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Alan Wheeler
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Johnny Thompson, among many others, has noted that although most audience members will not perceive a magic show as anything but illusion, many will believe a mind-reading performance is actually possible. I have validated this observation in my many shows for psychology classes when most of the college students write in their reports that at least part of my mind-reading performances must be real.

I want to share a link (buried by DrTodd in a Penny for Your Thoughts Forum discussion) to an academic article that compares the evolution of mind-reading acts to magic, Uri Gellar, stage wrestling, stand-up comedy, Andy Kaufman, reality TV, fake fake news, and other cultural phenomenon.

The End of Mind Reading

What do you think of Edward Dean's analysis in the article? Is the cultural mindset toward the mystery arts changing? Can the lying be more interesting than the lie, as the author contends? Is the entangled dichotomy between magicians and "pseudo-scientific anti-magicians" (otherwise known as mentalists) shifting?
The views and comments expressed on this post may be mere speculation and are not necessarily the opinions, values, or beliefs of Alan Wheeler.
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jstreiff
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This skeptic's paper is well-written but starts with a flawed premise that is revealed in the opening lines:
"Advances in neuroscience have formally debunked Cartesian mind/body dualism, ending, in the process, the possibility of mind reading as it has long been depicted in popular culture."

Mind-body dualism has not been refuted at all. It is simply one position among many in academic philosophy and science.

The other flawed assumption, characteristic of a magician mindset, is that somehow audiences will not accept the possibility of mysteries. This is the classical "I know better than you, and I am going to tell you what to think" mentality. Yet the irony is that we are highly ignorant as a species when it comes to the universal mysteries of the cosmos. And that includes scientists. In truth, we don't know what we don't know. Anything is possible. No one has the authority from Nature to tell anyone else what to think. Including skeptics.
John
Dannydoyle
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Few adult audience members believe the girl is cut in half and restored. Few believe things materialize out of nowhere, vanish and so forth.

A larger number of adult audience members DO believe that you can read thoughts. Know thought of numbers and so forth.

The bottom line is that when doing mysteries involving the mind it is easier to elicit belief from certain audience members. When you have a physical "thing" to refer to in your mind it is far easier to backtrack methods, and come up with them and push away belief. In "mind reading" you have almost nothing but your mental reconstruction of events to go on and usually that is fairly incomplete. It leaves gaps, and it lends itself to belief easier.

And by the way the irony in your last post lies within the statement "Anything is possible". Well no. That is simply not true. You rail against the article for assumptions not unlike this one, and whamo there you go and let out a HUGE one. It is simply factually incorrect to say "Anything is possible". There are absolutely things that are not possible.
Danny Doyle
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jstreiff
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I think if you reflect you will realize that our beliefs are conditioned by our observations. Those observations are necessarily limited. Those limits, chiefly from Nature, pose restrictions on our knowledge. Whether we like it or not, we do not know quite a bit about reality. And given that, Anything is indeed possible. We are too ignorant to make the call that anything is necessarily impossible. Most people would prefer to believe we know more, but the fact is we do not. This becomes especially clear in the study of physics and cosmology. The open questions and paradoxes are simply huge. But believe what you want since anything is possible, you could be right.

I would also comment that the greater awareness now of consciousness research and its implications in the public mind actually should lead to more acceptance of mentalism. We might well see a resurgence of interest similar to that of the late 40s through the 60s.

So there are many aspects to this.
John
Dannydoyle
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Anything is possible is simply factually incorrect. You can add any existential nonsense you want and pretend to have greater understanding and reality is what it is. Certain conditions must exist for life. Try living in Antarctica with no clothes and tell me it is possible for you.

No I'm sorry to inform you that the statement sitting is possible is simply factually incorrect. While many things become possible for us as knowledge base increases this in no way means anything is or ever will be possible.

Anything is an awfully big word and if just one thing isn't possible you are absolutely wrong.
Danny Doyle
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<BR>In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act....George Orwell
WitchDocChris
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29 pages and I didn't feel like there was a conclusion in this article at all?

Even if Cartesian Duality was 100% debunked today - how many people in the audience have ever even heard that phrase? I have strong doubts that it's even truly relevant to the discussion of believability.

I did find the discussion regarding emotional labor very interesting and that definitely rings true with my experiences. In my experience when the performer spends the time and energy to create an interesting, engaging, and safe reality for the audience to experience/engage with, that audience will happily do so. Some of them will walk away believing the performer's claims after the performance, some of them will walk away absolutely not believing them, and most won't really care or form an opinion either way.

