More on the Science of Magic

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Zig Zagger
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More on the Science of Magic

Postby Zig Zagger » February 24th, 2019, 1:54 pm

Recent years have seen a surge in scientific research around the hidden forces of deception. Names like Kuhn, Wiseman, Fraps, Martinez-Conde and Machnik come to mind.

Soon, a new book by Dr. Gustav Kuhn will appear on our bookshelf, Experiencing the Impossible: The Science of Magic.

On a related matter, the next "Science of Magic Conference" will be held in Chicago in July.

You can read about these and more over in my blog: https://zzzauber.wordpress.com/2019/02/05/we-blinded-them-with-science/
Interviews, news, musings, and artsy stuff: Have a look at our growing magic blog! http://www.zzzauber.com
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Re: More on the Science of Magic

Postby Bill Mullins » February 24th, 2019, 3:20 pm

Zig Zagger wrote:Soon, a new book by Dr. Gustav Kuhn will appear on our bookshelf, Experiencing the Impossible: The Science of Magic.


From the sales page for the book: "Drawing on the latest psychological, neurological, and philosophical research, he suggests that misdirection is at the heart of all magic tricks".

Science discovers what magicians have known for a very long time.

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Re: More on the Science of Magic

Postby Anthony Vinson » February 24th, 2019, 3:40 pm

Looks interesting. Unless Tom Stone's blurb is bought and paid for, it's a selling point for me. Already available over at Amazon, though currently there's no discount, and the Kindle price exceeds that of the hardcover. Only by .04, but still...

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Re: More on the Science of Magic

Postby Richard Kaufman » February 24th, 2019, 5:18 pm

There will be some material in Genii from Dr. Kuhn.
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Re: More on the Science of Magic

Postby Curtis Kam » February 24th, 2019, 7:55 pm

Bill Mullins wrote:
From the sales page for the book: "Drawing on the latest psychological, neurological, and philosophical research, he suggests that misdirection is at the heart of all magic tricks".


Pity they didn’t draw on magical research, or they might have encountered Jerry Andrus’ work.

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Re: More on the Science of Magic

Postby Richard Kaufman » February 24th, 2019, 8:58 pm

Andrus disdained the use of misdirection and avoided it in all of his work.
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Re: More on the Science of Magic

Postby Bill Mullins » February 24th, 2019, 11:42 pm

Look at 1:15 in this video of "Zone Zero," when his gaze goes from the apparatus up to the audience. Is this not classic Ramsay misdirection? And at 6:01 in the same video, he uses the appearance of the ball on our left to misdirect from the load of the ball on our right.

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Re: More on the Science of Magic

Postby Bill Mullins » February 25th, 2019, 12:12 am

Andrus Deals You In (1978 edition)
p. 56: "Left little finger now takes over as the right hand reaches to the right as misdirection."
p. 83: "In my opinion this [half pass] is not at all an invisible sleight and must be done with misdirection or the hands in motion."

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Re: More on the Science of Magic

Postby Daniel Z » February 25th, 2019, 8:04 am

Gustav Kuhn is not just an emminent scientist (and a very good guy), but also a student of magic since his youth. He and his colleagues figure prominently in our (Reel Time Images') documenterary on science and magic. This project barely touches on the no doubt interesting question of how science, especially experimental psychology, might be useful to magicians -- always a contentious issue among magicians! However that was not its focus since our interest was in how scientists are using magic to create experiments that allow them to explore areas of cognition, belief, and behaviour that might otherwise prove very difficult. In other words, on the contribution of magic to current scientific research. The Canadian TV version was broadcast on the CBC science program The Nature of Things and if you are in Canada can be streamed through their website (the short trailer on our website www.reeltimeimages.ca is not geo-blocked). A new, longer re-titled and substantially different US/International version is on its way to our distributor. Happily both versions are hosted by our lovely and talented friend Julie Eng. I'll let you know if, when and where it is available outside of Canada.

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Re: More on the Science of Magic

Postby Anthony Vinson » February 25th, 2019, 8:04 am

I'm not sure magic without misdirection is possible. Can anyone come up with an example of a trick or illusion not requiring misdirection?

