Towards a science of magic

Trends in Cognitive Sciences 12 (9):349-354 (2008)
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Abstract

It is argued here that cognitive science currently neglects an important source of insight into the human mind: the effects created by magicians. Over the centuries, magicians have learned how to perform acts that are perceived as defying the laws of nature, and that induce a strong sense of wonder. This article argues that the time has come to examine the scientific bases behind such phenomena, and to create a science of magic linked to relevant areas of cognitive science. Concrete examples are taken from three areas of magic: the ability to control attention, to distort perception, and to influence choice. It is shown how such knowledge can help develop new tools and indicate new avenues of research into human perception and cognition.

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Ronald A. Rensink
University of British Columbia

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