How do magicians trick your brain?
DO NOT READ IF YOU WANT TO REMAIN AMAZED BY MAGIC
Do you sometimes wonder how a magician can make a ball vanish right before your eyes when he snaps his fingers. You understand how objects behave and know from experience that items cannot just vanish into thin air, yet this is precisely what you experience.
Well, first off, it's worth saying that no rules of physics have been broken.
While some magicians would have you think that they have actual magical supernatural abilities, the ultimate key to magic resides in smart psychological strategies that take advantage of limitations in the way our minds operate. Many of the techniques that magicians use are highly illogical, which is why we may feel the mystical wonder of the impossible.
Magicians are also masters at manipulating the subtleties of human perception, attention, and consciousness, which is why a good friend of mine often says:
"Even if you know the secrets, we'll fool you anyway!"
Take a look at the video below and you'll see that you're probably fooled every single time.
It's also worth noting that magic is one of the oldest art forms, and magicians have confounded and thrilled their audiences by performing impossible illusions since written records started. While most of their tricks are kept secret, scientists have begun to research magic to acquire insights into how and why our minds are so readily tricked. We'll look at just a few of those techniques in this article.
MAGICAL TECHNIQUES TO TRICK YOUR BRAIN
Let's start with the fundamentals. Our most trusted sense, vision, shapes many of our ideas and actions. Indeed, vision is so vital that we sometimes say things like, "I won't believe it until I see it." However, it turns out that our visual experiences are significantly less dependable than we believe. It is quite simple to alter your perceptual experience. As a quick example, in the Müller-Lyer illusion shown below, for example, the top line seems shorter than the bottom line, even though they are precisely the same length.
Change blindness is another concept that magicians use to create their magic. It's the idea that some things that might seem obvious and in plain view aren't noticed, if there is a short pause between the scenes. Take a look at the below video for a great example of this technique in action.
PREDICTING THE FUTURE
We are frequently startled by how illusions fool us, but it turns out that all our vision is an illusion. Whether we're strolling down the street or trying to figure out the newest card trick, we innately believe that our eyes simply capture accurate representations of the environment. However, our visual experience is the product of complicated neural processes that make educated guesses about how the world works, and what might happen next. And, as with all forecasts, they are seldom entirely accurate. This leads to blunders, which magicians have learned to master and exploit.
This is actually a bit of a misconception. If you think about it, magic only happens if at the end of it you can say, I didn't look away. If the magician just made you look away by waving his hands around, or organising for a stack of plates to be dropped on the other side of the room, then you would say that something shifty happened. When magicians talk about misdirection, what we actually mean is direction. Making sure you are watching the whole time, so that you can be sure you saw everything. That not only makes sense magically, but also it helps to improve your experience of the entertainment.
You might have heard of sleight of hand. This is most often used in close up magic where the magician moves the cards, coins, or other small objects very quickly. Sometimes so quickly that the human eye can't perceive it. Remember what I wrote earlier about the limits of our vision. You may have heard of the expression, "the hand is quicker than the eye." Just be careful though as all professional magicians are good at handling props, due to the fact they do it all the time. That doesn't necessarily mean they are using sleight of hand.
As the saying goes:
"Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive."
Magicians use a variety of techniques in order to trick you. When I'm performing there are always some people who want to try to figure it out, which is fine, it's part of the fun! Just don't forget that the other option is to realise that some things in life aren't meant to be discovered. There's something special about not-knowing the answers to everything.
Do you agree? Are you someone who has to know, or do you prefer to maintain some mystery in your life?
Either way, magic is great entertainment for a wide range of events and celebrations. In fact, the biggest secret of magic, is that it's not about the tricks but about the shared moments you have with friends and family. The style that I perform in is very conversational. I get to know your guests and through my magic, help to create stories you'll be telling for years to come.
Find out more about me and my approach to magic here.
For our Anniversary Dinner, our president asked for a memorable, magical stage show, and that’s what we got! It was totally mystifying and just what we wanted. Ed was easy to deal with and professional from the first enquiry to the end of the show.
Roger Coopey, Coventry
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