Magic tricks, robberies and neuromagics

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Magic tricks, robberies and neuromagics
Magic tricks, robberies and neuromagics

This is what magicians and pickpockets have used since ancient times, this is why many car accidents occur, people confuse suspects and dummies, and the husband does not notice his wife's new haircut. Psychologists call this the great illusion of consciousness.

Here are five playing cards. Remember one. Remember?


Now look at the next image.


We've removed your map, haven't we?..

We just showed you a good old card trick. For those who have not guessed yet - we explain: we, of course, replaced all the cards, and you were so concentrated on memorizing one card that you simply did not notice it. But this is not scary at all, and only means that you belong to the absolute majority of people. However, perhaps reading this article will help you become a little more attentive than the rest.

Illegal tricks

Do you know the easiest way to do the "trick" with pulling the wallet from your neighbor's back pocket? It is enough to unexpectedly show him something that he absolutely does not expect to see in a given place and at a given time - for example, thrust a tablespoon under his nose while he is talking to you on the street. While he is looking at the soup appliance in bewilderment, quickly and carefully remove the wallet (this, of course, will take some skill). Only then do not forget to return, remember - this is just a trick!

Do you remember the "Russian roulette of the late 20th century" - the famous game of thimbles? It consisted in guessing which of the three thimbles the ball would be under. They played, of course, not "for fun" - the unfortunate man had to bet some amount of money. Then the ball was put under one of the thimbles in front of his eyes, then the thimblegucker rather slowly twisted the thimbles together, and the "goof", following his movements, seemed to know exactly the location of the ball. But it was not there! While one of the dummy spectators inserted some unexpected remark or offered to add money free of charge in case of a win, the “thimbler” managed to pinch the ball with his little finger, and - voila! - no ball, no money.


Pickpocket tricks

Shoulder in the crowd, and while the person looks around - pull out the wallet. Get your clothes dirty and, apologizing for a long time, shake them off until you get an expensive phone. Clamp in the metro door at rush hour. Help get on the minibus or bus. Climb up with hugs, pretending to be an old acquaintance, and then pretend that you were mistaken. Arrange an accident and, providing assistance or, conversely, intimidating, grab the purse and leave. Ask for help (read, choose a product, etc.), and at this time get the helping person into the bag. Be an obsessive beggar (as a rule, gypsies with children do this) and take off an expensive watch. All this is just a small part of the favorite tricks of legal and illegal dodgers. And they are all based on a mistake in the work of our consciousness, which is called "blindness to change." Concentrating on one thing, distracted by something unexpected - we are not able to follow something else, even if it is right in front of our noses. Performing two tasks at the same time is beyond the power of 98% of people.


How to protect your belongings from a pickpocket? Unfortunately, there is no single recipe. Experts, however, advise - try to get into the mind of a pickpocket. What interests the pickpocket first of all? Of course, expensive things and a wallet. What does he do next? Of course, looks where you store them.Therefore, the best anti-theft remedy is, trivial as it may seem, not to carry expensive things in public, or at least hide them away - in a zippered chest pocket or in a sturdy, tightly buttoned bag that you constantly support with your elbow. But the technique of surprise can also be applied. It will help you save your belongings while traveling, for example, when walking in a foreign city. Take the risk of tucking your wallet, phone, and watch into a large plastic juice cup, close it, and insert a straw for more persuasiveness. Now feel free to carry this glass in your hand. It is unlikely that a pickpocketing thief would think of encroaching on this item, unless, of course, you did the process of putting valuables in a glass in a public place where the thief could see it. And also - do not forget the glass on the table of the nearest cafe.


This is the name of a new direction in psychology, which was outlined in 2008. Neuromagic is a coalition of psychologists, psychophysiologists and real magicians. It is she who studies why we, looking at something … do not see it.

