Before I give you the 3 main ways of using misdirection in mind reading & mentalism tricks, let's get the definition of misdirection from Wikipedia -
"Misdirection is a form of deception in which the attention of an audience is focused on one thing in order to distract their attention from another.
Misdirection takes advantage of the limits of the human mind in order to give the wrong picture and memory of a mentalism mind reading trick. The mind can concentrate on only one thing at a time.”
This is a very concise definition of misdirection and basically says what is is. But, how can you use misdirection in your magic tricks?
The mentalist/mind reader can use this to their advantage in a range of different ways. I've listed the top 3 ways.
1. To cover a move – For one on one mind reading tricks, this is really easy as you only have to distract one person. This can be achieved by asking them a question, the question needs to be built into the effect and be relevant to your mind reading abilities. The reason for asking a question is that the volunteer has to 'go inside' their mind to retrieve the answer. This is what will momentarily distract their attention where you can casually perform a 'move'. Most mind reading tricks are self-working and are based on pure showmanship and have very little moves so asking a question is usually all that is needed as the move is usually built into the trick to be casual and 'make sense'
For example - a body language 'mind reader' could ask the volunteer, “In your mind, when you recall past events in your life, do you mostly see your memories in colour or black and white?” This will cause them to 'go inside' their mind and will most likely not know the answer. This distraction will give you a chance to perform a 'move'.
2. To hide the method – You can use a form of misdirection whereby you give a false explanation to the phenomena they are apparently witnessing. This false explanation is very important in mind reading and mentalism magic tricks as it guides them away from the real method you are using. TV mentalists have built careers on false explanations – Derren Brown, David Blaine & Criss Angel use fake explanations in almost all of their tricks, whether they say it's real magic, conversational hypnosis or uncanny body language reading abilities.
3. To give them a false memory of the trick – This is a more advanced form of misdirection and is used by professionals. All professionals script their tricks and know almost word for word what they are going to say. The reason being is that they are carefully scripted to build suspense and also to leave the spectator with a false memory of what actually happened. It usually involves talking through what has happened but changing a slight detail. A basic version of this is asking the spectator to cut the cards but a little later on in the effect you will say, “Ok, so you mixed the cards..”, then later repeat what happened but change it to “so you shuffled the cards”. This is just a basic overview and it takes proper script writing of tricks and trial and error in what works and what doesn't. This is why the real magic is in the performance..
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The most commonly made mistake by beginners in mentalism magic is thinking that the more tricks they know, the better they're going to look. On the contrary, the best mentalists will usually only perform between 3 and 6 really good mind reading tricks on any one occasion that they know inside out. What beginners can't get their head around is the fact that it's how it actually looks to the audience and not what the mentalist thinks it looks like. The urge to perform as many tricks as they can in a space of time is hard to suppress.
That being said it's completely understandable, I mean most mentalists will go from having no attention to having the whole room of people surrounding them and thinking they're pretty damn cool and interesting. The shock and awe after a tricks revelation is addictive to say the least, so they want to cram in as many of those moments as they can, but what they don't notice is the potency of the tricks will lessen and there is a tendency to not be congruent with each effect. When I say being congruent, I mean sticking to mind reading tricks that have an explanation. The problem with the beginner is that in discovering mental magic they will usually stumble on a plethora of basic magic tricks and after running out of mind reading material will move onto those obvious sleight of hand tricks. This will usually make the audience assume the mind blowing mentalism tricks performed earlier were nothing more than sleight of hand conjuring tricks.
Although 5 tricks may seem like a small number, the professional mentalist will know how to stretch these tricks to last much longer than a beginner would, thus building the suspense of the final revelation which gains the applause of the crowd. Usually the tricks will begin with a short story, explaining a phenomena, setting the scene for the effect and then building up the anticipation slowly until a final gasp from the crowd. The tendency to rush the build up is a hard thing to control for the beginner in mind reading magic. This patience will pay dividends and it is always better that you leave the audience wanting more, this is where you can get approached by the opposite sex and engage in a phone number exchange for a private show..
Lets get something straight before we continue. When I talk about using NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) in mentalism and magic, I'm not talking about using it in some sort of way to use psychological mind control like some 'mentalism professionals' claim they are using.
I'm not talking about when they 'say' they are using it to influence your decisions when picking a card, a box or just about anything. This isn't actually possible. Don't be fooled by the professional mind reader's or mentalist's false explanation for a trick. You cannot control people with NLP to the extent they say they do. This just isn't possible.
So now we've made that clear lets talk about a method where you CAN use it in a magic tricks. This is to make a crowd reaction stronger. This stuff actually works and will subtly add to your mind reading effects.
I'm talking about using NLP 'Anchors'.
So what is an anchor?
The word anchor comes from NLP whereby when you get an emotional response from someone, whether it is being happy, sad, excited, positive, negative etc. you anchor that emotional response with touch (kinaesthetic anchor), sound (audio anchor) or vision (visual anchor). You can then bring about that emotional response by activating the anchor you set.
Here's an example:
If you casually touch someone's knee every time they laugh, after about the 8th time, you can touch them on the knee when they aren't laughing and they will get a feeling like they want to laugh. You could also use a different type of anchor like a word with a different tone of voice (audio anchor), or a hand gesture (visual anchor) as a more subtle way of anchoring. Or, you can even use them all at the same time to leave a stronger anchor.
