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Anthony Vinson

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Reply with quote  #1 
It's no secret that I am fascinated by the intersection of science and magic, particularly the doors that neuroscience and psychology have opened for us in the past couple of decades. Here's a scholarly article, written by a psychologist who is also an amateur magician, that delves into misdirection. 

Dr. Kuhn, the author of the paper, also has a new book out, Experiencing the Impossible: The Science of Magic. 

Interested in any thoughts about this article, or the subject in general.

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Robin Dawes

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Reply with quote  #2 
A different branch of science, but Eric Mead does a really cool demo in some of his talks on science and magic.  You can see it in this youtube video, starting about 9:20



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Bmat

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Reply with quote  #3 
Joe Schwartz mixes Chemistry and Magic.  Long time customer and friend of ours.  His chemistry classes are amazing. 




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MagickDon

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Reply with quote  #4 
Max Maven talks about mathematical principles and magic. 




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Gareth

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Reply with quote  #5 
I’m no physicist but I read this yesterday. Made me grin. Others would be better choices to ask for an explanation. But it seems to fit in this thread.

 
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Anthony Vinson

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Reply with quote  #6 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gareth
I’m no physicist but I read this yesterday. Made me grin. Others would be better choices to ask for an explanation. But it seems to fit in this thread.


Love it, Gareth!

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Anthony Vinson

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Reply with quote  #7 
Quote:
Originally Posted by ChefDon
Max Maven talks about mathematical principles and magic. 





Thanks, Don. That was interesting and entertaining.

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Robin Dawes

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Reply with quote  #8 
and there's this!

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Anthony Vinson

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Reply with quote  #9 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Wayne T
This thread got me thinking about doing a trick using a Schrödinger's cat patter but instead of the cat being alive or dead; is the card red or black?

Maybe could adapt Harry's Observation Test or Doc Dailey's Last Trick?

Hum, something to play around with...[smile]


Sure, that'd work. Technically, though, Erwin's cat in the experiment would be simultaneously alive and dead until observed as one or the other or neither. Now that lends to some interesting presentational possibilities...

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Anthony Vinson

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Reply with quote  #10 
Folks, I am deep into Dr. Kuhn's book, and it's great. Great, that is, if you are interested in the psychological and neurological concepts that are actually behind creating magic in the minds of our spectators. Prior to getting the book, I ruffled the fur of a few folks over at the Genii Forum with my assertion that what we magicians call misdirection is actually far more complex and broader than we thought. This book supports that assertion, but it does so far better than I could, and it is footnoted to a fare-the-well. If you love theory, this book will engage and energize you. Once I have finished, I will post a brief review.

One other thing, reading this book along side The Magic Rainbow is a real head trip. The science and the art are an interesting combination to consider. It's every bit as flavorful as someone getting their chocolate in your peanut butter. (No, that's not salacious in the least. It's a Baby Boomer reference. If you don't get it, then Google it!)

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Robin Dawes

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Reply with quote  #11 
Here's a Wired article discussing some of the research topics raised in AV's original post, with comments by Dr. Kuhn and some of his colleagues

  https://www.wired.co.uk/article/magic-neuroscience
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Steven Youell

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Reply with quote  #12 
Now think about this: what have magicians gotten WRONG about Science as it applies to magic?
I can think of one or two things but I'm interested to see what others think.

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RayJ

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Reply with quote  #13 
I can think of one. The hand is not quicker than the eye.
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Steven Youell

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Reply with quote  #14 
Quote:
Originally Posted by RayJ
I can think of one. The hand is not quicker than the eye.

Do you think many magicians think that? I think most experienced magicians know that's a myth.

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Wayne T

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Reply with quote  #15 
I don't have an answer to Steven's question about what magicians get wrong about science but I find it interesting that scientists often get things wrong about magic. Amazing Randy and other magicians have fooled scientist who seem to be looking for complex explanations to observations they don't understand other than the seemingly obvious they were simply fooled by a magic trick.

