Misdirection and the Mind

Discuss your favorite platform magic and illusions.

Postby spike » 03/30/09 04:59 PM

I am an amateur magician specializing almost exclusively in card magic. My day gig is teaching medical students, and I need some advice for a lecture I am giving about consciousness and the brain. One of the important issues in cogntive neuroscience is the difference between peripheral and central consciousness. Basically, central consciousness represents what I am focusing on at the moment, and peripheral consciousness is about everything else that I'm missing because my focus is elsewhere. Sound familiar?

I'd like to give a demonstration of this principle using magic and misdirection. I can think of several ways to do this with a deck of cards, but I'm afraid that the class is too large (~260 students in the auditorium) to appreciate a tiny deck of cards. That's why I'm turning to those of you who do stage magic.

Can you suggest a simple and amusing magic stunt that shows - and exposes - how easily we can be misdirected? I don't want to spill the beans on a deep secret of magic, but there must be some primitive examples of misdirection that would be both illustrative and entertaining.

I'd appreciate any of your sage advice.

Spike
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 03/30/09 05:02 PM

Have them recite the pledge of allegiance
Then ask them what sort of government we have.
Listen to them say "democracy"
Then ask them to recite it again.
Ask again

see - no cards or props required.
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Reason: and if you want to hear some rationalizations...
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Postby DrDanny » 03/30/09 05:26 PM

Not exactly magic, but http://www.viscog.com/ has some rather famous film clips that demonstrate something related: "Inattentive blindness." The first example that comes to mind is the famous "basketball gorilla" film. Viewers are asked to count the number of times a group of basketball players pass the ball, and nearly all of them fail to see the gorilla that crosses the floor amidst the players.

Also not exactly free, either.
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Postby spike » 03/30/09 05:34 PM

Great suggestion. The basketball gorilla film is a killer. I love it, and I'll probably use it. But I thought that a live performance, maybe with one of the students acting as a spectator, would be even more captivating. But I don't have a good idea what to actually perform.

I'm open to suggestions.
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Postby Tom Stone » 03/30/09 05:44 PM

spike wrote:I'd like to give a demonstration of this principle using magic and misdirection. I can think of several ways to do this with a deck of cards, but I'm afraid that the class is too large (~260 students in the auditorium) to appreciate a tiny deck of cards.

I think it can work with a deck of cards.
Close off the seats at the back, to pack them up front.

Card under glass/ashtray.
Card on forehead
Thought transmittor (egg-beater)
... that's a couple of card effects that can be used in an auditorium.
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Postby Luigi Anzivino » 03/30/09 06:59 PM

How about the very old bit where you instruct everyone to follow your lead and cross their arms, thumbs pointing down, and intertwine their fingers? Then show that they are all locked in place like that, while you're able to twist your arms back to a straight position. I'm sure you know what I'm talking about, it's taught in most beginners' magic books, I think. I don't know the name of it, or who it belongs to.

The bit of misdirection you have to employ is pretty simple, but it leads to quite a powerful effect, I think. I have used this before in a "Science of Magic" talk I have given, to good effect.

Cheers,
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 03/30/09 08:04 PM

Well at least nobody's gone and suggested doing the paper balls over the head to demonstrate the limited scope of central consciousness as acted out by the volunteer in the midst of the rest of one's brain function as portrayed by audience response..
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Postby spike » 03/30/09 08:26 PM

Luigi Anzivino wrote:How about the very old bit where you instruct everyone to follow your lead and cross their arms, thumbs pointing down, and intertwine their fingers? Then show that they are all locked in place like that, while you're able to twist your arms back to a straight position. I'm sure you know what I'm talking about, it's taught in most beginners' magic books, I think.


I actually don't know this old bit? Can you point me to a reference - or a video?
Thanks!
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Postby DrDanny » 03/30/09 08:50 PM

Almost anything you choose to do will be considered an egregious exposure by some, whether it's an old stunt or not. How's about using something of Criss Angel's?
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Postby Jim Martin » 03/30/09 09:25 PM

Luigi Anzivino wrote:How about the very old bit where you instruct everyone to follow your lead and cross their arms, thumbs pointing down, and intertwine their fingers etc.......

Cheers,
Luigi


Spike,

Here's a TED link with Keith Barry:

http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/keit ... magic.html
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Postby spike » 03/31/09 11:11 AM

Thanks, Jim. That is exactly what Luigi was describing, and Keith Barry's performance was great. But I'm still looking for something that demonstrates misdirection - obviously without an "egregious exposure". So I want to be doing something that, for example, draws the spectators' eyes while I'm doing the dirty work somewhere else. But I'd then want to give the class some idea of what I did, how I misdirected them. That's the tricky part. I have no intention of exposing a deep secret of magic. Maybe I could make an object vanish or appear by misdirection and show them how I bamboozled them?
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Postby Tom Frame » 03/31/09 01:03 PM

Let me suggest a skeletal framework (so to speak) that can support a variety of effects. Write a prediction or a message on a sheet of paper and insert it into an envelope. Place a long strip of double stick tape on the back of the envelope.

