This is how an illusionist targets your unconscious mind
Juggling conscious experience with the machinations of the mind can create the ultimate audience experience.
Derren Brown began his UK television career in December 2000 with a series of specials called Mind Control. In the UK, his name is now pretty much synonymous with the art of psychological manipulation. Amongst a varied and notorious TV career, Derren has played Russian Roulette live, convinced middle-managers to commit armed robbery, led the nation in a séance, stuck viewers at home to their sofas, successfully predicted the National Lottery, motivated a shy man to land a packed passenger plane at 30,000 feet, hypnotised a man to assassinate Stephen Fry, and created a zombie apocalypse for an unsuspecting participant after seemingly ending the world. He has also written several best-selling books and has toured with eight sell-out one-man stage shows.
DERREN BROWN: When you work I think with any sort of magic you become a very good applied psychologist just in a very niche area, which is why it's generally magicians that are brought in to kind of test for psychic claims and that kind of thing to sort of debunk or look for that kind of evidence because scientists get fooled very easily like the rest of us, magicians are just very good at understanding how that sort of thing can work and be fooling. So, you're working with conscious and unconscious processes, so for example, to take an idea of just a card trick, say you start a card trick and the deck has to be in a special order in order for the trick to work, but there's a point halfway through the trick where it's safe for the person to shuffle the cards, but if they shuffle at the beginning it would ruin the whole trick. So, maybe at the beginning you shuffle yourself as the magician but it's a false shuffle you're not really shuffling the cards but it looks like you are, but halfway through the trick you hand them the deck and you say to the spectator, who so far has not shuffled the cards, you say to them, "Shuffle the cards again but this time do it under the table."
Now, that doesn't make any sense because they haven't shuffled the cards before, but in as much as they're now taking the cards and shuffling them under the table and following that instruction you're starting to play with the memory of what actually happened in the trick. So, now you're essentially planting a false memory that they had shuffled the deck before. It's not a guaranteed thing, but when they start to narrate the trick afterwards you start to see how these false memories are fitting into play. So, a big part of performing any sort of magic is controlling that narrative afterwards by playing with things like false memories so any magician becomes very good at doing that sort of thing.
My tool kit is the ongoing experience of both the audience and the people that come up on stage so I use rapid hypnotic induction techniques with people that come up on stage and they vary in efficacy from night to night, but generally they work. So there, for example, I would be using an unconscious process there of using bafflement and bewilderment to my advantage. So, if you imagine that somebody comes up to you in the street and says "It's not half past seven." Your reaction isn't to go oh yes I know it's 20 to two, your reaction is normally would be to feel baffled and thrown by that like you've sort of missed something. And when we are baffled we become hyper suggestible because we're looking for a way out, we're looking for a clear steer, a clear direction out of that towards information that makes sense so I use that a lot. Politicians use it a lot so they give you a bunch of statistics that you can barely follow and then they say so therefore, dot, dot dot. And you're much more likely to then accept that information than if they've started off with that information because it's relief from the sort of the bafflement of the figures that they've just given you.
So, I use it when people come up on stage they are naturally disoriented by the experience of suddenly being in front of 2000 people that they can't see because it's just dark and it's odd and they're suddenly looking to me for directions. That's a very powerful position in terms of influence. It's great because from the audience it doesn't necessarily look any different, I mean someone has just walked up on stage, but you don't quite appreciate the level of sort of confusion that that person can then be in. So, I hypnotize through a handshake, I go in for a handshake and then halfway through the handshake I interrupt it, which again is just adding another level of bafflement because now you've got this automated process of a handshake that's suddenly interrupted, which leaves us completely flummoxed. So, then an instruction to go to sleep, or to, you could stick someone's feet to the floor. You could maybe take their voice away. There's a whole lot of things that you can do at that moment because you've created this sort of maximum responsiveness gets in at a level that seems to bypass the normal conscious filters.
So, I'm using that sort of stuff a lot. And then the whole show is really structured around those kind of things. I'm filtering for suggestibility, filtering for people that are going to respond well to what I do. It's sort of a constant sort of juggling of the conscious things that we are appreciating and the unconscious things that are guiding how we are appreciating them.
- Magicians are actually very effective applied psychologists. They're familiar with the workings of both the conscious and unconscious mind.
- During his act, renowned psychological illusionist Derren Brown uses the technique of bafflement to bypass participants' conscious filters and get a maximum response to the trick.
- Derren Brown returns to the stage with his new live, one-man show, Showman. Check it out here.