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Re: More on the Science of Magic

Postby Anthony Vinson » February 25th, 2019, 8:08 am

Daniel Z wrote: A new, longer re-titled and substantially different US/International version is on its way to our distributor. Happily both versions are hosted by our lovely and talented friend Julie Eng. I'll let you know if, when and where it is available outside of Canada.


That looks fascinating. I have a passionate interest in the subject and would love to hear when the US/International version is available.

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Re: More on the Science of Magic

Postby Jonathan Townsend » February 25th, 2019, 10:05 am

Daniel Z wrote:...in how scientists are using magic to create experiments that allow them to explore areas of cognition, belief, and behaviour...
Looking forward to reading this book. Sometimes trickery can help sift "is" from "should". Recall the situation of Clever Hans. More recently folks may recall the claims of facilitated reading/writing were met with a clever experiment using a flap/trick and demonstrated that the outcomes were dependent upon the assistant rather than the patient.
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Re: More on the Science of Magic

Postby Bill Mullins » February 25th, 2019, 1:21 pm

Anthony Vinson wrote:I'm not sure magic without misdirection is possible. Can anyone come up with an example of a trick or illusion not requiring misdirection?


Coin through dental dam
Most mentalism
Illusions like Steinmeyer's Interlude

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Re: More on the Science of Magic

Postby Richard Kaufman » February 25th, 2019, 1:36 pm

I heard Andrus address the subject of misdirection on multiple occasions. He said he never used it, and specifically designed magic that did not require misdirection.
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Re: More on the Science of Magic

Postby Joe Lyons » February 25th, 2019, 2:38 pm

Richard Kaufman wrote:I heard Andrus address the subject of misdirection on multiple occasions. He said he never used it, and specifically designed magic that did not require misdirection.


Andrus said he almost neverused it here
He obviously didn’t like it.

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Re: More on the Science of Magic

Postby Anthony Vinson » February 25th, 2019, 3:34 pm

Bill Mullins wrote:
Anthony Vinson wrote:I'm not sure magic without misdirection is possible. Can anyone come up with an example of a trick or illusion not requiring misdirection?


Coin through dental dam
Most mentalism
Illusions like Steinmeyer's Interlude


Hmm... I guess it depends on our definition of misdirection, then. Does not the nature of the dental dam misdirect from the actual situation? Attention is drawn away from the prepared coin since it appears like the other. And with mentalism, misdirection is often built in, right? Peeks are facilitated while eyes are misdirected, mind reading is simulated via time misdirection (in some cases) etc. And with interlude, doesn't the construction and decoration of the prop and the posture of performer inside misdirect from the actual situation?

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Re: More on the Science of Magic

Postby Jonathan Townsend » February 25th, 2019, 3:59 pm

If you're going to extend the common definition of misdirection from attention (and possibly cognition) to base perception - sure. Surely folks recall Alice talking to Humpty Dumpty about words and meanings. :)

What's proposed seems to broaden the term to include fakes (which misdirect mental model making to include a thing which is not mundane), gimmicks (they misdirect mental model making of what the performer could be doing while watched), assistants (misdirection from who could be effecting the trickery) and mathematical tricks (misdirect from a free choice to a contrived process with known outcome)

*Add typos to misdirect the pendants online ;)
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Re: More on the Science of Magic

Postby Bill Mullins » February 25th, 2019, 4:06 pm

I think that when Andrus made these comments, he wasn't using "misdirection" with the same meaning that it is generally understood today. I get the impression he was using the word to mean something like "overt distracting movements that draw the spectator's conscious attention away from the secret stuff" (with an emphasis on distracting and conscious). Something like the cockroach pass.

Consider his comments in Chap 1 of Card Control Vol 1.
A definition of the word, "Magician" that I would accept is, "One who does something that looks like magic." It isn't so much that it must look like magic to the eye of the spectator but rather it must seem like magic to his brain. It is usually the mind that we are trying to deceive, for the eye we normally can not. Thus "mental misdirection" is frequently more important than visual misdirection.


So apparently he is okay with directing the attention of the spectator, more so than making the spectator look at something in particular.

