That said, the general topic of magic and. What the neuroscience of magic reveals about our everyday deceptions. Stephen L. Macknik and Susana Martinez-Conde; with Sandra Blakeslee. Have you ever wondered how magic effects work? Coins materi- alize out of thin air. Cards move through a deck as if pulled by an invisible force. Beautiful. Review: Sleights of Mind: What the Neuroscience of Magic Reveals about Our Brains Stephen Macknik and Susana Martinez-Conde, with Sandra Blakeslee.
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Advance Endorsements Included from: Stephen Pinker V.S. Ramachandran Dan Ariely Jonah Lehrer Mahzarin Banaji Michael Gazzaniga Mac King Apollo. Editorial Reviews. Review. "Magic is the place where our senses and beliefs fail us in Sleights of Mind: What the Neuroscience of Magic Reveals about Our. Sleights of mind: What the neuroscience of magic reveals about our everyday deceptions Full Text PDF | Download ( KB).
Posted: Apr 30, pm 0 I recently gave a careful read to Sleights of Mind, and can verify most of the good things already said about it in this and other threads. I learned some things about magic, and even more about the young field of Neuroscience. Several of the field's major insights, such as those around the nature of human attention, are very significant and ought to inform every thoughtful magician and mentalist.
From their young field, based on brain imaging, they especially conclude that human beings are incapable of multi-tasking--in the sense of giving priority attention to two things concurrently. They are impressed that magicians have experientially known this for centuries; it is the main reason why misdirection, when well done, is so astonishingly effective. The study may suffer some from what may be a major methodological flaw.
The authors interviewed a dozen or so magicians, and were coached by several, but there is little evidence that they read much of the authoritative literature of magic theory. As soon as we saw who Apollo had plucked randomly from the crowd, we shared a glance of pure glee. Would you like to see the behind-the-scenes of how I did all that? Tonight is all about a meeting of minds between two very different disciplines that turn out to have a great deal to teach each other.
Apollo is not going to disappoint. Our journey to this dais had begun a couple of years earlier when, as young scientists seeking to make a name for ourselves, we tried to think of a way to rustle up some public enthusiasm for our specialty of visual neuroscience. We wanted to try something new, something that would showcase visual science in a way that would interest the media and the public.
We knew that people love it when science can explain something about the visual arts. An example is Margaret Livingstone's work on why the Mona Lisa's smile is so ineffably enigmatic, or why Monet's use of similar hues allows you to see depth and spatial organization without objects being defined.
We also knew that visual illusions are eternally popular, and also fundamentally important to understanding how the brain turns raw visual information into perception. For example, some stationary patterns can create the illusory perception of motion. See the rotating snakes figure below. But nothing is really moving, other than your eyes!
If you hold your gaze steady on one of the black dots at the center of the "snakes," the motion will slow down or even stop. Because holding the eyes still stops the illusory motion, we speculate that eye movements are required to see it.
This is supported by the fact that the illusory effect is usually stronger if you move your eyes around the figure. Vision scientists have shown that illusory motion activates brain areas that are similar to those activated by real motion. The idea we came up with was simple: We asked the scientific and artistic communities to contribute new visual illusions and got over 70 entries. The audience got to see the ten best illusions and then choose the top three. The contest has been a huge success.
Our internet audience doubles every year and we currently get over three million visitors each year. Astonishing, because you would think that after generations of talented, dedicated, sometimes OCD-driven visual artists tinkering and laboring at their easels, drafting tables, scratch pads, dark rooms and PC graphics programs, that this particular vein of ore would be all mined out. Consider the Leaning Tower illusion: This is because your visual system treats the two images as if they were part of a single scene.
Normally, two neighboring towers will rise skyward at the same right angle, with the result that their image outlines converge as they recede from view.
This is one of the ironclad laws of perspective, so invariant that your visual system automatically takes it into account. And that is what also makes it inspiring: It just goes to show that there is still plenty of low-hanging fruit just waiting to be discovered. Each new illusion adds depth and definition to cognitive theory. Each bolsters certain hypotheses while weakening others or inspiring new ones. Some suggest new experiments. Each inches us just that much closer to understanding perception, awareness and consciousness.
The ASSC is a society of philosophers, psychologists and neuroscientists united in the aim to understand how conscious experience emerges from the interactions of mindless, non-conscious brain cells. As our opening move we proposed holding the conference in our home town of Phoenix, but the Association's board nixed that right away because the city is an inferno midyear. Instead, they suggested Las Vegas.
