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The Art of Misdirection
The collection of psychological and practical techniques known collectively as 'Misdirection'are essential to making magic tricks work. It doesn't matter if you bought some all-singing-all-dancing gizmo from a magic store, if you're using playing cards or just trying a simple coin vanish - if you don't know how to direct and misdirect your audience's attention, even if you are technically proficient in every other way, you will not have magic. Misdirection is what makes magic work.
Okay, so what is it?
Misdirection is not so much about distracting your audience's attention whilst you do some quick move you hope they don't see. It's more about guiding their attention to what you do want them to see. I remember my first 'Magic Set' that I got one christmas as a boy. There was a vanishing dice routine and at one point in the instructions it was written 'when no-one is looking, quickly drop one of the dice into your pocket'! Well for one thing, if no-one is looking what's the point of doing the trick? No, the real art of misdirection is about controlling and guiding your audience's attention to where you want it to be. Controlling and guiding your audience's attention to where you want it to be. Yes, I said that twice because it's something you really must understand and never forget if you want to make magic tricks work for you.
This series of psychological techniques are the REAL SECRET of all magic. And they are very powerful. They are so powerful that they even work if you explain to your audience what you are doing!(take Penn and Teller or Derren Brown as examples) Having said that, mere mortals would do well not to reveal these things during a performance!
Okay, so how do you control and guide your audience's attention without them knowing that they are having their minds manipulated? How do you get them to do exactly what you want them to do even when they are watching you like hawks, trying to catch you out? Once you have understood the psychological arts of misdirection you will welcome even this 'hot' attention because you will know how to use it. So, these are the first four techniques you need to master (in Misdirection: Part Two we will look at the more advanced techniques):
The Four Basic Techniques of Misdirection
1. Your eyes are your most powerful asset.
So use your eyes to guide your audience's attention. If you want them to look at something, go right ahead and look at it yourself. If you want them NOT to look at something, just make sure you don't look at it! So, you know, look at the hand that doesn't have the sponge ball in it and don't look at the one that does!
Very few people can resist eye contact. If you look someone in the eye, they will look you in the eye. Human vision actually has a very narrow scope of focus. If you are having someone look you in the eye (which you do by looking them in the eye) and you are holding your hands between your waist and chest, those hands will be nothing but a blur to your spectator. Catch his eye for a fraction of a second and you can do your move. He won't notice. What's more, because his response was so natural and so brief, he won't even realise he took his eyes off your hands.
2. Your audience's curiosity works to your advantage.
Don't forget that an empty hand or an assistant from the audience can be your object. it is enough that you seem to give your attention to it and your audience will follow you.
3. Big moves hide little moves.
4. Magic words.
Another way of using words is to ask your audience a question, to think of a number, to tell you if the lady next to him is his wife, whatever: anything that makes him have to think in order to respond will draw his attention away from you and your moves. The added advantage is that everyone else's attention will be on him, too, to enjoy his embarassment or find out what he's going to say.
One of the best ways of all to use words in magic is to tell a joke, say something funny. While people are laughing their critical faculties are practically zeroed. It's a neurological fact that you cannot think and laugh at the same time!
You can also simply tell the audience that something is happening which isn't. "I take the ball from the table and put it in my pocket" would be something of a classic example. You tell them that you are taking the ball from the table and putting it in your pocket and you go through the motions of this but you don't put it in there, you retain it. Basically, you are lying! You can make this more powerful still by hiding your lie behind a smokescreen of truth. "This is the card you just chose (true). I'm putting it on the top of the deck (true). I'm splitting the deck (true) and putting your card in the middle (not true)." The truths lull them into believing the lie. So when their card is drawn to the top of the deck, or appears in the sealed envelope or whatever, they are astonished because they KNOW it was in the middle of the deck...
Going deeper in Part Two
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