Misdirection

Misdirection
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Misdirection takes advantage of the limits of the human mind in order to give the wrong picture and memory. The mind of a typical audience member can only concentrate on one thing at a time. The magician uses this to manipulate the audience's ideas, or, perceptions of sensory input, leading them to draw false conclusions. The audience's attention may be directed in various ways. In the book, The Secret Art of Magic , authors Eric Evans and Nowlin Craver posit the theorem that magic is directly related to warfare, and relies upon the same principles for success. Sun Tzu's Art of War is referenced in showing how deception is essential to any successful campaign.

Craver goes on to illustrate, through the 36 strategies, [7] how they form a blueprint for every known method of misdirection. In World War II , British military intelligence employed stage magician Jasper Maskelyne to help devise various forms of misdirection such as ruses, deception, and camouflage.

In his book, Principles and Deceptions , Arthur Buckley questions the accuracy of the term. Buckley drew the distinction between misdirection and "direction". One being a negative term, and the other a positive one. Ultimately he equates the two as the same thing — "If a performer by some means has directed the thoughts of his audience to the conclusion that he has done something which he has not done, he has wrongly directed them into this belief, hence, misdirection. Jacobus Maria Bemelman , under the stage name "Tommy Wonder", [10] has pointed out that it is much more effective, from the magician's point of view, to concentrate on the positive aim of directing the audience's attention.

He writes that " Mis direction implies 'wrong' direction. It suggests that attention is directed away from something. By constantly using this term, it eventually becomes so ingrained in our minds that we might start to perceive misdirection as directing attention away from rather than toward something. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. For other uses, see Misdirection. This set uses what Ascanio called the Principle of Coverage. In the words of Ascanio: Ascanio highlighted not only the importance of understanding the psychology of the spectator misdirection, timing, etc.

Schematic description of Ascanio's taxonomy. This is achieved by giving the spectator two distinct points of interest: Here, the innocuous point of interest is more attractive to the spectator than the secret one. This is achieved by a total deviation of the gaze and attention of the spectator to the innocuous point of interest. This results in a complete absence of visual experience of the remainder of the scene, including the secret. This is what Ascanio called the Tube Effect Etcheverry, c , p.

Later authors in the world of magic built on Ascanio's work. As an example, Randal discussed five types of misdirection.

Introduction

The first is Misdirection of Attitude , whereby the magician marks the points of interest with his gaze and attitude. Second is Misdirection by Transfer comparable to the manipulation in the third grade of Ascanio's theory , in which the magician directs the attention of the spectator, using gestures and glances, toward a point far away from the place where the magic secret is happening.

Third is Misdirection by Repetition , which accustoms the spectator to a specific gesture by repetition in order to relax their attention when that gesture performs the secret movement Etcheverry, a. Finally, he differentiates between Verbal Misdirection , which emphasizes the speech of the magician to distract the attention , and Non-Verbal Misdirection , including the gestures, personality, and attitude of the magician.

Psychology of Magic: 3 Critical Techniques

Possibly inspired by Buckley , his approach focuses on three distinct kinds of technique: Schematic description of Bruno's taxonomy. Distraction refers to situations in which several things occur at the same time. The premise here is similar to that of Ascanio: According to Bruno, one type of distraction is external to the proceedings, generally taking the form of an unexpected event such as an interruption. This can range between crude and subtle. An example of a crude external distraction would be a loud bang. This is extremely effective but can easily disrupt the performance, and so diminish the effect.

Consequently, magicians usually opt instead for subtler forms, such as a well-timed cough. In contrast, integral distractions are core parts of the performance. According to Bruno there exist three types: Confusion can potentially occur during various parts of a performance; for instance, when the magician asks a spectator to join him on stage. Such moments offer valuable opportunities to execute a method, such as switching a deck of cards.

Flustering can be achieved by asking the spectator a difficult or potentially embarrassing question; not only does this distract the person, but it ensures that the rest of the audience focuses their attention on the spectator, and thus, away from the magician. Finally, perplexity occurs in a situation that is either complicated or puzzling to the spectator. This is rather challenging to create, as there is a fine line between confusion and boredom, and the latter should be avoided at all cost.

