Psychology of Conjuring – Part 3

In the first two parts of this series (Part 1 and Part 2) we looked at patter and misdirection in terms of their psychological impact on spectators. Using patter is so much more than reciting words (when performing informally we don’t usually recite anything at all): we have to use the right words in the right way, both to connect with people and misdirect them effectively. The subtlety and complexity of this task comes to light when we acknowledge that everyone we perform for, and every situation, is different. The more one is aware of this difference, the harder it is to produce satisfactory results, but the better those results will be. This is why at top levels in any art form we have the pained and self-loathing artist, whereas at the bottom, anything goes and everyone is happy doing a slapdash job. Probably the best approach for the everyday magician is the middle path: concerned and interested, but not obsessive about getting it right.

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Psychology of Conjuring – Part 2

In Part 1 of this series we looked at how patter forms a link between ourselves and our magic on the one hand, and our spectators. If nothing else, patter justifies what we do. In everyday life there is normally no reason, for example, to thread a finger ring onto a pencil and then look at it! Only a child playing a make-believe game would do such a thing. But if the ring represents, say, Houdini, and the pencil, prison bars (or the two objects, and the magic done with them, illustrate particles in quantum physics, say) then we have a reason for doing something that in everyday life has no purpose (making a ring appear on a pencil). It would, in fact, make more sense to use special props – a magic wand and/or magic ring – as then we are demonstrating the special properties of those specific props, properties that borrowed rings and pencils do not have.

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Psychology of Conjuring – Part 1

Misdirection is all around us. In business it’s better to offer customers a payment plan than to tell them when to pay. Not only are we ‘offering’, but ‘payment plan’ is not just payment; the mind is misdirected by the word ‘plan’ which waters down the idea of payment. In casinos they use plastic chips to help distance players from the idea of betting with money. In the media, the superficial far outweighs the serious when it comes to reader attention (just look at what news stories are trending right now). It could be said that a psychologist is someone who academically studies how other people use psychology in real life, such as con artists, card cheats, shell-game operators, fraudulent psychics, pickpockets, and magicians.

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Reading Situations: Why Strong Magic is Not Always the Goal

For the amateur performer, choosing the right trick for the right context is key to doing magic effectively. We may know some great tricks, but if we don’t speak our audience’s language, for example, then we may have to find some alternatives or get creative. While ‘strong’ magic is usually preached as the gospel, there is another pathway to performing based on quite different criteria.

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