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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Food for thought » » Why does magic work? (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

stoneunhinged
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A couple of days ago I was watching a magic video, and it hit me like a bullet: some things that magicians do are obvious to any logical person. The magician takes a little ball and puts it into his left hand, and it vanishes. All logical people would, upon some concentrated thought, realize that the magician did not put the little ball into is left hand. It's obvious.

So why does it work?

We go in circles about whether magicians ought to have disclaimers, or how they should react when people think what they are doing is real. We go on about the suspension of disbelief. But the truth is, magic shouldn't work. The very basis of an ACR is so obvious that one should be scared to ever try to perform it. But it works. Heck, forget the whole ACR: just reduce the question to a single sleight--a DL--and all logic tells you that it shouldn't work.

So why does it work?

What is it about human nature that makes the magic possible? Is it some kind of blindness to logic while being entertained? Forget the suspension of disbelief; are human beings ready to suspend all rational thought altogether at the right moment?
Father Photius
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Probably has something to do with the principles of Gestalt psychology. People tend to learn to view things in forms. Why you can type words in a jumbled letter formation, as long as you get the first and last letter correct, they will be able to read it.

One reason magic does not work so well on very young children is that they have not learned to establish the recognition of patterns and forms that older children and adults do.

To the very young child, when something goes out of sight, it goes away forever. When it returns, it is just another, new similar looking object.

So when we vanish something, to that child, so what, that happens every minute of my life. You bring it back, so what, that happens every minute of my life.

Older children and adults have learned the established patterns. The established pattern, you take an object in one hand, place it in the other, close the other, it is in the other hand.

In magic when we do this, the pattern triggers, and we don't bother to even try to concentrate on the logical sequence of what happened. Thus, when the hand is revealed as empty, and we accepted the pattern of the first move, we are now surprised.

The magician then uses misdirection to keep us from sitting there and dwelling on the idea and coming to the logical conclusion. The magician moves on and reoccupies our mind with something else to follow. We simply cannot focus on two things at once.
"Now here's the man with the 25 cent hands, that two bit magician..."
tommy
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It's not obvious to me.
If there is a single truth about Magic, it is that nothing on earth so efficiently evades it.

Tommy
Steve_Mollett
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I'm with you, Father. Like perception illusions (ala Escher), illusions of magic 'play hob' with our accepted, learned patterns of 'reality.' Like an Escher print, magic LOOKS like something familiar to our experience, yet seems to defy the conventions of that experience.
As entertainment, the sheer novelty of the paradox is fascinating and, if not presenting a threat, delightful.
Author of: GARROTE ESCAPES
The absurd is the essential concept and the first truth.
- Albert Camus
Jonathan Townsend
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They'll follow where you lead
They'll believe what they expect to see
And so when your path takes them to places they don't expect - they can be surprised.
...to all the coins I've dropped here
Josh Chaikin
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Jonathan does make a good point, and Darwin Ortiz does go on at length about this in Strong Magic. Father Photius does touch on it a little. Intellectually, we know that it can't be happening, but emotionally, we do. Also, the example of a vanish is too simplistic, the vanish might not necessarily fool, but the appearance of the ball under, say...a cup, that's where the emotional response is. I don't get an ovation for my retention vanish, but how it's used in conjunction with everything else. That's part of it, which leads into something said by Ascanio, "Misdirection is based on the premise that it is impossible to translate into sensations all that enters through the senses."

In summation, "The whole is greater than the sum of its parts."
evolve629
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Quote:
To ignore questions as to why we are so easily fooled by conjuring is a serious oversight of psychologists, for there is far more to it than mere sleight of hand,
or the hand moving faster than the eye can follow.

Richard L. Gregory

Do we like our blind spot to be tickled by the magicians? Like a cat satisfied by purring?

