If you buy only one magazine this month ...

Discussions of new films, books, television shows, and media indirectly related to magic and magicians. For example, there may be a book on mnemonics or theatrical technique we should know or at least know about.

Postby McKitterick » 11/23/08 05:00 PM

... it will of course be Genii.

If you go for a second, you might want to pick up the December Scientific American with an article Magic and the Brain: How Magicians "Trick" the Mind.

For the time being, it's available online: http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?id=magic-and-the-brain
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 11/24/08 11:59 AM

A few words from a muggle that gets what it's all about
Kim Silverman at 02:08 PM on 11/18/08
The underlying assumption of this is that the point of magic, the whole purpose, is to trick people. That is like saying the whole purpose of a dance is to move your muscles in challenging ways without losing balance, or that the purpose of singing is to vibrate your vocal chords at precisely-controlled frequencies. It is an absolutely integral requirement, but it sort of misses the point. The point is to give the observer an emotional experience of transcendent mystery, a feeling of wonder and joy. At the same time magic has deep and important subtexts: it illustrates that things are not always what they seem, that there are things we can experience without understanding them, that we can be deceived without being aware of it, that things which seem irretrievably broken can be restored, that problems which seem to have no solution can nevertheless be solved, that life is full of surprises.

I have the highest respect for neuroscience: I have a PhD in related field (Cognitive Science). However, while experimental scenarios which capture and replicate some of the simple perceptual phenomena exploited by magicians are a fruitful way for neuroscientists to get more funding and publish more papers, they unfortunately miss the greater point. Tricks defraud the onlooker. Magic shares teh experience of mystery. Tricks are about the props. Magic is about life.


same link - third comment down
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Postby Tom Frame » 11/24/08 01:27 PM

Thanks for the article, McKitterick. Good stuff!
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Postby McKitterick » 11/25/08 07:45 PM

I don't think that Silverman's comment is quite right. I'd argue that the "underlying assumption" of the Scientific American article is not that "the point of magic, the whole purpose, is to trick people". But rather that, whatever magic's point might be, tricking people ... or to use the language of the article, creating a cognitive illusion ... is one of the key methods used by magicians.

By investigating how they do so, neuroscientists aim to better understand the workings of the mind. Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on your point of view, Scientists will have little interest in maintaining the mystery of magic. And I don't think they should be expected to either - after all "exposure" isn't a bad word in their vocabulary.

As for those of us who have an interest in tricking people as a way of achieving the experience of magic, I'm not sure these studies will have that much of an impact: Understanding that the mind can be deceived and how it can be deceived doesn't prevent it from actually being deceived ... it just might make it a bit trickier.

Closing thought: A frequent presentation in card magic in the previous century was the Magician vs. the Gambler. Perhaps in this century it will be replaced by the Magician vs. the Neuroscientist. ; - )
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 11/26/08 09:40 AM

McKitterick - what Ms Silverman got and some here may have missed is the clear distinction between tricks and magic.
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Postby McKitterick » 11/26/08 11:44 PM

Jonathan Townsend wrote:McKitterick - what Ms Silverman got and some here may have missed is the clear distinction between tricks and magic.


Hello, Jonathan.

It seems to me that tricks are a part of magic ... definitely not all that there is to magic but an essential part of it ... so perhaps that's why I may have missed the "clear distinction" between the two.

The opening sentence of Henning Nelms' Magic and Showmanship makes the point better than I have:

"Drama and conjuring are both arts of illusion." (emphases added)

Drama, being the presentation, and conjuring, being the performance of the trick, are both necessary for the illusion, or magic, to occur. (Perhaps the source of our disagreement is the negative baggage that is often associated with the word "trick" so feel free to replace it with "effect" if that makes a difference. Personally, I'm fine with "trick".) If you take away either the drama or the conjuring, what you're left with is most likely not magic.

Back to the article I referenced in the original post, remember that it's not trying to explain magic but rather to use one part of magic - the "tricking" part - to explain, or at least to better scientifically understand, the workings of the mind. I think that's a compliment to individuals such as yourself who have created effects based on your magical understandings of the mind.
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 11/27/08 09:23 PM

IMHO trickery is a base tool used in conjuring in about the same way a hammer is a base tool used in carpentry.

The notion of text having will, intent and being able to attempt something as regards a reader is new to me - and seems a good idea as part of a premise for a dramatic presentation.
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Postby Tom Frame » 11/29/08 01:22 PM

McKitterrick and everyone else. This is an intriguing topic, which I continue to ponder. I'm a shrink, I can't help it!

To exemplify my obsession with these matters, I offer the following trick, which is not perceptually experienced as a trick by your participant, unless the favorable outcome is manifest.

Enjoy,

Tom


PSYBOARDS

This is my method and presentation of Dai Vernons Mental Force, Expert Card Technique (Hugard & Braue, 1940). I had never even considered performing Vernons effect, because it is simply not foolproof, and I have no desire to crash and burn in front of an audience. My interest in the effect was rekindled by David Acers Five Card Mental Farce from Random Acts of Magic (Acer, 2004).