This seemed a bit disingenuous. So apparently our colleagues in consciousness studies were looking for a bit of real excitement to spice up their thought experiments.
So Vegas it was. We flew out there in October to do some scouting. On the flight over we tried to figure out the really important thing: What hook could we attach to this conference to make it memorable and newsworthy? What theme could raise the visibility of consciousness research to the public? We didn't want to do another contest. The answer began to germinate the moment our plane dipped its wings on approach to the Las Vegas airport.
It felt like a dream. Soon we were driving up and down the Strip, checking out hotels for our meeting space. People from every culture on the planet seemed to mill around us. It seemed too strange to be real. Then, bingo: The answer appeared. Festooned on billboards, taxi cabs and buses were huge images of magicians: They stared out at us with mischievous eyes and beguiling smiles.
These tricksters seemed like scientists from Bizarro World — doppelgangers who had outpaced us real scientists in their understanding of attention and awareness, and had flippantly applied it to the arts of entertainment, pickpocketing, mentalism and bamboozlement, as well as to unique and unsettling patterns of facial hair. One of the things Susana and I study is visual art. Artists have been making important discoveries about the visual system for hundreds or years, and visual neuroscience has learned a lot about the brain by studying their techniques and ideas about perception.
We realized that magicians are just a different kind of artist: Instead of form and color, they manipulate attention and awareness. Magicians basically do cognitive science experiments for audiences all night long.
But unlike most experiments in cognitive labs, they don't suck. Now, before my inbox fills up with flames from angry colleagues, let me explain. Cognitive neuroscience experiments often suck insofar as they are strongly susceptible to the state of the observer: If the experimental subject knows what the experiment is about, or is able to guess it, or sometimes even if she incorrectly thinks she has figured it out, the data are often corrupted or impossible to analyze.
Such experiments are fragile and clunky. Extraordinary control measures must be put in place to keep the experimental data pure. Now compare this with magic shows. Magic tricks test many of the very same cognitive processes we study, but they are incredibly robust. We thought, if only we could be that deft and clever in the lab! If only we were half so skilled at manipulating attention and awareness, what advances we could make! The idea rapidly came together: We grew excited; and this was before we realized that we were setting our expectations far too low.
We were just a couple of clueless muggles. We did not know any magicians. Neither of us had ever even seen a real magic show. Moreover, we would need celebrity magicians if we were going to attract news coverage and public interest. Furthermore, they would have to be celebrity magicians who were willing to divulge their most precious secrets. Fortunately, our colleague Dan Dennett got us our big break.
Dennett is a fellow scientist and philosopher who also happens to be a good friend of James the Amaz! Randi wrote back, enthusiastically endorsing our idea.
He told us that he knew three more magicians who would be perfect for the symposium: Teller, Mac King and Johnny Thompson. All of them lived in Las Vegas and all were personally interested in cognitive neuroscience.
He instructs rather than patters. He slows his techniques way down, occasionally pausing and rewinding. The term is so broad it is next to meaningless.
A frame can be a whole room or a tabletop or a volume no bigger than a shoe box. George gazes intently at his hand, now caught within a frame. He squeezes. George nods. He thinks so. The palm is empty. George glances to his shoulder where a coin is resting.
Magicians, he says, thoroughly manage attention at all times. Apollo says it is more about force- focusing the spotlight of attention to a particular place where it will get caught up. Pickpockets are masters of shifting frames around. Another important concept, says Apollo, is that tricks are embedded in natural actions.
He demonstrates by making a pen disappear. He dangles it in front of the audience with one hand. When he flicks his other hand past his ear, as if to scratch, no one notices.
The movement is natural, unremarkable, quick. Suddenly everyone sees the pen has vanished. Apollo turns his head around to reveal the pen tucked behind his ear. An action with no obvious purpose is anomalous. It draws attention. However, when the purpose seems crystal clear, we look no further. Teller explains that he will draw suspicion if he raises his hand for no apparent reason, but not if he performs a seemingly natural or spontaneous action like adjusting his glasses, scratching his head, or draping his coat over the backrest a chair.
Neuroscientists now have a good idea why such decoy actions are so good at fooling us. It comes from a remarkable type of brain cell called mirror neurons. Pretty much at will, you can conjure a quasi- visual experience of just about anything that can be seen or depicted in images.
It is an invaluable psychic tool for action planning, execution, skill learning and memory. You also ascribe a simple, natural motivation to him, namely that he is thirsty and will raise the glass to his lips and take a drink. Your brain makes a prediction and runs a simulation, automatically and usually subconsciously. Mirror neurons are a very important element of human social intelligence.
