Magic and Psychology

Discuss general aspects of Genii.

Postby G. Campbell » 07/27/11 11:27 PM

New to the Forum so I am probably making a few mistakes with this, my first post...be gentle.

I have seen a fair amount of material in recent months about the psychology of magic, but it s all written in the vernacular of psychology. What I am wondering is, absent that language, how do/did magicians talk to themselves about these same ideas?

Can anyone suggest some books?

Thank you.
Graham Campbell
www.IsYourCard.blogspot.com
G. Campbell
 
Posts: 9
Joined: 07/26/11 09:23 PM
Location: OH

Postby Richard Kaufman » 07/28/11 01:04 AM

Three by Eugene Burger:
Performance of Close-Up Magic
Experience of Magic
Mastering the Art of Magic
Subscribe today to Genii Magazine
User avatar
Richard Kaufman
 
Posts: 20460
Joined: 07/18/01 12:00 PM
Location: Washington DC

Postby Jonathan Townsend » 07/28/11 10:21 AM

The first few chapters of Robert-Houdin's Secrets of Conjuring and Magic describes some of the basics from a magician's perspective. The "erdnase" text also contains some good advice on the topic. Andrew Galloway's books cover some refinements in detail.

There's also been much borrowing from the worlds of conman and cardsharps.

So far the notion of "just noticeable difference" has not made it from psychology into magicdom - so it's not entirely fair to claim that magicians are discussing deception in the same language as folks who study perception and cognition in psychology. Perhaps one day. ;)
Last edited by Jonathan Townsend on 07/28/11 10:24 AM, edited 0 times in total.
Reason: Even if you get a dog to dress up like a duck it's still not a platypus.
Jonathan Townsend
 
Posts: 6604
Joined: 01/17/08 01:00 PM
Location: Westchester, NY

Postby G. Campbell » 07/28/11 10:54 AM

I appreciate the references and will certainly add them to my list.

What I am trying to get to is that clearly, at some level, magicians have understood that something was happening in the minds of the spectators to make their tricks work. It would seem to me that as least as long as the phrase "the hand is quicker than the eye" has been around there has to have been some sense that the audience can't follow everything that happens in front of them. Before psychology became interested in how magic works, how did magicians talk about this stuff?

Perhaps I am not looking in the right places, but it has seemed to me that, for the longest time, effects are described like recipes with more attention paid to how they work and little or none paid to why. Am I mistaken? Could it be that performers didn't consider this aspect? Is it possible that because of the art's oral traditions that deconstructing an effect into phases, moves and patter has only inadvertently allowed the transfer of what seem like fairly complex psychological principles?
Graham Campbell
www.IsYourCard.blogspot.com
G. Campbell
 
Posts: 9
Joined: 07/26/11 09:23 PM
Location: OH

Postby Jonathan Townsend » 07/28/11 11:04 AM

Looks like two sensible questions there. To the first, there is a long tradition of direct instruction in the theatrical and "other" crafts where the how-to is taught rather than set into books. The objectives and context are both known and fixed and so merit no discussion. Consider the street conjurers in India for example with the other street crafts running in similar tradition. The serious student is expected to have understood the connection to rhetoric when it comes to modeling the mind of the audience. The performer wishes the audience to believe a thing if only for a few moments. The devices for managing that are touched upon by some writers when discussing the importance of demeanor and discussed in detail in more appropriate (rhetoric/public speaking) texts which presume less of the reader's desired application. Only recently have some in magic tried to reinvent this particular wheel.

Your other question references the current fad of psychology studying magic. While amusing, IMHO, it has not lead to novel findings in research on cognition and perception. Some nice videos though.
Last edited by Jonathan Townsend on 07/28/11 11:34 AM, edited 0 times in total.
Reason: Rhetoric is the third "R"
Jonathan Townsend
 
Posts: 6604
Joined: 01/17/08 01:00 PM
Location: Westchester, NY

Postby Ted M » 07/28/11 11:48 AM

You might look at Magic by Misdirection, by Dariel Fitzkee.

Table of Contents
Ted M
 
Posts: 555
Joined: 01/24/08 01:00 PM
Location: Madison, WI

Postby Bob Cunningham » 07/28/11 12:02 PM

"Your other question references the current fad of psychology studying magic. While amusing, IMHO, it has not lead to novel findings in research on cognition and perception. Some nice videos though. "

There has always been debate over how "scientific" psychology actually is. Here is an interesting discussion on that topic on a physics forum. However, Keep in mind that many mathematicians view physicists as people who did not have the stones to embrace "pure" mathematics ;-) Everybody has a pecking order!

http://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=243250

Making the same point, a recent USA today opinion piece commented that psychology can often masquerades as science: "much in the way as did the Scrubs character Dr. Bob Kelso when he referred to psychiatrists as the "Wal-Mart greeters of medicine.""

