Thursday, December 22, 2011

Sleightly Negative

'Tis the season again! Apologies for the lack of posts, but the holidays have been keeping me derailed lately. I did want to get one post up before the new year though, but I didn't know what. Then I reminded myself that this is a season of peace and good will. We're all filled with positive thoughts. And then it hit me.

Here's something I'll bet you didn't know. The brain isn't very good at processing negatives. Really. Now, reading this paragraph intellectually you'll probably retain the previous negative of "isn't." But if you were in a more emotional state, the brain is going to be more inclined to edit the negative out and interpret the sentence differently. This is a trick political campaign ads have been using for years and something magicians can make good use of.

Let me illustrate. When trying to distort the sequence of events in an effect, magicians will sometimes say something like, "I didn't touch the deck at any point," or, "You shuffled the deck," planting in the audience's head that the magician was uninvolved in what happened. I find the latter to be slightly more effective because if I remove negatives and keep the attention away from what I did or did not do, there's less chance for their brain to accidentally edit out negatives and remember (correctly or otherwise) me manipulating the deck or whatever.

We already know that the brain is a very fascinating thing in its capacity for editing reality. So give this a try. Go through your scripts and routines and change any and all references to what you didn't do to what the spectator did. Even if it's a bald-faced lie, if they're emotionally involved and you say it with enough authority, their mind will edit the memory to match.

It's a bit knackier, but you can also use this phenomenon to your advantage by accenting and pacing a sentence in such a way that the negative being edited out by the brain helps the illusion. I myself haven't had a lot of chances to use this myself and wouldn't really recommend giving it a shot until you have more experience with the principle. It has to be used very deftly to create an embellishment and shouldn't be used as a main element of the deception.

So in the spirit of the season, cut out the negatives and be more positive. Happy holidays, everyone!