They are part of how we are able to understand each other, to imitate, to learn and teach, to empathize. But they can also mislead us. You see Teller raise the glass to his lips and seem to drink, and your automatic prediction seems to be fulfilled.
But did he really take a drink? Maybe he transferred something from hand to mouth, or from mouth to hand.
It's like a bubble surrounding their body. The distance is different in different cultures and in different people, but everyone senses the space and tries to protect it. George looks down.
Apollo pops up next to George's shoulder. He is now safely inside George's bubble. He can get away with magical murder. Apollo's observation is fascinating. What he calls personal space, neuroscientists know as peripersonal space. People have always had a strong intuitive sense of this space, and neuroscience has recently begun to decode its neural foundation in the brain. It turns out to be more than a mere metaphor, but less than a real, tangible aura. As far as your brain is concerned, the space immediately around you is literally a part of your body.
Finally, Apollo reveals a principle of the pickpocket's art that thrills Susana and me. George looks on with interest. Susana and I had first heard Apollo describe this principle when we had come out to Las Vegas a few months prior to the Magic of Consciousness Symposium, in one of the meetings where we got together with these magicians to share knowledge and ideas and to brainstorm.
Resources for doing The Work
I don't mind telling you that after every meeting with Apollo I check the credit cards in my wallet to see if they've been swapped for fakes. He's really that good. Teller had called for this particular meeting in his office so that Susana and I could present our scientific research on illusions and visual perception to the magicians. It was a great idea. The purpose of the collaboration was to enable us to use magic in the lab, but it would obviously help for the magicians to know what cognitive research looked like.
I showed them some of my work on visual illusions. They were delighted and amazed by the latest examples. Susana then taught the magicians about the neuroscience of eye movements.
There are two main kinds, and they serve different purposes and are probably controlled by different subsystems of the oculomotor system. The first kind are called saccades, in which your eye jerks almost instantaneously from one point to another. The fleeting moments when the eyes are motionless between saccades are called fixations. Saccades are critical to vision because our eyes can only make out fine detail in a keyhole-sized circle at the very center of our gaze covering 0.
You can prove this to yourself with an ordinary deck of cards. Separate out the face cards and shuffle them. Assuming you can resist the urge to let your eyes dart off to steal a glimpse, you will find that the card has to come quite close to your center of vision before you can identify it. Your eyes are constantly darting around the world like a hummingbird on meth. Your brain edits out the motion blurs and integrates the small bits of information received from each fixation to present your visual awareness with a detail-rich, stable-seeming portrait of the visual scene before you.
The second kind of eye movement is called smooth pursuit. This means that your eyes move in a continuous, uninterrupted path without any pauses or jerks along the way. Smooth pursuit takes place only when you are tracking a moving object.
It cannot be faked. This is one of the reasons that some visual effects scenes in movies fail: Pursuit eye movements like this allow you to track moving objects, while saccades are used to systematically search and gather information from a visual scene.
Saccadic eye movement vs.
You can observe the difference between these two types of eye movement by holding up your thumbs in front of you about a foot apart. Now, holding your hands still, ask a friend to slowly move her eyes as smoothly as possible from one thumb to the other. Notice that her eyes make little jumps along their journey. Those little jumps are saccades. No matter how hard she tries, she cannot make her eyeballs swivel smoothly between the targets. Now try it again but this time ask her to watch your left thumb as you move it slowly over to touch the right one and then back out again.
Notice this time how her eyes track perfectly smoothly. All of the magicians were fascinated by these facts, but for Apollo they triggered a Eureka! He now realized that the dichotomy between saccades and pursuit eye movements could explain why. When you see a hand moving in a straight line, your eyes — and your attention — automatically jump to the anticipated end point. But a hand that moves in an arc triggers a different tracking mechanism. You cannot predict where the hand is headed, so you fixate on and follow the hand itself, and so you fail to notice when Apollo's other hand slips into your pocket.
Pickpockets have a whole toolkit of misdirection techniques. Susana and I were already familiar with some of them. Such thieves often ply their trade in dense public spaces and rely heavily on socially based misdirection — eye contact, body contact and slipping, ninja-like, inside the personal space of the mark.
But Apollo's observation was really new to us, and it immediately spawned new insights and ideas for experiments.
