For many of us, magic is a mystery. Even though we know a coin can’t possibly vanish into thin air, we’re made to believe as if it does. A magician’s act can be so convincing that, for a few minutes at least, it seems anything is possible. The key to the magician’s act is misdirection. When your attention isn’t focused on something, you don’t notice it.  It’s not necessarily that you don’t see it. Your eyes still receive all the visual input, but your brain hones in only on certain parts of your environment, what seems important, filtering out unnecessary input so that you’re not overloaded with too much information. This phenomenon is called inattention blindness. Normally, inattention blindness helps you retain your concentration and focus on the things that matter. In a magic act, however, the magician misdirects you, leading your focus away from what’s happening right before your eyes. For example, a magician tells you to carefully watch her right hand as she makes a coin she took from her left hand vanish. You dutifully watch the right hand. But your careful attention to the right hand means you miss the fact that the coin never left her left hand. The same thing can happen even on an extreme scale. Take a look at Richard Wiseman’s Color Changing Card Trick He transforms the backs of almost every card in a deck from blue to red right in front of you. On top of that (before Wiseman’s revelation in the video), a lot of the scene – including the background and magicians’ clothing – had also changed colors. But you probably didn’t even notice that. Your brain was too busy paying attention to the cards. Whether it’s banter, a bright-colored curtain, or simply suggesting you “look this way” (but not that), these smoke and mirrors aren’t just for show. They are an integral part of guiding your attention away from the most important actions. The more high-contrast, surprising or entertaining an element is, the more salient it probably is to the trick mechanics. A magic trick is truly a feat in calculated performance art. It might look like the magician has dealt her entire hand, but instead of the cards, she’s really playing you.
Module 2 - Misdirection
The first type of misdirection is fairly simple in concept, but not always easy to pull off – and it involves precise timing. This involves distracting the audience to a time-sensitive event, while ensuring that a sleight of hand or otherwise occurs without their notice. This is, in short, a way of asking your audience to ‘look over there’ but without being so blatant! This type of misdirection plays upon an audience’s ability to only truly focus upon one element of an act at a time – and while many believe that they will be able to look out for sleights of hand or other tricks, time and time again the same illusions have fooled the same people for decades – meaning that whatever the misdirections may be, they certainly work! The other form of misdirection used in popular magic involves altering your audience’s perception of what is occurring, and it is therefore trickier to carry out than a time- sensitive sleight of hand. This is where a potential red herring could come into play – a magician or illusionist may present an object, a factor or even a large movement that distracts the audience plenty enough to allow them to carry out the actual trick without them knowing. Misdirection, in either case, relies upon psychology – and with practice, it is surprisingly easy to carry out with willing participants. While anyone truly can do magic with practice, the art of misdirection will take time to master, as it relies upon an audience’s trust and your subtle psychology during the trick – master the sleight of hand, then master the distraction – and who knows, you could soon be on your way to wowing people the way magicians have been for decades. Don’t forget – an audience hates being fooled if the trick is obvious – so hide your strings!
Take some time to watch this lecture by Apollo Robbins, it is amazing The art of misdirection |