He goes on:
If we could actually do real magic with cards; we would not be incessantly cutting, shuffling, misdirecting, etc. We might simply have them take a card, put it back in the center of the deck, and it would immediately appear from our pocket. The more you shuffle, cut, talk, etc., the more you confuse the issue and detract from the magicality of the effect.


So your magic should be direct, without extraneous movements. It sounds like he'd agree with Vernon -- "Confusion is not magic."

In reference to a stage levitation:
How asinine it would be to get them to look away while you pass the hoop around her! THAT'S WHEN THEY NEED TO LOOK, and that's what helps it to look like magic.


I take all of these comments together to mean that he does not like distraction, rather than not liking misdirection, I think they are compatible with how he moved and worked in the videos I linked to earlier (which clearly show him using misdirection as it is generally understood today; that is, controlling the attention of the spectators).

Try to make the secret maneuvers, either with a motion that they cannot physically see, or one that their mind would interpret as a normal movement. A case in point: When I do the TWIVOT move and secretly swivel a card out of the deck into my lap. the undercover work is done by the right thumb, as the right hand moves away from the deck, to pick up a card, or move an object, etc.


This "right hand moves" is completely consistent with using misdirection -- he's just not calling it that. The big movement of the hand is covering the small movement of the thumb.

In his effect "The Cards and Magazine" in
Andrus Deals You In
, there's another explicit example of him using misdirection. He has secretly loaded a selected card under a magazine, and is revealing it, and at the same time he's loading another selected card under the magazine. "This exposes the face up card on the table, and at this very instant your left hand thumbs the next card off on the table and immediately moves to the left permitting the magazine to fall to the table. Most attention is focused on the face-up card, which now lies exposed on the table, and you will find little difficulty in depositing the other one under the magazine as it is turned over to your left."

In the Genii review (Jan 2000, by Jamy Swiss) of the Lamont-Wiseman book Magic In Theory, the reviewer says "The best example of this is their examination of Jerry Andrus' rejection of misdirection versus its general embrace in the larger community; they insightfully resolve this dispute (at least partially) by concluding that Mr. Andrus actually seems to object primarily to physical misdirection rather than psychological, and indeed, most conjurors would warn against heavy-handed abuse of physical misdirection in favor of the subtleties of effective psychological techniques."

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Re: More on the Science of Magic

Postby Anthony Vinson » February 25th, 2019, 4:20 pm

Jonathan Townsend wrote:If you're going to extend the common definition of misdirection from attention (and possibly cognition) to base perception - sure. Surely folks recall Alice talking to Humpty Dumpty about words and meanings. :)

What's proposed seems to broaden the term to include fakes (which misdirect mental model making to include a thing which is not mundane), gimmicks (they misdirect mental model making of what the performer could be doing while watched), assistants (misdirection from who could be effecting the trickery) and mathematical tricks (misdirect from a free choice to a contrived process with known outcome)


What is this common definition to which you refer?! I think the concept of broken schemata lends itself to the definition of misdirection. In fact, I think neuroscience is codifying and expanding on what magicians have intuited for millennia. And apparently I'm not the only one.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4260479/

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Re: More on the Science of Magic

Postby Bill Mullins » February 25th, 2019, 4:33 pm

Anthony Vinson wrote:
Bill Mullins wrote:
Anthony Vinson wrote:I'm not sure magic without misdirection is possible. Can anyone come up with an example of a trick or illusion not requiring misdirection?


Coin through dental dam
Most mentalism
Illusions like Steinmeyer's Interlude


Hmm... I guess it depends on our definition of misdirection, then. Does not the nature of the dental dam misdirect from the actual situation? Attention is drawn away from the prepared coin since it appears like the other. And with mentalism, misdirection is often built in, right? Peeks are facilitated while eyes are misdirected, mind reading is simulated via time misdirection (in some cases) etc. And with interlude, doesn't the construction and decoration of the prop and the posture of performer inside misdirect from the actual situation?


If your definition of misdirection is expansive enough, then I suppose that all tricks require it. But I don't include secret gimmicks (like dental dam) as misdirection. There is something fundamentally different going on between the dental dam trick, and a strongly misdirective effect like Slydini's Paper Balls over the Head, or Michael Finney's Card to Forehead.