The idea that disproving Cartesian Duality will have any significant impact on the ability of a performer to claim extra-sensory abilities is historically bunk. I mean - are there any famous mediums who haven't been debunked? How many of them just took a break, and then went right back to it? John Edwards charges $850 for a private reading - in person or over the phone. He's been exposed multiple times.

If someone's act can be directly exposed and then still used - how can one model of an explanation of an extrasensory ability have the impact of discrediting an entire genre of performance? It can't.

However, to address a specific question:
Quote:
Is the cultural mindset toward the mystery arts changing?


I think - yes. But not necessarily in the way the article is implying.

I think people want shows that give them a safe space to at least temporarily believe in the possibility of superhuman abilities. Whether that's Sherlock Holmes level deduction skills, or telepathy, or whatever. I personally think people are craving a deeper, spiritual or intellectual level to their entertainment - they just don't know it's an option until they find a show that tickles that particular fancy.

This is, of course, my personal experience and opinion and not backed up with any form of statistic data. It's possible I'm completely wrong.
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Dannydoyle
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Engaging the audience is often all they are looking for. Maybe not a deeper meaning but just being engaged. At times that can trigger belief.
Danny Doyle
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<BR>In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act....George Orwell
jlevey
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All interesting points.

But in line with the last one, posted by Danny... ...Can you spell E-N-T-E-R-T-A-I-N-M-E-N-T?!? Smile

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tommy
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If they believe it you are a successful quack.
If there is a single truth about Magic, it is that nothing on earth so efficiently evades it.

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When I saw my first "mental based" effect more than 60 years ago I heard, "Everyone here has some experience with either feeing they have read someone else's mind,
or having their own thoughts mysteriously know to another." Each of us was nodding our heads in agreement.

A similar phrase will get the same response today. Now, what you choose to demonstrate in a show may exceed that agreement - or build on it.
Folks paying to see a show based on mental ability demonstration plan on having their belief/experience validated more than learning anything new (opinion).
Pushing the envelope too far may shatter the a priori trust, while treating their "knowing" frivolously may loose their attention.

Most spectators do not which to think too hard but may resent being treated as if they do not think at all.

Consider the "it" in tommy's post. I that means "a belief in telepathy" you are on solid ground. If that means "I have special powers" there is quicksand.
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danaruns
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People will believe any whacked-out nonsense. Doesn't mean it's real, or even possible.

Mentalism passed off as real is bunk, and those who practice it in that fashion are unethical charlatans.

I thought magicians would be beyond falling for this kind of crappola.
"Dana Douglas is the greatest magician alive. Plus, I'm drunk." -- Foster Brooks
Dannydoyle
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Quote:
On Jan 13, 2019, danaruns wrote:
People will believe any whacked-out nonsense. Doesn't mean it's real, or even possible.

Mentalism passed off as real is bunk, and those who practice it in that fashion are unethical charlatans.

I thought magicians would be beyond falling for this kind of crappola.


Yea people believe in a frightening amount of wacked-out nonsense. Also of late they seem to NOT believe in a frightening amount of FACTS! (I guess a simple extension of what you are saying.) But indeed it does not make it real or even possible.

I think the common factor is desire. They WANT to believe in these things so they find ways to do so. (Or NOT believe in something because of a counter belief they possess. Alternative facts and such LOL.)
Danny Doyle
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<BR>In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act....George Orwell
Dick Oslund
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"Anything is possible" !!! Have you ever tried making a square circle? (And, I don't mean the prop with the tube and box!)....
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Jonathan Townsend
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Quote:
On Sep 1, 2018, Alan Wheeler wrote:
... Is the cultural mindset toward the mystery arts changing? Can the lying be more interesting than the lie, as the author contends? Is the entangled dichotomy between magicians and "pseudo-scientific anti-magicians" (otherwise known as mentalists) shifting?

Looks like we got another academic inroad with that article. Excellent! Smile Citations make good publicity. Are folks publishing items with forcing words, and figures set for later use in shows?
The entertainment industry has reached out to offer branded experience across TV/magazine/movie/interview for the audience. Behind the scenes with actors providing emotional labor and catharsis outside the main product. There's also product placement, event swag, cosplay, and the gossip venue to manage career story twists.

A magician can present animated artworks, or Damien Hurst sculptures with living creatures... not sure there's more than a branding issue here.

