say : the secrets to most magic tricks can be unlocked with a few clicks on the internet . But be warned . Once you know the secret , you will never again experience the wonder and mystery .
Magicians are often concerned with exposure , and theoretically , I could be expelled from the Magic Circle for revealing how magic tricks are done in public . However , magicians are allowed to sell their secrets , and inasmuch as you have all paid to buy this book , there is little danger of this . In the digital age , it is virtually impossible to keep anything secret , and thus social media platforms and YouTube pose a big challenge to magic . 1 These open platforms , however , also provide new opportunities for the magic endeavor . I learned magic from books that I found in our local library , while today ’ s generation is learning from watching You- Tube tutorials performed by masters . Young magicians today learn new and better techniques , and I am often amazed — and put to shame — by their skills . Magicians should embrace the challenge of openness because it will ultimately encourage them to develop better tricks .
I believe that a more open approach to magic , one that allows outsiders to study and contribute , will enrich the endeavor . For any magicians concerned about
92 exposure , rest assured that most people don ’ t actively seek out the secret ; they enjoy and cherish the wonder too much to do so . I hope to have offered some insights into this wonderful form of entertainment without destroying the wonder that it elicits . I hope this will help enhance the magic endeavor and help people appreciate this often-neglected art form . Most importantly , though , magic offers many important benefits beyond simple entertainment .
Magic provides compelling illustrations of our mind ’ s limitations , and it highlights the subjective nature of our conscious experience . The science of magic offers a new perspective on cognition , and it provides compelling illustrations of the surprising tricks our brain uses to deal with the challenge of survival . We rarely reflect on these challenges , and our cognitive processes are often impenetrable to conscious introspection . Most importantly , magic creates a conflict between the things that we believe to be possible and the things that we experience , and it does so by exploiting our delusional beliefs about our own cognitive abilities . Understanding and appreciating these errors in meta-awareness has far-reaching implications for how we judge ourselves and others . Moreover , been fooled by magic https :// youtu . be / SniOvy5GYcc
is a compelling reminder of how much we misjudge our own capability .
These errors and illusions provide scientists with new insights into the brain , but they also help us make more informed decisions . Technological advances are changing the demands our brains face , and our safety relies on realizing our own limitations . For example , the ease with which magicians can create blind spots by manipulating your attention explains why it ’ s a bad idea to talk on the phone while driving . Similarly , many of the perceptual and memory illusions challenge our thoughts about the way we perceive the present and remember the past . The ease with which magicians influence your decisions shows that the compelling sense of free will we typically experience may be an illusion . Throughout modern history , people have tried to persuade others and influence public opinion ; advertisers try to convince us to buy their products , and politicians try to manipulate public attitudes . Democracy relies on informed and free choices , yet in our digital age , the distinction between “ real ” and “ fake ” news is becoming more blurred , and it has become much easier to covertly manipulate opinion . As with the magician ’ s force , we feel like our choice is free , and yet this may simply be an illusion .
The science of magic provides valuable lessons . It is difficult , if not impossible , to enhance our cognitive resources , and these forms of covert persuasion are often hard , if not impossible , to resist . However , awareness of these limitations and biases has the potential to help us make more informed decisions and to reduce the chances of us being unknowingly manipulated . Although magic highlights many of our limitations , we should also embrace the positive experiences that magic elicits wonder , creativity , captivation . A deeper understanding of the nature of magic will help translate these principles from the stage to our daily lives . So much more can be learned from magic and the psychological mechanisms underpinning these experiences , and we hope to see significant advances in this area in the years to come . ■
Excerpted with permission from “ Experiencing The Impossible ”
Gustav is a Reader in Psychology , Goldsmiths , where he directs the MAGIC-lab . He is also president of the Science of Magic Association ( SOMA ) and a member of the Experimental Psychology Society ( EPS ) and the Magic Circle ( M . M . C ).
He has contributed to several diverse research areas , including social cognition , consciousness , attention , illusory experiences , magical thinking , free will , misdirection and a range of areas related to the scientific study of magic . The breadth of his work is not only seen in scientific contributions , but also in his engagement to bring science to the public and bridging the gap between magic and science . Visit https :// www . magicresearchlab . com for more information about the research lab .