Psychologists, however, began to study this phenomenon around the 1970s. Research has emerged, as is usually the case, as a byproduct of another field, the study of visual perception. Research was conducted by one of the founders of cognitive psychology (psychology of cognitive processes - NS) Ulric Neisser. He set a difficult task for his students, inviting them to watch a film of two films superimposed on each other. At the same time, students had to try to watch only one of them, ignoring the other. From time to time, from one corner of the movie screen to another, a girl passed under an umbrella, who had absolutely nothing to do with films. To Neisser's amazement, almost none of the students watching the film noticed any girl.

Invisible gorilla

About 30 years later, at the turn of the 20th and 21st centuries, a beautiful girl with an umbrella emerged in psychology in the form of a gorilla. The buzzing experiment was now being conducted by Chicago psychologist Daniel Simons and his colleague Christopher Chabris. Essentially, the two replicated Neisser's old experiment, but instead of films, they showed the audience a basketball team. The spectators were asked to count the passes that the players passed to each other throughout the match. From time to time, a man in a gorilla costume would appear right among the players, beat himself in the chest and go further. And again the same effect - it would seem that almost none of the spectators noticed the life-threatening gorilla. The experiment was called "The Invisible Gorilla", and a whole book was published on its basis, "The Invisible Gorilla, or the story of how deceiving our intuition is," and they concluded that a person engaged in a certain task does not notice phenomena that are not related to this task. Even if these phenomena are unexpected, interesting and can pose a threat to his life and well-being. But in the absence of such a task, all phenomena, like the gorilla on the basketball team, are noticed perfectly.

Before reaching this conclusion, psychologists, of course, tried many different funny modifications of the gorilla experiment. For example, they warned people about the gorilla, but in an insidious way changed the color of the curtain against which the game was taking place, from bright red to bright yellow. And the spectators, busy counting passes and waiting for the gorilla to appear, did not notice the change of the curtain.

12 Watt

At each moment of time, only one object occupies our attention, and only for its changes we follow. Our attention is like a spotlight beam. A narrow beam shows a piece of the scene in all the details, a wide one can illuminate the whole scene, but in this case the details will fall out of our field of vision.

The fact is that the power of the brain is only 12 watts. This is less than a third of the power of a light bulb in a refrigerator.With such a limited amount of energy, the brain is programmed to cut out all unnecessary information in order to give us an adequate picture of the world around us. He only concentrates on what is important to us. How he does it? With the help of such departments as the prefrontal cortex, parietal lobe, thalamus. They act as filters for signals from other parts of the brain, allowing us to shift our attention from object to object.


Perceptual errors

In fact, there are many of them, they are all similar and intertwined. The blindness to change that we have already mentioned is that we do not notice changes even in a very large visual scene, if we are focused on some task and / or if these changes are accompanied by some kind of “film break”. Because if changes occur suddenly in a static picture, we will certainly notice them. For this we have special motion detectors, which we inherited from amphibians. They are responsible for automatically drawing attention to the place where a new object appears. But as soon as the change "breaks off" - as was the case with the card trick at the beginning of the article, we risk not noticing anything. After all, if both the first and second batch of cards were on the same page, it would be easier for you to compare them, and you would probably find a catch.

If we have a red ball in front of us, which immediately turns white, we, of course, will notice this. But if the ball turns white the moment we blinked, we may not notice that it has changed color. Unless, of course, our thoughts are chained to this ball.

We are not inclined to notice differences, and if changes occur very gradually, our brain simply erases the changed nuances from memory.

A person does not detect changes, even if there is not a global interruption of the image, but its local noise. There are cases when the driver did not notice the pedestrian, because just at that moment a few splashes of mud fell on the glass of the car. Therefore, research on change blindness is sponsored today, mainly by large car corporations, which are completely unprofitable for the "extra" number of accidents.

Blindness of consciousness and car accidents

But even more often, car accidents are due to "repetition blindness" and "inattention blindness." As a rule, we do not notice the repetition of a visual object if it occurs within a certain interval of time or if this object in space is located next to the one that we just saw. This is why, in modern text editors, a repeated word is underlined with a red wavy line, like a spelling mistake, because if the adjacent words are the same, we are more likely to perceive them as one.

