Peer Reviewed Journal article about Misdirection, P&T

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Postby Pete McCabe » 02/14/13 05:06 PM is a new online journal where scientists can post peer-reviewed articles at a greatly reduced cost compared with traditional journals.

One of the articles is a scientific study of misdirection, using Penn and Teller's transparent Cups and Balls routine.

It is the only peer-reviewed article on magic that I've come across. You can read it here.
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Postby Max Maven » 02/14/13 08:49 PM

The ongoing problem is that they are trying to analyze a phenomenon ("social misdirection") that is based on a live interaction, but doing so by testing with a taped performance. That is akin to analyzing how the combining of foods produces taste perceptions by showing subjects episodes of "Top Chef."

And the proposed future tests replacing the video performer with computer simulations just moves this research farther away from what magicians do.
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Postby Tom Stone » 02/14/13 10:30 PM

As Max points out, the effect of misdirection is lesser on tape than in living 3D. But the larger problem here is - if you are going to test the effect of something, it might be a good idea if that something actually is present.

Teller's handling is is a cool juxtapose of old and new. An ancient trick with rock solid traditional technique, performed with flimsy modern plastic cups.... But notice, the technique used is both pre-Slydini and pre-Ramsay. It relies on using patterns to induce inattention blindness more than anything else. (For example, each ball is tossed between the hands back and forth before a false transfer is made, instead of using the precision the Ramsay approach would provide).

As an example, let's look at this clip: ...
First of all, the eye is attracted to movements. Slydini pointed this out. So what are the movements here?
I took the video clip above and got the difference from frame to frame - everything that doesn't move or change is black, only the difference from moment to moment is visible:
As you notice, head movements is not a big part of the routine. Without any extra techniques, in the natural state, the hands are the main attractor. There is nothing that contradict Ramsay or Slydini here.

All right, let's look at Ramsay's "If you want someone to look at something, look at it yourself."
Where is Teller's gaze during the piece? It is steadily fixed onto his own hands. I.e his gaze only reinforces what the audience would look at anyway. Not really as redundant as it might seem, because had his gaze been uncontrolled all over the place, it would detract and confuse. But his gaze doesn't really add anything in his choreography, as it is pattern based misdirection. So blocking out his head would not provide any new insights or knowledge.
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Postby Tom Stone » 02/14/13 11:02 PM

And I am puzzled by all the strange statements these people make:
"Contrary to the magicians intuition, a gravity-driven drop of a ball into his hand (or to the floor) caused less misdirection, both in terms of gaze displacement and impaired perception, than alternative manipulations such as lifting the ball,..."

Huh? Since when has it been the "magician's intuition" to believe that a downwards velocity vector (-Y) would attract more attention than an upwards velocity vector (+Y)? Did not Slydini say the exact opposite?
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Postby Bob Coyne » 02/14/13 11:13 PM

Yes, the misdirection of the back-and-forth false transfer is pattern based. But the even stronger misdirection of the tilted cup and falling ball isn't really pattern based. So another mechanism is at work for that. Also during the load, Teller clearly has his head turned toward the receiving hand and falling ball (away from the load), so that reinforces the misdirection even more.

In the introduction, the paper says "Occlusion of the magicians face did not affect the subjects perception, suggesting that gaze misdirection does not play a strong role..." Since the direction of the head (and torso) imply where the gaze is directed, it's not clear to me that occluding the face proves anything. In other words, we don't have to see the eyes to perceive and be misdirected by the direction of the gaze.

Note: I didn't read the full paper, so maybe they control for that somehow...just going on what the introduction says.
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Postby Tom Stone » 02/14/13 11:37 PM

Bob Coyne wrote:Yes, the misdirection of the back-and-forth false transfer is pattern based. But the even stronger misdirection of the tilted cup and falling ball isn't really pattern based. So another mechanism is at work for that.

