Science - Page 59

In my experience , there are two main reasons why magicians tend to be highly creative . First , coming up with ideas for magical happenings involves imagining a world that isn ’ t constrained by reality . For instance , producing something from an apparently empty box confounds our thoughts about object permanence and making a person seem to levitate defies our beliefs about the effects of gravity .

Second , magicians need to figure out a way of making these impossible dreams appear to happen . Audiences tend to be both observant and smart , so magicians methods frequently involve a significant amount of lateral and creative thinking .
A few years ago , Professor Caroline Watt ( from Edinburgh University ) and I wondered whether learning more about magic might help to get people ’ s creative juices flowing . A student of mine named Amy Wiles was teaching in a local school and suggested that we conduct a study with some of her pupils . The resulting experiment was simple and involved three key stages .
We asked a group of around 60 schoolchildren to complete a standard measure of creativity known as the Alternative Uses Test . Created in the late 1960s by psychologist Joy Guildford , this test involves presenting someone with an everyday object , such as a mug or pencil , and asking them to think of as many uses for it as possible . To score the test , researchers then carefully count the number of uses that the person comes up with ( known as the Fluency score ) and rate how novel these uses are ( known as the Originality score ).
Then we randomly split the pupils into two different groups and had one group take part in a magic lesson and the other participate in an art lesson . The magic lesson was based around a trick called Colour Vision . Invented by magician Martin Sunshine , this illusion involves giving the spectator a cube with different coloured faces , having them place the cube into an opaque box , and the magician mysteriously divining the top colour of the cube .
During the lesson , the children watched the trick , tried to figure out how it was achieved , were shown the solution , and then performed it on one another . It was important that the art lesson shared many of the features associated with the magic activity , and so we needed to create something that was illusionbased , interesting , fun , surprising and involved a sense of mastery . After much thought , we decided to show the children a perspective illusion , explain how to make it and then have them create their own drawings .

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