You are right that many mentalism effects require a secret action. You mention peeking, and I'd include nail writing, billet steals, etc. The effectiveness of these techniques can be enhanced with misdirection, but normally, there are plenty of opportunities to choreograph the technique to a moment where it can be done in secrecy, without overtly requiring misdirection, and descriptions of their use don't emphasize misdirection. I'd compare them to a double lift. If your technique is good, you don't need to misdirect, but doing so helps the effect. OTOH, a top change is an overt and not a hidden action -- you swap one card for another, and it's obvious if you know what to look for -- so misdirection is necessary. Misdirection is not the secret action, or the time delay between move and revelation; it's the things a magician (or mentalist) does to occupy the spectator's attention to reduce the overtness of the secret actions. I'm suggesting that mentalism doesn't require misdirection to be effective nearly as much as technical sleight of hand; but I'm not saying that it is never used, or that it can't be made better by using it.

And with respect to Interlude, yes, there are hidden properties of the construction, but again I don't consider that misdirection, any more than I'd consider the mirror in a duck tub to be so. Misdirection is the active direction and control of the spectator's attention by the magician, preferably in such a manner that the spectator is not aware that he's not aware of what he's being misdirected from. The way that Interlude or Zig-Zag Girl or the duck tub focuses attention is passive, and it's not under the control of the magician during the performance.

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Re: More on the Science of Magic

Postby Anthony Vinson » February 25th, 2019, 5:05 pm

Bill,

I do not think my definition is expansive, but rather inclusive. From discussions with other magicians I realize that I am in the minority, but I believe that we are far too myopic in regards to the role and full scope of misdirection.

Take the example of the dental dam trick. I do not imply that they gimmick itself is misdirection. Instead it is the preparation and presentation that is designed to clearly communicate that there are two coins lying atop the strange trampoline stretched across the mouth of the glass. Is there a Grand Canyon size gap between that and Paper Balls Over the Head? Absolutely.

I content that the common definition of misdirection among magicians is far too limited in scope. My definition includes, but is not limited to, aural misdirection, verbal misdirection, kinesthetic misdirection, visual misdirection, psychological misdirection, rhetorical misdirection, and even tactile misdirection. And as for technological misdirection? We've not even crossed the threshold.

As to what you call passive misdirection? Sounds good to me. It may not be under the control of the magician during the execution of the illusion itself, for instance, but it was under her control during consideration, blocking, rehearsal, etc. It is part of the overall process of misdirecting the audience at the appropriate time.

Am I too generous with my definition? Obviously I don't think so.

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Re: More on the Science of Magic

Postby Jonathan Townsend » February 25th, 2019, 7:37 pm

Anthony Vinson wrote:What is this common definition to which you refer?!
I'm going with the common one around here, often used in this form: "covered by misdirection". This use is a grammatical problem, a verb taken out of context and into a brand or trademark. It's not ubik. It's not something you sprinkle on the way we talk about woofle dust. Closer to the notion of background music in movies...if you can even sense its presence it's incorrect.

I think the concept of broken schemata lends itself to the definition of misdirection.
Agreed. Broken schemata, human perceptual hacks, narrative elisions, background/foreground errors... but please not wholesale lumping of distinct approaches to trickery under a Malapropism. Same tack with the "one ahead" argument as it does not add insight to the obvious "the performer was ahead of the audiences understanding of the situation". :D

We don't say that an Escher print misdirects our sense of space. Or that our gaze over these works is misdirected into false motion detection. We know the images appear to depict something which is not physically possible or not static. But again we also know that the center of our vision is a blind spot - and that it's our brain/mind doing lots of work to make sense of what we see. So far it seems our sense-making activity is more basic than our language skills.

Are we seeing red? https://www.illusionsindex.org/i/grey-strawberries
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Re: More on the Science of Magic

Postby Bill Duncan » February 25th, 2019, 8:43 pm

Back before the publication of the Books of Wonder, if you said "misdirection" it was generally considered that the prime example was the paper balls over the head. Back then people still believed that expert sleight of hand was "invisible" and "burnable" and shouldn't need "misdirection."

John Carney summed up the truth of the matter very well when he pointed out that those methods exist for the times your ability to control attention fails.

Call it what you want, unless you're saying "watch me do this invisible pass" you're probably (mis)directing them.

