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Sleights of Mind: What the Neuroscience of Magic Reveals About Our Everyday Deceptions
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Sleights of Mind: What the Neuroscience of Magic Reveals About Our Everyday Deceptions

3.92  ·  Rating Details ·  1,777 Ratings  ·  146 Reviews
Length: 10 hrs and 6 mins

Have you ever wondered how a magician saws a woman in half? Or makes coins materialize out of thin air? Or reads your mind? Magic tricks work because humans have a hardwired process of attention and awareness that is hackable. A good magician uses your mind's intrinsic properties against you in a form of mental jujitsu, to fool you every time, eve
Audio CD, 10 pages
Published November 9th 2010 by Tantor Media (first published November 2nd 2010)
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Jason Kittredge
Feb 19, 2012 Jason Kittredge rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jason by: Dan Hayden
I really enjoyed this book. It was a combination of two interests that I've had for a long time, but haven't really focused on: Magic and neuroscience.

My degree is in cognitive science, which is really what this book focuses on. I'm fascinated to see many of the concepts that I studied in school illustrated with examples of how magicians exploit these concepts in real life. Stephen and Susana don't so much explain *how* tricks work (though there is a certain amount of that - all with an indicati
May 08, 2013 Peter rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in neuroscience or cognitive science
Wow - entertaining and fascinating coverage of human perception and how easily we're deceived by ourselves and others, even when we're expecting it!

The authors collaborated with magicians (Penn and Teller, among others) and master pickpocket, Apollo Robbins, to study and explain how and why their tricks work. The authors discovered along the way that many magicians have had a better intuitive understanding of how the mind works than many neuroscientists, and they train to become magicians thems
Peter Meyers
Mar 26, 2011 Peter Meyers rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great book on how the mind perceives the world around it. We are constantly filling in the gaps. Making the pictures into movies. Whatever you call them "Magicians" have been tricking our brains into filling in the the gaps they want by directing our attention to to create the intended illusions.
Understanding these gaps can give you a new appreciation for everything you see. As well as understanding how much of the world you don't see.

Greg Stoll
The bits about how tricks are done were interesting, but the book seemed a bit padded out.
Mar 22, 2016 Adam rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: No-one
Shelves: nonfiction2016
Better off reading other books.

Overpromised , underdelivered.
Emma Sea
Excessive prestidigitation, insufficient neuroscience. meh.
1.5 stars
As far as pop science books this is way light, the authors are neuroscientists, but the book could be easily written by an amateur. Ok, theoretically one could say that about most books for non-specialists but there's something in many popular science books, perhaps the clarity of language and thought, that suggests the author is indeed an expert. Not here.

Practically, to describe the book, it goes more or less like this in every section:

a) Brief self-referential story about the authors, sometim
Tulpesh Patel
Sleights of Mind is a book about two neuroscientists (a husband and wife research team) and their attempts to learn and use magic tricks to further the ways that we can understand how the brain works, culminating in their attempt to join the Magic Circle. The authors stake the claim to be the first ‘neuromagicians’, but in truth all magicians are neuromagicians as all of them are using thousands of years of folk psychology to perform tricks that take advantage of our less-than-perfect, short-cut ...more
This book was awesome, amazing, fantastical, & magical! Magicology? Yes, please! Neuromagic? Yes, please? The husband & wife team of authors essentially explain in scientific facts the secrets behind the magic we see everyday. Appearing coins, a psychic, the magician whom can predict whichever card me choose at "random" (note the ""), a floating assistant.

What is the secret? Ourselves. Optical illusions, sleight of hand, attention receptors in our brains, etcetera. The most interesting
Nov 22, 2010 Richard rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Richard by: Cognitive Science reading group
An excellent if — obviously — idiosyncratic addition to the Popular Cognition genre.

