Sleights of Mind: What the Neuroscience of Magic Reveals about Our Everyday Deceptions
The founders of the exciting new discipline of neuromagic convinced some of the world's greatest magicians to allow scientists to study their techniques for tricking the brain. This book is the result of the their year-long, world-wide exploration of magic and how its principles apply to our behavior.
Kirkus Reviews (09/01/2010):
With the assistance of New York Times contributor Blakeslee (co-author: The Body Has a Mind of Its Own: How Body Maps in Your Brain Help You Do (Almost) Everything Better, 2007, etc.), neuroscientists Macknik and Martinez-Conde probe the neurological features at work in the magician's craft.
The authors do not deny the supreme artistry of the magicians they profile, but they closely examine the magicians' most valuable ally?the way our minds work. Not so much the psychological principles, though the authors explore some of those as well, but the neural correlates: "Magic tricks work because humans have a hardwired process of attention and awareness that is hackable." Macknik and Martinez-Conde paint the picture of a trick as it appears on the stage?a dress changing color, a severed head, card and coin tricks?then set to work explaining why we fall for it. These explanations?set off by spoiler alerts, which seem a trifle contrived, since that is where the meat of the project lies?delve into visual and cognitive illusions. Illusion is the rub: "a surprising proportion of your perceptions are fundamentally illusory...You believe you are aware of your surroundings but at any given moment you are blocking out ninety-five percent of all that is happening." This is evident in both the way the eye works and how the brain filters the immense sensory input. The authors make easily comprehensible the effects of neural adaptation, afterimages, occlusion, perspective, saccades, inattentional blindness, expectations and the pliability of memory. Only rarely does their exploration fall short, such as in how the ideomotor effect works in dousing, or why free will is not in play even if some of our actions are instigated in the preconscious. Mostly, though, readers can test their explanations at home.
(COPYRIGHT (2010) KIRKUS REVIEWS/NIELSEN BUSINESS MEDIA, INC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.)
Includes bibliographical references and index.
Stephen L. Macknik, Ph.D., is Director of the Laboratory of Behavioral Neurophysiology at the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix, Arizona. Susana Martinez-Conde, Ph.D., is Director of the Laboratory of Visual Neuroscience at BNI. Sandra Blakeslee is a regular contributor to "Science Times" at "The New York Times" who specializes in the brain sciences, and the author of several books.
"Magic is the place where our senses and beliefs fail us in magnificent ways. In this exciting book Stephen, Susana, and Sandra explore what magic and illusions can teach us about our fallible human nature--coming up with novel and fascinating observations."--Dan Ariely, author of "Predictability Irrational"
"Steve and Susana are two of the most innovative scientists I know. They aren't content to just conduct elegant experiments (although they do plenty of those, too). Instead, they're determined to explore those places where neuroscience intersects the mysterious and the magical, from visual illusions to Vegas card tricks. This book doesn't just change the way you think about sleight of hand and David Copperfield - it will also change the way you think about the mind."--Jonah Lehrer, author of "How We Decide" and "Proust Was A Neuroscientist."
"I've long wished that there was a book that explained the art of magic from the point of view of cognitive neuroscience. Magic is a goldmine of information about the brain, as well as a source of fascination to laypeople. This is the book we've all been waiting for."--Steven Pinker PhD, author of"The Stuff of Thought"
"This is a highly original book. Science and magic have much in common. They both take seemingly inexplicable events and provide elegantly simple answers that enthrall the observer. The authors have done an admirable job in exploring this idea and also suggest ways in which the two disciplines can cross fertilize each other."--VS Ramachandran MD PhD, author of "Phantoms in the Brain"
"Stephen Macknik and Susana Martinez-Conde's "Sleights of Mind" gives non-magicians a real up-close look at the true secrets of magic. They are revealing the real knowledge jealously guarded by all great performers...I know my fellow magicians are all going to be as jazzed as I am to read about how sophisticated magical techniques and state-of-the-art brain science combine."--Mac King, headliner, Harrah's Las Vegas
Table of Contents:
Introduction -- 1. The Woman in the Chameleon Dress: Visual Illusions and Magic -- 2. The Secret of the Bending Spoon: Why Magicians Watch Their Angles -- 3. The Brother Who Faked a Dome: Visual Illusions in Art and Science -- 4. Welcome to the Show but Please Leave On Your Blinders: Cognitive Illusions -- 5. The Gorilla in Your Midst: More Cognitive Illusions -- 6. The Ventriloquist's Secret: Multisensory Illusions -- 7. The Indian Rope Trick: Memory Illusions -- 8. Expectation and Assumption: How Magicians Make ASSes of U and ME -- 9. May the Force Be with You: The Illusion of Choice -- 10. Why Magic Wands Work: Illusory Correlations, Superstition, Hypnosis, and Flimflam -- 11. The Magic Castle -- 12. Will the Magic Go Away? -- Epilogue -- Notes -- Acknowledgments -- Index.
"This book doesn't just promise to change the way you think about sleight of hand and David Copperfield--it will also change the way you think about the mind." --Jonah Lehrer, author of "How We Decide" and "Proust Was A Neuroscientist "
Stephen Macknik and Susana Martinez-Conde, the founders of the exciting new discipline of neuromagic, have convinced some of the world's greatest magicians to allow scientists to study their techniques for tricking the brain. This book is the result of the authors' yearlong, world-wide exploration of magic and how its principles apply to our behavior. Magic tricks fool us because humans have hardwired processes of attention and awareness that are hackable--a good magician uses your mind's own intrinsic properties against you in a form of mental jujitsu.
Now magic can reveal how our brains work in everyday situations. For instance, if you've ever bought an expensive item you'd sworn you'd never buy, the salesperson was probably a master at creating the "illusion of choice," a core technique of magic. The implications of neuromagic go beyond illuminating our behavior; early research points to new approaches for everything from the diagnosis of autism to marketing techniques and education. "Sleights of Mind" makes neuroscience fun and accessible by unveiling the key connections between magic and the mind.
Library Journal Prepub Alert 06/01/2010 pg. 68 (EAN 9780805092813, Hardcover)
Kirkus Reviews 09/01/2010 (EAN 9780805092813, Hardcover)
Library Journal 03/15/2011 pg. 91 (EAN 9781400149902, Compact Disc) - *Starred Review
Contributor Bio: Macknik, Stephen L
Stephen L. Macknik earned his Ph.D. from Harvard University, led his first laboratory at University College London, and is currently a laboratory director at the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix, Arizona, and a board member of "Scientific American".
Contributor Bio: Martinez-Conde, Susana
Susana Martinez-Conde is director of the Laboratory of Visual Neuroscience at the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix, Arizona.
Contributor Bio: Blakeslee, Sandra
Sandra Blakeslee is a science correspondent at the "New York Times" who specializes in the brain sciences.