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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » New to magic? » » Philosophical Question: Why do people like being deceived? (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

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purplecat
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Hi all,

I am not a magician, but I love magic and I am currently writing a book about magicians. I am trying to better understand-- from the people on the front lines of performance-- why do you believe magic has such enduring popularity? Why is it that humans like being decieved (or at least like being decieived in the context of knowing thy are being decieved)? I am really curious about the experience of magicians: what have you learned about the nature of human psychlogy that makes magic so timeless and cross so many cultural bounds?

Thank you for any thoughtful-- and thought provoking-- answers you can provide! Currently this is all background research, so I won't be using any direct quotes. But I am also quite interested in hearing about how your own first expereince with magic made you feel... What made the first performance or trick you saw so compelling that you have chosen magic as an enduring part of your life?

Thanks again. I really, truly appreciate the insights!

--R.
Evan Jay
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When I first started 'doing' magic, it was for friends at school. As I gained more experience/knowledge in the arts in general (Music, theatre, magic, etc.) I started to get away from the mindset of trying to 'fool' people and simply 'doing' magic. It was now my goal to treat magic with the same respect as any other performing art. I no longer wanted to simply do magic but wanted to actually 'perform'. For me, I don't want it to come down to people being deceived. When I perform, I'm telling a story (At times with music). The first bit of magic, the audience is trying to catch me. Typically by the 2nd piece, they are more relaxed and just enjoying the magic/story.
MagicDr
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The question you pose is incorrect. I don't deceive, I perform REAL magic ; )
AGMagic
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I too believe that your question as stated is incorrect. I don't believe that people like to be deceived or even fooled. What they like is the sense of wonder that magic can produce. Much like film or the theatre, magic calls on a willing suspension of disbelief. You know, at least at some level, that what you are watching is not real but you want to believe it anyway. It takes the audience back to a time in their lives when anything was possible and every day was an adventure. It is pure escapeism and people just want to get away from reality for a while.

Magic presented as a deception or to fool you becomes a puzzle which has the opposite affect. Trying to solve the puzzle brings you back to reality. You are either smart enough to figure it out or you are not.

Rather than impose a framework on your research why not ask "Why do audiences find magic entertaining or enjoyable?"
Tim Silver - http://www.facebook.com/pages/Magic-Woodshop/122578214436546

I know you believe you understand what you think I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.

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purplecat
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Thank you for the interesting feedback so far. I think this is a great observation-- that the focus on "deception" is potentially flawed. I suppose what I am trying to (awkwardly) get at is that if magic is a fundementally different sort of entertainment than music, cinema, theater, literature, how can we describe what is uniquely occuring in the mind of the spectator that makes the entertainment experience both: pleasurable and foundationally distinct from experiencing these other forms of entertainment.

I have started with this idea that what seperates magic from other sorts of entertainments is "deception" because I am so taken with the Karl Germain quote on what makes a magician unique: "The magician is the most honest of all professionals. He first promises to deceive you, and then he does."

Of course, I am open to the notion that my assertion that magic is different, that magic produces a phenomenologically different sort of experience in the spectator (different than music, cinema, theater, literature) is false. But I do believe that the sense of wonder AGMagic mentions is essentially what seperates magic from other arts/perfoming arts. I am really trying to understand more richly how the potent mix of the mechanical and the narrative in mind-blowing magic both: (i) produces this wonder and (ii) other ways of articulating and understanding-- really of unpacking-- the idea of "wonder."

Thanks for the comments! I am already learning so much!
Spellbinder
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People don't like being deceived. They do like being happily surprised and entertained.
Professor Spellbinder

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55john55
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It is certainly a fundamental question but I don't think it is unique to magic in that I think it has comparable examples in other areas. In humor there are jokes that are funny because they have a surprise punch line, and some situation humor is funny because it is shocking or unexpected. Most of us remember certain films that we found humorous the first time we saw them, but not nearly as funny on the second viewing because the "shock humor" was gone. I easily could be wrong, but I think these things are connected. We expect a particular result of cause and effect and it doesn't happen the way we expect and we get a certain pleasure from that. It doesn't answer your question, but I think it shows it is a phenomena not limited to magic. Well, it is just a thought.
AGMagic
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I like the concepts of surprised, amazed and entertained. We all know that if we remove the ball from under the cup that it can't be there...but it is. Solids don't really penetrate solids but somehow in magic that is what appears to happen. There is no way 5 balls the size of the cups can fit into the cups, but they somehow came out of those cups. it is the unexpected that catches us off guard and is entertaining.