I like that he cites Eco and wrestling audience kayfabe. But what if the audience is complicit on the brand marketing? How does that relate to mind-body dualism? Or to twenty-first century entertainment? There are more modern myths to exploit.
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funsway
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I have never purchased any item form an invasive pop-up ad or un-solicited email. Don't plan on it either.
I do not trust that eBay can select a gift "just for me" or that my life will improve by giving Facebook my phone number.

I even remember that folks subscribed to cable TV because it had NO ads.

So, I do not respond well to any person jumping in my face and offering "wanna see a trick" or distracting me from my daily plan.
If I choose outside entertainment over entertaining myself, I can do so without prompting.
Mom always said the "everybody is doing it" is a great reason not too. That has not changed.

Methinks our culture is de-evolving partially because the masses are taught that life is a true-false test or multiple choice offered by someone else.
I am not just against mass-marketing influence, but against the idea that folks accept a stranger's opinion over what to buy, eat or consider magic.

I love to see a good magic performance or even a poor one from an earnest beginner WHEN I have given permission to be involved.

Yes, mind reading might come to end when the average brain pretends to be dead. But it has nothing to do with reasoned thought. Just the opposite.
"the more one pretends at magic, the more awe and wonder will be found in real life." Arnold Furst



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tommy
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Ladies and Gents, the brain alone has no mind - or so they say - which is what makes my next experiment interesting. Watch closely as I first remove the brain.
If there is a single truth about Magic, it is that nothing on earth so efficiently evades it.

Tommy
Jonathan Townsend
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There are other words for those who seek to reinforce supernatural belief or misrepresent their interpersonal skills. The product is entertainment. Nobody really thought Gallagher had an invisible elephant.

Part of our problem is attempting to defuse audience feelings about being tricked by defusing the trickery. The expressions "to be played for a fool (one person involved) or "made the fool" (publicly) have contracted down to an awkward "fool". We usually want an audience to feel clueless rather than stupid.

Quote:
"Anything is possible" !!! Have you ever tried making a square circle?
How close do you need that? Tenyo did just that and very nicely for a trick - patented too. Apple has adopted something between for icons. Given any Epsilon, or a room full of Deltas - have you noticed how many people are wearing black or khakis these days? Smile We're not in Huxley's Brave New World just yet.
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danaruns
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Quote:
On Jan 14, 2019, Jonathan Townsend wrote:


Quote:
"Anything is possible" !!! Have you ever tried making a square circle?
How close do you need that? Tenyo did just that and very nicely for a trick - patented too. Apple has adopted something between for icons. Given any Epsilon, or a room full of Deltas - have you noticed how many people are wearing black or khakis these days? Smile We're not in Huxley's Brave New World just yet.


How about making pi a whole number? Possible?
"Dana Douglas is the greatest magician alive. Plus, I'm drunk." -- Foster Brooks
Jonathan Townsend
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Quote:
On Jan 14, 2019, danaruns wrote:
...How about making pi a whole number? Possible?
* Smile If that happened there'd be a fuss. Mathematicians discover a whole number hiding between three and four. Smile A fun topic for writing that goes from feature about the discoverer with awkward pics to vague description of the math with lots of diagrams and symbols. Lots of symbols. Smile Or for the spooky side maybe some hints about other numbers waiting on the number line.

Apple Pie Smile

*semi-seriously the ancient Greeks were doing geometry and reasoning about numbers. Here's a short argument about the size of pi: Take a circle and call its radius the unit length for this discussion. They knew that you could put a square around a circle. The side of the square is as long as the diameter of the circle - or twice the radius. So the area of that square, its length times height, is four times the radius. The sides of the square are entirely outside the circle. So the area of the circle which sits inside and just barely touches the square is less than four. You can also make a hexagon inside the circle using the radius as a side. Each of the sides of those triangles is as long as the radius. Two across make a diameter. The six triangles each have area of a half unit which means the hexagon has area three. So the area of a circle needs to be between three and four. But there are no whole numbers between three and four - so pi must be something other than a whole number. After many clever people explored the idea over hundreds of years - it was proved that pi is not the ratio of any whole numbers and that its expression in decimal digits just keeps going without any sign of repeating or pattern.
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Jonathan Townsend
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Back on topic - free choice and individual perceptions are still very much with us. Dressed up in fancy NLP, presented with a labcoat or covered in quantum computing it's still about what we expect and how we get surprised. Today's winning lottery numbers, stock prices, and the right card for a poker hand are just as elusive as ever. The stories and tricks will be with us for as long as we can wish for such things.
...to all the coins I've dropped here
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