Macknik and Martinez-Conde, spouses and neuroscientists, began to examine how magic works for the insights into cognition, and were seduced by the craft, which after all has been implicitly accumulating knowledge about how our minds work for centuries. In hindsight, the attraction in obvious: as they describe, magicians are artists whose manipulate not form and color, but attention and cognition. Just as a painte
I heard about this book from a friend in the transmedia business (many of whom seem to fancy themselves as modern-day magicians, or even alchemists), and thought I'd dive into it. Two neuroscientists take on the task of explaining how our mind, especially the information processing aspects of our visual and cerebral equipment, actually get used by A-list magicians to achieve their sleights of hand, hence the title. We learn a lot about where and how the receptors and processing occurs, and many ...more
Sarah Clement
Magic is one of those popular topics amongst skeptics that I just haven't been able to get that excited about. I thought perhaps this book would change that, but it didn't. Whilst I found a lot of the neuroscience aspects really interesting, and found the simplicity of most magic tricks stunning, in the end I just couldn't really engage in this book like I do with other popular skeptical books. I thought the authors both had excellent writing voices that made the book far more interesting than i ...more
Mi Camino Blanco
Un libro que une ciencia y magia. Nos desvela los mecanismos de nuestro cerebro gracias a los cuáles la magia puede engañar a los sentidos, ¡incluso conociendo el truco!, y que puede hacernos dudar de la perfección de nuestra mente. Pero es el pequeño tributo a pagar por poseer un cerebro evolutivamente tan desarrollado. Los mismos procesos que nos han hecho triunfar agilizando la manera en la que aprehendemos la realidad pueden jugarnos a veces malas pasadas.

