×

We use cookies to help make LingQ better. By visiting the site, you agree to our cookie policy.


image

QSKILLS5, UNIT 4: LISTENING 2

Werman: Magic is one of the oldest art forms around, and it's based on fooling the human mind, which is why some scientists in Britain and Canada are interested in magic. They wrote an article about it for the journal trends it Cognitive sciences. In it, they say that by studying the tricks used by magicians, scientists could gain a deeper understanding of human perception. Gustav Kuhn is one of the co-authors; he's a psychologist and a practicing magician. And he's at the University of Durham in England. Now, in your study, you argue that the time has come create a science of magic. What exactly do you mean by that?

Gustav Kuhn: Most of you will have experienced magicians, for example, making objects magically disappear. Now, these kinds of tricks don't rely on supernatural powers. What the magician is really doing is utilizing a fairly wide range of techniques to manipulate your perception. Now, as you mentioned in your introduction, magic is a very old art form, and magicians have, through generations of practicing this art, have accumulated vast amounts of experience and knowledge about how these principles work. Now many of these principles are very similar to the kind of phenomenon that are typically studied by psychologists. And what we've been trying to do is kind of to find this link between magic and science. In other words, what we're trying to do is sort of try to tap into some of this experience by the magicians and sort of try to understand the scientific foundation of some of these techniques. And hopefully this will actually then lead toward a sort of science of magic.

Werman: Right, and what specific techniques of the magic trade are you talking about?

Kuhn: Um, there's a wide variety. In this paper, we've been looking at three different technique. Namely, misdirection, illusions, and forcing.

Werman: Maybe you can kind of just quickly explain what each of those means.

Kuhn: So, misdirection relates to the magician's ability to prevent you from seeing certain things happen. Now, magicians will typically distract your attention so that you don't see what's happening. And, uh, work in visual sciences has shown that even though when you are looking around the room around you, you feel that you are aware of everything that's going on. However, our representation of this world is much more limited. Now what it basically means is that unless you really specifically attend to an object or an event, you don't necessarily see it. Now, whilst this has taken the scientific community by surprise, magicians have been aware of this for a long time, and this is how they can use misdirection to basically distract your attention away from what they want to hide, and so that means you don't see it.

Then there's illusions. Now, uh, much of what we actually perceive is related to how we believe the world to be, and is based on our expectations about the world, rather than what's actually really out there. So that means our perception of the world is actually fairly subjective. Now again, magicians, they

can manipulate your expectations so as to make you perceive things that have not necessarily taken place.

Werman: And then finally there's forcing. What is forcing?

Kuhn: In everyday life. we sort of—usually we feel that most of the decisions that we make are sort of fairly free, we sort of feel we've got free will. However, again, magicians have sort of developed techniques that can actually influence your choice. And, um, often you're not actually aware of how your choice has been influenced. And that's known as forcing.

Werman: Now, your study shows that cognitive science and psychology can learn a lot from, uh, what magicians do, but can magicians go out and buy a psychology book and kind of become better magicians?

Kuhn: I think so. I mean, I guess this is sort of what we are hoping to do, as well, so whilst I think scientists can is a lot from magicians, magicians also have, sort of, can learn quite a bit…

Werman: And yet, and yet successful magic also depends on secrecy, so suddenly you're giving away all these secrets.

Kuhn: Well, we sort of try to make a bigger point that we're not actually giving away any of the secrets. So our aim is make use of the techniques, rather than the secrets. And even though you know that these techniques are in place, when you're actually seeing a magic performance, this will probably not help you work out how the trick is actually done.

Werman: Gustav Kuhn is a psychologist and a practicing magician. He's part of a research team from Durham University and the University of British Columbia that has studied the science of magic. Thank very much for your time.

Kuhn: Thank you.

Werman: You'll find examples of some of the tricks that Gustav Kuhn used in his research at theworld.org.


Werman: Magic is one of the oldest art forms around, and it's based on fooling the human mind, which is why some scientists in Britain and Canada are interested in magic. They wrote an article about it for the journal trends it Cognitive sciences. In it, they say that by studying the tricks used by magicians, scientists could gain a deeper understanding of human perception. Gustav Kuhn is one of the co-authors; he's a psychologist and a practicing magician. And he's at the University of Durham in England. Now, in your study, you argue that the time has come create a science of magic. What exactly do you mean by that?

Gustav Kuhn: Most of you will have experienced magicians, for example, making objects magically disappear. Now, these kinds of tricks don't rely on supernatural powers. What the magician is really doing is utilizing a fairly wide range of techniques to manipulate your perception. Now, as you mentioned in your introduction, magic is a very old art form, and magicians have, through generations of practicing this art, have accumulated vast amounts of experience and knowledge about how these principles work. Now many of these principles are very similar to the kind of phenomenon that are typically studied by psychologists. And what we've been trying to do is kind of to find this link between magic and science. In other words, what we're trying to do is sort of try to tap into some of this experience by the magicians and sort of try to understand the scientific foundation of some of these techniques. And hopefully this will actually then lead toward a sort of science of magic.

Werman: Right, and what specific techniques of the magic trade are you talking about?

Kuhn: Um, there's a wide variety. In this paper, we've been looking at three different technique. Namely, misdirection, illusions, and forcing.

Werman: Maybe you can kind of just quickly explain what each of those means.

Kuhn: So, misdirection relates to the magician's ability to prevent you from seeing certain things happen. Now, magicians will typically distract your attention so that you don't see what's happening. And, uh, work in visual sciences has shown that even though when you are looking around the room around you, you feel that you are aware of everything that's going on. However, our representation of this world is much more limited. Now what it basically means is that unless you really specifically attend to an object or an event, you don't necessarily see it. Now, whilst this has taken the scientific community by surprise, magicians have been aware of this for a long time, and this is how they can use misdirection to basically distract your attention away from what they want to hide, and so that means you don't see it.

Then there's illusions. Now, uh, much of what we actually perceive is related to how we believe the world to be, and is based on our expectations about the world, rather than what's actually really out there. So that means our perception of the world is actually fairly subjective. Now again, magicians, they

can manipulate your expectations so as to make you perceive things that have not necessarily taken place.

Werman: And then finally there's forcing. What is forcing?

Kuhn: In everyday life. we sort of—usually we feel that most of the decisions that we make are sort of fairly free, we sort of feel we've got free will. However, again, magicians have sort of developed techniques that can actually influence your choice. And, um, often you're not actually aware of how your choice has been influenced. And that's known as forcing.

Werman: Now, your study shows that cognitive science and psychology can learn a lot from, uh, what magicians do, but can magicians go out and buy a psychology book and kind of become better magicians?

Kuhn: I think so. I mean, I guess this is sort of what we are hoping to do, as well, so whilst I think scientists can is a lot from magicians, magicians also have, sort of, can learn quite a bit…

Werman: And yet, and yet successful magic also depends on secrecy, so suddenly you're giving away all these secrets.

Kuhn: Well, we sort of try to make a bigger point that we're not actually giving away any of the secrets. So our aim is make use of the techniques, rather than the secrets. And even though you know that these techniques are in place, when you're actually seeing a magic performance, this will probably not help you work out how the trick is actually done.

Werman: Gustav Kuhn is a psychologist and a practicing magician. He's part of a research team from Durham University and the University of British Columbia that has studied the science of magic. Thank very much for your time.

Kuhn: Thank you.

Werman: You'll find examples of some of the tricks that Gustav Kuhn used in his research at theworld.org.