Predictive minds in Ouija board sessions

Article published in Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences

2018.07.30 | Anne-Mette Pedersen


Ouija board sessions are illustrious examples of how subjective feelings of control – the Sense of Agency (SoA) - can be manipulated in real life settings. We present findings from a field experiment at a paranormal conference, where Ouija enthusiasts were equipped with eye trackers while using the Ouija board. Our results show that participants have a significantly lower probability at visually predicting letters in a Ouija board session compared to a condition in which they are instructed to deliberately spell out words with the Ouija board planchette. Our results also show  that Ouija board believers report lower SoA compared to sceptic participants. These results support previous research which claim that low sense of agency is caused by a combination of retrospective inference and an inhibition of predictive processes. Our results show that users in Ouija board sessions become increasingly better at predicting letters as responses unfold over time, and that meaningful responses from the Ouija board can only be accounted for when considering interactions that goes on at the participant pair level. These results suggest that meaningful responses from the Ouija board may be an emergent property of interacting and predicting minds that increasingly impose structure on initially random events in Ouija sessions.


Marc Andersen, Kristoffer L. Nielbo, Uffe Schjoedt, Thies Pfeiffer, Andreas Roepstorff, Jesper Sørensen (2018).  Predictive minds in Ouija board sessions. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences, pp 1-12


Postdoc Marc Andersen, IMC