How Your Brain Tricks You Into Thinking Magic Is Real


Magic tricks, or illusions, make us go, “ooh,” “ahhh,” and, “how the flippin’ crap did they do that?!” They’re part sleight of hand, part planning, and a lot of brain confusion. Your brain is a liar.

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In the video above from the Wired YouTube channel, magician David Kwong, and author of the book Spellbound, reveals the “Seven Principles of Illusion”. These principles are what turns a simple sleight of hand gesture into a mind melting magic trick:

  1. Mind the gap: Your brain takes shortcuts and makes assumptions to help process the incomplete visual data it’s receiving, or what’s known as amodal completion.
  2. Write the script: Magicians want you to believe what you’re seeing, so they give you specific verbal information, or a script, to fill in those gaps. It’s mental manipulation at its finest.
  3. Load up: The trick you’re seeing is the result of a ton of prep work done by the magician. It’s like sitting down to a fancy meal at a restaurant and forgetting how much time and effort went into making it.
  4. Design free choice: Magicians will often make it feel like you’re making some sort of choice, when really you’re being shown the only possible choice. If you feel like you are in control, you’ll buy into the illusion even more.
  5. Employ the familiar: Magicians play into your brain’s need to spot patterns. If a magician shows you only a few cards from a trick deck, your brain will fill in the blanks and you’ll assume the deck is normal.
  6. Conjure an out: Magicians always have a backup plan — or three or four of them. They’re ready for someone to make an uncommon choice, and they have planned for secondary illusions to make up for it. You’ll never fool a magician. If you think you can, you’ve already fallen for principle number four, hard.
  7. Control the frame: Like a film director or photographer, magicians know how to draw your attention to where they want it. You’ll always look where they want you to look because your brain can’t help it.

So there you have it. Illusions may not be real magic, but they fool your brain so well they may as well be.


  • “What the eyes see and the ears hear, the mind believes, misdirection” – Gabriel; Swordfish

    Thought that summed it up pretty well but i recall reading ‘phantoms in the brain’ by Dr. Ramachandran regarding how your brain can emulates what it cant process to perceive a possible result (fills in the blanks) which allows stuff like magic to really take hold in a person, really cool stuff and a great magician is aware of all this and how to use it to their advantage, kwong actually touched on a few of those fields in that video

  • But we all know magic is just that. Magic. The word itself could be used as a descriptor for something that isn’t real. I know magic is an illusion, so how is it that you think my brain thinks this is real?

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