The comment “For those who believe, no explanation is necessary. For those who do not believe, noexplanation will suffice” was made by the famous mentalist Joseph Dunninger, referring to performances by magicians and illusionists. Dunning died in 1975 at age 82, leaving modern-day audiences to ponder the nature of illusion.
Teller (of the popular Penn and Teller Las Vegas show and host of a cable TV show) delves even deeper into questions of illusion and belief. He wants his tricks, he says, “to reveal the everyday fraud of perception so that people become aware of the tension between what is and what seems to be. Every time you perform a magic trick, you’re engaging in experimental psychology, Teller adds. If an illusion is executed perfectly, every step looks real, even after you’ve been show that it is not. People take reality for granted, he says. “We just open our eyes and there it is. But that doesn’t mean it is simple.”
All of us on the Mind-Tripping team have been following the research being done at the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix, Arizona. Teller himself coauthored an article about that work in magicology which was published in the journal Nature Reviews Neuroscience titled “Attention and Awareness in Stage Magic”. The scientists’ goal is to use stage illusions to gain insight into brain function. “Magicians were taking advantage of these cognitive illusions long before any scientist identified them,” explains researcher Susana Martinez-Conde.
Teller sums up the process of misperception by saying “Attention is like a spotlight. When it’s focused on something, we become oblivious to even obvious changes outside its narrow beam. What magicians do, essentially, is misdirect – pivot that spotlight toward the wrong place at the right time.”
After performing thousands of shows over the past fifteen years, Christian and Katalina have taken misdirection and experimental psychology in a direction all their own. A Mind Tripping show has participants at once scratching their heads and laughing at the “everyday fraud of perception” our own minds play on us.
– by Opti of the Mind Tripping blog team