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PSYC 213 Lecture Notes - Optical Illusion, Orienting Response, 18 Months

Course Code
PSYC 213
Jelena Ristic

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Towards a Science of Magic- Handout
Magic looks as if it is defying the laws of physic and logic, but magicians are actually just
making you believe in “impossible” events
Box 1:
o Successful magic relies on the spectator experiencing an effect while being unaware
of the method need to prevent audience from detecting this method
o Need to manipulate the spectators assumptions to make “magic” work
Enhance power of illusions
o Magicians have learnt a lot about human cognition through practice and successful
Diversion of attention away from its method so that an audience does not know how it is
Related to in cognition only a small part of the visual information enters our eyes and cognition
Physical misdirection:
Control of attention by a stimulus certain stimulus often capture our attention
Create areas of high interest that capture attention while the method is carried out in areas of
low interest
o Audience looks where magician is looking
In cognition, eye gaze leads to shift of attention
o Movement, high contrast and novelty
o Attentional capture: attention is pulled away by an irrelevant task
Can also be achieved by “off-beat” moments which lead to a momentary
relaxation during which the spectator’s attentional ‘hold’ is relatively weak

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Body posture
Box 2:
o Disappearance of a lighter and cigarette manipulated by three things
The disappearance of the lighter automatically leads to interest
Social cues
The magician looks at his hand that previously held the lighter and
rotates his body in that direction
Movement and sound
At the time of the drop the magician snaps his finger and waves his
hand, thereby attracting attention
Psychological misdirection:
Control of attention by manipulating spectators expectations
o Similar to endogenous control in cognition where attentional orienting is determined by
a person’s goals and intentions
Aim is to reduce suspicion that a deceptive method has been used
o Can use a prop
o Keeping audience in suspense as long as the audience does not know what to expect,
they will not know which parts of the routine are important and will not direct their
attention there
o False solution magician will highlight this in order to draw attention away from the
real solution
Form of intelligent hallucination
o Need to apply assumptions, which can sometimes lead to errors
Optical illusions:
Rely on tricks such as intricate mirror combinations and perspectives

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o Manipulating perspective of an object
o Ghost illusions using mirrors and lighting allows objects to appear and disappear in full
o Make one object seem to morph into another
Cognitive illusions:
Rely on higher level cognitive factors
o Vanishing coin illusion:
Spectator believes that the magician is transferring a coin from one hand to
another while they are in fact just concealing it in the first hand
Create false actions which lead the spectator to believe they are real
Occur because speed of neural transmission causes a delay between visual stimulus and
conscious percept
o To compensate for this, we tend to try to predict the outcome of the event, but this can
lead to deception
Box 3:
o Many magical illusions rely on an impression of seeing something based on expectations
rather than reality
o Ex: vanishing ball illusion
Pretends to throw a ball in the air while it in fact stays concealed in his hand
When he pretends to follow the ball with his eyes, more people recalled seeing
the ball moving than when he looked at his hand
Your choices are actually highly controlled can be systematically influenced
Physical force:
When asked to physically select a card from a shuffled deck, spectators assume there are 52
equally divided cards and they are properly shuffled, but that may not be true
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