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Can Magic Deception Be Detected at an Unconscious Level?


Magicians present magic tricks that seem to defy the laws of nature, entertaining us by manipulating our attention, perception, and awareness. However, although we are unaware of these manipulations at the level of conscious experience, we may still be aware of them at an unconscious level. We examined whether people can detect a magic deception outside of conscious awareness using an indirect measure. In the present study, we used the Cups and Balls magic trick, which is the transposition of balls between two cups. Participants viewed a video of the magic performance and were required to indicate the position of the ball in a direct self-report measure and completed the Single Category Implicit Association Test as an indirect measure. The results showed that the indirect measure of trick detection had higher accuracy than the direct measure. Our results suggest that while humans cannot consciously detect the magic deception, they do have a sense of what occurred on an unconscious level.


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    Department of Psychology, New York University, NY, USA. Faculty of Human Sciences, Shimane University, Japan.

    Graduate School of Comprehensive Human Sciences, University of Tsukuba, Japan. Matsue Medical Center, Japan.


    Perception 46:6 2017 Jun pg 698-708

    Pub Type(s)

    Journal Article



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