Many scientist have been fooled by cons and hoaxes such as cold fusion, perpetual motion,  psychokinesis, remote viewing etc.

Perhaps having a background in magic males for better scientists, Mike Powers and Robin Dawes may have an interesting perspective on this? 

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Mike Powers

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Reply with quote  #16 
I wouldn't call the people Randi fooled "scientists." I believe they were "psychic researchers." They wanted to see the real deal and failed to apply obvious scientific methods that real scientists would have applied.

Also, I wouldn't say that scientists were fooled by cold fusion. Someone published research that seemed to indicate that there might be a real effect. There wasn't instant belief that the research was correct. There was great skepticism as there should have been. Then others tried unsuccessfully to replicate the original experiment. This is how science works. If the effect is real, it's replicatable. This doesn't mean that the original research was fake. But good scientific methodology requires that the effect must be repeatable - not just once but many times.

Sometimes poor methodology is the culprit - especially when the effect is marginal. 

When something is investigated, it takes time to get from preliminary results to a highly verified "theory." BTW the word "theory" doesn't mean "opinion." An hypothesis is a fairly weak "theory." But after lengthy testing, it can become a "theory." It might be best to distinguish between "theory" and "Theory." The former being a fairly well tested former hypothesis and the later being a fact of nature, like relativity and quantum mechanics.

This having been said, a "scientific fact" is not absolute truth. In science there is no absolute truth. Even a theory like relativity which is the most highly confirmed "theory" in physics, or at least very high on the list, may end up being replaced down the way. The new theory might be thought of as one step closer to the "Truth." But we would never know whether or not down the way, that theory would be rejected for another one.

One thing for sure - science is the best technique we have for figuring out what's going on.

Mike


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Abecarnow

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Reply with quote  #17 
I just ordered Dr. Kuhn's book, and started reading it last night. Thanks for the recommendation, I had not seen the book mentioned anywhere but here at The Magician's Forum. So many reasons to keep current with The Magician's Forum. Thanks again.
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Anthony Vinson

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Reply with quote  #18 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike Powers
One thing for sure - science is the best technique we have for figuring out what's going on.


Absolutely. Science is a process, and the process is sometimes messy. Even so, Mike is correct; there's no better method of getting to truths.


As to Steven's question. First, I agree that the old saw about hands and eyes is bogus, a form of "misdirective hyperbole" no doubt perpetuated by magicians. 

Second, I don't know that the question is correctly framed. Sure, magicians, being humans, have made mistakes about scientific hypotheses, but so what? Sometimes we misuse science on purpose and for effect. Take the Oracle at Delphi or Robert-Houdin's use of electromagnetism, for instances.

And what about mentalism or its associated offshoots such as hypnotism? We BS our audiences without missing a beat. Again, so what? Most mentalists are at least coy about actual psychic powers, yet still allow the audience to make up there own minds.

When polarized lenses and heat-activated clothing weren't well known among the general public in the 80s and 90s, magicians created tricks using the principles. Before that there was The Sands of Egypt, and before that...

So, I am interested, Steven, in hearing your thoughts about what we, as magicians got wrong about science. Once clarified, perhaps we can enjoy a discussion?

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Anthony Vinson

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Reply with quote  #19 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Abecarnow
I just ordered Dr. Kuhn's book, and started reading it last night. Thanks for the recommendation, I had not seen the book mentioned anywhere but here at The Magician's Forum. So many reasons to keep current with The Magician's Forum. Thanks again.


You bet! Hope you enjoy it, and I think you will. Please post and let us know once you've had the chance to read it.

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Wayne T

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Reply with quote  #20 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike Powers
I wouldn't call the people Randi fooled "scientists." I believe they were "psychic researchers." They wanted to see the real deal and failed to apply obvious scientific methods that real scientists would have applied.

