The ideomotor response (or ideomotor reflex), often abbreviated to IMR, is a concept in hypnosis and psychological research. It is derived from the terms "ideo" (idea, or mental representation) and "motor" (muscular action). The phrase is most commonly used in reference to the process whereby a thought or mental image brings about a seemingly "reflexive" or automatic muscular reaction, often of minuscule degree, and potentially outside of the awareness of the subject. As in reflexive responses to pain, the body sometimes reacts reflexively with an ideomotor effect to ideas alone without the person consciously deciding to take action. The effects of automatic writing, dowsing, facilitated communication, and Ouija boards have been attributed to the phenomenon.
The associated term "ideo-dynamic response" (or "reflex") applies to a wider domain, and extends to the description of all bodily reactions (including ideo-motor and ideo-sensory responses) caused in a similar manner by certain ideas, e.g., the salivation often caused by imagining sucking a lemon, which is a secretory response. The notion of an ideo-dynamic response contributed to James Braid's first neuro-psychological explanation of the principle through which suggestion operated in hypnotism.
History of scientific investigation
With the rise of Spiritualism in 1840s, mediums devised and refined a variety of techniques for communicating, ostensibly, with the spirit world including table-turning and planchette writing boards (the precursor to later Ouija boards). These phenomena and devices quickly became the subject of scientific investigation.
The term Ideomotor was first used in a scientific paper discussing the means through which these spiritualistic phenomena produced effect, by William Benjamin Carpenter in 1852, hence the alternative term Carpenter effect. (Carpenter derived the word ideomotor from the components ideo, meaning "idea" or "mental representation", and motor, meaning "muscular action"). In the paper, Carpenter explained his theory that muscular movement can be independent of conscious desires or emotions.
Carpenter was a friend and collaborator of James Braid, the founder of modern hypnotism. Braid soon adopted Carpenter's ideo-motor terminology, to facilitate the transmission of his most fundamental views, based upon those of his teacher, the philosopher Thomas Brown, that the efficacy of hypnotic suggestion was contingent upon the subject's concentration upon a single (thus, "dominant") idea. In 1855, Braid explained his decision to abandon his earlier term "mono-ideo-motor", based on Carpenter's (1852) "ideo-motor principle", and adopt the more appropriate and more descriptive term "mono-ideo-dynamic". His decision was based upon suggestions made to Carpenter (in 1854) by their friend in common, Daniel Noble, that the activity that Carpenter was describing would be more accurately understood in its wider applications (viz., wider than pendulums and ouija boards) if it were to denominated the "ideo-dynamic principle":
In order that I may do full justice to two esteemed friends, I beg to state, in connection with this term monoideo-dynamics, that, several years ago, Dr. W. B. Carpenter introduced the term ideo-motor to characterise the reflex or automatic muscular motions which arise merely from ideas associated with motion existing in the mind, without any conscious effort of volition. In 1853, in referring to this term, Daniel Noble said, "Ideo-dynamic would probably constitute a phraseology more appropriate, as applicable to a wider range of phenomena." In this opinion I quite concurred, because I was well aware that an idea could arrest as well as excite motion automatically, not only in the muscles of voluntary motion, but also as regards the condition of every other function of the body. I have, therefore, adopted the term monoideo-dynamics, as still more comprehensive and characteristic as regards the true mental relations which subsist during all dynamic changes which take place, in every other function of the body, as well as in the muscles of voluntary motion.
Scientific tests by the English scientist Michael Faraday, Manchester surgeon James Braid, the French chemist Michel Eugène Chevreul, and the American psychologists William James and Ray Hyman have demonstrated that many phenomena attributed to spiritual or paranormal forces, or to mysterious "energies", are actually due to ideomotor action. Furthermore, these tests demonstrate that "honest, intelligent people can unconsciously engage in muscular activity that is consistent with their expectations". They also show that suggestions that can guide behavior can be given by subtle clues (Hyman 1977).
Some operators claim to use ideomotor responses to communicate with a subject's "unconscious mind" using a system of physical signals (such as finger movements) for the unconscious mind to indicate "yes", "no", "I don't know", or "I'm not ready to know that consciously".
A simple experiment to demonstrate the ideomotor effect is to allow a hand-held pendulum to hover over a sheet of paper. The paper has keywords such as YES, NO and MAYBE printed on it. Small movements in the hand, in response to questions, can cause the pendulum to move towards key words on the paper. This technique has been used for experiments in extrasensory perception, lie detection, and ouija boards. This type of experiment was used by Kreskin and has also been used by illusionists such as Derren Brown.
