September 2011
Volume 11, Issue 11
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   September 2011
Stronger perception of magic without social misdirection
Author Affiliations
  • Jie Cui
    Barrow Neurological Institute, Phoenix AZ
  • Jorge Otero-Millan
    Barrow Neurological Institute, Phoenix AZ
    University of Vigo, Spain
  • Stephen Macknik
    Barrow Neurological Institute, Phoenix AZ
  • Mac King
    Not Applicable
  • Susana Martinez-Conde
    Barrow Neurological Institute, Phoenix AZ
Journal of Vision September 2011, Vol.11, 475. doi:
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      Jie Cui, Jorge Otero-Millan, Stephen Macknik, Mac King, Susana Martinez-Conde; Stronger perception of magic without social misdirection. Journal of Vision 2011;11(11):475.

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      © ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)

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Visual, multisensory and cognitive illusions in magic performances provide new windows into the psychological and neural principles of perception, attention and cognition. Here we investigate a magic effect consisting of a coin “vanish” (i.e. the perceptual disappearance of a coin). A professional magician (Mac King, headliner, Harrah's Las Vegas) performed the vanish, as follows: a) The magician tosses the coin vertically in his right hand; b) The magician pretends to throw the coin from right to left hand, but surreptitiously holds the coin in his right hand, stopping it from flying; c) The magician's left hand closes as if “catching” the supposedly flying coin; d) The magician opens his left hand to show that the coin has disappeared. Naïve observers perceive the coin flying from right to left hand, and are surprised to find the coin ‘magically’ gone when the magician opens his left hand. Previous research has shown that magicians can use joint attention cues such as their own gaze direction to strengthen the observers' perception of magic (i.e. in the Vanishing Ball illusion). We wondered if the magician's joint attention might similarly enhance this illusion. To answer this question, we presented naïve observers with videos including real and fake coin tosses. The observers' eye positions were simultaneously measured, and their perceptual responses recorded via button press. The magician's head was occluded in half of the trials to control for joint attention. We found that the illusion was strongest in the presentations where the magician's head was occluded, suggesting that joint attention plays no role in the perception of this effect. Further, the observers' eye movements did not significantly influence their perception of the illusion. We conclude that social misdirection is redundant and possibly detracting to this very robust sleight-of-hand illusion.

Barrow Neurological Foundation. 

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