This can be abused and it already has been by pick up artists worldwide by using anchors to trick the opposite sex into thinking they have a stronger bond with the person than they really do. If you choose to use anchoring for that reason that is your business but I take no responsibility for your actions.
So how can you use anchoring in magic and mentalism?
There are numerous ways to do this and it really deserves its own book but I will share with you one method..
It's quite simple, every time you perform a trick and the audience reacts with amazement (you need to do a good trick by the way – I recommend an Ultimate Mind Reading trick of course ..) you need to anchor that response. If it's a one on one setting, you can casually touch the spectator on the shoulder every time they react with amazement. Otherwise, if there's a bit of a crowd, you could bang on the table and say a word like “Jesus!”. This will anchor the emotional response of amazement with the crowd.
You can then bring them to a feeling of amazement more easily if after every trick you bang on the table and say “Jesus!”.
This is a subtle way of adding to your mentalism and mind reading tricks and the best anchors are by creating your own which you feel comfortable doing yourself.
Don't Even Think About Doing a Mentalism or Mind Reading Trick Until You've Read This..
There's a very important thing all aspiring mind readers should know about - The Persona. What do I mean by The Persona? This is the backbone of your display of mind reading abilities. This is what makes your performance believable and separates the Mentalists & Mind Readers from the magicians.
This is who you are, what you do and how you do it
When you perform a mind reading trick you need to be congruent with what you claim to be doing. This means building a character where everything you do 'makes sense' to what you're saying. So if you say you're an expert at reading body language and human psychology but you're a 13 year old boy, this is going to be pretty hard to look authentic.
The same goes if you are claiming to be a psychic but are performing regular coin disappearing magic tricks along side displays of psychic ability. The audience will just label you as a magician and think that your mind reading tricks are using the same principles as your magic tricks - which they are - but this is what separates the professionals from the amateurs.
There are a small number of magicians who just about manage to pull it off, one of those is David Blaine, his whole persona is of a bit of a weirdo who does magic. That being said, I can't help but think many of his mind reading displays are labelled as sleight of hand magic because of other tricks he performs.
One of the best Persona's I've seen created in recent times is that of Derren Brown's. He's managed to craft himself as a body language expert 'slash' hypnotist 'slash' psychological illusionist. He DOES use hypnosis in many of his displays, but a lot of it is off camera and you are not supposed to know the subject has been hypnotised - although this is a discussion for another day. Derren Brown mostly uses regular magic tricks and disguises them as 'mind reading' and 'body language reading' and he fools 99% of people who are blissfully unaware of this fact.
I can't reiterate this enough and how important it is to think about every performance, it's explanation and whether it is congruent with who you want to be. If you are doing it for a bit of fun, then don't worry, but if you truly want to freak out people at parties, in work, in school etc. you need to have a persona and tricks to that match up with that persona.
Some of the best mentalists and mind readers have only 5/6 tricks they can perform really well and this is enough to be a professional mind reader. Although I know how to do hundreds and thousands of tricks myself. There are only a few key tricks I will perform to strangers, these are the most powerful ones I know and I have an explanation of how I did each one (the explanation is false of course, but you already knew that, right?
To discover how you can blow your friends minds with amazing mentalism visit Mind Reading Tricks
What's The Difference Between Mind Reading VS Mentalism?
That's a good question, to quote Wikipedia..
Mentalism - Mentalism is a performing art in which its practitioners, known as mentalists, use mental acuity, cold reading, hot reading, principles of stage magic, and/or suggestion to present the illusion of mind reading, psychokinesis, extra-sensory perception, precognition, clairvoyance or mind control. Hypnosis may also be used as a stage tool.
This definition is spot on - take note of the words 'present the illusion of mind reading'. I haven't given the definition of mind reading for a very good reason, as the 'real' definition pertains to a superhuman ability and in my opinion an ability that based on evidence, doesn't exist. This on the other hand is another debate for a whole other day.
Mind Reading as you know it, performed on TV by magicians/mentalists/mind readers etc. is merely a form of Mentalism (see above) - simple magic tricks dressed up to represent real mind reading tricks. This may seem fairly obvious to most of you but believe me – many, many people believe people can actually read minds, which for us mentalists/mind readers, is great news.
I have previously written an article on the persona of the mentalist so I won't go into detail here but being congruent is very important when performing mind reading tricks and some mentalists do it better than others. You need to choose between being psychic or being a body language/human behavioural expert. You cannot be both to your audience as they will assume there is general trickery (which of course there is) going on.
There's a thin line between the mentalist and the magician. The main one being the presentation of the effect. A mentalist will usually have a false explanation behind the effect where as a magician will not usually give an explanation and say it was merely magic. Without a false explanation the audience will come to their own conclusion and usually it will be the actual method used e.g. sleight of hand.
In my opinion this is what makes a mentalism effect much stronger than a standard magic effect. It's all in the presentation.
So back to my original point and to summarise.. mind reading tricks are merely mentalism tricks that have a false explanation of using mind control or telepathy using psychological tricks or psychic ability. Mind reading tricks come under the umbrella of mentalism tricks as a whole and they are virtually one in the same thing.
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