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Re: More on the Science of Magic

Postby Jonathan Townsend » February 25th, 2019, 10:02 pm

If they look up at you when you say that - it's misdirection too. :)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yLO94GouxmQ

People attend the occasion, then the performer, then what's presented in that order of priority. Three nested frames of reference. Is that agreeable?
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Re: More on the Science of Magic

Postby Brad Jeffers » February 26th, 2019, 2:29 am

Anthony Vinson wrote: Can anyone come up with an example of a trick or illusion not requiring misdirection?
One of the strongest illusions in magic is created with the El Torero devise which is essentially a $3 toy.
Where is the misdirection in this trick?

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Re: More on the Science of Magic

Postby Anthony Vinson » February 26th, 2019, 6:18 am

Bill Duncan wrote: Call it what you want, unless you're saying "watch me do this invisible pass" you're probably (mis)directing them.


Yes. I would agree. Until recently our understanding of the full scope of misdirection has been limited. The more you know...

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Re: More on the Science of Magic

Postby Anthony Vinson » February 26th, 2019, 6:28 am

Brad Jeffers wrote:
Anthony Vinson wrote: Can anyone come up with an example of a trick or illusion not requiring misdirection?
One of the strongest illusions in magic is created with the El Torero devise which is essentially a $3 toy.
Where is the misdirection in this trick?


The sentence you quote above supported the one before it, and is deceptive taken out of context. I did specify my contention that, "I'm not sure magic without misdirection is possible." Apologies for any confusion. That said...

Yes, that is a great illusion, but is it magic? I would argue not, at least not without context and presentation. To be honest, I have no direct knowledge of how that little magic box works. I have a strong suspicion, but have never held one in my hand or looked it up on the interwebs.

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Re: More on the Science of Magic

Postby Anthony Vinson » February 26th, 2019, 6:36 am

Jonathan Townsend wrote:This use is a grammatical problem, a verb taken out of context and into a brand or trademark. It's not ubik. It's not something you sprinkle on the way we talk about woofle dust. Closer to the notion of background music in movies...if you can even sense its presence it's incorrect.

Broken schemata, human perceptual hacks, narrative elisions, background/foreground errors... but please not wholesale lumping of distinct approaches to trickery under a Malapropism.

We don't say that an Escher print misdirects our sense of space.


Jonathan, I understand your words, but your thoughts confound. I have so many questions.

Are you being ironic?

So, your preferred definition is flawed or incomplete or bound by grammatical constraint?

What malapropism? I was speaking generally, not specifically, after all.

I miss your point about optical illusion. That seems to move the goalposts and, again, confound.

Please understand that I mean no disrespect. I simply miss your main points in the confusion.

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Re: More on the Science of Magic

Postby Jonathan Townsend » February 26th, 2019, 12:46 pm

Misdirection unpacks into a lost performative (who does what), a generalization (look anywhere but there), and a nice shibboleth in our community. It's useful shorthand. No hey rube required. Needs more misdirection, or maybe cowbell. :)

We have the words "interpret" ,"expect" and "deceive". We already have some inklings about object permanence (peek a boo), about walls (something passing through a wall is surprising) , falling (precipices are scary) , glass (transparent but material), liquid volume (the tall glass does not necessarily hold more), mirrors (our reflection) ... pick a card (that's a play bow, relax).

Robert-Houdin's book, Secrets of Conjuring and Magic, discusses moving audience attention to the gaze of the performer (The Eye) - and finding the right time (The Moment) for sleights. It worked pretty well for Malini when he produced the block of ice. John Ramsay's published routines use both to keep sleights away from focus of attention. That more subtle strategy worked well enough that we have an oft cited report which deletes the transfer actions as well as the sleights used.

About those odd artworks in the earlier post. There is no red in the picture depicting strawberries. The busy images are static. No intentions to impute or attention to misdirect.

We could talk about methods of disrupting our mental model-making. Kuhn starts that discussion in his video about people following the ball more than looking at the performer.

