Being Human 2012

The Science of Human Experience

Palace of Fine Arts / San Francisco, CA March 24, 2012 9am - 5:30pm

The Neuroscience of Magic

Posted on Wednesday, February 29, 2012 at 11:31AM

Human perception is a tricky thing; we don't seem to see quite as clearly as we think we do. Neuroscientists have been arguing this for ages, but long before the MRI was invented, magicians understood and exploited the imperfect process of how our senses take in information. In a new article in Smithsonian Magazine, world-renowned stage magician Teller (of Penn and Teller fame) shares how he uses our flawed perception to astound and amaze.

His principles are:

1. Exploit pattern recognition. 2. Make the secret a lot more trouble than the trick seems worth. 3. It’s hard to think critically if you’re laughing. 4. Keep the trickery outside the frame. 5. To fool the mind, combine at least two tricks. 6. Nothing fools you better than the lie you tell yourself. 7. If you are given a choice, you believe you have acted freely.

He then explains how he incorporates these principles into a trick. When you read the explanation of how the trick is done, it seems glaringly obvious, yet it would certainly fool you in person. Our brains are not perfect perceivers, and they can be easily misled. If we can be fooled by magic tricks, just think about how often real life fools us, when we're not even looking for the secret compartment or rigged deck.

Read the full article here


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