The spell breaks for mentalists’ ‘pseudoscience’

The spell breaks for mentalists’ ‘pseudoscience’

Magicians are under fire for claiming they use neurolinguistic programming to read people’s minds…

Some psychologists are upset at the deployment of purported scientific techniques in magic tricks, according to the Times.

The newspaper cites a study (paywall) co-authored by Gustav Kuhn, a reader in psychology at Goldsmiths, University of London, in which a group of people watched a magic trick. Those who knew that the performer was a magician were as likely to believe his false claims about being able to read a person’s mind as those who were told he was a psychologist. Yet according to Kuhn, the neurolinguistic programming (NLP) techniques claimed by some magicians – in which facial cues and body language can be read – iare “complete pseudoscience”. So how do magicians feel about this?

Tom MacKay is a mentalist, magician and NLP trainer who also has a master’s in psychology. “When NLP is claimed as a pseudoscience, it is really a misunderstanding of what it is,” he says. “NLP was developed as a way to model successful thinking.” He works with athletes, for instance, to improve performance.

The confusion arises, MacKay says, because “a lot of people who say they are doing mentalism claim to read body language and facial cues. Which hand is the coin in? That’s a classic magic trick. I might be able to predict which hand it is in through observing physiology with quite a few people, but it wouldn’t work 100%. In magic, you want things to be 100%. Magicians say it’s NLP when it isn’t.”  Read more….


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