:)

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Re: More on the Science of Magic

Postby Bill Mullins » February 26th, 2019, 2:37 pm

Anthony Vinson wrote: I content that the common definition of misdirection among magicians is far too limited in scope. My definition includes, but is not limited to, aural misdirection, verbal misdirection, kinesthetic misdirection, visual misdirection, psychological misdirection, rhetorical misdirection, and even tactile misdirection. And as for technological misdirection? We've not even crossed the threshold.


Why do you think this to be the case (that the common definition is too limited)? All of the concepts that you mention as being included in your own definition are known to magicians and are in use -- would magicians be better able to use or understand them if they were lumped in with "traditional" definitions of misdirection?

It would appear you are in agreement with Kuhn and the "Taxonomy" paper that was linked earlier. I tend to disagree -- if we take every psychological principle that comes into play in the presentation/performance of a magic trick (for example, helping the audience to believe that what appears to be "A" is in fact "B" -- both of the coins are on top of the dental dam) and call it "misdirection", then that makes discussions of the specific techniques as described by Ramsay, Slydini, Kurtz, and others more difficult, since they are in fact different not only in degree but in kind, and worthy of special attention.

One of the guests at MagiFest this year was Yann Frisch, who performed and described (in detail) his FISM act with the ball and cup. It is far more sophisticated than I had imagined. With his short act (5 mins or so), there are literally dozens of moments where he is specifically doing something to manage the audience's attention and focus in support of the magic. I like to think of myself as a fairly sophisticated observer of magic, but as he went through the routine, I realized that I had been managed and manipulated much more than I had been aware. To me, this is the most powerful misdirection, where the spectator's attention is controlled without the spectator being aware of it.

If a magician is holding something, and then lights flash paper, and then the object is gone, it doesn't take a genius to suspect he ditched it during the flame. It's this overt, sledge-hammer misdirection that Andrus disdains, I believe. I think he'd be fine with tension/relaxation misdirection, or overt movement hides the covert movement, or gaze control, so long as the movements involved are an organic part of the effect being presented (in fact, I gave examples of him doing some of these).

Kuhn said in his taxonomy paper that he hopes that it will aid magicians in understanding what they do, and improving it. A worthy goal. We must have a name for something before we can study and understand it and communicate about it. But if the approach is to take a number of psychological concepts, some of which magicians have historically understood as "misdirection" and others which they have not, and call them all misdirection, to then further subdivide, I don't think it's helpful. What would be more helpful is study how effective each of the types are, and what can be done to make them stronger.

For example, he has a category called "Memory Misdirection" (see his Fig 8). I often hear magicians talk about making the audience misremember or forget something, as if it was a technique that is robust and reliable. I have no doubt that it occurs sometimes (I know it has worked on me on occasion), but I don't think it is as powerful as some magicians say it is. How many times has a magician shuffled, had a spectator cut, and later on said "you cut and shuffled"? This may work on some folks, but on others, it calls attention to what happened, because they think "wait a minute -- I didn't shuffle, you shuffled. I only cut the cards." Kuhn would call this "memory misdirection", a combination of delay and verbal suggestions. I don't think "Lie to the spectator and hope you don't get caught" is a form of misdirection, and calling it such obfuscates what misdirection really is.

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Re: More on the Science of Magic

Postby Anthony Vinson » February 26th, 2019, 4:45 pm

Bill Mullins wrote: Why do you think this to be the case (that the common definition is too limited)? All of the concepts that you mention as being included in your own definition are known to magicians and are in use -- would magicians be better able to use or understand them if they were lumped in with "traditional" definitions of misdirection?

It would appear you are in agreement with Kuhn and the "Taxonomy" paper that was linked earlier. I tend to disagree -- if we take every psychological principle that comes into play in the presentation/performance of a magic trick (for example, helping the audience to believe that what appears to be "A" is in fact "B" -- both of the coins are on top of the dental dam) and call it "misdirection", then that makes discussions of the specific techniques as described by Ramsay, Slydini, Kurtz, and others more difficult, since they are in fact different not only in degree but in kind, and worthy of special attention.


I contend that the definition is limited simply because we now know more about the mechanisms that allow us to create the perception of magic. As such we should apply this new knowledge to strengthen our understanding of magic, and its impact on our victims, uh, spectators.