If people become aware of being distracted, it can take away from the effect, which is why distraction tends to be considered a suboptimal technique. Instead, magicians generally prefer diversion , which differs from distraction in that only one thing appears to be going on. Like distraction, diversion can be either external or integral to the performance. External diversions are digressions where attention is oriented away from the method via an apparently unconnected event.

For example, the magician may use an amusing interlude that captures the audience's attention and thus allows the magician to execute his secret method unnoticed. Meanwhile, integral diversions are built into magic tricks themselves. Bruno identified five types of diversion. Switching refers to the side-tracking of attention from one area of interest to the other—e.

Next is masking , whereby one action screens another. For example, the magician may change his body orientation so that the view of his hand going to his pocket is obstructed or at least becomes less salient. The third principle is disguise , where an action appears to be performed for one purpose when in reality it is done for another. For instance, the magician might reach into his pocket to pull out a scarf when in fact the action is used to deposit a secret prop. Related to this is the idea that large motions will disguise small ones.

Fourth is pointing , where the magician pauses for a dramatic emphasis. A method must be executed either before or after these pauses, to avoid detection. Finally, one of the strongest diversions of attention can be created by using the climax of an effect. This offers an ideal moment at which the method for the next effect can be executed. For example, in the Cups and Balls routine, small climaxes such as when the balls appear or disappear offer ideal diversions of attention that allow the magician to prepare for the next effect. Bruno's third general principle is relaxation ; this relates to the temporal fluctuations in attention created though off-beat moments in a routine.

For example, attentional de-emphasis can occur once a magic trick has been concluded: Meanwhile, anticipation can get spectators to relax their attention because they think they know what is going to happen. Relaxation can also be created through repetition , whereby the magician repeats an action several times, so that the spectator will pay less attention to the subsequent action Bruno, ; Kaufman, Bruno's taxonomy provides valuable insights that can help magicians think about attentional misdirection.

However, it has two serious limitations. First, it relies on a rather narrow definition of misdirection in terms of attention, and so does not discuss ways of manipulating what people remember, or how they interpret an event. In addition, Bruno's approach was written for magic practitioners, and so does not directly link his principles with known mechanisms of perception and cognition. Schematic diagram of Sharpe's taxonomy.

misdirection

Sharpe divides misdirection into two kinds: Sharpe classified a wide range of misdirection methods in terms of these four categories. For example, when magicians familiarize the spectator with actions or objects, people relax their attention and so become less aware of otherwise suspicious behavior. This principle is categorized as active misdirection for disguise since it prevents people from attending disguise to the novel action active. Active misdirection for distraction often includes audience participation, e.

Other forms include the use of patter i. Meanwhile, passive misdirection for disguise includes principles such as camouflage that makes an object unnoticeable by obliteration, or immobility that cause disregard though lack of movement. And passive misdirection to distract includes the principle of novelty that can be used to stimulate curiosity by presenting something unusual or unfamiliar.

Sharp's inventory is a useful starting point for a more psychologically-based categorization of distraction techniques and principles. However, his analysis is somewhat disjointed e. For example, whilst misdirection is defined in terms of attentional strategies, several non-attentional principles are also included e. More importantly, perhaps, few links are made to formal psychological mechanisms.

For example, misdirection is defined solely in terms of attentional processes, and although non-perceptual processes are described e. And whilst the distinction between distraction and disguise seems intuitive, the same cannot be argued for active vs. Although both authors are academics, they avoid making direct links with academic psychology; their framework is intended to focus on how magic is understood by magicians rather than scientists.

Schematic diagram of Lamont and Wiseman's taxonomy. They present a simple taxonomy of misdirection that explicitly distinguishes between attentional and non-attentional processes, which are affected by what they define as Physical and Psychological misdirection, respectively. Physical misdirection deals with manipulating people's focus of attention: It is based on the idea—similar to that proposed by others—that magicians create areas of high interest, thereby preventing the spectator from noticing things elsewhere.

