July 2013
Volume 13, Issue 9
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   July 2013
Using Magic to Influence Choice in the Absence of Visual Awareness
Author Affiliations
  • Jay Olson
    Department of Psychology, Simon Fraser University, Canada
  • Alym Amlani
    Department of Psychology, University of British Columbia, Canada
  • Ronald Rensink
    Departments of Computer Science and Psychology, University of British Columbia, Canada
Journal of Vision July 2013, Vol.13, 1133. doi:https://doi.org/10.1167/13.9.1133
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      Jay Olson, Alym Amlani, Ronald Rensink; Using Magic to Influence Choice in the Absence of Visual Awareness. Journal of Vision 2013;13(9):1133. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/13.9.1133.

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

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A common technique in magic is forcing, the influencing of participants’ decisions in the absence of visual awareness. We investigated the strength of forcing in terms of five perceptual/cognitive characteristics (visibility, memorability, likability, and visual and verbal accessibility; Olson, Amlani, & Rensink, 2012) as well as personality measures such as locus of control (Duttweiler, 1984) and transliminality (the extent to which stimuli enter conscious awareness; Lange, Thalbourne, Houran, & Storm, 2000). Thirty-nine observers were each shown a sequence of 26 cards at a rate of 20–70 ms/card; one target card was shown for longer (150 ms). Observers were asked to freely choose a card and report it at the end of the trial. Each observer saw 28 trials in total. At the end of the experiment, observers were probed on whether they noticed that one card was shown the longest.

Overall, personality measures predicted forcing, whereas the characteristics of the cards did not. Many observers (41%) did not notice the manipulation. This group chose the target card in 27% of the trials. Compared to those who did notice that one of the cards was shown the longest, they had a higher internal locus of control (89.1 versus 83.3) and spent less time using computers each day (5.2 versus 6.8 hours, all ps <.001). Degree of forcing was predicted by locus of control (β1 = -0.03, p = .009) and transliminality score (β1 = -0.10, p = .009). These findings confirm magicians’ intuitions that some observers are more affected by unnoticed events, and are therefore more susceptible to magic tricks.

Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2013


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