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According to magician Teller, "Neuroscientists are novices at deception. Magicians have done controlled testing in human perception for thousands of years." (Jared McMillen / Aurora Select)

Teller Reveals His Secrets

The smaller, quieter half of the magician duo Penn & Teller writes about how magicians manipulate the human mind

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(Continued from page 2)

Now I wiggle the card to my shoe (No. 3—If you’re laughing...). When I lift whichever foot has your card, or invite you to take my wallet from my back pocket, I turn away (No. 4—Outside the frame) and swap the deck for a normal one from which I’d removed all three possible selections (No. 5—Combine two tricks). Then I set the deck down to tempt you to examine it later and notice your card missing (No. 6—The lie you tell yourself).

Magic is an art, as capable of beauty as music, painting or poetry. But the core of every trick is a cold, cognitive experiment in perception: Does the trick fool the audience? A magician’s data sample spans centuries, and his experiments have been replicated often enough to constitute near-certainty. Neuroscientists—well intentioned as they are—are gathering soil samples from the foot of a mountain that magicians have mapped and mined for centuries. MRI machines are awesome, but if you want to learn the psychology of magic, you’re better off with Cub Scouts and hard candy.

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