Responding to questions
It is strongly associated with the practice of analytical hypnotherapy based on "uncovering techniques" such as Watkins' "Affect Bridge", whereby a subject's "yes", "no", "I don't know", or "I don't want to answer" responses to an operator's questions are indicated by physical movements rather than verbal signals; and are produced per medium of a pre-determined (between operator and subject) and pre-calibrated set of responses.
- Adaptive unconscious
- Alien hand syndrome
- Automatic writing – In modern spiritualism: writing produced involuntarily
- Bicameralism (psychology) – Hypothesis in psychology
- Body language
- Divided consciousness
- Dual consciousness
- Facilitated communication – Discredited communication technique in disabled care
- Illusions of self-motion – A phenomenon where one feels their body is moving when no movement is taking place
- Left-brain interpreter
- Proprioception – Sense of the relative position of one's own body parts and strength of effort employed in movement
- Unconscious communication – Unconscious verbal and nonverbal cues
- Unconscious mind
- Shin, Yun Kyoung. "A review of contemporary ideomotor theory". PsycNET. American Psychological Association. Retrieved 5 April 2015.
- Heap, Michael. (2002). Ideomotor Effect (the Ouija Board Effect). In Michael Shermer. The Skeptic Encyclopedia of Pseudoscience. ABC-CLIO. pp. 127-129. ISBN 1-57607-654-7
- Andersen, Marc; Nielbo, Kristoffer L.; Schjoedt, Uffe; Pfeiffer, Thies; Roepstorff, Andreas; Sørensen, Jesper (2018-07-17). "Predictive minds in Ouija board sessions". Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences. doi:10.1007/s11097-018-9585-8. ISSN 1572-8676.
- Planchette; or, The Despair of Science. Boston: Roberts Brothers. 1869. pp. 1–20. Retrieved 2014-02-18.
- Anderson, John Henry (1885). The Fashionable Science of Parlour Magic. p. 85. Retrieved 2015-02-18.
- William Benjamin Carpenter (March 12, 1852). "On the influence of Suggestion in Modifying and directing Muscular Movement, independently of Volition". Retrieved 2010-02-27.
- Noble (1854), Lecture III, p.642.
- Braid, (1855), footnote at p.10.
- See, for example, Braid's letter to Michael Faraday (22 August 1853).
- Ray Hyman (1999). "The Mischief-Making of Ideomotor Action" (reproduced on web as How People Are Fooled by Ideomotor Action). The Scientific Review of Alternative Medicine (Fall–Winter). Retrieved 2006-09-07.
- Cheek (1962).
- http://www.1stingames.com/rules/kreskinsesp/index.pdf see how kreskin used this pendulum
- Brown, Derren. (2007). Tricks of the Mind. Transworld Publishers. p. 48. ISBN 978-1905026357
- Watkins, (January 1971).
- LeCron, (1954).
- Anderson, J.W., "Defensive Maneuvers In Two Incidents Involving The Chevreul Pendulum: A Clinical Note", International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, Vol.XXV, No.1, (1977), pp. 4–6.
- Braid, J., "Mysterious Table Moving", The Manchester Examiner and Times, Vol.5, No.469, (Saturday, 30 April 1853), p. 5, col.B.
- Braid, J., Hypnotic Therapeutics, Illustrated by Cases: With an Appendix on Table-Moving and Spirit-Rapping. Reprinted from the Monthly Journal of Medical Science for July 1853, Murray and Gibbs, (Edinburgh), 1853.
- Braid, J., "Letter to Michael Faraday on the phenomenon of "Table Turning" [written on 22 August 1853]", reprinted at pp.560-561 of James, F.A.J.L., The Correspondence of Michael Faraday, Volume 4: January 1849 - October 1855, Institution of Electrical Engineers, (London), 1999.
- Braid, J., The Physiology of Fascination, and the Critics Criticised, John Murray, (Manchester), 1855.
- Carpenter, W.B., "On the Influence of Suggestion in Modifying and directing Muscular Movement, independently of Volition", Royal Institution of Great Britain, (Proceedings), 1852, (12 March 1852), pp. 147–153.
- Carroll, R.T., "Ideomotor effect". The Skeptic's Dictionary. 2003. ISBN 0-471-27242-6
- Cheek, D.B., "Some Applications of Hypnosis and Ideomotor Questioning Methods for Analysis and Therapy in Medicine", American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, Vol.5, No.2, (October 1962), pp. 92–104.