Slydini again.
If two movements happen simultaneously, you can only observe one of them - the one with a comparably higher priority. Here, that would be the movement that is on a higher +Y plane.
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Postby Bill Mullins » 02/14/13 11:49 PM

The "peers" who review this work prior to publication aren't magicians -- they are other academics. I know that journal editors of specialized fields have difficulty locating peers to review articles, but in this case, the necessary peers aren't even part of the conventional academic community.

A number of scientific journals print letters of comment on articles that they have previously published. I don't see from PeerJ's web site that the do, but that may simply be growing pains. An appropriate letter might include the points made above, with supporting footnotes pointing to the relevant conjuring literature.

Pete, here are some other peer-reviewed articles about magic:
Stronger misdirection in curved than in straight motion. Otero-Millan J, Macknik SL, Robbins A, Martinez-Conde S. Front Hum Neurosci. 2011;5:133.
Attention and awareness in stage magic: turning tricks into research. Macknik SL, King M, Randi J, Robbins A, Teller, Thompson J, Martinez-Conde S. Nat Rev Neurosci. 2008 Nov;9(11):871-9.
Social misdirection fails to enhance a magic illusion. Cui J, Otero-Millan J, Macknik SL, King M, Martinez-Conde S. Front Hum Neurosci. 2011;5:103.
Misdirection, attention and awareness: inattentional blindness reveals temporal relationship between eye movements and visual awareness. Kuhn G, Findlay JM. Q J Exp Psychol (Hove). 2010 Jan;63(1):136-46
The paddle move commonly used in magic tricks as a means for analysing the perceptual limits of combined motion trajectories. Hergovich A, Grbl K, Carbon CC. Perception. 2011;40(3):358-66.
Imaging the impossible: an fMRI study of impossible causal relationships in magic tricks. Parris BA, Kuhn G, Mizon GA, Benattayallah A, Hodgson TL. Neuroimage. 2009 Apr 15;45(3):1033-9.
Magic as a therapeutic intervention to promote coping in hospitalized pediatric patients. Hart R, Walton M. Pediatr Nurs. 2010 Jan-Feb;36(1):11-6;
The cold reading technique. Dutton DL. Experientia. 1988 Apr 15;44(4):326-32.
More attention and greater awareness in the scientific study of magic. Lamont P, Henderson JM.Nat Rev Neurosci. 2009 Mar;10(3):241; author reply 241.
The penny drops: change blindness at fixation. Smith TJ, Lamont P, Henderson JM. Perception. 2012;41(4):489-92.
From the stage to the laboratory: magicians, psychologists, and the science of illusion. Lachapelle S. J Hist Behav Sci. 2008 Fall;44(4):319-34
PSYCHOLOGICAL NOTES UPON SLEIGHT-OF-HAND EXPERTS. Jastrow J. Science. 1896 May 8;3(71):685-9.
Real magic: future studies of magic should be grounded in neuroscience Stephen L. Macknik & Susana Martinez-Conde Nature Reviews Neuroscience 10, 241 (March 2009)
Gergonne's Card Trick, Positional Notation, and Radix Sort Bolker, Ethan D. Mathematics Magazine, Volume 83, Number 1, February 2010 , pp. 46-49(4)
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Postby Bob Farmer » 02/15/13 08:26 AM

I start nodding off reading this article, so I didn't finish it. I suspect, like a lot of articles of this type, they completely miss the point because they assume that "misdirection" means solely you look here when you should have looked there. In the Cups and Balls, if you're loading a cup, the strongest misdirection (or direction) is a surprise -- something appears under another cup -- so maybe this work is useful there.

Last fall, I was present when Teller met a leading scientist in this area. A lot of the matters discussed and demonstrated had to do with how people see things. I found a lot of the material was irrelevant to how I think when I think of fooling people. Teller's assessment can be found in this excellent article: ... crets.html
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 02/15/13 09:53 AM

I like that the researchers are watching the audience.
I don't like that the audience is watching a small TV screen.

Perception of things in context may be affected by similar processes as are known of ideas or words due to associations. Anyone know if Tommy Wonder discussed his findings with that egg bit in detail?
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