Scientists analyzing how magicians Penn & Teller perform one of the oldest known illusions now reveal that some aspects of the magic trick are even more effective at manipulating audiences than the magicians predicted.
These findings not only shed light on basic processes such as cognition, but could help advance the art of magic, researchers suggested.
In recent years, neuroscientists have increasingly been analyzing magicians’ performances to gain insights on the human mind.
“We realized that magicians were among the best people at manipulating attention and awareness, far better than scientists,” said cognitive neuroscientist Stephen Macknik, director of the laboratory of behavioral neurobiology at the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix, Ariz. “So we’ve been poaching their techniques, bringing them back to the labs to increase our rate of discovery.”
The latest magic trick Macknik and his colleagues investigated is the classic cups and balls illusion.