- Cheuvrel. Michel E., De la Baguette Divinatoire et du Pendule Dit Explorateur (On the Divining Rod and the So-called Exploratory Pendulum), Maillet-Bachelier, Paris, 1854.
- Easton, Randolph D.; Shor, Ronald E. (1976). "An Experimental Analysis of the Chevreul Pendulum Illusion". The Journal of General Psychology. 95 (1st Half): 111–25. doi:10.1080/00221309.1976.9710871. PMID 956790.
- Easton, Randolph D.; Shor, Ronald E. (1977). "Augmented and Delayed Feedback in the Chevreul Pendulum Illusion". The Journal of General Psychology. 97 (2): 167–177. doi:10.1080/00221309.1977.9920835. PMID 28136225.
- Easton, Randolph D.; Shor, Ronald E. (1975). "Information processing analysis of the Chevreul pendulum illusion". Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance. 1 (3): 231. CiteSeerX 10.1.1.299.3848. doi:10.1037/0096-15184.108.40.206.
- Erickson, Milton H. (1961). "Historical Note on the Hand Levitation and other Ideomotor Techniques". American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis. 3 (3): 196–199. doi:10.1080/00029157.1961.10701715.
- Faraday, M., "Experimental Investigation of Table-Moving", Athenaeum, No.1340, (July 1853), pp. 801–803.
- Faraday, M., "Table-Turning", The Times, No.21468, (30 June 1853), p. 8.
- Le Baron, George I. (1962). "Ideomotor Signalling in Brief Psychotherapy". American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis. 5 (2): 81–91. doi:10.1080/00029157.1962.10402270.
- LeCron, L., "A Hypnotic Technique for Uncovering Unconscious Material", Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, Vol.II, No.1, (January 1954), pp. 76–79. doi=10.10.1080/00207145408409936
- Montgomery, Guy; Kirsch, Irving (1996). "The Effects of Subject Arm Position and Initial Experience on Chevreul Pendulum Responses". American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis. 38 (3): 185–90. doi:10.1080/00029157.1996.10403336. PMID 8712161.
- Noble, D., "Three Lectures on the Correlation of Psychology and Physiology: I. General Remarks on the Physiology of the Brain and Nervous System, etc.", Association Medical Journal, Vol.3, No.79, (7 July 1854), p.586-588; "II. Of Emotional Sensibility, and its Reactions", No.80, (14 July 1854), p.615-616; "III. On Ideas, and Their Dynamic Influence ", No.81, (21 July 1854), p.642-646.
- Randi, J., "Ideomotor effect". An Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural. 1995. ISBN 0-312-15119-5
- Reed, H. B. (1914). "Ideo-Motor Action". The Journal of Philosophy, Psychology and Scientific Methods. 11 (18): 477–91. doi:10.2307/2013141. JSTOR 2013141.
- Shenefelt, Philip D., "Ideomotor Signaling: From Divining Spiritual Messages to Discerning Subconscious Answers during Hypnosis and Hypnoanalysis, a Historical Perspective", American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, Vol.53, No.3, (January 2011), pp.157-167.
- Spitz, H.H. & Marcuard, Y., "Chevreul's Report on the Mysterious Oscillations of the Hand-Held Pendulum: A French Chemist's 1833 Open Letter to Ampère", The Skeptical Inquirer, (July/August 2001) Vol.25, No.4, pp. 35–39.
- Stock, Armin; Stock, Claudia (2004). "A short history of ideo-motor action". Psychological Research. 68 (2–3): 176–88. doi:10.1007/s00426-003-0154-5. PMID 14685855.
- Sudduth, W.X., "Suggestion as an Ideo-Dynamic Force", pp. 255–262 in Anon, Bulletin of the Medico-Legal Congress: Held at the Federal Building in the City of New York, September 4, 5th, and 6th, 1895, Medico-Legal Journal for Medico-Legal Society, (New York), 1895.
- Watkins, J.G., "The Affect Bridge: A Hypnoanalytic Technique", The International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, Vol.19, No.1, (January 1971), pp. 21–27. doi=10.1080/00207147108407148
- Yeates, L.B., James Braid: Surgeon, Gentleman Scientist, and Hypnotist, Ph.D. Dissertation, School of History and Philosophy of Science, Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences, University of New South Wales, January 2013.