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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Penny for your thoughts » » Debunking psychological mentalists in the future (32 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

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Slim King
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Traditional old time Mentalists usually always played it for real. Many modern day mentalists have substituted this psychological con. Sad. Smile
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starstruck
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This just reminded me of a Fool Us episode (I think it was the last one), where a certain performer said something like this "...I do mentalism, which is psychological stuff, but I also do magic". No reaction from Penn and Teller whatsoever. But imagine the trouble Penn would give him if he replaced "psychological stuff" with "psychic powers" in that sentence.
Slim King
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Quote:
On Sep 7, 2016, starstruck wrote:
This just reminded me of a Fool Us episode (I think it was the last one), where a certain performer said something like this "...I do mentalism, which is psychological stuff, but I also do magic". No reaction from Penn and Teller whatsoever. But imagine the trouble Penn would give him if he replaced "psychological stuff" with "psychic powers" in that sentence.

Yes .. They'd have a greater viewership!!!!
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Lukasz P
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People belives in many things but they shouldn't belive that mentalist is a magician
Mindpro
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Ya would think, but many performers do all they can to prevent this.
casco1
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On Sep 7, 2016, Stevious wrote:
My point in this topic was to criticize slightly mentalists who claim to use pure psychology at conferences or in interviews. I might be wrong, but if most of mentalists were to keep up those exaggerated claims, it can backfire in the future.

Personally, I really like D.Brown reading from signals, and influencing decisions, his skills were exaggerated at the beginning, but as long as it’s magic/entertainment it’s fine for me. (I love "being honest about being dishonest" or something similar).
At least it’s partially true, you can read uncouncious signals (e.g muscle reading), and you can influence others, e.g. Brown has quite reliable card forces, so it’s not pure magic tricks either way.

True, R. Osterlind style is classic, mysterious and unpretentious.


Actually, when I perform mentalism, I tend to follow the road of muscle reading, NPL ecc. However, I do it just to make my presentation more plausible and entertaining. I perfectly agree with you about exaggerated claims, those could really ruin mentalism. I would also agree with your appreciation of Derren Brown's style, which I found very fair and entertaining. I also like Peter Turner's style.
WitchDocChris
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Quote:
On Sep 7, 2016, starstruck wrote:
This just reminded me of a Fool Us episode (I think it was the last one), where a certain performer said something like this "...I do mentalism, which is psychological stuff, but I also do magic". No reaction from Penn and Teller whatsoever. But imagine the trouble Penn would give him if he replaced "psychological stuff" with "psychic powers" in that sentence.


Ever seen P&T's book test? Unless I am just wildly mis-remembering, they do state that people using the psychological ploy are lying just as much as the people saying they are psychic.
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Dr Spektor
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All most things - it depends on the definition - if I claim I am using psychology as a blanket statement - it may not be a lie at all. If you are claiming you are using tells when you are using a logic technique, then that is untrue... but "psychology" is so vast, it covers pretty much anything - including sleights and more.... as one can claim psychology covers: body language / situational awareness / audience management / attention capacity / cognitive attributions / rewards / conditioning / psychodynamics etc. and then you can, see it is as much as saying "I use various arts and sciences" .....

BTW, you still will not fine a definition of what a mentalist is and can manifest that a majority of people agree upon.... ditto "psychic" and then there is "psychic entertainer"

I just like to have fun together with people and explore reality through the arts and sciences Smile
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starstruck
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Quote:
On Sep 8, 2016, WitchDocChris wrote:
Quote:
On Sep 7, 2016, starstruck wrote:
This just reminded me of a Fool Us episode (I think it was the last one), where a certain performer said something like this "...I do mentalism, which is psychological stuff, but I also do magic". No reaction from Penn and Teller whatsoever. But imagine the trouble Penn would give him if he replaced "psychological stuff" with "psychic powers" in that sentence.


Ever seen P&T's book test? Unless I am just wildly mis-remembering, they do state that people using the psychological ploy are lying just as much as the people saying they are psychic.


Maybe I've seen it but don't remember it. If you find the video please share it here
Olympic Adam
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It took a long time for me to figure out how to present myself, I worried about what words to use, how to claim it do I say I'm using body language etc.