Before your lecture begins, affix the envelope to the bottom of a seat in the rear row of the room. Remember which seat you stuck it to.

In the course of your lecture youll perform an effect in which you switch an object under sublime misdirection. Construct the effect so that at some point you ask the entire room to turn around and watch as you instruct the person in the rigged seat to remove the envelope from under the seat and bring it to the front of the room.

While everyones back is turned, you do the switch. Time the switch so that your participant is actively engaged in finding/removing the envelope, so that hell miss it too.

The envelope is opened and the message is read. The message somehow relates to the effect. You then reveal the switched object.

A balloon lying on the table could be switched for a helium balloon on a string that had been previously hidden behind the table.

A card is selected from a deck and held by a participant in the front row. The envelope is opened to reveal that you previously predicted the card. You then reveal that your task was quite easy, since the rest of the deck is blank.

There's plenty of room for creativity. Go thee forth and frolic.
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Postby Joe Mckay » 03/31/09 01:30 PM

Interesting question. Doing the Piano Trick with socks (a Michael Weber idea) might be a good way of showing a form of cognitive misdirection. They think one of the socks has transposed because they weren't keeping track of the number of pairs... This can play well to a large audience since you can have the pairs of socks examined by spectators sat in the crowd who then throw the socks towards the stage once they have finished examining them... It is also one those effects which is stronger when done with objects other than cards. Weber suggests socks - Jim Steinmeyer has versions with apples and oranges; and he has a version with cutlery (knives and forks)...

The following link is a brilliant experiment detailing the use of 'change blindness' by Derren Brown. It is a fascinating example of misdirection and the following clip should be of real interest to anybody who hasn't seen it before...

http://www.videograter.com/video/Change ... e-The-Swap

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Postby Joe Mckay » 03/31/09 01:43 PM

Another idea might be the thing where you have the spectator follow your actions - you are both pushing your hand straight down onto the ground. You then secretly replace your hand onto the ground but with it in the opposite orientation. You both then twist your hands at the same time - to the spectator it appears the magician is breaking his wrist as it rotates around. I can't remember who this is by, but I do remember David Blaine doing it on TV. This sort of thing has being exposed alot on the internet and can be asily found via GOOGLE... A nice touch is to have an empty yoghurt pot under your armpit which can be squeezed to give a sickening crack as you apparently break your wrist...

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Postby spike » 04/01/09 01:25 PM

Joe,
I read a description of the Piano Trick in RRCM. It's clever, but it isn't obvious to me how to do it with socks. Are they just piled onto a table? Are the pairs of socks wrapped together, or are they loose?
Whatever insight you can offer . . .

And thanks, Tom, for your suggestions. Something like that will surely work.

And thanks for all of the other helpful suggestions. I'll do my best to protect conjurings deep secrets, as I always do.
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Postby mrgoat » 04/01/09 01:47 PM

Derek Del Gaudio does the sock version of the piano trick. I've seen it in the close up and parlour at the castle and it plays very very well.
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Postby Steve Bryant » 04/01/09 02:10 PM

Spike, the trick with socks is fully explained in Michael Weber's book Life Savers. Richard has it available as part of his Ridiculous Super Sale for only $33.75.
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Postby RobMagus » 04/03/09 04:16 AM

Hello!

I'm a psychologist at the University of British Columbia, and I'm collaborating with Gustav Kuhn (a researcher at the university of durham) on a study of misdirection. He's filmed a number of videos that present simple examples of misdirection, which you can use in your lecture.

You can find them on Gustav's website: http://www.scienceofmagic.org/ Click on "the vanishing ball illusion" or "misdirection" in the options on the right.

(also, if anyone has any opinions they'd like to share about misdirection and how it works, I love to hear them! just fire an email to rob.teszka@gmail.com )

I also second the suggestion of inattentional blindness videos - you might like to google for Richard Wiseman (another magician psychologist) and find his video of the colour-changing card trick, as it is a brilliant application of inattentional blindness.

Hope the lecture goes well!
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 04/03/09 10:27 AM

For your amusement - a counterexample:

You can fool people and dogs by throwing a ball (or tossing as the guy who can't palm showed in his video) ;) so extending that working hypothesis how about following a bouncing ball?

For this you will need a set of bounce/no bounce balls.