Three kinds of misdirection are distinguished, involving passive, active, and temporal diversions of attention. The first of these, passive misdirection, uses any property that attracts attention in its own right—e. Contrast is another important example, whereby objects that differ from their background will attract attention e.

Meanwhile, active misdirection relies on social interactions created by the magician's actions. For instance, the magician may use his eyes to direct attention toward looked-at areas, or use his voice through patter to create interest in certain objects; in some cases the magician might simply instruct a spectator to look somewhere. Another form of active misdirection involves body language, which can convey non-verbal information to direct attention. The magician may also use an external source of diversion, such as the actions of an assistant or a member of the audience.

Lamont and Wiseman note that just as people tend to vary their level of attention throughout space , they also tend to vary their level of attention throughout time. The magician may therefore create moments as well as locations of primary and secondary interest—for example, people are less likely to pay attention if they believe that the trick has not yet begun, or is already over. Temporal fluctuations may also be exploited. For example, repetition can lead to tedium, which reduces the spectator's level of interest, and therefore, attention.

Alternatively, the magician may create an off-beat moment through a momentary relaxation, such as after a joke Tamariz, or a magical effect. These off-beat moments are thought to reduce attention, and thus allow the magician to execute the method without being noticed. Magicians may also use their body to create moments of tension and relaxation Ganson, ; Kurtz, In contrast, psychological misdirection involves manipulating people's suspicions 4.

Misdirection is a form of deception in which the attention of an audience is focused on one thing in order to distract its attention from another. Managing the . Misdirection may refer to: Misdirection (magic), a technique used when performing magic tricks; Feint, a technique used in strategy games and warfare.

Seeing a method clearly provides strong evidence of its use, but there are many situations in which a method may not have been seen, but is still suspected. Magicians often talk about the need for actions to appear natural , as anything unnatural will generally arise suspicion. For example, in the French Drop the magician pretends to pass a coin from one hand to the other whilst retaining the coin in the original hand Supplementary Video 1.

If this false transfer appears unnatural, it will arouse suspicion and thus attract unwanted attention, resulting in its detection. Lamont and Wiseman also discuss ways in which magicians divert suspicion by misrepresenting the method. One of the most powerful tools for this involves deliberately raising suspicion about a false solution which will distract from the real solution. This can be applied to differing degrees Tamariz, For example, in the Egg Bag trick, an egg appears and disappears inside a cloth bag.

In the standard routine the magician pretends to sneak the egg under his arm, after which he shows the bag to be empty. The real method involves a secret compartment inside the bag that allows to magician to conceal the egg; when the bag is shown empty, it attracts little attention, since the audience thinks it knows where the egg is.

More subtle ways of leading the audience down the garden path are also possible e. Lamont and Wiseman's taxonomy of misdirection is a great improvement on earlier efforts because it makes several important links between magic theory and human cognition. However, it lacks scientific rigor, and some of the categories still seem rather arbitrary. For instance, looking and seeing or at least, attending are treated as equivalent.

However, this is not the case: Several other category divisions are also rather problematic. More generally, many of the terms and categories are rather vague, and not always based on recent scientific models of cognition. A taxonomy that is to help create connections between magic and science should be based as much as possible on our current understanding of perception and cognition.

The primary purpose of any taxonomy of magic is to organize the methods and effects used in known magic tricks. An important secondary purpose is to do so in a way that enables clear connections to be drawn between the tricks and the psychological principles they draw upon. To show how such a taxonomy might look, we focus here on the area of misdirection. As a first step, we will describe magic tricks in somewhat abstract terms, focusing on the general factors that govern their effectiveness, rather than the particular details of a performance.

Ideally, however, both abstract and concrete taxonomies would be possible—cf. Rensink and Kuhn, under review. And rather than a taxonomy based directly on the particular methods used or effects created, we propose one that arranges these in their abstract form according to two fundamental taxonomic principles. First is the principle of maximal mechanism: Second is the principle of effect priority: An important advantage of this approach is that we can borrow well-established terms and concepts from the behavioral sciences, and so avoid many of the complications arising from vague or arbitrary categories.

