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September 21, 2015  

Dr. Gustav Kuhn

Magic is one of the oldest art forms, and for centuries conjurers have created illusions of the impossible by distorting your perception and thoughts. Advances in Psychology and Neuroscience offer new insights into why our minds are so easily deceived and I will explore some to the mechanisms that are involved in magic. Magic involves more than simple deception. Magic works because magicians have learnt to exploit limitations in human cognition, and these psychological limitations are so counterintuitive that are more willing to accept a magical interpretation rather than acknowledge these limitations.

In this talk we will explore some of the principles used by magicians to distort your perception. For example, we will look at how magicians use misdirection to manipulate your attention and thereby prevent you from noticing things even though they might be right in front of your eyes. Alternatively, magicians may manipulate your expectations about the world and thus bias the way you perceive objects and can even make you see things that aren’t necessarily there. At first sight, our proneness to being fooled by conjuring trick could be interpreted as a weakness of the human mind. However, contrary to this popular belief, I will demonstrate that these “errors” reveal the complexity of visual perception and highlight the ingenuity of the human mind.

Dr. Gustav Kuhn worked as a professional magician and it was his interest in deception and illusions that sparked a curiosity about the human mind. Gustav is a senior lecturer at Goldsmiths, University of London, and one of the leading researchers in the science of magic.

Part of an exciting season of talks, events and conferences accompanying the exhibition ‘The Festival of the Unconscious’ 24 June- 4 October 2015.

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