This is an interesting article, along with the premise as above-

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/4726547.stm
One hundred percent of the shots you don't take don't go in - Wayne Gretzky
My favorite part is putting the gaffs in the spectators hands...it gives you that warm fuzzy feeling inside! - Bob Kohler
Jonathan Townsend
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Quote:
To ignore questions as to why we are so easily fooled by conjuring is a serious oversight of psychologists...

what an amazingly uneducated thing to believe much less write as of others should take it as knowledge.

have you noticed how many bright lawyers and psychologists we have in our craft?
Sam Schwarz
Professor Hoffmann
Michael Weber
Curtis Kam
*

Check the facts folks.

BTW, there is no need to expose magic trickery when doing perceptual or cognitive psychology experiments. Nor IMHO is there any need to discuss magic methods in such context outside of our little gatherings.
...to all the coins I've dropped here
evolve629
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Quote:
On 2008-10-12 18:53, Jonathan Townsend wrote:
Quote:
To ignore questions as to why we are so easily fooled by conjuring is a serious oversight of psychologists...

what an amazingly uneducated thing to believe much less write as of others should take it as knowledge.

have you noticed how many bright lawyers and psychologists we have in our craft?
Sam Schwarz
Professor Hoffmann
Michael Weber
Curtis Kam
*

Check the facts folks.

BTW, there is no need to expose magic trickery when doing perceptual or cognitive psychology experiments. Nor IMHO is there any need to discuss magic methods in such context outside of our little gatherings.

Oh really, Jon? I think if you read the entire quotation, you will not arrive at the above conslusion... I know of many magician psychologist and magicican MD. I'm not that far from the above people you mentioned as far as my day job goes! Whether or not I believe the statement, it's irrelevant; it's ONLY a quote, FGS! Smile
One hundred percent of the shots you don't take don't go in - Wayne Gretzky
My favorite part is putting the gaffs in the spectators hands...it gives you that warm fuzzy feeling inside! - Bob Kohler
Michael Baker
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Juan Tamariz had some good thoughts in this direction (I forget which book). The basic theory was something to the effect that all possible methods are disproven, or otherwise rendered useless, until there remains only one. The poor spectator finds out too late that this is a false method, and the floor drops out from under them.
~michael baker
The Magic Company
Josh Chaikin
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The 'theory of false solutions' is in The Magic Way, which is long out of print. It will be available again from Hermetic Press, eventually. (or eBay for $150+)
Jonathan Townsend
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Obviously a specious amusement and not even close to a theory.

Proof: "You did it with a fog of nanobots"
...to all the coins I've dropped here
Vick
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Quote:
On 2008-10-09 13:19, stoneunhinged wrote:

So why does it work?



So why does it work?



In part due to good acting.
In part because people want to be entertained and amused in a smart fashion.
In part because that pact exists between the audience and the performer, suspension of disbelief.

Some want to believe, even if they know logically or rationally what they are seeing can't ......


..... or could it?


Nice to ponder but for me in the bigger scope .......

.....doesn't matter as long as it's a good show and they enjoy it
(and book me again)
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Lawrence O
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Quote:
On 2008-10-09 13:19, stoneunhinged wrote:
A couple of days ago I was watching a magic video, and it hit me like a bullet: some things that magicians do are obvious to any logical person. The magician takes a little ball and puts it into his left hand, and it vanishes. ALL logical people would, upon some concentrated thought, realize that the magician did not put the little ball into is left hand. It's obvious.

So why does it work?

We go in circles about whether magicians ought to have disclaimers, or how they should react when people think what they are doing is real. We go on about the suspension of disbelief. But the truth is, magic shouldn't work. The very basis of an ACR is so obvious that one should be scared to ever try to perform it. But it works. Heck, forget the whole ACR: just reduce the question to a single sleight--a DL--and all logic tells you that it shouldn't work.

So why does it work?

What is it about human nature that makes the magic possible? Is it some kind of blindness to logic while being entertained? Forget the suspension of disbelief; are human beings ready to suspend all rational thought altogether at the right moment?


