Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Sleights of Mind: What the Neuroscience of Magic Reveals about Our Everyday Deceptions” as Want to Read:
Sleights of Mind: What the Neuroscience of Magic Reveals about Our Everyday Deceptions
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

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

by
3.94  ·  Rating details ·  2,347 ratings  ·  166 reviews
Stephen Macknik and Susana Martinez-Conde, the founders of the exciting new discipline of neuromagic, have convinced some of the world's greatest magicians to allow scientists to study their techniques for tricking the brain. The implications of neuromagic go beyond illuminating our behavior; early research points to new approaches for everything from the diagnosis of ...more
Paperback, 291 pages
Published November 22nd 2011 by Picador (first published November 2nd 2010)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Sleights of Mind, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Sleights of Mind

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.94  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,347 ratings  ·  166 reviews


More filters
 | 
Sort order
Start your review of Sleights of Mind: What the Neuroscience of Magic Reveals about Our Everyday Deceptions
K.J. Charles
Absolutely fascinating explainer of how our brains, and specifically the way vision works, allow us to be fooled by magic. The key takeaway here is that we pay far less attention than we think and see far less than we think. Goes into a lot of details on tricks, so avoid if you don't want spoilers. I have read a few books on the psychology of magic but tbh the neuroscience is far more enlightening.
Emma
An enjoyable non-fiction book that explains the neuroscience behind magic tricks. It is entertaining but did get a little repetitive as a lot of the tricks seemed to be variations on a theme. The author seemed to keep switching between first and third person too which wound me up.
Jason Kittredge
Feb 19, 2012 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
...more
Vonia
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
...more
Nickdepenpan123
As far as popular science books go, 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, in every section it goes more or less in the following way.

There's a brief self-referential story
...more
Peter
Mar 26, 2011 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.


Peter
May 08, 2013 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
...more
Greg Stoll
The bits about how tricks are done were interesting, but the book seemed a bit padded out.
Adam
Mar 22, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: No-one
Better off reading other books.

Overpromised , underdelivered.
Emma Sea
Excessive prestidigitation, insufficient neuroscience. meh.
1.5 stars
Agne
Jun 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Would recommend to anyone with only a casual understanding of how and why magic tricks work, explains illusions using neuroscience, helps understand people's behaviour in general. Well structured and balanced.

Agatha Heterodyne's paraphrase of Niven's law: “Any sufficiently analyzed magic is indistinguishable from science!”
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
Richard
Nov 22, 2010 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
...more
Balloon Bruce
Oct 21, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting insights on how deception works on the stage and in the brain.
Melissafedak
Sep 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Even if you just want to know how magic tricks are done, this is a great book, but to learn the WHY on top of that takes this book to the next level. Brilliant! It explains in a simple way (using science and examples) why magic works so well on the human brain, covering a wide variety of trick types, everything from slight-of-hand to clairvoyance and the different neuro-shortcuts that skilled magicians take advantage of to make the world appear magical.

Along the way is wonderful insight into our
...more
Nick
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 ...more
Lisagarden
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
Gigi
Jun 07, 2016 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.
Sheri Radford
Fascinating stuff for anyone with even a passing interest in magic.
Heather
Jul 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This took forever but was so worth it. Love all the information and how the brain works. I read this because one of the writers/producers of Leverage said they read this book in one of their commentaries to explain the NLP that the characters use... so interesting!

Also appreciated the book's ending of how to apply to our daily life as well as the links and resources.


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
Boy, was this book perfect for me, falling at the intersection of two topics I find fascinating.
Greg Burton
As is often worth pointing out, what Oliver Sacks, Stephen Jay Gould and Jared Diamond were or are able to do, is a lot harder than it looks!
jessica
Mar 24, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
read in 2011 - required reading for college course - better review to come

3.5 stars
Bernie Gourley
Jul 17, 2015 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 ...more
David Dinaburg
Feb 06, 2013 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 ...more
Anima
Jan 17, 2017 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
Robert
May 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you want to learn about the neuroscience of magic and the magic of neuroscience, this book is for you. Sometimes the authors talk to magicians and try to figure out the trick before the magicians tell them. Sometimes they do not tell them. The eye only has one megapixel of resolution. Focussed in the middle, and blurry on the sides. This explains why the Mona Lisa appears to be smiling if you look at her eyes but not smiling if you look at her smile. Your brain makes you believe you are ...more
Sandra
Jun 07, 2017 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
« previous 1 3 4 5 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Compass of Pleasure: How Our Brains Make Fatty Foods, Orgasm, Exercise, Marijuana, Generosity, Vodka, Learning, and Gambling Feel So Good
  • Why We Make Mistakes: How We Look Without Seeing, Forget Things in Seconds, and Are All Pretty Sure We Are Way Above Average
  • Numbers Rule Your World: The Hidden Influence of Probabilities and Statistics on Everything You Do
  • What Makes Your Brain Happy and Why You Should Do the Opposite
  • Who's in Charge? Free Will and the Science of the Brain
  • Mindfulness
  • The Invisible Gorilla: And Other Ways Our Intuitions Deceive Us
  • Brain Bugs: How the Brain's Flaws Shape Our Lives
  • Priceless: The Myth of Fair Value (and How to Take Advantage of It)
  • The Science of Fear: Why We Fear the Things We Shouldn't--and Put Ourselves in Greater Danger
  • Synaptic Self: How Our Brains Become Who We Are
  • Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts
  • Tricks of the Mind
  • Strangers to Ourselves: Discovering the Adaptive Unconscious
  • The Mind and the Brain: Neuroplasticity and the Power of Mental Force
  • Human: The Science Behind What Makes Us Unique
  • Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain
  • Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior
See similar books…
“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
“Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; but remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.” 1 likes
More quotes…