I think Jonathan's pithy observation (in his edit comment - now gone) is more to the point for magicians; "if you can make the dog salivate when you ring a bell, does it matter if the dog perceives this as music?"

With that in mind let me add two more books to the growing list of recommendations:

"Leading With Your Head" by Gary Kurtz subtitled "Psychological and Directional Keys to the Amplification of the Magic Effect"

http://doceasonmagicshop.com/oscommerce ... ucts_id=46

"The Five Points In Magic" by Juan Tamariz is a study of the physical and psychological secrets that use the body to fool the mind.

http://www.hermeticpress.com/Books/FivePoints.html
Last edited by Bob Cunningham on 07/28/11 12:04 PM, edited 0 times in total.
Reason: grammar
User avatar
Bob Cunningham
 
Posts: 333
Joined: 05/25/08 04:11 PM
Location: Texas

Postby G. Campbell » 07/28/11 12:33 PM

Thanks you for the contemporary references.

I have read Fitzkee on misdirection and was struck that, at some level, he was writing from intuition that had been informed by experience. This would appear to be consistent with Mr. Townsend's comments:

Looks like two sensible questions there. To the first, there is a long tradition of direct instruction in the theatrical and "other" crafts where the how-to is taught rather than set into books. The objectives and context are both known and fixed and so merit no discussion. Consider the street conjurers in India for example with the other street crafts running in similar tradition. The serious student is expected to have understood the connection to rhetoric when it comes to modeling the mind of the audience. The performer wishes the audience to believe a thing if only for a few moments. The devices for managing that are touched upon by some writers when discussing the importance of demeanor and discussed in detail in more appropriate (rhetoric/public speaking) texts which presume less of the reader's desired application. Only recently have some in magic tried to reinvent this particular wheel.


Would it be fair to assume that hard-earned experience rather than any particular insights into the working of the spectator's mind would have been the chief medium for the transfer of some of these ideas to subsequent generations of performers? If true then would this be another example of "folklore" being used to inform and educate?
Graham Campbell
www.IsYourCard.blogspot.com
G. Campbell
 
Posts: 9
Joined: 07/26/11 09:23 PM
Location: OH

Postby Jonathan Townsend » 07/28/11 01:17 PM

Graham,

I support your position that folklore was sufficient to educate most in this craft of offering prestiges for amusement.

Our society has changed drastically in the last two hundred years. That's four or five generations depending on how you count. What permitted Sherlock Holmes to initially resonate as slightly nostalgic has become amusing and impertinent - there's just too much diversity and timely communication for his techniques to work. The mass market, mobility, video and the internet have permitted a vast increase in non-interpersonal information flow. Still there's no teacher like direct experience and a mentor (or several) can offer what books can only describe in text and videos only show in action. There's nothing like human realtime contact to transmit knowledge across generations especially when that knowledge is context sensitive. I owe a huge debit of gratitude to all who offered me tolerance, support and advice during those years spent hanging around Tannen's Magic shop in NYC. Reading about Slydini is not the same as spending some time in his company. Contrast that with learning about John Ramsay and his magic. Modeling that person and his work is difficult but rewarding when one gets brief comment from his one known student and a few people in our community who remember the person. In generality ... the educated wisely compartmentalized deceit into games (look where magic is in the Dewey Decimal System), mechanical devices, rhetoric, persuasion/seduction, mathematics (visual puzzles and counting anomalies), chemistry and perhaps statistics. If this sounds similar to what one hears of another socially relevant field then you know what path I'd like to see magic take into the future. :)

The Rhetors, those who understand and apply rhetorical techniques in their routine construction, have used formal behavioral analysis for thousands of years. Whether used as in Shakespeare's writing Antony's speech in act three of Julius Cesar or in Kenton Knepper's Wonder Words is merely a matter of context and degree. By what means and to what extent most in magic have learned Rhetoric in its ancient expression via Aristotle, by example from their mentors or adsorbing its techniques by astute observation of the environment is likewise irrelevant as what counts is results. Does the trick work? Does the performer accomplish their deception?