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"Nothing but naked people: fat ones, thin ones, old, young…"
"The Yellow Sands", 1888, John Reinhard Weguelin; source: Wikimedia Commons<h3>Naked revolution</h3><p>Yet long before anyone knew about beach fashion, naturism was trendy. Bathing naked in the sea was going on in England as early as 1840. However, during the reign of Queen Victoria, this pleasure was outlawed. But it popped up again among the conservative Germans. In 1898, the first Naturist Club was founded in Essen and in 1900 the Wandering Birds group (<em>Wandervögel</em>) was scouring the country for uninhabited places and naked sunbathing. In the same year, Heinrich Pudor wrote <em>The C</em><em>ult of </em><em>the </em><em>Nud</em><em>e</em>, winning the hearts of contemporary supporters of naturism.</p><p>In the 1920s, on the back of this, members of the Movement for Natural Healing (<em>Naturheilbewegung</em>) organized naked sunbathing for the improvement of health. Persuaded by Pudor's theory of the healing properties of the sun and wind, which could be absorbed through the skin, they launched the naked revolution.</p><p>Pudor's book became the naturists' manifesto and soon after, not far from Hamburg, the Free Body Culture (<em>Freikörperkultur</em>, or FKK) movement was founded. This spread through other German centres and brought together thousands of people. The FKK still operates under the same name today.</p><p>The cult of the naked body even wrote itself into the ideology of fascist Germany, which advocated a pure, Aryan race. But in 1933, Hermann Göring issued an order that defined nudity as "the greatest threat to the German soul" and, with that, criminalized naturist organizations. But this wasn't the end of the movement. The naturists went underground, continuing their activities under the guise of improving physical fitness.</p><p>In 1936, the idea was even floated of having a naturist display to open the Berlin Olympic Games. It was quickly dropped. Despite this, in 1939 the naturists managed to organize their own Games in the Swiss village of Thielle.</p>
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Crows have their own version of the human cerebral cortex.
Action-packed pallia<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDQ0NzkyMS9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxNzk1NzM1OH0.Tjb3zulFW2gwhteR124F9HGbmdnCqNqQFOBQouieTJ8/img.png?width=980" id="2bbc9" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="2907e4035e553565f4446e968ee73d92" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Fun with Ozzie and Glenn<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDQ0Njk2MS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxMzY4Njc2MX0.ZgpsPMCK6qOj2o0kErvVPjdua1EnMCIwCuHHGrb3LiY/img.jpg?width=980" id="acbeb" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="2e286fecbb228a5ca8aa26fcd19f95a2" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="two crows in a tree" />
Ozzie and Glenn not pictured
Credit: narubono/Unsplash<p>The kind of higher intelligence crows exhibited in the new research is similar to the way we solve problems. We catalog relevant knowledge and then explore different combinations of what we know to arrive at an action or solution.</p><p>The researchers, led by neurobiologist <a href="https://homepages.uni-tuebingen.de/andreas.nieder/" target="_blank">Andreas Nieder</a> of the University of Tübingen in Germany, trained two carrion crows (<em>Corvus corone</em>), Ozzie and Glenn.</p><p>The crows were trained to watch for a flash — which didn't always appear — and then peck at a red or blue target to register whether or not a flash of light was seen. Ozzie and Glenn were also taught to understand a changing "rule key" that specified whether red or blue signified the presence of a flash with the other color signifying that no flash occurred.</p><p>In each round of a test, after a flash did or didn't appear, the crows were presented a rule key describing the current meaning of the red and blue targets, after which they pecked their response.</p><p>This sequence prevented the crows from simply rehearsing their response on auto-pilot, so to speak. In each test, they had to take the entire process from the top, seeing a flash or no flash, and then figuring out which target to peck.</p><p>As all this occurred, the researchers monitored their neuronal activity. When Ozzie or Glenn saw a flash, sensory neurons fired and then stopped as the bird worked out which target to peck. When there was no flash, no firing of the sensory neurons was observed before the crow paused to figure out the correct target.</p><p>Nieder's interpretation of this sequence is that Ozzie or Glenn had to see or not see a flash, deliberately note that there had or hadn't been a flash — exhibiting self-awareness of what had just been experienced — and then, in a few moments, connect that recollection to their knowledge of the current rule key before pecking the correct target.</p><p>During those few moments after the sensory neuron activity had died down, Nieder reported activity among a large population of neurons as the crows put the pieces together preparing to report what they'd seen. Among the busy areas in the crows' brains during this phase of the sequence was, not surprisingly, the pallium.</p><p>Overall, the study may eliminate the layered cerebral cortex as a requirement for higher intelligence. As we learn more about the intelligence of crows, we can at least say with some certainty that it would be wise to avoid <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/26/science/26crow.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">angering one</a>.</p>