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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Food for thought » » Experimental Psychologist - Ask Me Anything! (1 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

Vitas White
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Boston
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Hello all! I am an Experimental Psychologist by trade with a PhD in Psychology. The majority of my thesis actually surrounded the "effect" (see what I did there?) magical effects have on the human mind at different stages of development and in different cultures. Feel free to ask me anything! I'm currently working in a lab, conducting experiments often involving illusions and magical effects! I am currently in the process of creating some unique effects with my colleagues and we'd love to answer your questions!
Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it now. Boldness has genius, power, and magic at its core.
ChrisPayne
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Sounds interesting.....to ask a question you feel equipped to answer we perhaps need to know a bit more about your domain of expertise. For example what types of outcome / variables were you looking at when you experimented - was it qualitative or quantitative etc. Are you a magician?
Markus_M
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So what is your scientific definition of "Magical Effect"? Because if you mean, what I think you do, with:

Quote: "I am currently in the process of creating some unique effects..."

I really have to reconsider what I ever thought of the physical principle of "cause and effect". I mean, you scientist do use language and words in a precise way, don't you? There must be a clear definition of what an effect is. And who could better end this ongoing war than a scientist. But please don't tell me I have to throw away Fitzkee books.

Greetings,
Markus
danaruns
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The City of Angels
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Quote:
On Sep 13, 2018, Vitas White wrote:
Feel free to ask me anything!


Okay! I'm very curious about the intersection of magic and the sciences of cognition and perception.

As I see it, our cognition relies on our perception of objects, forces, and events outside our person. Our perception relies on our senses, and with magic that is primarily sight. Regarding sight, we do not actually "see" anything at all. Cognitively, we have the illusion of peering out the windows of our eyes, but that is not at all what is really happening. A small band of wavelengths enter our eye and are processed by the cones and rods and ultimately the optic nerve in our eye, and are converted into electric and chemical signals which are then sent to at least four separate areas of the brain. The brain then receives those chemical and electrical signals, collates them, and interprets them into something regarding the outside world to which it can ascribe meaning or significance.

As such, our cognitive experience is "seeing" something. But science reveals that we do not perceive the reality of the things we "see." What we "see" is simply a representation of something real that is cobbled together in the depths of our brains, and is not the thing itself. We do not "see" the thing itself, we see a mental or imaginary representation; something like an avatar of that thing. Just as the icons on your computer screen are not the programs themselves, but merely representations simplified so that they are useful to us, likewise, the things we "see" are just simplified avatars of something real which is unseen and much more complex. The rules of evolution and fitness do not mandate that we perceive the reality of things, like a tiger or a palm tree. Fitness requires only that we be able to distinguish between the two of them. We do not need to perceive the reality of those things. So we "see" only a representation.

Everything we "see" is nothing more than a persistent illusion. And yet, magic is the creation of illusion. So it is illusions upon illusion.

Given that we perceive only avatars of things and not the reality of them, which our brains interpret to create a useful mental representation of functional reality, how is it that magic works in the stubborn illusion of human awareness, which perceives only illusions and representations to begin with, and ought to filter out the illusions of magic and interpret them in a way that is consistent with our understanding of reality?
"Dana Douglas is the greatest magician alive. Plus, I'm drunk." -- Foster Brooks
Vitas White
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Quote:
On Sep 14, 2018, ChrisPayne wrote:
Sounds interesting.....to ask a question you feel equipped to answer we perhaps need to know a bit more about your domain of expertise. For example what types of outcome / variables were you looking at when you experimented - was it qualitative or quantitative etc. Are you a magician?


I am a magician! But I mostly focus on creating and analyzing effects as opposed to performing live. However, I'd be lying If I said I didn't enjoy some great street magic!
Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it now. Boldness has genius, power, and magic at its core.
Vitas White
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Boston
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Quote:
On Sep 14, 2018, Markus_M wrote:
So what is your scientific definition of "Magical Effect"? Because if you mean, what I think you do, with:

Quote: "I am currently in the process of creating some unique effects..."

I really have to reconsider what I ever thought of the physical principle of "cause and effect". I mean, you scientist do use language and words in a precise way, don't you? There must be a clear definition of what an effect is. And who could better end this ongoing war than a scientist. But please don't tell me I have to throw away Fitzkee books.