There is no formal curriculum in our craft. Any self deceptionist can claim membership in this fraternity which includes those who perform for a living, those who craft the props used to accomplish wonder making, those who write up works to transmit findings in books/magazine/blogs and many who explore the craft for their own amusement who may or may not do any performing at all. Yours truly happens to be an explorer who wants to know about how beliefs are formed, reinforced, compartmentalized and dispelled.

I'd like to posit that the serious students of this craft today are continuing their studies beyond high school level into the various fields that inform this craft, bringing in what they can and starting the struggle against institutional inertia to introduce best practices found in other fields to advance this craft.

So says this Incantor,

Jon
Last edited by Jonathan Townsend on 07/28/11 01:25 PM, edited 0 times in total.
Reason: Two coins, Miss Fortune and Miss Direction...
Jonathan Townsend
 
Posts: 6604
Joined: 01/17/08 01:00 PM
Location: Westchester, NY

Postby G. Campbell » 07/29/11 03:44 PM

So just to recap: it seems that we are saying that magicians learned from one another about what did and did not work in terms of fooling the spectator and that knowledge was itself passed from teacher to student, from dealer's back room to eager beginner until we come to the study of neuroscience.

It is then from the vernacular of psychology that magicians have learned to describe how their effects work on the minds of their audiences.

Do you imagine that sharpsters and matchstick men were any more self-aware before the psychologists got to them? Or would we still be talking about knowledge transfer via "folklore"?

I know I am chasing a fine thread here, but I can't help thinking that in all of the history of the art, somebody had to have asked why these effects work the way that they do?
Graham Campbell
www.IsYourCard.blogspot.com
G. Campbell
 
Posts: 9
Joined: 07/26/11 09:23 PM
Location: OH

Postby Ted M » 07/29/11 04:13 PM

G. Campbell wrote:I can't help thinking that in all of the history of the art, somebody had to have asked why these effects work the way that they do?


"Why these effects work the way that they do" is incredibly vague.

Since you've dismissed the Fitzkee, Tamariz and Kurtz that have been offered, could you give us a more concrete notion of what you're looking for?
Ted M
 
Posts: 555
Joined: 01/24/08 01:00 PM
Location: Madison, WI

Postby Jonathan Townsend » 07/29/11 04:13 PM

What you describe might be a carry over from the literature of the magic shop, the catalog, which presumes to describe "the effect" by way of a fictional audience report from a person who seems to miss out on the crucial method related steps and also fails to report how the procedure affected them as it went along.

Reality, audience modeling and any sense of considered reporting of internal audiences (look that one up ;) ) are not part of this literature of fictional reports for magic catalogs. Be interesting to get "effect" sections like:
And then the dolt had me select another card - and insisted that I return it. While I was rolling my eyes and my friends insisted I play along he busied himself with some manipulations and proceed to parody a dramatic moment, the climax of which involved some impertinent questions and folded cards found about his person.

IMHO no reference to psychology (nothing about the unconscious, modeling, verification, just noticeable differences etc) need be called into our dog and pony show. Just the time tested ballyhoo of the carnival barker and lots of trial and error.

Kudos to those in magic who at least looked at what gross behaviorism has to offer in descriptive terms, even though they did not carry through to more fullly explore and quantify their claims.

:)
Jonathan Townsend
 
Posts: 6604
Joined: 01/17/08 01:00 PM
Location: Westchester, NY

Postby G. Campbell » 07/29/11 04:57 PM

I feel perhaps that my curiosity has become tiresome.

I am not dismissing anyone and I really am grateful for all of the suggestions. There are a lot of gaps in my understanding of "magic theory"--is that even the right term?

I should perhaps do more reading before I ask any more questions.

Thank you for your time and attention.
Graham Campbell
www.IsYourCard.blogspot.com
G. Campbell
 
Posts: 9
Joined: 07/26/11 09:23 PM
Location: OH

Postby Q. Kumber » 07/29/11 07:10 PM

G. Campbell wrote:I should perhaps do more reading before I ask any more questions.


It's not more reading that's required, it is more performing.

I am of the opinion that one can only begin to comprehend the theory and psychology of magic - as a performer - after roughly two thousand shows. In my case it was nearer to five thousand, but then I'm a slow learner.

And I'm talking about beginning to comprehend ...
User avatar
Q. Kumber
 
Posts: 911
Joined: 01/17/08 01:00 PM
Location: Manchester, England

Postby G. Campbell » 07/30/11 11:07 AM

For someone interested in how ideas get communicated, I have apparently done a poor job of communicating my interest.

