Zombies, Ouija, and the Ideomotor Effect: When Implicit Cognition Turns Explicit

Helene Gauchou, Ronald A Rensink, and Sidney Fels.


Abstracts of the Association for the Scientific Study of Consciousness [ASSC 16, Brighton, England.  June 2010].



Ideomotor actions are movements or behaviours that are unconsciously initiated, usually without an accompanying sense of conscious control. The question investigated here is whether ideomotor actions can also express implicit long-term semantic memory, which is not available to conscious recall. We compared accuracy of answers to yes / no questions using two response modalities: volitional report and ideomotor response (Ouija board response). Results showed that when participants believed they knew the answer, responses in the two modalities were similar. But when they believed they were guessing, accuracy fell to chance for volitional report (50%), but remained significantly higher for Ouija response (65%). These results suggest that implicit semantic memory can be expressed through ideomotor actions, possibly via a nonconscious "zombie" system that can express itself via motor control when conscious override has been removed. We examine several control conditions that rule out several possible alternative explanations.  Finally, we discuss the extent to which this approach could form the basis of a new methodology for studying implicit processes in perception and cognition.


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