The creative juices started flowing. I wiped myself off and developed this handling, which cannot fail, because its not a trick. This experiment first appeared on The Second Deal web site on 4/12/05. It then appeared in Josh Jays Talk About Tricks column in Magic magazine in September, 2005. It is also included in Joshs Talk About Tricks DVD set.


EFFECT: The performer briefly displays a fan of five cards to the participant and asks her to mentally select one of them. She does so. The participant announces her selection, and with no moves whatsoever, the performer hands her the cards and asks her to examine them. She melts as she discovers that her selection is the only odd-back card!


SET-UP: From the face: Blue-back Five of Spades, Jack of Diamonds, (red-back) Eight of Hearts, blue-back Ace of Clubs and Two of Diamonds. Place this packet in your shirt or front pant pocket.


PRESENTATION: I developed this effect for lay folk. Remember them? To maximize your chances of blowing the participants mind, whilst eliminating all of your anxiety about the effect failing, you frame it (so to speak) as a mere experiment.

Its not a magic trick. You simply love everything about cards. And youre fascinated by why certain people choose certain cards. Youre merely gathering participatory, perceptual card data. This is pure research.

Dont use this effect as part of your magic show. In fact, when you perform this effect, you shouldnt even have a deck of cards on your person. You want to eliminate the
possibility of outs from your participants mind.

Invite an eager female to participate in the experiment.

This is merely an experiment. Its not a trick, so dont get your hopes up. I simply love everything about cards. I love their feel, their smell. I love the fact that they can be an important source of fiber in any sensible dietary plan.

I am particularly intrigued by the psychological processes that cause people to choose the cards that they choose. I have spent a disturbing amount of time examining many decks of cards in my search for five special cards. Five cards that are projective in nature. Cards that people feel drawn to for some reason. I want to know why these cards speak to them.

Remove the packet from your pocket and place it face-down in your left hand.

Im going to briefly show you the cards and I want you to mentally select one. Ive provided you with a nice variety of suits and values, so let your unconscious be your guide. Mentally select one card. Dont say its name. Just focus on it, and dont change your mind. Ready? Here we go.

With your palm-down right hand, grasp the inner left corner of the packet, first and second finger on top and thumb beneath. Turn the packet face-up as you fan the cards. Display the cards for no more than four seconds, then square the cards face-down into your left hand.

Got one? Good. What card did you mentally select?

She names the Eight of Hearts. This moment will fill your heart with joy! You will feel tempted to jump up and down and scream with delight whilst high-fiving yourself! Remain calm.

So, why did you select that particular card?

Listen to what she says. Ask questions. This approach is crucial to fostering the purely experimental feel of the trick. Remember, your participant is not aware that this is a trick. Much of the time, she will report that she just kinda, sorta felt drawn to the Eight, or that it was the only card that she saw.

Sometimes, you will hear fascinating anecdotes about how she chose the Eight of Hearts because the Eight and/or Heart are symbolic to her in some way.


I vividly recall how crazy Uncle Ferd would insist that I wear size 8H shoes whenever we got together in the tool-shed.

This is important information. Work it!


Hand her the packet and ask her to examine the cards. In many cases, your participant will flip the packet face-up and examine the faces of the cards. This is another delightful moment. She sees nothing out of the ordinary about the faces of the cards. She is unwittingly setting herself up for the climax.

Check out the backs of the cards.

She turns them over and discovers that her mental selection is the only odd-backed card of the bunch!


THE PSYCHOLOGY: Ive performed this effect dozens of times for individual lay folk. It has never failed. In March 2005, I tested it on magicians at The Second Deal convention in Atlanta. They were happily fried.

The effects success can be attributed to the cards that Ive employed and my presentation. Let me walk you through an explanation of why the other cards wont be chosen.

The bookends: The 2D and 5S. Your participant will not select these cards for the same reason that they dont choose the top or bottom cards of a full deck when you spread it before them and ask them to pick a card, any card. Those cards are just too obvious, and too handy for you.

Additionally, the 2D is the lowest card. Its lowly stature causes it to stand out in your participants mind. Its too obvious. She doesnt want to feel manipulated, so she rejects it.

The 5S is the is the only odd-value card. Lay folk dont consider Aces as 1 and Jacks as 11. Perceptually, the 5S feels well, odd and creepy. She must pass it by.

The Ace is just too damned powerful, period. Layfolk will dodge that bullet.

The JD is the only court card. The only card with a face. Anthropomorphism prevails. Your participant will resist her urge to get sucked into that face.

Which brings us to our hero, the 8H. It will be chosen because its the middle card, because its value is in the middle range, and because it is a Heart.


Due to the fact that you only display the packet briefly, your participant feels some anxiety. She wants to be a good experimental subject by adhering to your instructions regarding her mental selection. And she also wants to relax.

When she sees the cards, she will quickly scan them and eliminate the bookends. She will devote nanoseconds to eliminating the AC and JD. Then she will find comfort and solace by choosing the 8H.


RUMINATIONS: I have the utmost respect for the Professors work and his contributions to our Art. I believe that his handling of this effect brought him success much of the time, based upon the force of his personality. But that was over 60 years ago. Time passes. People change.