At heart, we magicians take advantage of limitations inherent in the human brain. (Others do as well, but at least we do so with [mostly] honorable intentions.) These limitations – or quirks or evolutionary artifacts – are what allow us to do what we do. They drive, and I would say, define the essence of our art. Without them we would be spending our disposable income on something other than magic books, downloads, and bricks of cards.

Yes, magicians have instinctively/intuitively known about the effects of these mechanisms, and many of them have already been lumped together under the umbrella of misdirection. Much has been written about them, and much of that is still valid. But much of it is not. Because we have learned more. Thus, is the history of any subject, right? Magic should be no different.

I do indeed agree with the linked paper. If we do not include these new discoveries about how magic works into the framework of misdirection, then where? To me it makes intuitive sense, but I am open to other suggestions. The important thing is that we learn from them and apply them to our craft.

My introduction to magic was the venerable Svengali deck. Of course, at that time it was marketed as TV Magic Cards. I was initially excited about having my own deck, but since most everyone was at least aware of them, and many people knew how the trick worked, the excitement quickly wore off. I tossed my deck in a drawer and forgot about it. A couple of years later I was floored when a demonstrator at a magic shop fooled me bad by using the deck to force a card on me. I found this out only after handing over my cash for the cool new trick, only to discover its true nature. I eventually – and we’re talking years here - understood that the magic wasn’t in the trick, but instead in the mind. That understanding, more than any other single aspect, has kept me interested in and practicing magic well into middle age. I do not see that changing. I am tickled beyond belief that neuroscience is helping to further my/our understanding, and hope that its discoveries serve to make magic even more magical in the decades to come.

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Re: More on the Science of Magic

Postby Jonathan Townsend » February 26th, 2019, 6:58 pm

Anthony Vinson wrote:... If we do not include these new discoveries about how magic works
agreed up to there. Whatever serves in our craft is worth noting.
...into the framework of misdirection
I'm not convinced "that which deceives" equates to misdirection.

Let's start with a goalpost - effective deception for the performer. We could say a joke is funny in relation to how much laughter it gets. By analogy we can treat a trick as magical in relation to a different kind of response... it looks like deer-in-the-headlights and we have theatrical conventions to keep that contained. They know it's a trick yet they also know they don't know how you did it. They might guess sleight of hand but they don't know. If they tell the story they get it wrong. Malini lifts a borrowed hat and finds a big block of ice. John Ramsay holds up a coin and then it's gone.

My introduction to magic was the venerable Svengali deck. Of course, at that time it was marketed as TV Magic Cards. I was initially excited about having my own deck,....
At the time did you expect the cards could pass inspection by a curious audience? I'm asking as there's a different kind of deception at work in "you could" frames. I believe that's not misdirection either. But it could be moving the goals.

* comic signoff line: mentioning presentation or setting, character, script, blocking or set design would be misdirection.
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Re: More on the Science of Magic

Postby Bill Duncan » February 27th, 2019, 12:08 am

Off the top of my head, I can think of at least two effects that are magical without misdirection. You can do either without even acknowledging the spectator's existence and they will still see a magical, even inexplicable, effect. Both are improved by adding cognitive direction however...

Super Needled Balloon
Kennedy's Floating Dollar

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Re: More on the Science of Magic

Postby Bill Duncan » February 27th, 2019, 12:18 am

Brad Jeffers wrote:One of the strongest illusions in magic is created with the El Torero devise which is essentially a $3 toy.
Where is the misdirection in this trick?


I would suggest that there is none, and no magical effect either. I suspect any thinking person would look at that and assume the "blade" simply moves quickly in the opposite direction than it appears to, and the eye is fooled. If you were to add a misdirective element that negated that possibility then you'd have magic, and not just illusion.

And I'm not even certain that's how it works... but without some form of cancelling that "obvious" solution, it lacks magical impact.

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Re: More on the Science of Magic

Postby Brad Jeffers » February 27th, 2019, 1:33 am

Bill Duncan wrote:Off the top of my head, I can think of at least two effects that are magical without misdirection.

Off the top of my head I can think of about four hundred and fifty.

Unless misdirection is somehow synonymous with deception.

In that case I can't think of any.

