Implicit Cognition: The Ideo Project

Ideomotor effects are actions that are not perceived as intentional, but seem to emerge with no identifiable source; often associated with a sense of involuntariness. They are unconscious movements that happen in response to knowledge or information that you may have come across in the past. A few applications of this ideomotor effect are the ouija board and the hand-held pendulum. A number of research has explored its potential, including research from our own lab. 

This project is currently conducting two studies to explore implicit cognition and ideomotor effects: Ouija, and the Swan Protocol. The goal of this project is to test if a device based on the use of the ideomotor effect could bypass explicit cognition, and access/study implicit cognition.




  • The Ouija board has been used as a divination technique; it has been used to find answers to questions through putting your hands on the planchette and letting it guide your hands to the letters/words on the board.
  • Who is really behind the movements of the planchette? Can this phenomenon be explained by psychology?
  • This could be explained by ideomotor effects, and in this study we will compare the differences between conscious and unconscious knowledge. Using the ouija board as a medium, we investigate whether your unconscious mind knows more than your conscious mind.

Swan Protocol

  • The Swan technique was developed by Bob Burns, and it was a tool to access unconscious knowledge. This is done through communicating to the hand, and the hand may even produce some unconscious movements in response– making it seem like it has a mind of its own. 
  • However, this is not to be confused with hypnosis; there is no hypnosis involved.
  • Similarly to Ouija, we are hoping that we will be able to communicate with the unconscious using this technique and further explore the capabilities of implicit cognition.
  • We are currently in the pilot phase of this project and running participants.


Why this project?

We are looking for co-pilots to join the team! The Ideo Project is investigating implicit cognition and whether we can bypass explicit cognition through the use of different devices. If you are interested in getting involved in research and the process that goes behind a study, this could be the project for you.

  • This project covers different aspects that could be explored by a student as part of a research project:
    • Studying what type of thoughts can be expressed through ideomotor actions (e.g. implicit memory, implicit perception).
  • Flexibility to choose/work on whichever sub project.
  • Ability to explore how developing a study looks like, and being able to contribute to a newer project.
  • Learning valuable hard and soft skills that comes with taking part in becoming a researcher and completing analysis.


If you are interested in becoming part of the team, please go here and follow the steps as directed:



Relevant papers:

Expression of nonconscious knowledge via ideomotor actions