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No need for a social cue! A masked magician can also trick the audience in the vanishing ball illusion.


In the vanishing ball illusion (VBI), a magician throws a ball up in the air twice, after which he pretends to toss it up again, when in fact it remains secretly concealed in his hand. Observers perceive an imaginary ball disappearing into the air. According to Kuhn and Land (2006), the VBI during the fake throw is mediated by the magician's gaze and/or head direction (also called "social cues") as he looks toward the imaginary ball. The aim of this article is to test an alternative interpretation. According to our hypothesis, the magician's social cues are not essential to the VBI. We compared the numbers of participants experiencing the VBI when the magician's social cues were directed toward the illusory ball and when the magician's social cues were either hidden behind a black mask (Exp. 1) or stationary (Exp. 2). The results showed that the number of observers experiencing the VBI was high (almost two-thirds of the participants), regardless of whether the magician's social cueing was directed toward the illusion, hidden behind a mask, or stationary. In a third experiment (Exp. 3), we replicated Kuhn and Land's initial results and attempted to further explain their "anti-illusion" social-cue effect. This study confirms that social cueing is not required in the VBI: Its presence did not increase the number of participants experiencing the illusion.


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    University of Franche-Comté, 30 rue Mégevand, 25030, Besançon, France.

    University of Franche-Comté, 30 rue Mégevand, 25030, Besançon, France.



    Anticipation, Psychological
    Eye Movements
    Interpersonal Relations
    Motion Perception
    Photic Stimulation
    Young Adult

    Pub Type(s)

    Journal Article



    PubMed ID