Moreover, it makes the connections with known psychological mechanisms quite clear, facilitating interaction between magicians and researchers. Finally, it also minimizes the effect of subjective elements in the structure of the taxonomy, opening up the possibility of a system that might be accepted more generally 5.

Penn & Teller Give a Lesson in Misdirection Using a Vanishing Chicken

To see how such a taxonomy can be developed, begin by noting that human cognition generally involves several different kinds of information processing: To prevent a spectator from discovering the method, a magician could manipulate any of these processes Kuhn and Martinez, The first encompasses those procedures that manipulate perceptual mechanisms, preventing you from noticing particular events.

Even if an event is perceived accurately, however, there is no guarantee you the spectator will accurately remember it later on—our memories are very selective, and based on reconstructions of fragments rather than complete representations of objects or events Fernyhough, Our second category therefore involves memory. Thus, the third category of misdirection relates to manipulating the way that people reason about an event 6. Schematic diagram of the psychologically-based taxonomy, showing its highest levels. Here, divisions are based on the mechanisms underlying the effects involved.

Although these kinds of process operate separately to a large extent, they are nevertheless interdependent. This reflects the interdependent operation of perceptual and cognitive mechanisms generally. For example, our perception of an event influences what we remember, and our memories in turn guide our reasoning and attention.

Moreover, certain misdirection principles can potentially influence cognitive functions at multiple levels. This refers to misdirection that manipulates the perception of an event. This category is somewhat similar to Lamont and Wiseman's physical misdirection, except that their category includes only attentional processes 7 , and so ignores non-attentional factors such as occlusion. Most importantly, however, unlike their physical misdirection, the categories here are centered around a well-founded and well-articulated set of perceptual and cognitive mechanisms.

A large number of misdirection techniques fall under this category. This distinction has important theoretical and practical implications. For example, most attentional effects can be modulated by direct top-down control, which is not necessarily the case for non-attentional ones. Among other things, this highlights that the misdirection of non-attentional perceptual mechanisms is more resilient to the spectator's own intentions.

Given the central role of attentional processes in creating our conscious experience e. Attention is a notoriously difficult phenomenon to define; among other things, it is currently unclear how many attentional process there are, or exactly what each of them does see e. But whatever characterization is used, there appear to be three distinct aspects of attention that can be manipulated, each involving a distinct set of mechanisms:. Schematic diagram of attentional misdirection.

Here, the initial level is based on the mechanisms affected focus, timing, capacity. Later divisions are based on the mechanisms that underlie the methods involved. Note that subdivisions below this level are method-centered—i. As for other parts of this taxonomy, we expect that future research may well uncover other aspects of attentional control, which would correspondingly give rise to new subcategories in the taxonomy. Control of attentional focus. This refers to what is attended—e.

Many concepts of misdirection refer to manipulating this aspect either explicitly Bruno, ; Lamont and Wiseman, , or implicitly through creating zones of high and low interest Sharpe, Techniques where the magician orchestrates spatial attention are all grouped in this category. Such misdirection can be divided into two main subgroups: External triggers cause attention to be controlled as a reflexive result of events in the environment—for example, a bright flash.

Such control can be further subdivided into procedures involving physical, social, and emotive processes. Although our attention can be captured by external events, we also have some degree of conscious control over where we attend—such as when you decide to attend to a particular location in a scene Posner, Many misdirection techniques influence these processes by manipulating internal goals or intentions, typically via narrative. Control of attentional timing.

Just as we can focus our attention on particular objects or locations in space, so can we focus it on particular moments in time. Magicians have accordingly developed several types of techniques that manipulate how much attention is paid at a particular time within a magic trick.