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Re: More on the Science of Magic

Postby Anthony Vinson » February 27th, 2019, 10:38 am

I am excited about the possibilities for our art in light of continuing discoveries in the fields of neuroscience, behavioral economics, social psychology, et al. I neither conflate nor confuse misdirection with deception. Based on my understanding, what we magicians have long referred to as misdirection has turned out to be far richer and more complex than we knew. The range and scope of misdirection is proving a trove of potentials, and many magicians are adapting to the expanding definition.

Some disagree. That is expected and understandable. To some extent this seems to be driven by a disagreement over the definition of misdirection. Fine. Call is what you will. All I ask is that you consider the positive impact these discoveries can have, and that you celebrate the opportunity to see our art expand and grow as a result of them.

I do not want to pick nits, split hares – this is a magician’s forum, after all -, or argue endlessly over what is essentially a minor disagreement between gentlemen and magicians, all of us possessing and displaying a great deal of passion for our common interest in magic.

I have ordered a copy of Dr. Kuhn’s book, and look forward to digging in when it arrives tomorrow. Thanks to the OP for announcing its publication.

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Re: More on the Science of Magic

Postby Roger M. » February 27th, 2019, 10:51 am

Bill Duncan wrote:
Brad Jeffers wrote:One of the strongest illusions in magic is created with the El Torero devise which is essentially a $3 toy.
Where is the misdirection in this trick?


.....I suspect any thinking person would look at that and assume the "blade" simply moves quickly in the opposite direction than it appears to, ......

Except it doesn't happen that way. Perhaps one in 5 or 6 people you show this to will figure this out ... the remainder will be completely stumped, even if you repeat it a dozen times.
Usually, the one out of 5 or 6 who "gets" it, will get it right away, not be amazed in the least, and won't understand why you're showing it to them in the first place.

This is one of the weirdest "tricks" of all time in that the above seems to be based on how specific people view the world, and how those people instantly see right through the method.
The remainder of the folks (the 5 or 6 who are amazed) truly view this as magic, and have no explanation for it. No misdirection required.

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Re: More on the Science of Magic

Postby Jonathan Townsend » February 27th, 2019, 11:01 am

Roger M. wrote:This is one of the weirdest "tricks" of all time in that the above seems to be based on how specific people view the world, and how those people instantly see right through the method.
The remainder of the folks (the 5 or 6 who are amazed) truly view this as magic, and have no explanation for it. No misdirection required.

The arts lead the sciences again. Yay arts! :D

Would the responses you get approximate those of "Card Warp"?

Sorting hat? We got em. :)
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Re: More on the Science of Magic

Postby Bill Duncan » February 28th, 2019, 1:01 am

Roger M. wrote:Except it doesn't happen that way. Perhaps one in 5 or 6 people you show this to will figure this out ... the remainder will be completely stumped, even if you repeat it a dozen times.


So I was fooled by it, but didn't see magic. That's the problem as far as I can tell... something is only magical if you perceive it as such.

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Re: More on the Science of Magic

Postby Zig Zagger » February 28th, 2019, 4:26 pm

Thanks to the OP for announcing its publication.

You are welcome, Anthony.

Here's another one that was just announced: The Spectacle of Illusion: Magic, the paranormal and complicity of the mind, by Matthew Tompkins who happens to be, according to the website, a "professional magician-turned-experimental psychologist" and who "recently became the first member of the Magic Circle to be admitted on the basis of a peer-reviewed scientific publication."

The book "explores how illusions perpetuated by magicians and fraudulent mystics can not only deceive our senses but also teach us about the inner workings of our minds. Indeed, modern scientists are increasingly turning to magic tricks to develop new techniques to examine human perception, memory and belief." Read more about it here: https://wellcomecollection.org/books/XAF9fRQAACwA4-28

Incidentally, the book will coincide with the upcoming magic exhibition "Smoke and Mirrors" in London, starting April 11th. Read more about it here: https://wellcomecollection.org/exhibitions/W_vuwBQAACoA_SY2

For a few more new books (by Rob Zabrecky, Pepe Carroll and Pit Hartling, among others) please refer to my magic blog at http://www.zzzauber.com.
Interviews, news, musings, and artsy stuff: Have a look at our growing magic blog! http://www.zzzauber.com
Advancing the art in magic one post at a time (yeah, right!)


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