The Mythical Tricks of Magic Meet Psychology

November 27th, 2010 § 3 comments § permalink

Scientific American Mind recently came out with a wonderful article on the use of magic in psychology. In it, they break down some tricks magicians and con artists use to manipulate your mind.

One of my favorite things learned was something I’ll coin TTTNTTSBT. Or, the thing that’s not there that should be there. Basically, the TTTNTTSBT illusion plays with your nerve endings and your touch feedback. A magician in the video (at the end of this post) pushes a coin against the subject’s forehead, then quickly pulls the coin away without her observation. The implant of the nerves on the forehead, tricked by the pressure, still believe that the coin is there, and thus the subject believes the coin is there as well.

The TTTNTTSBT also works for pickpocketing watches: putting casual pressure on the skin above the watch will give the sensation that the watch is still there even after one takes it. But one simply can’t take a watch without distraction first. And that’s the next thing the video explains.

The video explains how as humans, we use what are called mirror neurons to watch what others are paying attention to and pay attention to that instead of what we should be paying attention to. This is classic misdirection, and magicians constantly do this, pretending to pay careful attention to things that they want the audience to pay attention to.

Humor is also used as a distraction, as well as banter, or a constant stream of speech intended to draw the subject’s attention to what you are saying. But the most helpful distraction tip was simply throwing as many things as possible as the subject, to overwhelm their senses. In the clip, the pickpocket is constantly touching the subject in different places, firing up the nerves to get used to this attention grabber, and eventually taking away the attention from the slight brush in the wallet pocket.

Buy the book, Slights of Mind, referenced to in the video and support Lone Iguana.

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David Blaine: How I held my breath for 17 min [Talk]

January 25th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

It’s worth noting that Neatorama had this sound advice on atempting anything like this:

Unlike conventional modern “magic,” what was involved in the underwater breathhold was not special effects or hidden technology.  Instead, Blaine prepared using a combination of hypoxic tent training to increase his hematocrit, preloading with 100% oxygen, meditation to decrease his oxygen consumption, and hyperventilation to delay his hypercapnic response.

As a useful reference point, his 17-minute breathhold time is almost the same length as this 20-minute TED talk.  It’s also worth noting here as an addendum that the hyperventilation (“purging”) he describes should not be attempted by amateurs to increase underwater breathhold time while swimming or diving.  The technique does allow a longer breathhold, but does not provide additional oxygen, so novices can become disoriented from hypoxia and drown.

[TED Talk David Blaine: How I held my breath for 17 min]

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