Neuroscience and the illusions behind magic

neuroscience-magic

We have seen great illusionists show us almost impossible things, but still, they manage to make us believe it’s real. We also have fictitious characters that make us love magic more like Harry Potter, Gandalf and Saruman, Merlin, and much more. Now, let’s pop a bubble here: Studies in neuroscience have also studied the truths and myths behind these illusions. Not shocked? Let me explain.

Behind this world where everything is possible and with great performers providing amazing entertainment, neuroscience experts decided to investigate what was behind it. They started analyzing a very common old trick: cups and balls where the balls disappear and then reappear in different sizes.

Neuroscience: science steps in

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The team of researchers from Barrow Neurological Institute started working on this by basing their investigation on a Penn & Teller analysis. The study of the trick is done with transparent and translucent glasses so everyone can track the balls inside the cups. The funniest part is people are still distracted and deceived!

People’s attention can focus on something wrong and unrelated to what was actually happening. Along with this study, Discovery.com published some data related to the previous analysis. Some of the most interesting points are:

– “Forget about ‘multitasking,’ the brain just can’t focus on two things at once.” Consider drawing attention to a specific element. Add the aid of external distractions such as lights. This disctracts the brain and to center all the attention in the wrong stimulus.
For example (Spoiler alert) the trick of the woman cut in half. One of the most famous tricks is nothing but two women inside two different cases. Our brain will always try to fill the gaps with the information it already has.
– With ‘Cognitive dissonance,’ our mind tried to rationalize what it sees, leaving out the right explanation. Then we start making up new “possible” ones.

But hey, some of us still prefer to enjoy the shows, right? Yes, maybe we already know it’s all fake (like the Wrestling shows, oops…). Nevertheless it’s always a good thought and a good sentiment to enjoy the things that entertain us and manage to amaze us.

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