Expression of nonconscious knowledge via ideomotor actions

Conscious Cogn. 2012 Jun;21(2):976-82. doi: 10.1016/j.concog.2012.01.016. Epub 2012 Feb 28.


Ideomotor actions are behaviours that are unconsciously initiated and express a thought rather than a response to a sensory stimulus. The question examined here is whether ideomotor actions can also express nonconscious knowledge. We investigated this via the use of implicit long-term semantic memory, which is not available to conscious recall. We compared accuracy of answers to yes/no questions using both volitional report and ideomotor response (Ouija board response). Results show that when participants believed they knew the answer, responses in the two modalities were similar. But when they believed they were guessing, accuracy was at chance for volitional report (50%), but significantly higher for Ouija response (65%). These results indicate that implicit semantic memory can be expressed through ideomotor actions. They also suggest that this approach can provide an interesting new methodology for studying implicit processes in cognition.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Games, Experimental
  • Humans
  • Motor Activity*
  • Psychological Theory
  • Unconscious, Psychology*