For the same reason, motorists run over motorcyclists so often. The most common type of collision between a motorcycle and a car is when the car makes a left turn in front of the motorcycle. The driver of the car looks at other cars and literally does not see the motorcycle, although the bike can pass right in front of its windshield. Our brains are programmed to see the familiar. If in the stream of cars "unexpectedly" appears not another car, but a motorcycle, the driver may even see it, but not realize it. We are aware of only a small part of what our eyes see. During a conversation on the phone while driving, inattention blindness is manifested when people do not see what is happening in front of them on the road. They may not notice a pedestrian or traffic light. A 2002 study showed that 2,500 people die every year in the United States due to the fault of drivers talking on the phone while driving. Another 330 thousand are injured. According to experts, the likelihood of getting into an accident while talking on the phone is the same as driving a car with a high blood alcohol content. If a person writes text messages, this risk doubles.

Seeing what is familiar

Inattentive blindness, like repetition blindness, is that we are unable to notice unexpected things when our attention is focused on something else. Even if this unexpected is right in front of us.

It has been forgotten that we read the test cases, even if the letters are perceptible to the glory. Unexpectedly, when we ask to bring the invoice of the wrong waiter. It is dangerous when we confuse bogus and suspects. It's interesting when we don't notice movie bloopers even in the most famous blockbusters.


If the brain sees something that is important to us, it fills in the incomprehensible places with what we expect to see. If we do not expect to see a man in a completely modern T-shirt in one of the Pirates of the Caribbean episodes on an old pirate ship behind Jack Sparrow, we will most likely not see him. We are aware only of what is habitual and what we are able to understand. The rest just passes by our consciousness. Therefore, women should appreciate men who notice that they have changed their hairstyle, because in front of them are truly rare specimens.

Continuing the theme of gender relations and repetition blindness, we can say that it is she who is the reason why for some women men are always bastards, and for some men all women are bitches. Each of these types of people had negative experiences that either lasted for a long time, or repeated, or simply traumatized them too much. Now they don't even want to hear that there are honest women or decent men. Rather, they want to hear something, but … in any person, sooner or later, they will still see what they are used to. This is how our brain works. However, there is an opportunity to change everything - there would be a desire.


The illusion of mindfulness

Psychologists have conducted research more than once: despite all of the above, most of us are sure that we are in perfect control of the environment and notice, if not everything, then a lot. Psychologists have called this the illusion of mindfulness, which, however, fulfills its important role and is very useful for us, otherwise we would really hardly find a place for ourselves from the constant anxiety that we cannot control what is happening around us. However, as we managed to make sure, such an illusion, unfortunately, often plays not in our favor.

But what part of the world are we missing? To steal things, the pickpocket controls our ability to concentrate. How it works? There are many ways to manipulate people's attention. Often these manipulations are based on two types of attention. The first one is called arbitrary - we use it to make decisions. Look up from the text and look out the window. You did it with voluntary attention. You now hear a phone call. You were distracted by it, and this happened with the help of an involuntary type of attention, when something forces us to concentrate. When you looked out the window, you were using the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for decision making and planning. When your attention was drawn to the ringing of the phone, a more primitive response system was triggered, located in areas of the brain called the sensory cortex. This and other parts of the brain are responsible for concentrating on unexpected stimuli from the senses.

When a pickpocket takes your wallet or watch, he manipulates both forms of attention. Distracting people is quite simple, you need to use involuntary attention. A jolt in the crowd - and the person is involuntarily distracted. At this time, sleight of hand allows you to snatch his wallet or take off his watch. However, no matter how hard you try, an experienced pickpocket, alas, can still cheat you if he wants to. Only years of training will help you manage your attention enough to respond in time. So relax, but … be alert.

We do not notice how much we do not notice. And we also think that we see more than we really are.Still don't believe it?

As soon as possible, name out loud the colors in which these words are written.


Too easy? And if this is so?.. Remember: you should not name the words themselves, but their color.


It's not what you look at, but what you see. By the way, did you notice a rabbit in a top hat in some of the photos in our article?..

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