I found that the more I would go down the path of being a 'psychological thought implanter and perception altering reality warping mentalist', I couldn't live with myself for that reason.
I'm there to have fun, make/encourage other people have fun and enjoy it. It took a while but I eventually found what I was looking for.

I don't like 'psychics' and when I thought about it, relying purely on telling people you are reading their body language etc is pretty similar. I also don't like the whole vibe that mentalists are some kind of self help gurus because they can open your mind. All very self indulgent.

Ultimately the audience will think what they want, and it's difficult to change that... and we shouldn't really be changing that should we.

I saw a video of a local performer recently, ran through the alphabet, "oh that's a T, you blinked after T which means a release of tension", then claimed to see a twitch in his right hand to indicate which number it was somehow because that was his dominant hand. Turns out the guy was left handed...

I don't indicate how I'm doing anything, I do the method + some theatrics, people can interpret those however they want.

In some ways the psychological aspect is MORE dangerous, usually it is accompanied by debunking psychics, but they are just filling that hole with other nonsense. Don't believe them, it's all lies... but look at me, and my lies... please like me.
funsway
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On Sep 8, 2016, Olympic Adam wrote:
Ultimately the audience will think what they want, and it's difficult to change that... and we shouldn't really be changing that should we.


Ah, but the expectations of many audiences can be used to advantage, i.e. if they have purchased tickets to see a mentalist ...

or, a tipsy crowd seeking only to be entertained with little care as to how or why.

In either extreme no explanation of method/approach is required -- just demonstrate a mystery or impossibility.

Yes, positioning of a specific effect may require some explanation, but "positioning yourself" rarely does. (opinion)

The point is that what you say to attract an audience (marketing) can be different from what is said on stage.

As a Mentalist, use your powers to determine what the audience expects and follow,
or only perform for those who acknowledge that you are a Mentalist.

Thank more like a musician. If you are billed as a jazz performer don't try and sell the power of opera.
If, however, you are just announced by your host as a "great musician," just prove it.
After a couple of jazz pieces you might say, "When playing alone I am often drawn to the blues." Then proceed.
No explanation of history or instrument choice or learning method is required.
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Stevious
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Interestingly, some spectators will really want to believe in some psychological techniques, even if you present something in a neutral way. Same as with psychic powers many years ago, is made people more comfortable, believing in the supernatural.

When you perform for your audience you can perform mentalism however you like. For me, the problem is when more famous mentalists explain everything only through "psychological techniques" in tv interviews or at conferences. Honestly, I lured me in, to study mentalism, and there are some nice psychological tricks.

There was an article by Simon Singh debunking Derren Brown's Mind Control, it was magic framed as psychology and science, so the article was perfectly understandable. I watched many interviews with famous mentalists, and many of them simply go over the top, it is fine for me, as I love magic and being lied to, but once "psychic powers" are dealt with, sceptics might wage war against "psychological mentalists", despite the fact that those mentalists often helped to debunk psychics.

It is a bold, improbable and silly prediction, I know Smile Also, we can prevent it by being slightly more modest.
David Thiel
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Stevious: I'm not convinced that people largely regard the possibility of psychic phenomena to be bull. I think its fair to say that SOME do...but then, "some" always have. But other people DO believe -- or are at least open to the notion that it just might be real.

Why would you go to see a mentalist perform if you were viewing it all as more of a themed magic show? It doesn't make sense to me. One of the truly powerful things about mentalism is the tantalizing possibility that occurs: "If he can do it, maybe I can too."

Nearly everyone can point to an experience in their lives that could be put down to a first hand experience of psychic phenomena: when people simply knew someone was lying to them, when the picked up the phone and knew who was on the other end (without caller display Smile )...when they knew what the next song on the radio was going to be...when they were inexplicably certain that someone they knew was in trouble. The actual REASON for why they believe these things is irrelevant. The fact is that many people DO believe in a sixth sense because they believe they have had a first hand experience with it...and a smart performer uses that conviction to create a more powerful show.

I don't know anything about your performing background, but I DO know that after every show there are people who want to come and talk to me. Many talk about a "gift" or want to share that they have had firsthand experiences. Others want to ask directly if what they've seen is 'real' or not. People ask about help in finding lost jewellery, pets...relations. Many want private readings.