I learned a long time ago that I was only going to be a disgrace to the art if I continued as a performer. I respect anyone who takes up the challenge.

My interest is in the transfer of knowledge.

What I am hearing is that fairly complex ideas of spectator psychology have traditionally been transferred indirectly, i.e. do this effect in this manner and the audience will respond in these predictable ways.

I think it's pretty interesting that, for an art form as old as magic, investigating why the effect works is a relatively recent--more of less post WW II--phenomenon.

I am just beginning to read Anneman and it is clear he is writing from a pretty sophisticated understanding of how spectators think. If I understand my teachers on this thread, that understanding is based on his experience as a performer and not because of any specific training in psychology, or psychological principles.

That's an interesting answer.
Graham Campbell
www.IsYourCard.blogspot.com
G. Campbell
 
Posts: 9
Joined: 07/26/11 09:23 PM
Location: OH

Postby Harry Lorayne » 07/30/11 02:33 PM

Gotta, sort of, agree with the last paragraph of the above post. I was lucky I think. Just as, when I was a young boy, I didn't know about card gaffs or gimmicks - not that I could have afforded them if I did know about them - I had no choice but to "work" with regular old, beat-up, decks. And, I had no idea of "psychology", probably didn't know the word, or what it meant, way back then. So, I simply did the tricks that I knew entertained the viewers, made them laugh, gasp, react, and so forth. I guess that was the only "psychology" I knew - if I did a trick and by the third time I did it, it didn't get as strong a reaction as I'd have liked, I stopped doing it. Simplistic psychology - worked for a young boy. (I was about eleven years old when I really got interested in card magic.) Interesting - it's the same "psychology" - a bit more sophisticated, but not much - that I apply to this day. For what it's worth.
Harry Lorayne
 
Posts: 953
Joined: 01/22/08 01:00 PM
Location: NY

Postby Geno Munari » 07/30/11 07:02 PM

Re: Harry's post

I started doling card tricks when I was about 13 or so and I had absolutely no idea about psychology, but maybe what I used in place of psychology was the "moment" or the envelope to present the trick that might be suitable for the spectators. I don't even think I thouight about the psychology of any magic effect until I was 40 years old and watched seasoned card workers who could work the spectator, like Harry Lorayne or Jimmy Grippo.
Geno Munari
 
Posts: 624
Joined: 01/30/08 01:00 PM
Location: Las Vegas/Del Mar, CA

Postby G. Campbell » 08/03/11 04:13 PM

If one learns about the psychology of magic in part through education and in larger part by performance experience, are there other aspects of the craft that are passed on in a similar way?

For example, I used to work in theatre production and it has always seemed to me that magicians know more about what is possible in the performance space than designers and technicians. We would work ourselves into a lather to create a simulation of realistic interiors or exteriors, or whatever was required. Magicians routinely go after a bigger goal, something like convincing the audience that an elephant has disappeared, or that a person can fly.

Perhaps it's a blind spot for me, but I cannot conceive of how to develop a solution for an illusion plot. I am pretty certain that I was working with the same basic design and technological elements. Is it a matter of being a good enough student of magic history? Of accumulating enough secrets?
Graham Campbell
www.IsYourCard.blogspot.com
G. Campbell
 
Posts: 9
Joined: 07/26/11 09:23 PM
Location: OH

Postby Jonathan Townsend » 08/03/11 05:12 PM

? How are you doing on the previous readings? Of them what did you find useful and less than useful?

Steinmeyer wrote a fine book on Jarrett - which might serve you well after his more introductory book, Hiding the Elephant.

Anyway it's tough to help when the discussion stays in generalities. the craft of deception has deep roots and broad applications. What specifically would you like to learn? As long as you can keep in mind that most in magic don't have a foundation in the sciences or measuring and instead discuss what they have learned as workable (IN CONTEXT) there are generations of clever people's findings available in our craft.
Jonathan Townsend
 
Posts: 6604
Joined: 01/17/08 01:00 PM
Location: Westchester, NY

Postby Bill Mullins » 08/05/11 01:00 AM

Academics have been studying the psychology of deception in magic for a LONG TIME.
Bill Mullins
 
Posts: 2877
Joined: 01/17/08 01:00 PM
Location: Huntsville, AL

Postby Bob Farmer » 08/05/11 08:20 AM

I have a copy of an article entitled, "The Psychology of Conjuring Deceptions, " by Norman Triplett, The American Journal of Psychology, Vol. XI.,July, 1900, No. 4, pp.439-510.
Bob Farmer
 
Posts: 1661
Joined: 01/17/08 01:00 PM
Location: Short card above selection.

