I have some thoughts about group dynamics in relation to the reactions in a magic performance. Hopefully, someone will find it interesting.
A while ago, a friend of mine, a magician, attended a performance of mine at a private party. Afterwards, he commented that I seemed to get a stronger reaction from some of the effects than what he thought possible with those effects. Since the effects in question are similar to things he perform himself, I got a bit curious. Perhaps I did something special in those effects, something that could be isolated and applied to other effects?
Several years ago, I had a problem that happened frequently. To get a dramatic climax to an effect where a selected card is located, it is good if the spectator names his card before the face of the found card is revealed. The problem was that the spectator, even though I stood with just a single card in my hand, refused to name his card.
After some thinking, I came up with a very simple solution. If I flashed the face of the card to someone else, before I asked the spectator to name his card, then the probability that the spectator refused to name his card became greatly reduced.
The funny thing was that I used that gambit in all the effects that my friend had commented on. Apparently there was a reason to look closer at this technique. Perhaps it had some unpredicted positive side-effects?
After a while I started to think about the term resonance.
In an instrument like a guitar, there is a big box that picks up, and amplifies the vibrations from the guitar strings. That principle is called resonance.
Perhaps there is a reason to assume that there is a similar resonance in human interactions? If so, how does it work?
Two years ago I saw a black and white French movie titled The Girl on the Bridge (Im not sure that it is the correct English title. It was produced by Christian Fechner). It was billed as a romantic movie. That was not quite true, it was in fact a romantic comedy, and a very funny one.
But no one laughed at first, since none of us knew that it was supposed to be funny. It took perhaps 10-15 minutes before we all had adjusted our mental attitude enough to laugh out loud.
Im fairly sure that if the movie had been billed as a comedy, then we all would have laughed even before the first really funny thing occurred in the movie.
Perhaps the same mechanics is valid in magic also? Perhaps you get more surprised if you know that you are going to get surprised? If the spectators are conditioned to get surprised, then the reactions should be stronger than if they start from a neutral state of mind? Ive been doing some experiments, and it seems like it works that way.
Lets say that you have the spectators in a semi-circle around you.
At extreme left is Spectator A.
In front of you is Spectator B.
And at extreme right you have Spectator C.
Spectator B has selected a card, which you just have produced from an impossible location.
As you say; Okay... to Spectator B, you flash the face of the card to Spectator C on your right.
Move the card to the left hand, and flash it to Spectator A on your left, as you continue; ..what card are you thinking of?
Bring up the card to your face.
Spectator B names his card; Two of Hearts.
Pause for a second, and ask Two of Hearts?
Spectator B confirms it, and you end by turning the face of the card towards him, saying; Two of Hearts!.
What seems to be happening in that sequence is the following:
When you flash the card to spectator C, he gives a small surprised response. Now everyone is wondering about that reaction. Is it the right card? Why did he look surprised? Will I also get surprised? Etc.
Spectator A is now conditioned to get surprised, so when the face of the card is flashed to him, he gives a bit bigger response, like a facial expression, a curse or a groan.
Spectator B, and the rest of the audience, are now certain that they soon will get surprised. The pause is there to increase the suspense. And when the card finally is revealed, the response becomes 2-3 times stronger than usual.
Spectator A and C are amplifying it further. As the card is revealed to spectator B, they are not looking at the card. They already knows that it is correct. Instead, they are studying spectator B, to see his reaction. And when they see the reaction, they recognise their own feeling; That is how I must have looked a second ago, and reacts one more time.
And that way the reactions resonates back and forth, just like the vibrations in an instrument.
This resonance effect is especially easy to observe when doing it for an audience where all the spectators know each other. Try it out.