Along the line you describe , it doesn't really work: it deceives the eye but not the mind. Arturo de Ascanio Y Navaz explained how to make it work (you probably know but younger magicians may not). Here it is.

The “in transit” actions

It’s here that I [Ascanio] discovered (not invented) a generic category of actions which, by their own existence, can be used to hide the progression of a deception. These are the ones that I coined as “In Transit Actions”.
Call “In Transit” actions the ones made along the way or as a mean of facilitating the performance of another more important action, or just enabling the realization of a main action. For example, let’s imagine that the performer is about to bring a pack of cigarettes from his pocket but that he is initially holding any usual object in his right hand (let’s say a pen). To take out the packet of cigarettes from his pocket, he needs to free his right hand. Then to get the cigarettes (that is, in transit from the action of taking out the said packet), he passes the pen to his left hand, so that his -now freed- right hand can get into his pocket and immediately reappear with the cigarettes. Any audience will only register the main action (taking the cigarettes out) but the “in transit” action of freeing the right hand (the secondary action) is so adapted to the situation and so embedded in the main action that, in itself, it is of absolutely no interest. There is an infinite number of details in this “in transit” action that go through undetected: for example was the pen pivoted end for end in the action, by which end did the left hand took hold of it, was the thumb over it or around it, was the cap to the right or to the left, the pin of the cap up or down, and so on…)

Elements of the « In Transit » actions
It is then easy to analyze that an “In Transit” action shall gather the following elements:

First: A final action which clearly appears as the main one, i.e. as the action which is to give a meaning to the whole set of movements that may precede or follow it. Thus it essentially converts any such movements into the necessary prolongation or into the natural consequences of the main action. Of course, this main action must not be "suspicious", it has to be clearly innocent and without any consequence over the magical effect.

Second: A secondary action, which is achieved as mere formality prior to the implementation of the principal action. This is the essence of the “In Transit” action. The gesture that surrounds it has no independent meaning, and simply generates brief movements with very little attraction power. It’s during this gesture or action that the sleight is performed.

Third: A signal, even minimal, clearly indicating that it’s the performer’s intention (or that he has a purpose) to carry out the main action. I believe that this element is the most important, because it is precisely the attitude of the magician which, in a sequence of gestures, makes a few appear as principal and other as merely secondary or just necessary to deal with the main one.

Now let's see how these elements can be found in the following examples of “ in transit “ actions, successfully performed by magicians since immemorial times.

The magician, standing in the audience, holds in his left hand a chain of two rings and in his right hand, together, the rest of his set of rings. In order to free his hand for being able to act with the string of two rings, he gathers for a second this chain of 2 with the rest of the rings, seemingly placing the set of rings around his left arm, retaining the chain of two in his hands. Of course, the chain of 2 was exchanged along the way.
Clearly distinguish the final "innocent" action (ending in the hands only with the string of two, turned into a major action by the attitude of the magician) and the “In Transit” action, during which he is performing the sleight which can , in turn, be split into two gestures, one of them in transit of the other “In Transit” one: the initial chain of two is joining for a few seconds the rest of the rings, to be able to dump the rest of the set around his left arm to be able to hold the chain of two freely.

Performing the cups and balls, the magician holds a small ball in his left hand. Also on his left on the table, lays his wand. With the intent of getting hold of the wand, his right hand takes the ball (tourniquet), and the left hand, so freed, goes to the left and takes up the wand. Here again there is a “final action” (holding the wand with the performer’s left hand) and an “in transit” action (to pass the ball from one hand to the other, to be able to free the left hand). The final action is also made the principal one thanks to the attitude of the magician, who directs his gaze to the wand before the ball changes hands, or makes somehow reference to the wand before making the tourniquet ( " again with the wand... again this cup ... etc.)
Magic is the art of proving impossible things in parallel dimensions that can't be reached
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