After you pleasantly engage your volunteer's attention toss the bounce ball downward and catch it after the rebound. After the first toss DO NOT follow the ball with your head in a gross action but instead keep eye contact. After each catch transfer the ball to the fingertips of your non-dominant hand (which has the no-bounce ball in fingerpalm) - after the third bounce/catch switch the ball for the non-bounce ball*. After checking that you still have their attention re-engage eye contact and toss the no-bounce ball downward. Act as if catching the ball in exactly the same way as before even though the ball stayed on the ground.

Look back at your hand which should be holding the ball it caught. Watch your audience reaction.

You'd think with such strong kinesthetic, auditory and consistent visual cues...


*kindly don't try this complex experiment until you have gotten competent at doing a basic switch and learned not to smirk or set your hand in awkward postures while holding/hiding. You can test your basic skills simply by watching your audience for shifts in expression.
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Reason: all that to find a way to get a midair ball vanish working... times were tough but those no-bouce balls looked like a good approach.
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Postby Luigi Anzivino » 04/03/09 11:35 AM

I am a scientist with a strong interest in magic (or a magician with a strong background in science, take your pick), and have been thinking about how to talk about the science of magic in an accessible and interesting way that won't become about exposing methods, but about exposing psychological phenomena.

However, I think that exposing some methods is necessary if you want to have an intelligent conversation about misdirection and how it works in magic. I have given talks about the subject of science and magic, and my approach is to perform a short spongeball routine at the beginning, with a volunteer. Then I can talk about some of the elements that make it seem "magical" with a concrete reference point that everyone has experienced. I focus my talk on three aspects of magic: perceptual elements, psychological elements, and attentional elements (i.e. misdirection).

The only sleight I expose is the retention vanish of a spongeball. I don't go into the details of the mechanics, but I think it's a good one to use because a magician has to incorporate all three elements to make it work. It has a strong perceptual component, in that it will work even when you know what the magician is doing: the visual illusion is very strong, and involuntary. However, without a psychological context built around it, it won't take long for a spectator to start suspecting the "other" hand. And finally, it's a good substrate to talk about misdirection and what it really means.

I always make the point that most people have heard of misdirection, but they tend to think that it means directing attention away from the secret stuff, and while that certainly qualifies as misdirection, it is bad misdirection. If I'm holding a red rose, and I manage to make everybody look away from me (say, to my scantily clad assistant), and when everybody looks back the rose has turned white, most people won't know how I changed the rose, but they will know exactly when I did it, and will therefore make their own assumption as to which method I used.

A much more effective way of misdirecting is to draw attention toward the effect, rather than away from the method. So I talk about how in a retention vanish the effect is the vanishing of a ball, and so with my body posture and eye gaze, etc., I try to heighten interest in that, and it has the added benefit of automatically draw attention away from the "dirty" hand, since we can only really focus on one thing at a time.

What really makes it work, though, is that the spectator has had the impression that he was looking exactly where he should have the entire time, that he was following along the whole time, he didn't get distracted and "miss" anything. So when the ball vanishes, it is entirely impossible to reconstruct not only what the magician did, but when he did it, or how.

This is the way I've been framing my way of thinking and talking about misdirection and the mind. I'm sure it's not the only way, and that many magicians on this forum will disagree with lots of stuff here, but hopefully it'll give you some ideas on how to frame and present your material as well.
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Postby Joe Mckay » 04/03/09 12:49 PM

I just remembered that Teller (of Penn and Teller) gave a talk on this exact topic... You can see it here!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J5x14AwElOk

Also - here is the brilliant Richard Wiseman colour changing card trick...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=voAntzB7EwE

Professor Richard Wiseman has done a lot of work over the years in using offbeat psychological ideas to achieve crazy magic tricks or to carry out interesting experiments. Everybody should check his stuff out. May I suggest an interview with Richard for GENII?

Would be very interesting!

Joe
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Postby Joe Mckay » 04/03/09 12:51 PM

Here is another interesting card trick from the professor...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mvzSiUB6 ... re=related

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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 04/03/09 01:29 PM

Is anyone performing the Kaps 11 bill trick with million or billion dollar bills?
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Postby RobMagus » 04/03/09 03:53 PM

The Teller talk Joe posted above was part of a longer symposium on magic and consciousness - you can see all of it here:

http://www.mindscience.org/magicsymposium/index.html

Speakers include James Randi, Johnny Thompson, Mac King, and Apollo Robbins (who for my money gave the best talk as well as the most explanation as to how magicians take advantage of how awareness and attention work).
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 04/03/09 04:11 PM

Has anyone studied where audience attention goes during the Penn and Teller Cups and Balls routine where they use clear cups?
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