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Magic in Mind
August 5, 2008 9:20 PM   Subscribe

How magicians control your mind. "Magic isn't just a bag of tricks - it's a finely-tuned technology for shaping what we see. Now researchers are extracting its lessons (PDF)." [Via BB and MH]
posted by homunculus (34 comments total) 35 users marked this as a favorite

 
Magic Tricks Reveal Inner Workings of the Brain
posted by homunculus at 9:57 PM on August 5, 2008


Somewhat relevant - the latest episode of The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe podcast has a very interesting interview with the mentalist Banachek, where he goes into detail about being able to keep up the facade of genuine supernatural abilities in a "scientific setting" for over four years.
posted by Donnie VandenBos at 10:01 PM on August 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


I wasn't manipulated into clicking that link. It was my own free will, I swear.

RickyJayRickyJayRickyJay!!!

That banishes just about all bad magic.
posted by Clave at 10:11 PM on August 5, 2008


This is very interesting.

It's understandable how skeptics have long embraced the input of magicians; most famously in the case of James Randi himself. Proponents of various "fringe" belief systems, like UFO's or Bigfoot are fond of trying to reverse the burden of proof back onto the skeptics. "But how do you account for all the people who say they saw UFO's/Bigfoot"?

Indeed, as someone who was personally involved in elements of Bigfoot skepticism, it must be admitted that skeptics have not provided a strong answer to the question of "if there is no Bigfoot, then what is it that people are seeing and/or experiencing"?

I think this research is particularly useful for attempting to answer this kind of question. The answer seems to be a combination of expectation, conceptual filling-in-the-gaps, spatial perception, false memory, and a variety of other processes that we are only beginning to study.
posted by Tube at 10:36 PM on August 5, 2008


Huh. I was was literally just now working on a magazine article about dead-simple magic tricks even little kids can do (it's actually way better than it sounds, these are some great tricks that pretty much work themselves). In a "how to be a great magician" sidebar, I wrote a line about how the best magicians are also great actors, and then I deleted the line because although it felt true, I couldn't think of any respected acting magicians beyond Steve Martin. This research seems to back the notion up.
posted by Camofrog at 10:58 PM on August 5, 2008


This is exactly why I killed Doug Henning.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:11 PM on August 5, 2008 [4 favorites]


Magic as summarized by Jerry Seinfeld: Here's a quarter, now it's gone, you're a jerk.
posted by longsleeves at 11:27 PM on August 5, 2008


This is exactly why Astro Zombie killed me.
posted by humannaire at 11:44 PM on August 5, 2008


I couldn't think of any respected acting magicians beyond Steve Martin.

Harry Anderson, Ricky Jay.
posted by ten pounds of inedita at 12:10 AM on August 6, 2008


I couldn't think of any respected acting magicians beyond Steve Martin.

Neil Patrick Harris
posted by Knappster at 12:23 AM on August 6, 2008


it must be admitted that skeptics have not provided a strong answer to the question of "if there is no Bigfoot, then what is it that people are seeing and/or experiencing"?

My hypothesis is that people have a habit of repeating what others say. I would ask if these individuals saw Bigfoot before or after others reported seeing Bigfoot.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:29 AM on August 6, 2008


"But how do you account for all the people who say they saw UFO's/Bigfoot"?

The same way you account for all the people mistaken for deer and shot by hunters.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 12:49 AM on August 6, 2008


"But how do you account for all the people who say they saw UFO's/Bigfoot"?

The same way you account for all the people mistaken for deer and shot by hunters.


If you listen to the facts and take the official story with the grain of salt that it deserves, you will realize that they probably were, as a matter of fact, deer.
posted by Sticherbeast at 1:24 AM on August 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


I couldn't think of any respected acting magicians beyond Steve Martin.

Penn Jillette (He does appear in a few roles, Fear And Loating in Las Vegas is one of them.)
posted by JHarris at 1:26 AM on August 6, 2008


Oh, and:

How magicians control your mind.

