answer is all part of the illusion that something otherworldly might be happening.
The question of whether it is really being subconsciously moved by one or more participants should have been researched before by now, I would have thought (well, maybe it is such an obvious explanation - especially given the rubbish information that ouija sessions usually deliver - that no one has ever bothered before); but in any event I liked this elegant experiment that does appear to confirm the subconscious is tricking the conscious:
Gauchou's approach is to turn to the Ouija board. To keep things simple her team has just one person with their finger on the planchette at a time. But the ideomotor effect is maximised if you believe you are not responsible for any movements - that's why Ouija board sessions are most successful when used by a group. So the subject is told they will be using the board with a partner. The subject is blindfolded and what they don't know is that their so-called partner removes their hands from the planchette when the experiment begins.What a clever bit of research.
The technique worked, at least with 21 out of 27 volunteers tested, reports Gauchou. "The planchette does not move randomly around the board; it moves to yes or no. It seems to move almost magically. None of them felt responsible for the movement." In fact some subjects suspected that their partner was really an actor - but they thought the actor was deliberately moving the planchette, never suspecting they themselves were the only ones touching it.Goucher's team has not yet used the technique to get new information about the unconscious, but they have established that it seems to work, in principle. They asked subjects to answer 'yes' or 'no' to general knowledge questions using the Ouija board, and also asked them to answer the same questions using the more orthodox method of typing on a computer (unblindfolded). Participants were also asked whether they knew the answer or were just guessing.When using the computer, if the subjects said they didn't know the answer to a question, they got it right about half the time, as would be expected by chance. But when using the Ouija, they got those questions right 65 per cent of the time - suggesting they had a subconscious inkling of the right answer and the Ouija allowed that hunch to be expressed (Consciousness and Cognition, DOI: 10.1016/j.concog.2012.01.016).