Then too every magic performance is different, much like live theatre, but often more so. The interaction with the audience often colors or shapes the performance so that each one is unique. The subtle differences often make watching the same performer do the same routine more enjoyable because we see their interaction with the audience.

Purplecat, you may have a better insight to this that the average magician does (if there is such a thing as an average magician). We often look for very different things in a performance than the average lay audience does.

I asked my wife about this and she said she does not even like the idea that she can be deceived. She went with me to a magic convention last year and she loved the competitions, shows and even the dealer showcase performances. She enjoyed walking the dealer room, talking with the various magic dealers and watching the demonstrations. However, she never wants to see another lecture. Although she really loves watching magic, she has absolutely no interest in how we accomplish our miracles. She would rather be amazed, surprised, entertained and feel that sense of wonder.
Tim Silver - http://www.facebook.com/pages/Magic-Woodshop/122578214436546

I know you believe you understand what you think I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.

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motown
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I like to think people enjoy the wonder that comes with the entertainment.
"If you ever write anything about me after I'm gone, I will come back and haunt you."
– Karl Germain
Bob1Dog
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As others have said, it's not the deception that calls to us but the love of magic, the desire to perform and to entertain. Many magicians who do childrens magic (like me) use props that many of the kids in the audience have at home in a magic kit. It's the personality that each of us put into our performance and the applause at the end of that performance that drives us. It's intoxicating when I have kids interacting with me during my show and having such a great time. That's as much fun for me as it is for the kids. No different from other forms of entertainment really.
What if the Hokey Pokey really IS what it's all about? Smile

My neighbor rang my doorbell at 2:30 a.m. this morning, can you believe that, 2:30 a.m.!? Lucky for him I was still up playing my drums.
Bob1Dog
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I'll add to that.

I'd be less than honest if I didn't admit that what got me started was, "How'd he do that?"

I'd expect every magician, hobbyist, collector or what have you, to say the same thing. Magicians have a fundemental curiosity that feeds upon itself.
What if the Hokey Pokey really IS what it's all about? Smile

My neighbor rang my doorbell at 2:30 a.m. this morning, can you believe that, 2:30 a.m.!? Lucky for him I was still up playing my drums.
Bob1Dog
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Sorry, fundamental......
What if the Hokey Pokey really IS what it's all about? Smile

My neighbor rang my doorbell at 2:30 a.m. this morning, can you believe that, 2:30 a.m.!? Lucky for him I was still up playing my drums.
AGMagic
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Quote:
On 2012-02-19 01:49, Bob1Dog wrote:
I'll add to that.

I'd be less than honest if I didn't admit that what got me started was, "How'd he do that?"

I'd expect every magician, hobbyist, collector or what have you, to say the same thing. Magicians have a fundemental curiosity that feeds upon itself.


Thanks Bob. That is the point I was trying to make with my "magicians are different from the average Lay audience" comment. I don't want to speak for the OP but I assumed he was asking about Lay audiences becaused he asked about being deceived. These days I am occasionally still mystified but more often I don't even care about the method used. I am more interested in the performance.
Tim Silver - http://www.facebook.com/pages/Magic-Woodshop/122578214436546

I know you believe you understand what you think I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.

Visualize Whirled Peas!
Big Sam
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Purplecat

I also study deception and this is a question I've pondered for years. My interest started in the late seventies after the Jonestown massacre when I was fascinated and horrified how people could be so manipulated to take their own lives. One clear truth is that it takes two to tango - almost everyone can willingly participate in deception, so your question isn't off base.

Deception as entertainment serves a valuable function for a society. It reminds us that our reality is filtered through our perceptions and those perceptions can be wrong. Jokes work on the same principle - the set-up leads us to think one thing and the punchline shows the opposite to be true. Subconsciousness we learn that our language is flawed in the same way that magic shows us that our senses and leaps of logic and be manipulated. It's a valuable lesson that teaches without negative consequences.

Personally, I think one of the best gifts to give a child is a magic set. It teaches early on that things are not always as they appear and how easy it is to be deceived. The recent ponzi schemes are a perfect example of why this is a necessary skill.