Greetings,
Markus


You know, it's funny you should say that! I actually don't like to be referred to as a scientist even though I technically am. In my field of study, it's important for me to maintain an awareness that I'm just as human as any other laypeople out there. When I use the term "effect" I'm not necessarily referring to the effect of an ongoing or previously committed action as you mentioned. Think of it like a "sound effect" or a "special effect." I personally define a magic trick/effect as a physical phenomenon, or rather a perceived phenomenon, that is made to appear as if it were caused by some sort of supernatural or paranormal entity/ability. We, as humans, know that magic isn't "real" in the sense that magicians have different "powers" or "abilities" than every other member of the human race, but that doesn't mean the "effect" of the performance is any less real. Hope this clears some things up for you!
Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it now. Boldness has genius, power, and magic at its core.
Vitas White
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Boston
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Quote:
On Sep 14, 2018, danaruns wrote:
Quote:
On Sep 13, 2018, Vitas White wrote:
Feel free to ask me anything!


Okay! I'm very curious about the intersection of magic and the sciences of cognition and perception.

As I see it, our cognition relies on our perception of objects, forces, and events outside our person. Our perception relies on our senses, and with magic that is primarily sight. Regarding sight, we do not actually "see" anything at all. Cognitively, we have the illusion of peering out the windows of our eyes, but that is not at all what is really happening. A small band of wavelengths enter our eye and are processed by the cones and rods and ultimately the optic nerve in our eye, and are converted into electric and chemical signals which are then sent to at least four separate areas of the brain. The brain then receives those chemical and electrical signals, collates them, and interprets them into something regarding the outside world to which it can ascribe meaning or significance.

As such, our cognitive experience is "seeing" something. But science reveals that we do not perceive the reality of the things we "see." What we "see" is simply a representation of something real that is cobbled together in the depths of our brains, and is not the thing itself. We do not "see" the thing itself, we see a mental or imaginary representation; something like an avatar of that thing. Just as the icons on your computer screen are not the programs themselves, but merely representations simplified so that they are useful to us, likewise, the things we "see" are just simplified avatars of something real which is unseen and much more complex. The rules of evolution and fitness do not mandate that we perceive the reality of things, like a tiger or a palm tree. Fitness requires only that we be able to distinguish between the two of them. We do not need to perceive the reality of those things. So we "see" only a representation.

Everything we "see" is nothing more than a persistent illusion. And yet, magic is the creation of illusion. So it is illusions upon illusion.

Given that we perceive only avatars of things and not the reality of them, which our brains interpret to create a useful mental representation of functional reality, how is it that magic works in the stubborn illusion of human awareness, which perceives only illusions and representations to begin with, and ought to filter out the illusions of magic and interpret them in a way that is consistent with our understanding of reality?


This is an excellent question! I'm not going to pretend that I could answer this question to your satisfaction as well as a cognitive psychologist as opposed to my experimental psychology degree, however, I certainly will try! Everything you've mentioned is 100% correct. What we, as humans, and any other creature with traditional optical nerves "see" is just that. It's an insight into what is actually happening. This brings up many arguments such as color. For example, imagine a color floating in space, as if it were an object. It has absolutely no physical traits besides its distinct color. You and I both recognize this color as "blue" however, the pigments that I perceive to be blue could be the pigments that you perceive to be another color such as green. There is no way to possibly tell that what we are seeing looks the exact same. If we could somehow have a screen hooked up to display what I see and what you see, only then can we confirm that these two "colors" match in our brains. However, the person analyzing these screens will also see both pigments as the exact same. All confusing perspectives aside, the human brain is a complex machine, and it certainly is a machine. Perception, and subsequently, illusions can only be experienced by someone that trusts themselves enough to be conscious of their own errors, their own confusions. This isn't a conscious choice, we can't train ourselves to be trusting of our own brains, it's simply how our brains function. This is a concept of functionalism that Titchener first spoke of many, many, many years ago, but I won't get into that. To simplistically answer your question, it's true that magic is simply illusions upon illusions, but we, as humans, have accepted these initial layers of illusions as our own reality. Similar to Plato's argument about what "justice" really is, these illusions are our reality because we as a society, as a race, agree that it should be our reality. This is why, as studies have shown, there are certain individuals that cannot be fooled by magical illusions. These people are the supposed clairvoyants, the buzzers, the seemingly "supernatural" side of humanity. However, these people are simply wired in a different way than your traditional human, and perhaps they are our future. Who knows. Perhaps hundreds of years from now, magical illusions will need to be recreated in entirety as the human race's cognitive abilities shift and evolve. It certainly seems that way!
Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it now. Boldness has genius, power, and magic at its core.
Jonathan Townsend
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Eternal Order
Ossining, NY
26963 Posts

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Quote:
On Sep 13, 2018, Vitas White wrote:
I am currently in the process of creating some unique effects with my colleagues and we'd love to answer your questions!


That's great! Smile Any suggestions about how to set up a trick to test how well a sleight works for audiences? Just one sleight. Say a glide or false transfer. To tell if they're playing along versus they actually believe the actions at face value.
...to all the coins I've dropped here
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