From UBC News:
Magicians have astonished audiences for centuries by subtly, yet powerfully, influencing their decisions. But there has been little systematic study of the psychological factors that make magic tricks work.
Now, a team of researchers from McGill University and UBC has combined the art of conjuring and the science of psychology to demonstrate how certain contextual factors can sway the decisions people make, even though they may feel that they are choosing freely – a finding with potential implications even for daily decision-making.
“We began with a principle of magic that we didn’t fully understand: how magicians influence audiences to choose a particular card without their awareness,” explains Jay Olson, lead author of a new study published in Consciousness and Cognition. “We found that people tend to choose options that are more salient or attention-grabbing, but they don’t know why they chose them,” says Olson, a graduate student in psychiatry in McGill University’s Raz Lab, which investigates psychological phenomena such as attention and consciousness.
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