Sam
Si hoc legere scis nimium eruditionis habes
Bob1Dog
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Quote:
On 2012-02-19 04:58, AGMagic wrote:
Quote:
On 2012-02-19 01:49, Bob1Dog wrote:
I'll add to that.

I'd be less than honest if I didn't admit that what got me started was, "How'd he do that?"

I'd expect every magician, hobbyist, collector or what have you, to say the same thing. Magicians have a fundemental curiosity that feeds upon itself.


Thanks Bob. That is the point I was trying to make with my "magicians are different from the average Lay audience" comment. I don't want to speak for the OP but I assumed he was asking about Lay audiences becaused he asked about being deceived. These days I am occasionally still mystified but more often I don't even care about the method used. I am more interested in the performance.


Tim, that's one of the reasons we all love cups and balls and linking rings. We know how these classics are done yet each performer brings a new vitality to it if he/she is very good. I think many in the lay audience knows how they're done, yet the performance can be magical; which blows the deception theory.
What if the Hokey Pokey really IS what it's all about? Smile

My neighbor rang my doorbell at 2:30 a.m. this morning, can you believe that, 2:30 a.m.!? Lucky for him I was still up playing my drums.
SmithMagicMan
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My sister hates magic.
Don't know if that's just because I do it, or if she geniunely doesn't like being decieved.

I don't know what it is, but people who are incredibly intelligent and clever dislike magic, as it is something they can't explain. Not sure though,
Bob1Dog
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On 2012-02-19 17:21, SmithMagicMan wrote:
My sister hates magic.
Don't know if that's just because I do it, or if she geniunely doesn't like being decieved.

I don't know what it is, but people who are incredibly intelligent and clever dislike magic, as it is something they can't explain. Not sure though,

I'd go for your final thought, as in they can't explain it and, once again, getting back to my original thought, she might even be curious about it but can't figure it out, and so is frustrated by it. Possible?
What if the Hokey Pokey really IS what it's all about? Smile

My neighbor rang my doorbell at 2:30 a.m. this morning, can you believe that, 2:30 a.m.!? Lucky for him I was still up playing my drums.
Evan Jay
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Quote:
On 2012-02-19 17:21, SmithMagicMan wrote:
I don't know what it is, but people who are incredibly intelligent and clever dislike magic, as it is something they can't explain. Not sure though,


This hasn't been my experience but I could see it being true for some. My teaching internship (music) was at an IB high school with some very bright kids. We had evening rehearsals, so a lot of kids would just stay at school. I would often entertain them during this dead time. Simply put, I couldn't do enough magic for them. They always wanted more.

Going back to the op's point, I'm sure for some of them, it was a puzzle. With that said, most of the stuff I did was close-up in nature and the magic often happened right in their hands. I would always use different students too, so they were enjoying the magic as it took place in each of their friend's hands too. There was constant interaction and laughter. Often, questions would pop up like, "Wow, did you feel it happen?" They were enjoying the experience together.

I'm not so sure you can narrow it down to an exact science. Why do you go to an art gallery? How about that Chicago Symphony Orchestra concert? Ultimately, you probably go for the experience. At the end of the day, I think that's why people still enjoy magic, for the unique experience.
AGMagic
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Quote:
On 2012-02-19 07:33, Big Sam wrote:

One clear truth is that it takes two to tango - almost everyone can willingly participate in deception, so your question isn't off base.



Sam, I quite agree the almost everyone can and often they do participate in their own deception. However, it doesn't follow that they want to be deceived. I highley doubt that the folks in Jonestown wanted to be deceived into taking their own lives. More likely they were desperately looking for something to believe in and that made them easily manipulated. Likewise, those who want something for nothing are easy marks for scam artists and politicians but again I doubt that they want to be deceived. All they can see is the prize and don't consider the cost.
Tim Silver - http://www.facebook.com/pages/Magic-Woodshop/122578214436546

I know you believe you understand what you think I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.

Visualize Whirled Peas!
AGMagic
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Quote:
On 2012-02-19 17:21, SmithMagicMan wrote:

I don't know what it is, but people who are incredibly intelligent and clever dislike magic, as it is something they can't explain. Not sure though,


Actually I have found the that more intelligent my friends are the more they like magic, both as magicians as as lay audiences. I think the key is more personality type that intelligence. Type A personalities do not like it when they are not in control.
Tim Silver - http://www.facebook.com/pages/Magic-Woodshop/122578214436546

I know you believe you understand what you think I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.

Visualize Whirled Peas!
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