Sometimes poor methodology is the culprit - especially when the effect is marginal. 

One thing for sure - science is the best technique we have for figuring out what's going on.

Mike


Mike you are correct, I think my commentary was a poor generalization in that I was thinking if there are magicians that misunderstand science then there are scientist or researchers that have been fooled by magic tricks. Certainly if proper scientific method is applied to investigate a trick, hoax or fraud then the deception should be detected.

If I recall the Randi case I think he used Banachek and another magician to exploit poor methodology to fool the researchers to reach conclusions they were looking for, or something along those lines.

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Mike Powers

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Reply with quote  #21 
Wayne T - I think you're correct about the Randi episode. The "researchers" let the subjects get away with all sorts of things that a good methodology wouldn't have allowed.

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RayJ

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Reply with quote  #22 
AV, thanks for posting the article.  Fascinating.  I think many magicians will not read nor study it but they should.  Let's face it, anything that reads like a textbook is going to lose certain people pretty quickly.

A couple of points that I got from it.  Creating a "magical atmosphere", I'm paraphrasing there.  That is something that never occurred to me as a young performer.  When I began, I said "Hello", then proceeded to go though my routine rapid-fire.  Depending on the performance I might exhaust all of my repertoire.  Later, as I matured as a human and as a performer, I realized that a little bit of magic goes a long way and that you really needed to focus on the atmosphere.  That atmosphere included a relationship with the audience and defined your personality or "character".  That character might be the trickster, the mysterious mystical magi, or a gambling expert, whatever it is.  Then the misdirection you choose plays off of the character you portray.  That was covered in the article when talking about the "styles" of misdirection including confusion, flustering, and perplexity.  A serious "casino consultant" probably wouldn't use humor as misdirection but the trickster would.

There have been some great works on magic theory as discussed in another thread here on the forum.  I think a video, demonstrating misdirection, is something that would be interesting.  Misdirection needs to be seen and experienced in order to truly understand it.  I was a scout leader for a few years and I taught some magic at a den meeting.  I showed the boys how to use misdirection and I had them laughing their you-know-whats off because every time I used it, they looked where I wanted them to.  Even though they tried not to.  It WAS funny.  Verbal misdirection, time misdirection and other types might be best taught in person or on video.  


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rouxnapse

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Reply with quote  #23 
Quote:
Originally Posted by RayJ
I think a video, demonstrating misdirection, is something that would be interesting


Apollo Robins has a TED talk on misdirection and my younger brother watches a kids science show were he was demonstrating misdirection. 

I'm not sure if its counted as misdirection, but I remember watching a Penguin lecture (I think it was penguin) where they'd have one spec positioned at one place and the magician tossed stuff over their shoulder when the spec looked somewhere else. I have a feeling it's something Greg Wilson did in one of his lectures.

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RayJ

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Reply with quote  #24 
Thanks, I'll check to see if I can find that TED talk on youtube.  
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Anthony Vinson

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Reply with quote  #25 
Ray,

Richard Wiseman, psychologist and magician, has done a lot of work on the subject. He has a website and YouTube channel called Quirkology that you might enjoy. Here's a link to the YouTube channel.

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RayJ

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Reply with quote  #26 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Anthony Vinson
Ray,

Richard Wiseman, psychologist and magician, has done a lot of work on the subject. He has a website and YouTube channel called Quirkology that you might enjoy. Here's a link to the YouTube channel.

Av


I will check it out!  Thanks!
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RayJ

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Reply with quote  #27 
A trick that could be considered a blend of magic and science is Rupert's Tears.  The times I've seen it performed it was presented as an "occult" or a mentalism exercise.  Scientists have just recently discovered how and why they do what they do.

For folks not familiar with them, a well presented performance is quite impressive.
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Reply with quote  #28 
I think this group is probably aware, but there is also the book Sleights of Mind by Stephen Macknik and Susan Martinez-Conde. I found that quite an enjoyable read.

