Never Repeat the Same Trick Twice – Unless it is Cognitively Impenetrable
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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In their quest for creating magical experiences, magicians rely on a host of psychological factors. Here, we compare tricks based on attentional misdirection with tricks based on amodal completion. Based on the notion that amodal completion is a cognitively impenetrable perceptual phenomenon, we predicted that the tricks based on this perceptual effect should—to a much larger extent than tricks based on attentional misdirection—retain their deceptive power when the tricks are repeated. The results of an experiment with four magic tricks involving attentional misdirection and four magic tricks based on amodal completion lend strong support to this prediction. Asking subjects to try to figure out the secret behind these tricks after one, two, or three presentations of each trick, we found that the observed solution rates for tricks based on attentional misdirection increased much more with repeated viewing than those for tricks based on amodal completion, which remained very low throughout. Thus, the results lend further support to the idea that amodal completion is based on cognitively impenetrable perceptual mechanisms.