Elias Garcia-Pelegrin does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Magic tricks can teach us about how the brain works. Magic capitalises on very specific blind spots in people’s attention and perception so the techniques that magicians use to trick audiences are particularly interesting to psychologists like me.
Misdirection, for example, relies on the control of the audience’s attention to fool them. A magician will divert the audience’s attention away from things that show how the trick is done, towards the effect they want them to see. This and other magic techniques can reveal important characteristics of how our minds work.
But magic tricks might also be a good tool to investigate the non-human animal mind. The study of how animals perceive magic effects that fool and surprise humans can help us understand how their minds experience the world around them, and whether such experiences are in some way like ours.