Manual Magic in Theory: An Introduction to the Theoretical and Psychological Elements of Conjuring

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About Peter Lamont. Peter Lamont. Books by Peter Lamont. Trivia About Magic in Theory No trivia or quizzes yet. Welcome back. Parapsychologists are aware that many individuals claiming to be psychic use magic tricks to fabricate paranormal phenomena. Failure to detect such fraud can lead to serious consequences, including loss of funding and negative publicity. Psychologists have long recognised that they may have much to learn from the techniques used by magicians to fool their audiences.

Magicians are able to persuade an audience to look in a certain direction, misperceive actions and objects, and misremember key aspects of a performance. As such, magic has proved of interest to psychologists researching attention, perception and memory, as well as those with a more general interest in deception. On a more practical level, some magicians have examined the theory of magic in the hope of improving their own performances and the performances of other magicians.

Unfortunately, most of this literature has been written by, and intended for, these rather specialised audiences. This book is the first attempt to draw together these different theoretical approaches and present them in a way that is accessible to a non-technical readership. In addition, it extends this previous work by incorporating material from the experience of the authors and from interviews conducted with present-day magicians, many of whom are internationally recognised by the magical fraternity for their insight into conjuring psychology and theory.

The purpose of this book is to present the theoretical and psychological elements of magic as understood by magicians. Aconjuring trick is generally regarded by magicians as consisting of an effect and a method.

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For example, the magician places a coin into his hand, closes his hand and when he opens his hand the coin has apparently vanished. The method is the secret behind the effect and allows the effect to take place. For example, the magician may secretly steal the coin out of his hand via sleight-of-hand or by using a device of which the spectator is unaware. There are countless conjuring effects and each effect has at least one possible method, normally more.

While it would be impossible to describe more than a fraction of the effects and methods that are available to the magician, it is nevertheless useful to have some idea of what the performance of magic entails. Chapter 1 offers a framework for understanding conjuring effects and methods. In addition to the countless methods behind conjuring effects, there are a range of physical and psychological ploys that the magician may use to help enhance the effect and conceal the method. Following a conjuring trick, the spectator will normally attempt to reconstruct events with a view to understanding what happened.

Chapter 3 describes the relevant elements in this process of reconstruction, including the ways in which the magician may actively influence the reconstruction process. It was noted above that parapsychologists are interested in this subject because of the role pseudo-psychics have played throughout the history of psychical research, and continue to play in shaping public attitudes towards the paranormal.

Magic in theory : an Introduction to the theoretical and psychological elements of conjuring

The similarities between the magician and the pseudo-psychic are significant, and examples will be given throughout the book. However, there are also significant differences between the two. Chapter 4 is concerned with these differences. Chapter 5 attempts to place conjuring theory in perspective by describing in more detail its function and limits.

Chapter 6 presents a comprehensive bibliography of work on conjuring theory and the appendix is an overview of the principal methodological devices used by magicians. Within the broad magical fraternity there is often a distinction made between magic and mentalism. Mentalists simulate psychic powers for entertainment purposes but do not explicitly claim to possess such powers. In one sense, mentalism could be viewed as a particular branch of magic.

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However, some mentalists would stress the differences between magic and mentalism, and many mentalists might be regarded as closer to pseudo-psychics than magicians. The problems with such distinctions will be discussed briefly in Chapter 4. However, it is worth pointing out that, so far as such distinctions are valid, this book is written from the point of view of magicians, rather than mentalists.

Both authors come from a background of close-up magic i. While we feel the theoretical elements described are relevant to both magic and mentalism, it may well be that a mentalist would have said things differently. Now, what type of effect is this?

Magic in Theory: An Introduction To The Theoretical And Psychological Elements of Conjuring

This is one problem: effects do not naturally slot into categories, because many can be presented as more than one kind of effect. Indeed, even at their most abstract level, many types of effects overlap. For example, most transpositions could be presented as two effects—a vanish from one place and an appearance elsewhere —and most predictions could be presented as clairvoyance, mind-reading or mind control Lamont and Wiseman, , pp. In other words, placing magic tricks into mutually exclusive categories is fundamentally problematic. According to the authors, it is a specific kind of riffle force that relies on the timing of the riffle.

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However, a similar effect can be achieved by countless other methods. There are other kinds of riffle force, which depend on the timing of the riffle, but not in the same way as the authors' chosen method. There are also countless further ways to force a card that involve neither timing nor riffling the cards. Furthermore, a similar effect could be achieved without forcing the card at all. For example, the spectator could freely choose a card, and a matching card could be removed from a pocket by using a card index. Alternatively, the freely selected card could be stolen from the deck, palmed and then apparently removed from a pocket.

In other words, there are countless ways to achieve a similar effect in which the key factor identified by the authors—the timing of the riffle of the cards—is simply irrelevant. This particular force has been chosen because it is ideal for experimental study. The authors have identified a particular technique that is amenable to experimental enquiry, because it can be tested by showing a video to participants, and manipulating the timing of the riffle.

That is fair enough. However, a comprehensive list of methods for this single effect would have to include, among other things, all methods of forcing a card, and all methods of surreptitiously stealing a card from the deck. Every one of these methods depends, in turn, on various other specific factors.


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All of these methods could also be used in literally countless other effects. Not to mention that new methods are continually being invented. In other words, there are an endless number of relationships between effects and methods. So, let us attempt something much simpler: a comprehensive list of effects, regardless of presentation or method. What might this look like?

This is consistent with the authors' description, but is it the same effect? What if the card was inside a wallet perhaps inside an envelope, which was inside the wallet , which might be in a pocket, or on the table, or in the hands of the spectator: how many different effects would this be? That, of course, is a highly subjective matter, as would be any decision to distinguish between effects according to particular details.

For example, from which pocket is the card removed: the magician's trouser pocket that is concealed by the jacket, or an outside jacket pocket that is in full view throughout the trick, or the spectator's own pocket? Does it matter if the card is signed by the spectator at the start of the trick in order to show, later, that a duplicate card is not being used? At what point, and on what basis, do we decide that one effect becomes another? Meanwhile, a chosen card might reappear in some other location, such as inside the card box, or some other kind of box, or inside a balloon, a cigarette, a walnut, a lemon, an orange, a tin of peaches … I am not making this up, all these tricks have actually been performed.

Think of a location, any location, and chances are that a magician has, at some point, made a selected card appear there. The possibilities are never-ending, as would be any list of effects involving a card vanishing and reappearing somewhere else. To this, of course, must be added all other card effects.