My point is that they would not be doing this or asking these things if they didn't at least entertain the idea that there really is a psychic force at work in the world.

Let me take it a step further and tell you that even I believe in ESP. I don't see it as a power that performs with the same precision as what we portray onstage. To my mind the real item is wild and unpredictable and very rare. But I am open to the idea that it's real. And if I am open to it, so will many members of the average audience.

What I do find absurd as a rationale is the NLP/body language/scientific explanation. I have yet to hear how any of these things could reasonably result in knowing the name of a childhood friend, where a first kiss took place...a word chosen from a book. I am not discounting these altogether. I think a mentalist could make a case for using Body Language as an explanation for how he accomplishes a "which hand" routine, for example. But if a performer is going to use NLP or Body Language as the SOLE basis for explaining how he is able to do these things, then he needs to stick to effects that would work with them. He can't reasonably mess with most predictions, confabulation effects -- a whole chunk of the broader mentalism repertoire. If he steps over the line, I think he's only fooling himself.

David
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IAIN
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I think one of the biggest flaws in all of us (as human beings or near enough) - is the concept of huge coincidences happening on a daily/hourly/minute basis...all over the world...

so one of my favourite songs in the world, is a very, very obscure instrumental from 1970 by a group called Ugly Custard, I've heard it on the radio one, and I wasn't expecting it!

but if you like a lot of mainstream music, its just the odds of the game as to when you happen to have the radio on, or in a store, and that song coming on...cos a lot of people like it! same with the phone call thing, for me its not really that weird to have someone call you and you kinda guess at it...(though it depends on how big your family and friend circle is I guess) Smile

so sure, these things different happen, and they can certainly FEEL like a weird experience...but, maybe that's cos (in part) that's a fun thing to believe in, makes the experience more cosy because of it, and also because maybe we don't wanna accept the big coincidence thing...

that's how I see it..not trying to debunk anyone! just sharing how I see those kinds of things...

and I agree with david, you get all kinds of people believing in all kinds of things after they've seen you do your thing...sometimes its the complete opposite of your personal intention, but then its hit someone's reality filter and it gets rebranded and relabelled and its almost completely out of your control...

so get someone to think of a tarot card, they commit it memory via paper, you hold it in your hand, give a reading, add in elements of the card, even replicate it as a souviner on a business card... and even if you played it completely for real (who knows, maybe you are) - then different people will walk away having a different explanation as to what that experience was...

people believe in stuff that support their life view, experience, culture and upbringing...
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solarpk
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I think the bigger problem is that quasi-scientific forums such as TED are not clear that its speakers are distinguished, but the talks they give represent their opinions and whims, not necessarily peer-reviewed fact.

I rate Keith Barry as a performer, but I think his TED presentation (for example, there are others) - one of the most watched TED talks - is in parts woefully misleading to the layman if you take some statements out of (i.e. forget) the set-up context of 'brain magic' and 'deception', e.g. "Psychokinesis is the paranormal influence of the mind on physical events and processes". Fact. No localised disclaimer. No final clarifying wrapping up at the end.

Entertaining? Yes. But, "Ideas worth spreading"?
https://www.ted.com/talks/keith_barry_does_brain_magic
solarpk
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I note that Penn has a palpable dislike for Mentalists because the audience can be left with a false impression of what is possible, and that's just in a theater context.
https://youtu.be/sQm3ZjZRpdo?t=101
While I am not sure I agree to that extent - after all, at the theater, much like at the movies, you are expecting to be entertained and likely have an expectation that there is a fiction or some falsehood at play - there are evidently forums in which the spectators have different expectations. Certainly I believe that in presentations which have even a facade of 'science' or 'academia' about them, the presenter surely has an increased obligation to be (more) honest and not fan the flames of the pseudo-sciences.
Stevious
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The big and fun part about mentalism is that spectators have no idea if what they see is real, compared to classic magic when they (usually) know that it must be a trick, and things just don’t e.g. fly.

Penn and Teller have a point, but it would be bad to diminish this art to simple sleight of hand. Also in neutral presentation, some spectators will probably see it as psychic powers, which is even worse.

I’m definitely not an expert in this field, but Derren Brown, Peter Turner and Banachek all have some pure psychological tricks. So the well-known “magic, suggestion, psychology, misdirection, and showmanship” seems honest to me. Banachek uses his own 5 senses to create an illusion of a 6 sense.