Such control is similar to the temporal misdirection of Lamont and Wiseman Section Lamont and Wiseman: Magic in theory , except that our taxonomy prioritizes the mechanisms, rather than the methods by which the misdirection is achieved. People's level of attention can either be manipulated through physical cues , or by exploiting fluctuations in attention that naturally occur during the performance, and require a semantic understanding of the performance.

Control of attentional resources. The perception of information depends not only on available information, but also on the attentional resources available. People engaged in an attentionally-demanding task often fail to notice extremely obvious events that occur directly in front of them Mack and Rock, ; Chabris and Simons, Several types of misdirection are therefore based on manipulating the attentional resources available. The most explicit involves explicitly giving someone an attentionally-demanding task. For example, the magician might ask a person to count the number of face cards among those being dealt onto the table.

Since their attentional resources are occupied by this, they will fail to notice things going on elsewhere Smith et al. A related form of this—which also plays a central role in Bruno's taxonomy Section Joe Bruno: Anatomy of misdirection —is the creation of confusion. If lots of different things are going on at the same time that require a lot of attention, the spectator will be prevented from encoding much of the detail.

Of course this only works as long as they can still follow the trick. One of the key rules in magic is that you should never repeat the same effect with the same method. Indeed, empirical work confirms that people are less effectively misdirected if the same trick is repeated Kuhn and Tatler, This is likely because perceiving something for the first time requires more attentional resources than when you experience it a second time, a phenomenon known as perceptual fluency Whittlesea and Leboe, For similar reasons magicians usually don't tell the audience what they are about to do; the level of suspense requires more attentional resources and thus prevents people from noticing the method Kuhn et al.

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In addition to attention, our perception of a stimulus is influenced by various other factors, such its visibility and the context in which it is presented. Schematic diagram of non-attentional misdirection. Here, the mechanism affected is non-attentional perception largely based on perceptual organization, although further distinctions might be made 1 day.

Categories are based upon the various ways to control this. Our memories of an event depend not only on how well it has been perceived, but also on how well it has been retrieved. Memory processes are inherently reconstructive—you can easily misremember events that did not occur in real life Fernyhough, Memory misdirection techniques can therefore affect the memory of an event by manipulating either the processes involved in its maintenance or in its reconstruction. Two distinct sets of techniques therefore exist: Schematic diagram of memory misdirection.

The initial level is based on the mechanisms affected maintenance, reconstruction. The divisions at lower levels are based on how these processes are controlled. Many memory misdirection techniques try to ensure that relevant information about a magic method is simply forgotten. This can be done in several ways. For example, people remember more of an event immediately after it has occurred, as compared to some time later. The use of such delays is therefore an important kind of memory misdirection, and one of the reasons why magicians typically attempt to separate in time the method from the effect Fraps, ; Leech, Leech calls this principle time misdirection; it is used in effects such as a prediction that relies on forcing a card Supplementary Video 4 so that the spectator forgets which card he actually cut to.

The extent of forgetting also depends on what the spectator is doing during the time delay; much is still unknown about what factors influence this. Another important principle is the idea of confusion. Although akin to the similar concept used in other areas attention , here it relates to the how the complexity of the environment affects memory: There are several ways in which confusion can be created.

For example, in card magic, magicians typically create magic routines that involve an entire deck of cards rather than a single card. Confusion also helps prevent the audience from determining which details are relevant, further minimizing the chances that important parts of the method are remembered. A popular way of doing this is to provide the spectator with false solutions. These often take the form of pretending to carry out one effect whilst in fact doing something else for example making a pen vanish after making it clear that they were attempting to vanish a coin, Supplementary Video 2.

These techniques are often used to control attention, but they are also used to control memory: Related to this is distinctiveness. People are more likely to remember events that are distinctive; as such, magicians try to ensure that props or actions relating to the method lack distinctiveness, and thus will be quickly forgotten. This is typically achieved by either manipulating the props themselves or by manipulating the context and thus making them appear less distinctive and less likely to be remembered. For example, a mind-reading trick may require the spectator to write down a word; if the writing is done quickly on a bland scrap of paper that is used incidentally, the audience may forget that anything was ever written down.

