First of all let ma apologize for the delay in getting back to you I was away but my auto reply did not work. Thank you very much for highlighting me to the debate that has been taking place in the magic forum. I read it with great interest and am glad that this issue is being discussed in the magic community. I have been a magician for nearly 20 year and am very passionate about magic. At no time would I ever try to expose magic in order to undermine this wonderful art. In my work I try to use some of the principles used by magicians to investigating visual perception and other areas of cognition. I believe that these principles can be applied and investigated without destroying people's magical experiences. For example, most laymen know that magicians use misdirection, and are fully aware of the fact that magicians will try to manipulate their attention. Knowing that you will be misdirected however, does not make you immune to it. On the contrary, it is usually the people who are trying try to fight misdirection who are more easily deceived. The real power of misdirection lies in the fact that within the context of a magic performance, people can be misdirected even though they are fully aware that they are being mislead.
Whilst scientists can learn much from the principles used in magic, I believe that likewise magicians have plenty to learn from science. For example, there is much research investigating the way in which attention influences our perception, and in particular how failure in attending to certain events prevents us from perceiving them, even when we are directly looking at them. You may be interested in the phenomena of inattentional blindness which has received much scientific interest. For example, it has been shown that if people are engaged in an attentionally demanding task such as counting the number of times a group of people pass a basket ball to each other, most people fail to see a man dressed up in a gorilla suit, even though he is in full view.
You can view the video clip on the following web site (http://viscog.beckman.uiuc.edu/grafs/demos/15.html
). Similarly I have been carrying out research on misdirection, investigating some of the reasons why people fail to perceive events that happen in full view. [ Kuhn, G. & Tatler, B. W. Findlay J.M. Cole G. G. (2008). Misdirection in
magic: Implications for the relationship between eye gaze and attention.
Visual Cognition, 16(2-3), 391-405;http://www.dur.ac.uk/gustav.kuhn/papers ... al2008.pdf
. Here we have shown that where people are looking does not predict what they have seen. Please not that we used misdirection without giving away any magical secrets or techniques. None of the participants ever thought that magicians would really be that stupid to drop a cigarette in full view.
Other studies have demonstrated that if you give participants a distractor task that is perceptually different form the to-be-concealed event, people are less likely to see it. For example, in the gorilla illusion, people are less likely to detect the gorilla if they are required to pay attention to the team dressed in white than when counting the balls of the team wearing black (this will only make sense once you have seen the video clip). This finding and many others are directly related to misdirection and I think that the magic community could probably use some of these principles to improve the effectiveness of misdirection. Similarly, magicians could learn much from the phenomena of change blindness in which people often fail to see a change that occurs during a brief interruption of the scene, such as a video edit. An example of this can be seen in the following video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=voAntzB7EwE
). This effect is directly inspired by the work done by Ron Rensink and Dan Simons on Change blindness. Change blindness demonstrates that people generally fail to spot the difference between objects or even people, a discovery that could be of great importance for tricks that use substitutions. Here is another demonstration of how poor we are at detecting substitutions...http://viscog.beckman.uiuc.edu/flashmovie/10.php
Regarding the issue of exposure surrounding the vanishing ball illusion, I feel that some of the discussants have somewhat missed the point. The video clip is one stimulus that has been used in a particular study. The trick only makes sense if seen in context of the actual paper. [Kuhn, G.
& Land, M. F. (2006). There's more to magic than meets the eye! Current Biology. 16 (22), R950 http://www.dur.ac.uk/gustav.kuhn/papers ... nd2006.pdf
. The point here was not to create a "perfect" magic trick. We used a very simple trick, in which different cues could be manipulated. For example, we manipulated the magician's use of social cues to test the extent to which participants' perception of the event was influenced by where the magician was looking. With regards to exposure, I do not feel that this illusion gives away many magical secrets. For one, the illusion is performed in such a clinical and non-magical context, that people would find difficult to relate this principle to real magic performances.
Interestingly, we have found that discovering how one trick was done has virtually no effect in peoples' abilities to discover a different trick using similar principles. I therefore feel fairly confident that this illusion does not undermine the secrets of magic. Just a quick not, this illusion was first described by a fellow scientist named Norman Tripplet (Triplett, N. (1900). The psychology of conjuring deceptions.
The American Journal of Psychology, 6(4), 439-510), who used it for scientific investigations.
Again, I believe that studying visual perception and illusions can be used by both magicians and scientists can learn from each other. For example have a look at the hollow mask illusion described by Richard Gregory http://www.richardgregory.org/experiments/index.htm
Similarly, there are numerous other illusions that have been developed by scientists that could provide magicians with fantastic effects.http://illusioncontest.neuralcorrelate. ... AGE_id=150
In sum, as a scientist I believe that magic offers wonderful and unique insights into wide areas of human cognition, which could help understand important aspects of the human mind. I agree that care must be taken to conduct this research without undermining the necessary secrecy of magic. In my own research I have used very basic effects that are performed in an entirely different and specific scientific context and therefore feel that these in no way undermine magic itself. The levels of exposure used in this research are much lower than what can be read in any magic book found in bookstores or online. At the same time I would like to encourage the magic community to utilize some of the scientific findings relating to attention, illusions, memory etc. (real science, not necessarily the scientifically unfounded field of NLP), to further improve their effects and techniques.
I hope that this reply is useful.