Video: Dr. Amir Raz examines the psychology of magic

November 11, 2017

“People are really naive when it comes to deception. Really, really naive. Unbelievably naive,” says Dr. Amir Raz during this lecture on the Psychology of Magic from 2011 at McGill University. Now the Canada Research Chair in the Cognitive Neuroscience of Attention, Dr. Raz was a genuine magician once upon a time, and has remained fascinated by the intersection of his two passions. 

During his lecture, Dr. Raz begins to dissect how magicians rely on distraction and misdirection to accomplish their goal of fooling the audience. He and a pair of volunteers take turns attempting to throw cards into the audience, and though his young assistants never quite master it, he’s able to do it consistently. That card-tossing becomes quite important later in the lecture. 

He also discusses the “noise” that magicians use to obfuscate the method of whatever trick they’re doing, illustrating his example with a bit of mentalism. It’s an entertaining breakdown of the many pieces of performance that go into selling a trick. The second half of the lecture is below.