This July there is a 2 day conference on the Science of Magic at the Chicago Magic Lounge. It is being put on by S.O.M.A., the Science of Magic Association. If you sign up for their newsletter, they will email you a list of publications that deal with magic.

Having a science background, I am fascinated by how magic takes advantage of the workings of the human brain. I am always on a quest to understand what makes something truly magical.

I will have to look into the resources on this thread. Thanks for the references.


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Reply with quote  #29 
Wow! SOMA, had never heard of them. What a website, will join in a few days. Just downloaded their free collection of pertinent articles. What a find. Thank you Magician's Forum.
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Mike Powers

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Reply with quote  #30 
Thanks Pepeq for letting us know about the conference at the Magic Lounge. I'm a member of the Chicago Magic Round Table at the Magic Lounge. Hopefully we'll have access to the conference. Sounds really cool!

Mike
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Pepeq

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Reply with quote  #31 
Hi Mike, I am a hobbyist but am also a member of the Chicago Magic Round Table but I only get there a couple of times a year. There is no special access for the members of the round table. Everything is run through SoMA and they have even rented out the lounge Monday night for the conference members. I don't know if members are welcome then but the conference is officially done at 5 PM and then people will be hanging out at the lounge. Mac King is a keynote speaker and Simon Aronson is the guest of honor.  There is a show Sunday night at CML, but even attendees to the conference have to pay for a ticket. I will be at the conference as it is an interest of mine and Chicago is my home town (although I live in Wisconsin now) Regards, Mark
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Anthony Vinson

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Reply with quote  #32 
Mark,

I'd not heard of SOMA either. Dr. Gustav Kuhn is on the board. Now that's an organization I can get behind! Thanks for the info. 

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Mike Powers

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Reply with quote  #33 
Thanks Pepeq - I will certainly try to make this event. Thanks for the info.

Mike
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JustChico

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Reply with quote  #34 
I just found this article today, I hopped on the forum to see if anybody else had posted about it and found 3 other articles about the same guy. I think he may be pulling some sort of mentalism effect on us all.
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Anthony Vinson

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Reply with quote  #35 
Quote:
Originally Posted by JustChico
I just found this article today, I hopped on the forum to see if anybody else had posted about it and found 3 other articles about the same guy. I think he may be pulling some sort of mentalism effect on us all.


[rofl]

Nah, just promoting his new book. And it's a good one, too. 

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Abecarnow

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Reply with quote  #36 
I joined SOMA, and I am thinking of attending their conference in Chicago this summer. Looks fantastic. I downloaded the Kindle sample of Professor Kuhn's book, read the sample, and ordered the book. The sample is a very large portion of the book and is well worth reading, though I am sure that, like me, you will also order the book. Right now, the price on Amazon is darn cheap, less than what I paid for it a week ago! Hardcover is $13.86, a real bargain. As a psychology major (but a working tax CPA) and an amateur magician, this book is absolutely fascinating and, I think, will help you to become a better magician! Thanks again Magician's Forum for mentioning this book and organization which, without the forum, I never would have encountered. Fortuitous, indeed. 
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Anthony Vinson

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Reply with quote  #37 
Yeah, the price of the book has dropped considerably since I bought it. Ah well, the price of impatience, I guess. Still, though, I don't regret the purchase, it really is a great book, and I agree with you that, studied and applied, it can make us better magicians. 

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RayJ

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Reply with quote  #38 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Anthony Vinson
Yeah, the price of the book has dropped considerably since I bought it. Ah well, the price of impatience, I guess. Still, though, I don't regret the purchase, it really is a great book, and I agree with you that, studied and applied, it can make us better magicians. 