If Apollo and his colleagues were right, they knew something important about the brain that neuroscientists did not. It is very well established that visual perception is suppressed during saccades, which seemed to explain the way pickpockets made use of fast linear movements. But it was still unknown whether attention was also affected during eye movements. This was new. This conversation marked a sea change our relationship with the magicians.
Our original intention had been simply to poach their best techniques so that we could design better experiments, but now we realized that magicians might actually know things about mind and behavior that neuroscientists do not. Instead of helping us to discover new things about the brain, these artists and entertainers could be a source of neuroscientific discovery themselves. This was going to be so cool!
We named a new field: Then Teller starts to move around the room, pulling coins out of people's heads, eyeglasses, jackets. Magicians are well aware of these little brain foibles, and they pump them like a lab rat on a cocaine lever. Mac looks a bit like Danny Kaye in a bad plaid suit, but he is one of the most influential magicians in the world. He is not only one of the few major magic headliners on the Las Vegas Strip one of the dream jobs of the magic world , but also one of the few primary inventors of new illusions.
Mac is also considered by many to be the finest comedy magicians alive. He complains of a pebble in his shoe, which he then pulls off to reveal that it contains an impossibly giant rock. It's an incredible and extremely smooth magical production of a surprising object, to be sure.
Everybody in the room is wondering where that huge rock came from. From our angle on stage, behind the performers, I can't see the rock very well but I had seen it earlier during Teller's talk, when Mac accidentally dropped it from his back pocket as we sat behind the panel table. It made a loud thud that everyone in the room must have heard, but only those of us at the dais could see what had actually happened. I'll never forget the mirth and chagrin on Mac's face as he retrieved his rock unceremoniously from behind his chair, on all fours, and looked up at me on his way up from the floor.
Even without having seen the actual rock behind the table, the loud noise should have been a bigger clue to the audience, telegraphing what Mac was about to do. But it might as well have fallen on deaf ears, as the audience did not seem to process the noise whatsoever. They didn't even remember the thud later on, after having seen Mac's trick.
It occurred to me that magicians, like all of us in our jobs, must make mistakes all the time. Magicians know this and it gives them the courage to simply keep going even in the face of glaring logical errors. Indeed, one of the hallmarks of a good magician is to be able to recover smoothly and seamlessly from mistakes and unexpected turns.
Certainly in this case the audience heard the noise and saw Mac scramble under the table before his performance, but they simply forgot the episode because they were unable to assign significance to it. The rock weighs about five pounds and is the size of a small melon.
Sleights of mind
To demonstrate that doing the same trick twice is a mistake, Mac purposely performs the same exact trick once again, using the same exact method as before.
It is much easier to understand the trick the second time around. But this time the trick has again become impenetrable. The third time around Mac changed the method by pulling a fake but realistic-looking sponge rock out of his shoe. Unlike the real 5-pound rock he had used in the first two iterations of the trick, the newly produced sponge rock was actually hidden inside his shoe. Spectators become habituated to the seemingly repeated actions and gloss over the details.
For a magician, the devil is in those details.
The audience has a deep-seated bias to assume that effects that look the same are done in the same fashion. For all our modern enlightened skepticism, deep down there is an Aztec high priest in all of us.
Using apparent repetition, a magician can even deliberately raise suspicion about a possible method, only to then show that suspicion to be unfounded. This principle is known as the Theory of False Solutions, formulated by Spanish magician and magic theorist Juan Tamariz.
Johnny, a. Third, after the cards were cut, Johnny took a furtive glance at the bottom card. Also note that even if Dan had behaved radically and counted out dozens of cards, Johnny could have simply recut the deck masked by a quick flourish , or done one of many other possible procedures, to force Dan to make the necessary selection in a different way. So I bought a shiny new black Dodge Intrepid ES with the moon roof, leather motorized seats, upgraded rims, Infiniti Surround-Sound system, and automatic air temperature controls.
After all, the long drives between Massachusetts and New York required an extra measure of safety. Sure they did. My decision had nothing to do with the fact that chicks dig a cool car.
To be fair, I did go to the car dealership with a list of desired safety features. I arrived at the car lot driven by a strong sense of responsibility. The salesperson took one look at my list, knew that the high-end models were the only ones that came with the features I wanted as standard, and then preyed on the fact that I was a single male with needs. I could have ordered a cheaper, drearier, smaller model with the same safety equipment, and then waited two to three months for the new car to arrive.
But the salesman forced me in the sense that magicians use the word to download the fancy car instead.
