inkwell.vue.318 : Richard Wiseman, "Quirkology"
permalink #51 of 89: It's all done with mirrors... (kafclown) Tue 15 Jan 08 07:10
There's another term for this 
"change blindness"  There's a great example (taken from a BBC video) at

inkwell.vue.318 : Richard Wiseman, "Quirkology"
permalink #52 of 89: Richard Wiseman (r-wiseman) Tue 15 Jan 08 17:02
hi all
sorry about the delay - been in brainstorming meetings all day and
only just sitting down at my computer.  
I have carried out quite a few studies into mediumship and psychics. 
The bottom line is that I don't think there is anything genuine going
on, but the psychology is fascinating.  Often, the 'action' is in the
mind of the sitter, as they struggle to make sense of vague statements.
 I have been for quite a few readings and they have all been hopeless.
Re deception of participants, yes, it is a problem.  The bottom line
is that I never do it in mass participation or public experiments. 
People would hate it and, as you say, debriefing is a problem. 
However, in a controlled context it is easier, but still a last resort.
 I am hosting a new 20 part TV show that starts in a few weeks time
here, and we did loads of hidden camera demonstrations for it (about 80
of them) - that also raises ethical issues but most people loved
finding out that they had been part of a TV show.
Re the sideshow stuff, there are some pages on my work on the science
of contortion at:
I have also just been commissioned to produce a much larger show on
this theme later this year.
All of the change blindness stuff is great, and, of course I have
written a book on the basketball clip, so know it quite well!
best wishes
inkwell.vue.318 : Richard Wiseman, "Quirkology"
permalink #53 of 89: Lisa Harris (lrph) Wed 16 Jan 08 06:25
Just to be the Devil's advocate for a minute, but I was under the impression
that science has proven we do not utilize the entire capacity of our brains.
If that is so, how can you/we completely discount psychic ability?  There is
a great unknown about what our true minds' potential is, and perhaps it
includes the ability/ies to understand another person's life or condition
intuitively.  Is there really any way to test that yet?
inkwell.vue.318 : Richard Wiseman, "Quirkology"
permalink #54 of 89: Rick Brown (danwest) Wed 16 Jan 08 12:58
>but I was under the impression
>that science has proven we do not utilize the entire capacity of our

That is a common myth, however it is not true.
inkwell.vue.318 : Richard Wiseman, "Quirkology"
permalink #55 of 89: Richard Wiseman (r-wiseman) Wed 16 Jan 08 13:45
I don't discount the idea of there being ESP on any theoretical
grounds, but rather because I think that it is not supported by the
inkwell.vue.318 : Richard Wiseman, "Quirkology"
permalink #56 of 89: Gail Williams (gail) Wed 16 Jan 08 16:02
Earlier -- in the intro as I seem to recall -- there was a reference to
luck.  I'm very interested in the psychology of luck and how it is used and

One thing I've observed is a pattern where a bad thing happens, and 
the "victim" later recontexutalizes it into good luck.

A person gets the bad news of a cancer diagnosis and the need to operate.
The person feels this is bad luck.  Later the same person often decides 
there was good luck involved:

The luck of early diagnosis and better prognosis
The luck of learning to treasure remaining days and not bog down in triviality
The luck of whatever changes followed that turning point in the story
etc, etc.

How do your studies of luck relate to your work on Quirkology?
inkwell.vue.318 : Richard Wiseman, "Quirkology"
permalink #57 of 89: Linda Castellani (castle) Wed 16 Jan 08 17:07

That's a great question, Gail!
inkwell.vue.318 : Richard Wiseman, "Quirkology"
permalink #58 of 89: What is going to amuse our bouches now? (bumbaugh) Thu 17 Jan 08 07:54
That's an interesting phenomenon, for sure.

Not the same thing, but it reminds me of work (Ellen Langer?) on "the
illusion of control." We tend to overstimate our ability to determine
outcomes -- real chance is scary stuff.

Wow! She has a really pretty home page:

        Heads I win, tails it's chance: The illusion of control as a
function of the sequence of outcomes in a purely chance task.
Studied attributions in a purely chance task (predicting coin tosses) as a
function of either a descending, ascending, or random sequence of outcomes
and as a function of whether the S performed the task himself or observed
another S performing the task. A primary effect was predicted; early
successes would induce a skill orientation towards the task. Data from 90
male undergraduates support the prediction. Ss in the descending condition
rated themselves as significantly better at predicting the outcomes of coin
tosses than Ss in either of the other 2 groups. This group also
overremembered past successes and expected more future successes than the
other 2 groups. Involvement had the effect of increasing Ss' expectations of
future successes and tended to increase their evaluation of their past
inkwell.vue.318 : Richard Wiseman, "Quirkology"
permalink #59 of 89: Lisa Harris (lrph) Thu 17 Jan 08 08:09
That's cool.  It seems with this, as with what Richard said in his book,
that perception is the key to luck.  Those of us who think we're lucky can
point to all the times we've been lucky.  Those who think they're not lucky
point to all the times they were not.
inkwell.vue.318 : Richard Wiseman, "Quirkology"
permalink #60 of 89: Lena M. Diethelm (lendie) Thu 17 Jan 08 11:25

"if it wasn't for bad luck, i wouldn't ahve any"
inkwell.vue.318 : Richard Wiseman, "Quirkology"
permalink #61 of 89: Gail Williams (gail) Thu 17 Jan 08 11:46

It also helps account for the oft-observed phenomenon that people who win
the first time out at gambling have a high likelihood of trying again.