For starters, they use second person.
posted by JHarris at 1:28 AM on August 6, 2008


"But how do you account for all the people who say they saw UFO's/Bigfoot"?

Kooks. Each and every one of them.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 1:44 AM on August 6, 2008


This is exactly why I killed Doug Henning.

Fun fact: he went to the same high school I did. (Several years earlier than yours truly, I hasten to add.)
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 1:51 AM on August 6, 2008


Blah blah blah. Reality is spontaneous, and unique to each of us.
posted by humannaire at 2:01 AM on August 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


Reality is spontaneous, and unique to each of us.

It's true! The Jews were responsible for 9/11, Iraq really did have weapons of Mass Destruction and George Bush has been a wonderful president.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 4:01 AM on August 6, 2008


PeterMcDermott, if I didn't know you liked girls, I'd propose marriage.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 4:16 AM on August 6, 2008


"But how do you account for all the people who say they saw UFO's/Bigfoot"?

The same way you account for all the people who say astrology works for them.

Chance, poor controls and just plain dumb.
posted by DU at 4:16 AM on August 6, 2008


Excellent read thank you!
posted by NikolaTesla at 5:22 AM on August 6, 2008


I've never understood why magicians don't rule the world, given their unique skills.
The magician can further influence future recollection by describing past events in a manner that will bias the reconstruction process. This is known in cognitive science as the 'misinformation effect' — that is, the tendency for misleading information presented after the event to reduce one's memory accuracy for the original event. This effect can even lead to the creation of a 'false memory' for events that never took place.
Oh, shit.
posted by Ritchie at 5:24 AM on August 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


Very interesting read. I wonder if lawyers will tap this info to debunk eyewitness reports?
posted by HappyHippo at 5:52 AM on August 6, 2008


I couldn't think of any respected acting magicians beyond Steve Martin.
James Randi
posted by SPUTNIK at 6:23 AM on August 6, 2008


"But how do you account for all the people who say they saw UFO's/Bigfoot"?

Not Bigfoot, or UFOs per se, but a lot of alien abduction/visitation reports involve sleep paralysis, night terrors, etc. Every once in a while I get the sleep paralysis, and had one once that was very much "Aliens invading my bedroom." Very weird, even knowing what's going on.

Applicable to both UFOs and Bigfoot, before the UFO meme these experiences would be interpreted as ghosts, demons, and witches. The stories people hear influence their jumps to conclusion about ambiguous or puzzling experiences.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 6:23 AM on August 6, 2008


Good article.

Best line to take out of context: "The collaboration between science and magic is still young"
posted by vernondalhart at 7:40 AM on August 6, 2008


Magic Is Afoot: Alan Moore discusses with Arthur Magazine his views of the Arts and the Occult. (Alan Moore previously on MeFi.)
posted by christopherious at 8:51 AM on August 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


From the article: "Our picture of the world...is a form of intelligent hallucination."

Chris Angel Mindfreak makes a lot more sense to me now.
posted by Curry at 3:57 PM on August 6, 2008


I couldn't think of any respected acting magicians beyond Steve Martin.


Orson Welles!
posted by johnasdf at 7:17 AM on August 7, 2008


I've never understood why magicians don't rule the world, given their unique skills.
What makes you think they don't?
posted by fantabulous timewaster at 11:35 AM on August 7, 2008


But how do you account for all the people who say they saw UFO's/Bigfoot?

The same way you account for all the people mistaken for deer and shot by hunters.


Yep. Now that the film's been stabilized, you can totally tell it's him.

... deer, quail ... whatever.
posted by eritain at 6:54 PM on August 7, 2008


A local DC Progressive Magician

One of his tricks includes taking soap and wonderbread, making a wonderbread/soap shaving sandwich and eats it. He them puts a plastic bag over his head and throws up the sandwich.

He also had people sculpting wonderbread once. He really isn't a magician anymore, but he started off in that genre
posted by Suparnova at 8:33 PM on August 7, 2008


Report: spies need to stay on top of neuroscience research
posted by homunculus at 9:48 AM on August 14, 2008


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