Vernons method and presentation of this potentially wondrous effect are no longer viable. He dealt the cards face-up on the table. This is gives your participant too much time to ponder the cards. You dont want to give her the opportunity to change her mind.

Then he launched into his psycho-babble about why the participant may potentially choose or reject a particular card. This approach feels manipulative to the participant, and she doesnt like to feel manipulated. Thus, she will try to psych-out the performer, by going against her instincts and choosing a card that means nothing to her.

What started out as a harmless trick has now become a contest. And the participant is determined to win. This adversarial vibe significantly decreases the likelihood that the effect will succeed.

My handling and presentation of the effect arouses no anxiety or suspicion in the heart and mind of your participant. Its not even a trick. Its pure research. Thus, it cannot fail.

In the unlikely event that your participant doesnt name the 8H, stick to the script. Ask her why she chose that card. Talk to her. Join with her. Then put the cards away and get on with your life.

But boy, when your participant names the 8H and discovers its uniqueness, SHE will feel great! And ultimately, that is our goal, isnt it?
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Postby McKitterick » 11/30/08 07:44 AM

Tom Frame wrote:... I have no desire to crash and burn in front of an audience.


I can identify with that. ; - )

Thanks for sharing the trick, Tom.

Of course presenting a card trick as an experiment may lead others to present an experiment as a card trick ... something like this: http://www.quirkology.com/USA/Video_Col ... rick.shtml
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Postby Irving Quant » 11/30/08 03:11 PM

Tom, I can't help to notice that this trick fits perfectly with you being a psycho therapist. Do you use your psychology background to sort of lay a foundation for this trick as well as your interest in cards? (which is in the presentation already)
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Postby David Scollnik » 11/30/08 07:41 PM

Tom Frame wrote:Then he launched into his psycho-babble about why the participant may potentially choose or reject a particular card. This approach feels manipulative to the participant, and she doesnt like to feel manipulated. Thus, she will try to psych-out the performer, by going against her instincts and choosing a card that means nothing to her.

What started out as a harmless trick has now become a contest. And the participant is determined to win. This adversarial vibe significantly decreases the likelihood that the effect will succeed.

Didn't Vernon recommend just the opposite, i.e. framing it as a contest arguing that that increased the chance of success? I seem to recall hearing that somewhere, on the Revelations tapes perhaps.
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Postby Tom Frame » 12/02/08 10:16 AM

Irving Quant wrote:Tom, I can't help to notice that this trick fits perfectly with you being a psycho therapist. Do you use your psychology background to sort of lay a foundation for this trick as well as your interest in cards? (which is in the presentation already)


Irv,

Yes, I often mention that I'm a therapist and thus quite interested in why people think, feel, behave, and perceive the world in the ways that they do. I also assure the crowd that magic doesn't happen in the magician's hands or his props, but in their minds. This provides a smooth, hopefully intriguing intro.
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Postby Tom Frame » 12/02/08 01:37 PM

[/quote] Didn't Vernon recommend just the opposite, i.e. framing it as a contest arguing that that increased the chance of success? I seem to recall hearing that somewhere, on the Revelations tapes perhaps. [/quote]

David,

I dont have the Revelations tape, so I cant comment on what Vernon may have said. But here is his patter from Expert Card Technique.

I have chosen five cards at random and I want you to mentally select just one of them. You have an unrestricted choice and you must not think that I am trying to influence you in any way.

Here is an ace, occupying the central position; you may think of it, and again you may not. Perhaps you think I had a motive in placing just one black card amongst the five. This might influence your choice, or again it might not.


At any rate, look over the five cards carefully, as long as you wish, but rest assured that whatever card you definitely decide upon I shall presently place face down upon your hand and, when you yourself are holding the card, I shall ask you to name your card. Even when the card is on your hand you have the privilege of changing your mind; still the card will be the one you have mentally selected.

This is the type of manipulative/adversarial tone that I sought to eliminate. I dont want my participant to feel that they are in a contest, or are being challenged. I want them to feel that they are merely participating in a stress-free experiment, where there are no winners or losers. And I especially dont want to telegraph the climax.

In Vernons version, if the effect didn't work, he was sunk. Or he had to do some fancy footwork to bring the trick to a reasonably successful conclusion.

In my version, if the effect doesnt work, there was never an intended effect to begin with.

Tom
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Postby Irving Quant » 12/02/08 10:19 PM

In my opinion, Tom's presentation is better than Vernon's for another reason than what he states. Tom's version is a lot more direct. Why would you go explaining what the audience already can figure out? What is so difficult to understand in "look at one of them" that requires further explanation?
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 12/02/08 11:09 PM

Tom, what's your hit rate on their thinking of the eight of hearts?
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Postby PapaG » 12/03/08 09:40 AM

Off the top of my head I seem to recall that that was Michael Ammar or Gary Ouellete's' patter not Vernon's and that they were duly admonished by Vernon for giving the game away by using the psychological workings of the trick as it's actual presentation. I might be wrong though.
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Postby Tom Frame » 12/03/08 10:20 AM

Jonathan Townsend wrote:Tom, what's your hit rate on their thinking of the eight of hearts?


After hundreds of trials over the years, I'd say 90%.
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