scispace - formally typeset

Journal ArticleDOI

The Other Side of Magic.

11 Jan 2017-Perspectives on Psychological Science (Perspect Psychol Sci)-Vol. 12, Iss: 1, pp 91-106

TL;DR: It is argued that perceptual and cognitive principles governing how humans experience hidden things and reason about them play a central role in many magic tricks, and how insights from perceptual psychology provide a framework for understanding why these tricks work so well.

AbstractWhen magicians perform spectacles that seem to defy the laws of nature, they do so by manipulating psychological reality. Hence, the principles underlying the art of conjuring are potentially of interest to psychological science. Here, we argue that perceptual and cognitive principles governing how humans experience hidden things and reason about them play a central role in many magic tricks. Different from tricks based on many other forms of misdirection, which require considerable skill on the part of the magician, many elements of these tricks are essentially self-working because they rely on automatic perceptual and cognitive processes. Since these processes are not directly observable, even experienced magicians may be oblivious to their central role in creating strong magical experiences and tricks that are almost impossible to debunk, even after repeated presentations. We delineate how insights from perceptual psychology provide a framework for understanding why these tricks work so well. Conversely, we argue that studying magic tricks that work much better than one intuitively would believe provides a promising heuristic for charting unexplored aspects of perception and cognition.

Topics: Magic (illusion) (55%), Perceptual psychology (55%)

Summary (1 min read)

Introduction

  • Note that these experiences are quite compelling even though you know very well that there is no complete triangle (in panel c) or cross (in panel d) behind your thumb.
  • It is also interesting to consider that with tricks based on attentional misdirection, every sense of magic is lost once you know how the trick works.

Cognitive impenetrability

  • The only reason why the upper figures look white while the lower figures look black is that they are viewed in different contexts (Anderson & Winawer, 2005; see also Adelson, 2000 and Gilchrist et al., 1999 for similar demonstrations).
  • Some effects of learning and knowledge on their mental processing of occluded objects have been documented, (Vrins et al., 2009, Hazenberg et al., 2014, Hazenberg & van Lier, 2015), but it can be discussed whether these effects are part of what should be called amodal perception proper.
  • When people try to debunk a trick based on amodal perception, the cognitively impenetrable illusion (or visual fixedness) closes the door to the right solution even before any conscious problem-solving even starts.
  • Visual fixedness and the cognitive impenetrability of perceptual mechanisms may be regarded as an extreme form of this kind of generation of false assumptions that may be critical to the robustness and potency of many magic tricks.
  • Based on this reasoning, investigating the effect of repeated presentations of magic tricks on the spectators’ likelihood of figuring out the method could be a promising tool for elucidating the nature of the mechanisms underlying different kinds of magic tricks.

Summary and conclusions

  • The authors have argued that automatic perceptual and cognitive mechanisms governing how they experience and reason about hidden things – in particular those underlying the well-known phenomenon of amodal presence and the less well-known, but presumably intimately related phenomenon of amodal absence –play a central role in many magic tricks.
  • The authors have also argued the causal role of these mechanisms, which cannot be observed directly, is difficult to appreciate even for experienced magicians, and that it may therefore have been largely neglected in discussions of how magic works.
  • The authors have also suggested that the surprising discrepancy between the expected and the actual efficiency of many magical routines may serve as a tell-tale sign of interesting psychological effects that may help guide further research into the psychology of magic.

Did you find this useful? Give us your feedback

...read more

Content maybe subject to copyright    Report

For Review Only







 !
"#$"%!%
&
'#()!%
*+,-"./012)(2341(25,(")
*6#% 
#,7 012)(2341(25,(")
*6#% 
8 #,%012)(2341(25,(")
*6#% 
49$
' ,,%+ & &$ #,1&
!# 
1)$49$
!#$#, ,' 2#"

Perspectives on Psychological Science

For Review Only



 !
"#$#%&"$#'$
Page 1 of 44 Perspectives on Psychological Science
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31
32
33
34
35
36
37
38
39
40
41
42
43
44
45
46
47
48
49
50
51
52
53
54
55
56
57
58
59
60

For Review Only
(

!!!)*$)
$!!+,!!$)!$
!!!!+,*$!$)!#
!#**!)))$!
!!+-!))!*!.$
!)!!/
*!$$!!$)!#!+!!
)!##!)!#$!
!!!)!*!)$#
)+)*!$!#)*
$))*!**+0#*$$)!!
*$!*$)$###)$!!
$)!!)!+
Page 2 of 44Perspectives on Psychological Science
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31
32
33
34
35
36
37
38
39
40
41
42
43
44
45
46
47
48
49
50
51
52
53
54
55
56
57
58
59
60