Why wait and potentially die when I could drive off the lot with a dream car today and start my new babe-filled safety-conscious lifestyle right away? How could Dan be so gullible as to be led down the garden path of decision making by a guy in a suit and a gorgeous head of hair, or me by a guy with a set of keys?
When we are influenced by others, as Dan was by Johnny, and as I was by the car salesman, we rationalize the influence as being good decision making on our part. Randi begins by explaining that you will easily accept unspoken assumptions and that you tend to believe information that you learn for yourself as opposed to being told it. For example, halfway through the lecture he reveals that the microphone he appears to be speaking through is a dummy.
Habituation is created through a neuronal process called synaptic plasticity. This same process may contribute to why it is so difficult to lose a loved one. My grandmother died from complications surrounding emphysema certainly smoking-induced in her late eighties. My grandfather lived on for a few more years, but never got his mojo back after her death. This was despite the fact that my grandmother had been sick for a long time, and it took a lot of effort for my Grampa to care for her in her final years.
But the oxygen might as well have been removed from his air, Grampa was so despondent. Habituation is part of the basis of how we learn, and my grandparents were together for so long that Grampa had learned that Gramma was a fundamental feature of life.
Without her, he was just counting the days.
The Symposium, plus the three scientific papers we published in its wake, garnered huge interest in the new science of neuromagic from scientists, magicians and members of the public. It took over our lives and set us firmly on the path of looking deeper into the possibilities of what had been unleashed, and ultimately to our determination to write this book.
By the end of we had put together our agenda and travel itinerary for the year , our year of intensive travel and adventure, our year of learning and apprenticeship and practice, practice, practice — our year of living magically. Why did we take to the road, and why did we decide to become magicians ourselves? Quite simply, because we knew our neuromagical enterprise would fail if we did not. Performing magic is like hacking the brain, and to truly understand hacking, you need to become a hacker yourself.
Designing new scientific experiments is part science, part art. No two are the same. No mathematical formula can design them for us.
Since our goal was to import the techniques and principles of magic into the scientific setting, we would need to be experts. We would have to learn and practice with real live magicians. And how would we know when we were ready? We decided to do what many wannabe magicians have done.
If you can perform at a professional level in front of top magicians, you are awarded club membership. This gives you access to secrets of the trade and credentials for getting jobs in the industry. We began working with a great local magician, Tony Barnhardt, who agreed to show us the ropes and rope tricks , and is moreover a fellow cognitive scientist and collaborator.
We would need to go meet the magicians where they live and work — at magic conventions, competitions, shows, workshops, and conferences. We would pick their brains as they picked our pockets, all the while exploring the various corners of the magical, and real, world.
194014101 Burling Hull Sleights PDF
Download pdf. Henry Holt and Company. Have you ever wondered how magicians are able to make things disappear in front of your eyes? It may come as little surprise to the readers of this journal that these feats are carried out without supernatural powers. Instead, magicians use a wide range of powerful psychological techniques to manipulate perception and awareness.
Sleights of Mind: Over the last three years, they have formed links with renowned magicians and have tried to explain magic tricks in terms of psychological and neurobiological processes. In this book, the authors describe their journey into the secretive world of magic.
Sleights of Mind was preceded by journal publications in which the authors explored some of the links between magic and neuroscience 1.
Their thesis is that scientists can learn much from magicians and that doing so may advance neuroscience by decades. Sleights of Mind is an extension of this, and in the book they declare themselves the founders of a new discipline they call neuromagic.
This is a surprise, given that the authors, who head two large neuroscience research groups, have in fact not published any empirical work that has been inspired by magic. This presents the central flaw with this text: That said, the general topic of magic and neuroscience will be of interest to a fairly wide readership. While some magicians will be perturbed by the way in which many well-kept secrets are revealed, the depths and details of these methods will provide an easy thrill for the nonmagician.Here are just a few of the further principles that Macknik and Martinez-Conde magically illuminate: The building is the Area of magic and serves as the home of the Academy of Magic Arts, which bills itself as the most exclusive club of magicians in the world.
Their thesis is that scientists can learn much from magicians and that doing so may advance neuroscience by decades. It is only after the tour is in full swing that we start to suspect that the building truly is bigger on the inside than it is on the outside. We didn't want to do another contest. Ramachandran Phantoms in the Brain in William Morrow , a bestselling classic that has been translated into more than a dozen languages.
Sound waves strike your eardrums. No matter how hard she tries, she cannot make her eyeballs swivel smoothly between the targets. I understand how painful the unquestioned mind is.