Postby Jonathan Townsend » 08/05/11 10:13 AM

Thanks for pointing out the 1900 issue of AJP.
Interesting to read the Robert-Houdin exploration of how audiences respond to the demeanor of the performer.
The google document contains much more that's of use though if folks only want that article I found a 4.5 meg scan of the item that's also searchable and optimied (cleaned up a little). will do one email of that monday if folks ask via EMAIL. This offered only for research purposes under fair use of the original document.
Jonathan Townsend
 
Posts: 6604
Joined: 01/17/08 01:00 PM
Location: Westchester, NY

Postby Bob Farmer » 08/05/11 12:00 PM

Jonathan:

Yes, I'd like to see it.

Don;t worry about fair use--I think the copyright in an article written in 1900 has long since expired, along with its author.
Bob Farmer
 
Posts: 1661
Joined: 01/17/08 01:00 PM
Location: Short card above selection.

Postby Richard Hatch » 08/05/11 12:46 PM

The introduction to Burlingame's 1897 book on [Alexander]Herrmann the Magician is an article entitled "Psychology of the Art of Conjuring" credited to Dr. Max Dessoir (whom Wikipedia credits with having coined the term "parapsychology" in 1889) with references to the feats of mediums added by Burlingame. This text is available online via google books.
User avatar
Richard Hatch
 
Posts: 1584
Joined: 01/17/08 01:00 PM
Location: Logan, Utah

Postby Bill Mullins » 08/05/11 01:18 PM

Bob -- my link, in the post above yours, is to the Google Books version of the paper.

Interested readers may also enjoy:

"Psychology of Deception" by Joseph Jastrow, originally published in Popular Science Monthly Dec 1888

http://books.google.com/books?id=2x81AA ... &lpg=PA106
Bill Mullins
 
Posts: 2877
Joined: 01/17/08 01:00 PM
Location: Huntsville, AL

Postby Joe Pecore » 08/05/11 01:35 PM

And here is Jastrow's article on "Psychological Notes on Sleight-of-Hand Experts": http://books.google.com/books?id=5HsCAAAAYAAJ
Share your knowledge on the MagicPedia wiki.
User avatar
Joe Pecore
 
Posts: 1740
Joined: 01/17/08 01:00 PM
Location: Northern Virginia

Postby G. Campbell » 08/07/11 10:34 AM

This is great! Thank you to everyone who has responded.

It has always been a mystery to me how magicians think about what they do. I have bought a lot of books and a suitcase full of effects, but I have only ever learned the thousands of ways to get "caught". With cards in my hands, I can only hear the words of Rocky the squirrel: "that trick never works."

Perhaps I should be focusing less on the audience and more on the psychology of the actor playing the part of the magician.
Graham Campbell
www.IsYourCard.blogspot.com
G. Campbell
 
Posts: 9
Joined: 07/26/11 09:23 PM
Location: OH

Postby Jonathan Townsend » 08/11/11 09:34 AM

Here you go, some real work on attention:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/neuro ... psychology

The attentive reader may notice the continued conflation of reported observations with what is percieved yet dismissed as impertinant within the context of the experiment. IE the gorilla which does not participate in the activity of interest is, like the mugging, a feature of the background rather than part of the requested measuring process.
Last edited by Jonathan Townsend on 08/11/11 09:40 AM, edited 0 times in total.
Reason: Did you notice the director's cameo in the film? Who?
Jonathan Townsend
 
Posts: 6604
Joined: 01/17/08 01:00 PM
Location: Westchester, NY

Postby mrgoat » 08/11/11 11:30 AM

Nice link, thanks!
mrgoat
 
Posts: 4027
Joined: 01/17/08 01:00 PM
Location: Brighton, UK

Postby G. Campbell » 09/05/11 11:03 AM

I have been doing some more reading and making some connections that may seem to most as self-evident.

I offer the following as the result of those efforts:

http://isyourcard.blogspot.com/2011/09/ ... nment.html

Happy Labor Day to all.
Graham Campbell
www.IsYourCard.blogspot.com
G. Campbell
 
Posts: 9
Joined: 07/26/11 09:23 PM
Location: OH


Return to General

cron