Av


While the retail price has gone down its value to you hasn't. So it doesn't really matter what was paid.
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Robin Dawes

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Reply with quote  #39 
Dr. Kuhn pops up everywhere these days : https://www.bbc.com/news/education-47827346
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RayJ

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Reply with quote  #40 
Thanks for sharing that Robin.  Somewhat heartening that magic is being studied on a university campus.  This is good publicity.
There was a part of the article that reminded me of something my grandfather used to say.  He was a Detective Sergeant on the police force.  He said they were instructed to believe nothing they heard and only half of what they saw.  In other words when they would canvas a group of witnesses, they would have as many versions of what happened as people interviewed.  Regarding the "half of what you see" portion of the saying, that was due to the  fact that everyone brings their own perspective to what they see and ultimately what is seen is as individual as yourself.
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Mike Powers

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Reply with quote  #41 
The unreliability of eyewitnesses was shown recently on "Magic For Humans." It's probably one of the first few episodes. Justin has a confederate ask someone to watch her purse as she runs to the rest room. The table is outdoors with the purse sitting on it. Justin comes by, snatches the purse and runs off. His head and face are not covered. The "watcher" gets a fairly clear view of him as he reaches in and takes the purse. She calls the police and he shows up as the cop and asks a bunch of questions about age etc. Her answers are pretty far off and she doesn't notice that he's the guy! In one version of this he runs around the corner and immediately jumps in the police car so he can arrive maybe 30 seconds after he runs with the purse. The witness still doesn't recognize him.

Then there's the experiment where the experimenter is talking to the "mark" when a truck or something drives between them. The experimenter jumps on the side of the truck as a new person gets off. 50% of the time the mark doesn't notice that the person she was talking to changed! I think they did this with a person behind the counter as well. The person ducks down to get something and a different person pops up. Half the time people don't see the change!

Mike
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RayJ

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Reply with quote  #42 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike Powers
The unreliability of eyewitnesses was shown recently on "Magic For Humans." It's probably one of the first few episodes. Justin has a confederate ask someone to watch her purse as she runs to the rest room. The table is outdoors with the purse sitting on it. Justin comes by, snatches the purse and runs off. His head and face are not covered. The "watcher" gets a fairly clear view of him as he reaches in and takes the purse. She calls the police and he shows up as the cop and asks a bunch of questions about age etc. Her answers are pretty far off and she doesn't notice that he's the guy! In one version of this he runs around the corner and immediately jumps in the police car so he can arrive maybe 30 seconds after he runs with the purse. The witness still doesn't recognize him.

Then there's the experiment where the experimenter is talking to the "mark" when a truck or something drives between them. The experimenter jumps on the side of the truck as a new person gets off. 50% of the time the mark doesn't notice that the person she was talking to changed! I think they did this with a person behind the counter as well. The person ducks down to get something and a different person pops up. Half the time people don't see the change!

Mike


Fascinating!  It is like the gorilla experiment where 6 people, 3 in white shirts and 3 in dark shirts, are passing two balls around and you are supposed to watch and count how many times the people in white shirts pass the ball.  The gorilla walks right in the middle of the people, even pausing at one point, and you don't notice it.
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Anthony Vinson

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Reply with quote  #43 
Quote:
Originally Posted by RayJ


Fascinating!  It is like the gorilla experiment where 6 people, 3 in white shirts and 3 in dark shirts, are passing two balls around and you are supposed to watch and count how many times the people in white shirts pass the ball.  The gorilla walks right in the middle of the people, even pausing at one point, and you don't notice it.


It's sort of like that. The Invisible Gorilla experiment illustrates inattentional blindness. What Mike describes is change blindness. First cousins, of sort, in the cognitive biases family. 

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Abecarnow

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Reply with quote  #44 
I will be attending the SOMA conference in Chicago, very excited to be going. Anyone else from Magician's Forum attending? I heard about SOMA right here on the forum, thank you to those who spread the word. 
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Pepeq

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Reply with quote  #45 
I'll be there and keep my eye out for you. I am a hobbyist who is fascinated by the topics to be discussed. Mark Pepelea
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