I cannot explain all their tricks, but muscle reading is not sleight of hand. Also, there are a few card forces by Brown: 3 of Diamonds, 7 of Hearts, Jack of Spades, etc. I have no idea if true but apparently he forced some simple pictures or letters on people.

Here’s a trick I try to do, sometimes it works for me or at least people get close if they miss.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DFHWPsLA53w

However, when mentalists perform in theatre or on TV they cannot afford failure, so they cannot include those, even if they have some (most don't)

At TEDx there were probably more than 5 performers, didn't watch all, but I think all did the same, deceitful entertainment when no-one asks for it, this is just a good example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j-ePGs9oAQQ

If Penn Jillette didn't have more serious "bull****" in this world, he would likely debunk those performers.
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The assertion that there are no psychics is demonstrably false. The research is quite clear: psi has been demonstrated to a level of statistical significance that is orders if magnitude greater than the case for aspirin preventing heart attacks.
Please read Robert MacLuhan's "Randi's Prize" for a critical assessment of organized skepticism, its proponents and precepts.

Here is a talk about the research and the biases given recently by parapsychologist Dean Radin at Google:
http://www.youtube.com%2Fwatch%3Fv%3Dqw_......45,d.cWw
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starstruck
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On Sep 10, 2016, jstreiff wrote:
The assertion that there are no psychics is demonstrably false. The research is quite clear: psi has been demonstrated to a level of statistical significance that is orders if magnitude greater than the case for aspirin preventing heart attacks.
Please read Robert MacLuhan's "Randi's Prize" for a critical assessment of organized skepticism, its proponents and precepts.

Here is a talk about the research and the biases given recently by parapsychologist Dean Radin at Google:
http://www.youtube.com%2Fwatch%3Fv%3Dqw_......45,d.cWw


It looks like the link is invalid. Could you repost it please?
solarpk
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On Sep 10, 2016, jstreiff wrote:
The assertion that there are no psychics is demonstrably false. The research is quite clear: psi has been demonstrated to a level of statistical significance that is orders if magnitude greater than the case for aspirin preventing heart attacks.
Please read Robert MacLuhan's "Randi's Prize" for a critical assessment of organized skepticism, its proponents and precepts.

Here is a talk about the research and the biases given recently by parapsychologist Dean Radin at Google:


This topic in itself evidently continues to be a somewhat controversial one. However the specific discussion here should not distill down to whether such phenomenon exist, but whether presenting examples which we well know are not genuine (because it is entertainment) in a context where a degree of academic rigor could reasonably be expected by an audience is acceptable.

It is clear that if you come away from a TED talk, having watched a mentalist, and have concluded the phenomenon exist, the clear, unambiguous yet intentionally fraudulent acts that have cemented your conclusions are a world away from, say, an apparent small statistical significance in the meta-analysis across 832 micropsychokinesis studies which Radin describes, and which a layperson may likely have found notably less convincing.

Indeed, even Radin's analysis here is disputed because his broad claims cannot safely be drawn when the null hypothesis of no genuine psychokinetic effect is not confidently rejected, and that is not apparent in his work. Indeed books (such as those published by Radin) are not typically peer-reviewed, and are certainly never subjected to the same scrutiny as academic journal publications. I will also take issue with the claim that "psi has been demonstrated to a level of statistical significance that is orders of magnitude greater than the case for aspirin preventing heart attacks" - that is patently misleading: "Low-dose aspirin is of definite and substantial net benefit for many people who already have occlusive vascular disease" however, meta-analysis of many thousands of studies has raised questions over the net benefits for others, i.e. there are cases whereby the potential benefit likely does not outweigh the potential side-effects "In primary prevention without previous disease, aspirin is of uncertain net value as the reduction in occlusive events needs to be weighed against any increase in major bleeds." http://researchonline.lshtm.ac.uk/19177/ (credible peer-reviewed journal). In formulation of your comparison, these results have been cherry-picked and falsely reduced to an erroneous black and white result. This result has then erroneously been used as a benchmark.

While I absolutely agree that people must keep an open mind - such statements, ironically aimed at defending the field, are rife with the flawed quasi-scientific approach the skeptics rightly object to.
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