“Reality seems so simple. We just open our eyes and there it is. But that doesn’t mean it is simple” Famed magician Teller say of the group Penn and Teller. Magic for instance is more than mere entertainment not just smoke and mirrors. The tricks they use mess with our everyday view and ideas of perception. Magic works by manipulating our awareness since our brains aren’t wired to see everything with so much going on. Many are successful at diverting our attention and tap into our shortcomings in vision and awareness. How aware are we? As our textbook states “perception is the gateway to all of the other cognitions” therefor perception is key and allows us to make sense of reality. Could we use the principles of magic to study disorders involving attention, social deficits, or even memory? By using techniques such as misdirection, illusion or forcing magicians can help others map new areas of brain function.
Magicians could help provide a better understanding of some neurological diseases even their causes. Those with Autism, lacking social cues will tend to look exactly where the magician doesn’t want them to look. Also autistic patients for example have a hard time gazing directly at others but with the help of magic tricks such as misdirection, we could study the visual attention and how it effects their brains in order to research new methods of treatment. Inattentional Blindness is a trick many magicians use to trick one’s cogitative mind. The magician will focus the groups attention on let’s say a ball and you have to keep your eye on the ball bouncing. At that point something else could happen and a normal person wouldn’t see it. They would be focused on the ball. However someone with autism would see the other cue.
Another popular trick of magicians is called memory illusions. With this we could use this type of illusions to study specific memory loss in patients with dementia or other forms of cognitive decline. We could use such methods to reproduce the neurons mapping in memory and false-memory areas. Other neurological disorders, like that of motor impairment, could also potentially benefit from magic’s inclusion in rehabilitation therapy. Those patients suffering from motor impairment issues could benefit from the repetitive nature of these types of tricks and could also provide possible alternatives for relearning muscle movement.
The tricks used by magicians are informed by brain research and have the potential to further illuminate the biology of human cognition and perception. By understanding how magicians “hack” the brain, scientists could have a new opportunity to study brain function.
Goldstein, E. (2011) Cognitive Psychology: Connecting Mind, Research, and Everyday Experience, Third Edition. Belmont, CA. Cengage Learning
JAMES, SUSAN DONALDSON: Autism Study Could Find Answers in Magic-
“Science of magic – understanding human cognition and perception”-
Attention and awareness in stage magic: turning tricks into research-