For Review Only
1



 !!"#$%!%&#
2!!$!!!))
$)!)$!!$)+2))*)!*
!3!#4+!$!$!$
)!#%!'#)!$)
)*))**+5#$#)$
!$!!!$)!)!!
%&6789:67;9&$<=(8879>!&=)=
(8879=&$(8?9@+(8?')!!#
!!!)!!!!)#)
!$))!!+
@#$*!)!!!#$
%,)(88+6')$!#)
$!$!$))!!!
)%>(889&$@(8)
*)))!'+=!!)
%=AB=066C9#66C9=(88?')
.$)!!#$!*!)!!!$
)!$)!!!)!$
!+!)%>!=!667'*
Page 3 of 44 Perspectives on Psychological Science
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31
32
33
34
35
36
37
38
39
40
41
42
43
44
45
46
47
48
49
50
51
52
53
54
55
56
57
58
59
60

For Review Only
D
!!$$!#E$
E$!)#)+<$
!*!$)$)!$)$!$!!#!!
)$!)$
%#(88('+@#$***!#)*
*!#+
@!!!$!$#$!#)!
)$!!!%&$+(8D'+2$!#!
!)*$))$#$.$
$)*##)+F!
)&$@F))0%(887'*$!!$
$*!!$#)!)
*+!!#*$)!$!#$#
!!$*##)$$*
!)*$)+
!))!!.$!)
!$.$!)$)+@)))
!$)$!!$#**$)
!!$/$#+<!!)#!!$*$
$)*G!H$H++!*
)!*!)+>!)!$!!!
#))#!*#!!)!$
$$#!$$*)+2))
$#)))#
!*!!))$$!!$!$
!!!)!!#!*+!)!!)
Page 4 of 44Perspectives on Psychological Science
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31
32
33
34
35
36
37
38
39
40
41
42
43
44
45
46
47
48
49
50
51
52
53
54
55
56
57
58
59
60

Citations
More filters



Journal ArticleDOI
TL;DR: This review provides a selective overview of experimental studies on predictive mechanisms in human vision for action and presents classic paradigms and novel approaches investigating mechanisms that underlie the prediction of events guiding eye and hand movements.
Abstract: Prediction allows humans and other animals to prepare for future interactions with their environment. This is important in our dynamically changing world that requires fast and accurate reactions to external events. Knowing when and where an event is likely to occur allows us to plan eye, hand, and body movements that are suitable for the circumstances. Predicting the sensory consequences of such movements helps to differentiate between self-produced and externally generated movements. In this review, we provide a selective overview of experimental studies on predictive mechanisms in human vision for action. We present classic paradigms and novel approaches investigating mechanisms that underlie the prediction of events guiding eye and hand movements.

29 citations


Journal ArticleDOI
TL;DR: Results from an experiment showing that a tall pillar with a triangular base evokes radically different three-dimensional percepts depending on the vantage point from which it is observed suggest that the visual system uses a preference for rectangularity (or symmetry) to determine the 3D shape of objects.
Abstract: We report results from an experiment showing that a tall pillar with a triangular base evokes radically different three-dimensional (3D) percepts depending on the vantage point from which it is observed. The base of the pillar is an isosceles right triangle, but the pillar is perceived as just a thin plane when viewed from some vantage points. Viewed from other vantage points, the perceived 3D shape of the pillar corresponds to a square or rectangular base. In general, our results suggest that the visual system uses a preference for rectangularity (or symmetry) to determine the 3D shape of objects. The amodal impressions of the invisible backside of the pillar are often quite compelling, and the corresponding illusions persist even when the observers know the true shape of the pillar. Interestingly, though, the compellingness and definiteness of the amodal impression of the pillar's backside depends on the vantage point. This is reflected in corresponding differences in the interobserver variability of the 3D shape judgments. We also discuss how variants of this illusion are used as a powerful tool in the art of magic.

13 citations


Journal ArticleDOI
TL;DR: It is found that the observed solution rates for tricks based on attentional misdirection increased much more with repeated viewing than those for tricksbased on amodal completion, which remained very low throughout.
Abstract: In their quest for creating magical experiences, magicians rely on a host of psychological factors. Here, we compare tricks based on attentional misdirection with tricks based on amodal completion....

11 citations


Cites background from "The Other Side of Magic."

  • ...As discussed in Ekroll, Sayim, and Wagemans (2017), amodal completion can be thought of as a cognitively impenetrable visual illusion that plays a pivotal and pervasive role in magic....

    [...]

  • ...The aim of this experiment was to test the hypothesis that magic tricks based on amodal completion (Ekroll et al., 2017) are more robust than tricks based on other factors such as attentional misdirection....

    [...]

  • ...…is a genuine product of perceptual mechanisms rather than just visual imagery or cognitive guesswork (Ekroll, Sayim, & Wagemans, 2013; Ekroll, Sayim, Van der Hallen, & Wagemans, 2016; Ekroll et al., 2017; Ekroll & Wagemans, 2016; Kanizsa, 1985; Kanizsa & Gerbino, 1982; Michotte et al., 1964)....

    [...]


