How science comes up with better magic tricks

How science comes up with better magic tricks

Magicians and scholars. These two are closer together than you might think. Countless scholars are conducting research on magicians and magic tricks. They want to discover how they deceive us, in order to learn more about human psychology. But can you turn things around and use science to come up with better tricks?

Of course, every magic trick has a “magic” moment: the coin disappears into thin air or the assistant, clearly sawed in half, is glued back together. But good magic tricks also provide an immediate explanation for this magical event. Even in a magic show, a playing card does not automatically turn into a bullseye or a dot pigeon. This only happens when the magician snaps his fingers or waves a magic wand. Naturally, onlookers don't really believe that the gesture or wand has such supernatural powers. But research shows that such a so-called false explanation increases their involvement in the hoax.

A confusing puzzle

Also logical, says Gustav Kuhn. He is a psychologist and heads the MAGIC Laboratory at the University of London, an interdisciplinary institute devoted entirely to the science of magic. In his book Experience the impossible. Science of magic He explains that people like to think in terms of cause and effect. When a magic trick shows a magical event without an explanation, the audience sees an effect without a cause – this is unsatisfying. So the magic trick is not a magical moment, but a puzzle. “False explanations lay the foundation for sleight of hand,” Kuhn writes. “And magicians never create an illusion without at least suggesting a reason for it.”

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In KIJK 2/2024 you can read more advice that scientists give to magicians. This edition is now in stores and is It can be ordered online Via the button below.

Text: Rick Peters

Bild: iStock/Getty Images, Shutterstock, Pascal Tiemann

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