Me ha parecido tremendamente intere
Now magic can reveal how our brains work in everyday situations. For instance, if you’ve ever bought an expensive item you’d sworn you’d never buy, the salesperson was probably a master at creating the “illusion of choice,” a core technique of magic. The implications of neuromagic go beyond illuminating our behavior; early research points to new approaches for everything from the diagnosis of autism to marketing techniques and education. Sleights of Mind makes neuroscience fun and accessible by ...more
Jun 07, 2016 Gigi rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, magic
One of the most fascinating books I've read in a long time. I love classic stage magic an am interested in how mystery fiction and magic use misdirection in similar ways. But I'd never before thought about the science of why we're able to be fooled by stage magic. Since I'm not a scientist, I appreciated the conversational style of writing to give readers an eye-opening look at how magicians *really* fool us.
Todd Wright
One of the best books that I have read that I would not widely recommend, it deals more with the secret of illusions than with brain function but is still enjoyable. Some parts were very interesting, but the writing is often corny, much like the patter you would hear at a magic show.
Jeff Yoak
Aug 15, 2016 Jeff Yoak rated it it was amazing
Boy, was this book perfect for me, falling at the intersection of two topics I find fascinating.
Alicia Cañamero
Feb 05, 2016 Alicia Cañamero rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Una pasada de libro. Comprender como funciona nuestro cerebro a partir de los trucos que los magos utilizan para engañarlo.
Bernie Gourley
Jul 17, 2015 Bernie Gourley rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sleights of Mind explains magic tricks by telling one about the shortcuts, limits, and programming of brain (and attendant sensory systems) that facilitate such tricks. The reader needn’t be concerned that the book will spoil all the illusionists’ secrets for one. The authors carefully demarcate the beginnings and endings of spoiler sections that explicitly explain tricks. This allows a reader to skip over such sections if one doesn’t want to know the trick. I suspect few readers do skip the spo ...more
David Dinaburg
Feb 06, 2013 David Dinaburg rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Magic is one of those hobbies that is shrouded in such an incredibly dorky modern history that people with even a modicum of concern for social hierarchy may struggle to understand the appeal. The white gloves, the top-hats, the red bowties: they’re all so lame. Shove some science in there, and, well, you run the risk of alienating the magic fans with complex or confusing neuroscientific jargon. Sitting there on the bookshelf, Sleights of Mind: What the Neuroscience of Magic reveals about our Ev ...more
Jan 17, 2017 Paula rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a captivating book that gives to those intrigued by illusions the opportunity to explore the connections between magicians’ abilities to “manipulate attention and cognition” and the “neural underpinning of magic”. The authors state from the very beginning that their intention is “to explain at a fundamental level’, so their style is mostly conversational and, when it turns to be more academically, it is not overwhelming. Although the book focuses a lot on magicians and their methods, it ...more
Jun 07, 2017 Sandra rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
There were some very interesting tidbits in this book, but I found them difficult to get to. The writing was a bit heavy, and I didn't find it engaging. I also felt it didn't quite deliver all that was promised (deeper insight into exactly how our minds are tricked and how that applies to a number of every-day occurrences like education and advertising - these were very lightly mentioned once or twice, but barely). I think I wish there had been less description of the magic tricks and magicians ...more
Tey Shi
By studying how the mind gets deceived by magic tricks, the authors shed light on how the mind misconstrues reality through known principles of neuroscience. An interesting read that may help us to be less gullible about miracles and claims of supernatural, and leave us marveling at the lengths magicians, mentalists go to manipulate our attention.
Stefan Persson
Mar 09, 2017 Stefan Persson rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
i mean the author is trying to describe magic tricks in words....i mean make a movie instead...cut to the chase......just annoying trying to imagine what trick the magician is try to do.
Nov 29, 2013 Mangoo rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Books on neuroscience are easily ponderous, academic and/or boring to a fair extent. This is the contrasting with the absolute interest and fascination of the huge topic. Writing style can make a difference, so that one can prefer Pinker to Damasio or viceversa because of literary ease; or content phrasing in, say, a biographical framework may add a noticeable human touch to the text to make it easier to dig through. As far as rationale and motivation, this book is far better than all of the abo ...more
Apr 15, 2016 Xing rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The authors do a service to the neuroscientific community with this comprehensive and insightful dive into our perceptual and psychological makeup. They dissect multiple and varied aspects of illusions- from 'gaps' in our awareness that are readily exploited by magicians and tricksters, to our social and behavioural patterns and beliefs when we interact with others. Magicians are, in a sense, exceptionally skilled and practiced psychologists, who perfectly blend truth with fiction, making it dif ...more
Dec 28, 2012 Pedro rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 18, 2015 TomF rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book directs your attention not just to the ingenuity behind many a magic trick, but also to the foibles of our own minds, and how they are gleefully exploited by magicians. From breakdowns of how a master pickpocket makes a mug of you, to mentalism mind-readings, via presentational flourishes, they cover a lot of ground, and dirt-dishing from luminaries such as Randi & Teller abounds.

As Teller said recently though, the psychologists got a wealth of behind the scenes info & intuite
Matt McCormick
This book really makes you wonder about how easily you can be deceived in everyday life. I liked how the authors used magic to get their point across. It was an interesting idea to combine magic with neuroscience. Throughout the book they identified sections where they would be revealing magician's secrets so you could choose to not read them if you like the idea of being deceived (but if that's the case, why are you reading a book that reveals their deception?)

A couple days after finishing this
Todd Martin
Feb 14, 2012 Todd Martin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As you might suppose from the subtitle, Sleights of Mind examines the ways in which magic fools our feeble brains and what this tells us about how the mind works. In a nutshell … people can only focus on one thing at a time, which makes us easy to trick through misdirection. As much as we might like to think ourselves sophisticated and intelligent, humans have the attentional capacity of crows. Wave something shiny in front of our faces and we can’t help but follow it with our eyes (giving the m ...more
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“Chronic multitaskers “are suckers for irrelevancy,” says Stanford communications professor Clifford Nass. “Everything distracts them.” They can’t ignore things, can’t remember as well, and have weaker self-control.” 2 likes
“Magic tricks work because humans have a hardwired process of attention and awareness that is hackable.” 1 likes
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