References
More filters

Journal ArticleDOI
TL;DR: Recognition-by-components (RBC) provides a principled account of the heretofore undecided relation between the classic principles of perceptual organization and pattern recognition.
Abstract: The perceptual recognition of objects is conceptualized to be a process in which the image of the input is segmented at regions of deep concavity into an arrangement of simple geometric components, such as blocks, cylinders, wedges, and cones. The fundamental assumption of the proposed theory, recognition-by-components (RBC), is that a modest set of generalized-cone components, called geons (N £ 36), can be derived from contrasts of five readily detectable properties of edges in a two-dimensiona l image: curvature, collinearity, symmetry, parallelism, and cotermination. The detection of these properties is generally invariant over viewing position an$ image quality and consequently allows robust object perception when the image is projected from a novel viewpoint or is degraded. RBC thus provides a principled account of the heretofore undecided relation between the classic principles of perceptual organization and pattern recognition: The constraints toward regularization (Pragnanz) characterize not the complete object but the object's components. Representational power derives from an allowance of free combinations of the geons. A Principle of Componential Recovery can account for the major phenomena of object recognition: If an arrangement of two or three geons can be recovered from the input, objects can be quickly recognized even when they are occluded, novel, rotated in depth, or extensively degraded. The results from experiments on the perception of briefly presented pictures by human observers provide empirical support for the theory. Any single object can project an infinity of image configurations to the retina. The orientation of the object to the viewer can vary continuously, each giving rise to a different two-dimensional projection. The object can be occluded by other objects or texture fields, as when viewed behind foliage. The object need not be presented as a full-colored textured image but instead can be a simplified line drawing. Moreover, the object can even be missing some of its parts or be a novel exemplar of its particular category. But it is only with rare exceptions that an image fails to be rapidly and readily classified, either as an instance of a familiar object category or as an instance that cannot be so classified (itself a form of classification).

5,316 citations


"The Other Side of Magic." refers background in this paper

  • ...Thus, on the basis of the well-known idea that the perceptual system tends to avoid interpretations involving unlikely coincidences (Biederman, 1987; Freeman, 1994; Rock, 1983) we may speculate that amodal absence does not involve the perceptual exclusion of all possible objects but only those that are deemed to be particularly unlikely on the basis of cues such as their size and shape relative to the occluder....

    [...]

  • ...The basic idea is that the perceptual system tends to avoid interpretations of the visual input that involve unlikely coincidences and alignments along the line of sight (Biederman, 1987; Freeman, 1994)....

    [...]

  • ...Thus, on the basis of the well-known idea that the perceptual system tends to avoid interpretations involving unlikely coincidences (Biederman, 1987; Freeman, 1994; Rock, 1983) we may speculate that amodal absence does not involve the perceptual exclusion of all possible objects but only those that…...

    [...]


Book
01 Jan 1935
Abstract: Routledge is now re-issuing this prestigious series of 204 volumes originally published between 1910 and 1965. The titles include works by key figures such asC.G. Jung, Sigmund Freud, Jean Piaget, Otto Rank, James Hillman, Erich Fromm, Karen Horney and Susan Isaacs. Each volume is available on its own, as part of a themed mini-set, or as part of a specially-priced 204-volume set. A brochure listing each title in the "International Library of Psychology" series is available upon request.

4,033 citations


Journal ArticleDOI
Abstract: When looking at a scene, observers feel that they see its entire structure in great detail and can immediately notice any changes in it However, when brief blank fields are placed between alternating displays of an original and a modified scene, a striking failure of perception is induced Identification of changes becomes extremely difficult, even when changes are large and made repeatedly Identification is much faster when a verbal cue is provided showing that poor visibility is not the cause of this difficulty Identification is also faster for objects considered to be important in the scene These results support the idea that observers never form a complete, detailed representation of their surroundings In addition, the results indicate that attention is required to perceive change, and that in the absence of localized motion signals attention is guided on the basis of high-level interest

2,144 citations


Journal ArticleDOI
01 Jan 1923

1,874 citations


"The Other Side of Magic." refers background in this paper

  • ...Panels (a) and (b) of Figure 2 illustrate the well-known Gestalt principle of good continuation (Wertheimer, 1923/2012)....

    [...]


Journal ArticleDOI
TL;DR: The legitimate and the erroneous inferences that have been drawn from change blindness research are discussed, and a set of requirements to help separate them are offered.
Abstract: Change blindness is the striking failure to see large changes that normally would be noticed easily. Over the past decade this phenomenon has greatly contributed to our understanding of attention, perception, and even consciousness. The surprising extent of change blindness explains its broad appeal, but its counterintuitive nature has also engendered confusions about the kinds of inferences that legitimately follow from it. Here we discuss the legitimate and the erroneous inferences that have been drawn, and offer a set of requirements to help separate them. In doing so, we clarify the genuine contributions of change blindness research to our understanding of visual perception and awareness, and provide a glimpse of some ways in which change blindness might shape future research.

951 citations


"The Other Side of Magic." refers background in this paper

  • ...Researchers on change blindness (Rensink, O’Regan, & Clark, 1997; Simons & Levin, 1997; Simons & Rensink, 2005) have shown that quite dramatic changes in a visual scene, which are readily noticeable if they occur in isolation, are extremely difficult to detect if they are accompanied by synchronous…...

    [...]