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Where is the ball? Behavioral and neural responses elicited by a magic trick.

Abstract

We present results from two experiments, in which subjects watched continuous videos of a professional magician repeatedly performing a maneuver in which a ball could "magically" appear under a cup. In all cases, subjects were asked to predict whether the ball would appear under the cup or not, while scalp EEG recordings were performed. Both experiments elicited strong and consistent behavioral and neural responses. In the first experiment, we used two blocks of videos with different probabilities of the ball appearing in the cup and found that, first, based on the behavioral responses, the subjects could track this probability change; and second, the different probabilities modulated the neural responses. In the second experiment, we introduced a control condition in which the magician performed the maneuver under the table, out of subjects' view. Comparing the two conditions (i.e., performing the maneuver within or out of the subjects' view), we found that, first, the magic trick dramatically biased the subjects' behavioral responses; and second, the two conditions led to differential neural responses, in spite of the fact that the stimulus triggering the evoked responses (seeing the ball in the cup) was exactly the same. Altogether, our results show how new insights into sensory and cognitive processing can be obtained using adapted magic tricks. Moreover, the approach of analyzing responses to continuous video presentations offers a more ecological setting compared to classic evoked potential paradigms, which are typically based on presenting static images flashed at the center of the screen.

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  • Authors+Show Affiliations

    ,

    Centre for Systems Neuroscience, University of Leicester, Leicester, UK.

    ,

    Centre for Systems Neuroscience, University of Leicester, Leicester, UK. Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, University College London, London, UK.

    ,

    Centre for Systems Neuroscience, University of Leicester, Leicester, UK.

    Centre for Systems Neuroscience, University of Leicester, Leicester, UK.

    Source

    Psychophysiology 53:9 2016 Sep pg 1441-8

    MeSH

    Adult
    Anticipation, Psychological
    Electroencephalography
    Evoked Potentials
    Female
    Humans
    Male
    Probability
    Visual Perception
    Young Adult

    Pub Type(s)

    Journal Article

    Language

    eng

    PubMed ID

    27356507