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In The Shadows Of Cognition

Updated: Jun 13, 2023

A meme sign that reads " Think you you can't be fooled? You just were. Read it again. "

I was wrong, I was mistaken... and I will be again! ... And again, and again!

We've all seen these memes on social media and we all fall for them, because it is the function of our brain to do so...

The interesting thing about them is that they do raise important questions...

Is it possible to miss information completely? To misunderstand completely? To have a perception diametrically opposed to what is there or what actually happened? And what really did, actually, happen? How can we have any confidence in reality when it is through our senses that we perceive this reality? If our senses can be manipulated or fooled, how can we be sure of anything…? Not to mention the fallibility of memory!

In magic, we operate in these shadows of cognition and deal in the very grey areas of grey matter.

There are so many scientific studies on psychology and neuroscience, I have read and studied a broad range of them as it truly fascinates me. Without exception and in conclusion, what these studies consistently show are the cognitive faults in our perceptions and brain functions. These faults are generally evolutionary neurological shortcuts that the human brain has devised as life 'hacks' to save time, energy, the need to think or process surroundings, threats etc., and sometimes to literally save our lives.

Our senses serve us to provide what is necessary for survival and what we need to create the picture of our reality. At any given time, our brains prioritise only what is necessary and imaginatively fill in the attendant information. It is our focus that determines the reality and the value of the information we take in and thus the reality perceived… With this in mind, it is no wonder we are all subject to the deception of illusions as well as cognitive bias and it's pitfalls. We will all, at times, be victims of attentional blindness.

Magic and illusion remind us of these facts. That the human mind is absolutely fallible. Everyone is, absolutely everyone… What magic can do is illustrate these fallibilities and give insight into them. The more I study magic and psychology, the more I am sure of this - and paradoxically it is almost the only thing I am sure of!

Magic hacks the cognitive blind spots of human perception. It is fun and baffling and can also be absolutely enlightening. Understanding our perceptual and cognitive limitations and shortfalls is a way of counteracting these drawbacks. The more you know and understand, the more capable you are to spot them in your own decisions, in the decisions of others and in the techniques of marketing, sales and advertising that use and abuse them.

Do you want to know more? Maybe it’s time to Think Like A Magician…

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