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TheGreatDane
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White Plains, NY
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Hey guys:

This will probably be of no use to many of you, but I found it somewhat enlightening as a performer of magic and mentalism. It's an article about a researcher at SUNY Binghamton (where I attend) who specializes in hypnosis (I've included the link to the article at the bottom of the page). But hold on! Before you dismiss this post because you don't do a hypnosis show or anything remotely close, allow me just a few more paragraphs to tell you why I took the time to write this out.

Particularly, I was drawn in by this quote:

"The research team tests subjects to determine how well each responds to hypnotic suggestions. Then researchers provide information about how hypnosis works, trying to eliminate the subject's misconceptions-for example, that people under hypnosis are gullible and easily led. "We try to encourage them to use their imaginations, rather than to passively respond to the suggestions, and to actively immerse themselves in the experience of whatever is suggested," Lynn said. Researchers also teach subjects how to interpret hypnotic suggestions, so that a misunderstanding won't lead to an inappropriate response.
Two years into the three-year project, the research indicates that instruction does indeed help people respond better to hypnotic suggestions. By speaking with subjects and letting them watch how others perform under hypnosis, "we can get at least half of initially low-hypnotizable subjects to test as high hypnotizing subjects," Lynn said. The team still needs to figure out, though, which elements of the training do the trick. "Is it telling people they should make an active response? Is it the imagination part of it, when we ask people to vividly imagine what we've been suggesting? We don't know what components are responsible for the effectiveness."

Lengthy, I know, but here's my point. Notice how they've found that instead of allowing the participant to take a passive role in the experience, they engage the subject, asking them to use their imaginations and really be A PART OF the experience, rather than an onlooker trying to believe what they're hearing. I have personally met Prof. Lynn and having talked to him (I'm a psych major myself), this approach yields far greater results than the usual.

The application of these ideas to the performance of magic or mentalism should kind of be jumping out by now, but I'll attempt to explain what I got from this (and perhaps this is also from a recent re-reading of Derren Brown's books). I'm also sure that these notions have been posted elsewhere and published in many a magazine and book, but here goes anyway.

The same ideas that Prof. Lynn puts forth about hypnosis applies to any area of the performing arts for a fairly direct reason. It is far more effective to INVOLVE the spectator rather than throw ideas and visuals at them. This is why "magic in a spectators hands" is always considered so strong, by engaging them in a personal way, you are drawing them into your world, where impossibilities are far from out of the ordinary, rather than barging in on their world with tricks designed to fool.

This can be taken even further though. Anyone familiar with Derren Brown's theories should see where I'm going at this point, but I continue. Simply causing four aces to pop out of nowhere will yield an impact, but certainly not as strong as causing them to appear due to a reason that the spectator finds emotionally and intellectually connects with them. For example, causing a piece of metal (i.e., a coin) to materialize out of thin air should garner a stronger reaction than, say, knowing someone's cell phone number when you shouldn't be able to. The first is a direct defiance of the laws of physics, the second only flys in the face of probability (albeit a large probability to overcome). However, unless the coin production is given a strong presentation, the cell phone number prediction comes out ahead in terms of spectator reaction. Why? Because it's personal, and engaging. On the same token, the coin production could drop jaws and the prediction could fall flat, for the same reason.

I feel I'm rambling on here (I'm uber-bored at work and for some reason began waxing philisophical), but I'm sure some of the greater magic minds here at the Café will pick up on what I'm trying to achieve and expand upon it. If I could convey my message more clearly (about 1000 cups of coffee and 8 hours of work are blinding my otherwise proficient writing skills), it is a valuable lesson to learn and adopt in your own performances.

Either that, or I'm just sick of answering phones.

Here's to 5 o'clock.

All the best,
Zach

Link to article
"I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of stars makes me dream." ~Vincent Van Gogh
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