Our memories are far less stable than we intuitively believe, with conscious recollection being based on a considerable degree on reconstruction rather than retrieval Fernyhough, As such, the second category of memory misdirection involves the control of this reconstructive process to cause events to be misremembered. The most common form of this is people misremembering something as a related object or event, i.

For example, we might see the magician perform an action that—at least to some extent—resembles a card shuffle; we later misremember it as a real shuffle. Consequently, misremembering is another fundamental principle in misdirection Tamariz, Another way to influence the contents of a reconstructed memory is by suggestions. These can be given before, during or after the event, and can be verbal or non-verbal. For example, verbal suggestions given at the time of a spoon bending resulted in people falsely remembering that the spoon was still bending whilst on the table Wiseman and Greening, Similarly, visual suggestions that the magician threw a ball up in the air resulted in people falsely remembering that the ball was thrown Kuhn and Land, ; Kuhn et al.

Magicians likewise use post-event suggestions. A common technique involves the insertion of false claims when recapitulating the effect. A final way to increase misremembering is to increase the time lag between encoding and retrieval. As before, then, increasing the delay between method and effect are powerful ways of making it more likely that crucial aspects of the magic trick will be misremembered. Even if someone perceives and remembers the method used in a magic trick, this does not guarantee that it will be understood as contributing to the effect. Thus, magicians also manipulate the formation of your beliefs about what you just saw.

At the back of every spectator's mind lies the question as to why the magician carried out a particular action. For example, after seeing the magician make a coin disappear you might wonder why his hand went into his pocket: Was this the moment he got rid of that coin? A ruse is an action that misdirects the spectator's reasoning as to why an action was carried out. Magicians frequently use ruses to cover the true purpose of an action Fitzkee, ; Lamont and Wiseman, The use of ruse is similar to the use of justified actions in perceptual misdirection [Section Internal contextual triggers], although applied to how people interpret the event rather than whether it has been registered in the first place.

For example, in card magic, magicians typically create magic routines that involve an entire deck of cards rather than a single card. Here, the innocuous point of interest is more attractive to the spectator than the secret one. The Supplementary Material for this article can be found online at: For example, a poorly motivated person is less likely to seek out the method, and so more likely to attend to things the magician does not want them to see Lamont and Wiseman, Many magic tricks involve interactions between the magician and a selected member of the audience. To show how such a taxonomy might look, we focus here on the area of misdirection.

Experiencing magic requires people to not discover the true cause of the effects. One way of doing this is to have them make false attributions about the cause. As such, much of magic involves feigning actions whereby the magician pretends to do one thing when in fact he does something entirely different.

In the French Drop for example, the magician pretends to transfer the coin from one hand to the other when in fact it remains in the original hand Supplementary Video 1. Such methods only work as long as the spectator incorrectly interprets the event. Many different techniques can help magicians misdirect the way events are interpreted. The false transfer is another commonly-used way of making small objects vanish.

The magician pretends to hold a coin in his hands for several seconds before revealing an empty hand; this delay prevents people from suspecting a false transfer. Here the magician exploits the concept of object permanence, whereby we continue to perceive objects as present even when they are not directly visible. These forms of concealment also allow the magician to increase the delay between the method and the effect. Several techniques can strengthen these effects; these are commonly known as convincers. For example, magicians may exploit cross-modal attribution errors to misdirect people toward believing that the object is still present.

For example, in a coin vanish, the magician may use a false transfer which gives the impression that the coin has been transferred to the other hand. To further convince the audience that the coin is indeed in the other hand, he could produce a sound that convinces people that the coin is still in his hand by tapping the mimed coin on the table and generating the sound source through some other means e. Each member of an audience has a set of pre-existing assumptions about the nature of the magic show, assumptions that they bring along to the performance.

Whilst some of these assumptions are correct, others are not.

Much of misdirection involves manipulating and exploiting these assumptions. These include the following principles:. Many magic tricks involve interactions between the magician and a selected member of the audience.