And speaks to all kinds of hustles from 3-card Monty to Pidgeon Drop
where you are given a chance to think you are winning with your brains 
through no stakes or low stakes, then you bet big and skill is 
removed from the equation, and chance, too if it's a well-designed con.
inkwell.vue.318 : Richard Wiseman, "Quirkology"
permalink #62 of 89: Richard Wiseman (r-wiseman) Thu 17 Jan 08 14:50
I talk more about luck in The Luck Factor than Quirkology, and the
basic idea is that you make your own luck.  I have put lots online at:
including all of the surname work, and superstition etc.
The Langer stuff is v good, and speaks to the same topic. 
inkwell.vue.318 : Richard Wiseman, "Quirkology"
permalink #63 of 89: (martyb) Thu 17 Jan 08 18:51
Reading your luck material made me think of "The Secret". Did you see any
similarity there? "The Secret" told people that by positive thinking they
could actually change the universe. But perhaps it caused some people to
increase their success by motivating them to change their behaviors in ways
that might in some cases have been like your luck classes.
Or maybe the only people who benefitted from The Secret were the authors and
inkwell.vue.318 : Richard Wiseman, "Quirkology"
permalink #64 of 89: Linda Castellani (castle) Thu 17 Jan 08 21:20

Not to mention the filmmakers!
inkwell.vue.318 : Richard Wiseman, "Quirkology"
permalink #65 of 89: What is going to amuse our bouches now? (bumbaugh) Fri 18 Jan 08 07:45
(Reminder: Readers following on the Web may e-mail to add
to the conversation.)

So, those of you contributing here, what's the "quirkiest" research you've
run across?
inkwell.vue.318 : Richard Wiseman, "Quirkology"
permalink #66 of 89: Linda Castellani (castle) Fri 18 Jan 08 14:57

Well, I kind of like the research that Richard conducted into The World's 
Funniest Joke.

He created a Web site:

Where people could submit their jokes and also rate jokes that had already 
been submitted.

As he describes in his book, it immediately became apparent that they 
would have to limit the number of jokes that could be posted on the site 
because the ones they received were too dirty for primetime.  He mentions 
a notable example that involved two nuns, a large bunch of bananas, an 
elephant and Yoko Ono, although he doesn't tell that joke.

People were asked to rate the jokes that *were* posted on the site on a 
5-point scale, and was ultimately able to discover that Plato was right.  
According to Wiseman, Plato observed in The Republic that people laugh 
when the joke allows them to feel superior to others.  

One of the jokes that rated well on the site was this:

        A teacher decided to take her bad mood out on her class of 
children and so said, "Can everyone who thinks they're stupid, stand up!"  
After a few seconds, just one child slowly stood up.  The teacher turned 
to the child and said, "Do you think you're stupid?"  "No," replied the 
child, "but I hate to see you stand there all by yourself."

Later in the chapter on the search for the world's funniest joke, he 
examines another source of humor that I know is near and dear to *our* 
hearts, computers.

Two people from the University of Ediburgh created a computer program that 
could produce jokes.  Wiseman and his fellow researchers entered some of 
the computer-produced jokes on the LaughLab site to be rated, and says 
that they received some of the lowest rates on the site.  One successfully 
rate joke was, as he says, surprisingly successful [and I have to say, *I* 
am surprised]:  "What kind of murderer has the most fiber?  A cereal 


Another example are those in which there is incongruity between the setup 
and the punch line:  Two fish in a tank.  One turns to the other and says, 
"Do you know how to drive this?"

In addition, they started to examine what happened to people's brains when 
they laughed at these types of jokes.

Richard, could you elaborate on the experiments that you did, and your 
subsequent findings?
inkwell.vue.318 : Richard Wiseman, "Quirkology"
permalink #67 of 89: uber-muso hipster hyperbole (pjm) Fri 18 Jan 08 15:08
"My dog has no nose"

"How does he smell?"



Two peanuts were walking down the Polkstrasse

One was assalted
inkwell.vue.318 : Richard Wiseman, "Quirkology"
permalink #68 of 89: Sharon Lynne Fisher (slf) Fri 18 Jan 08 16:16
I've been teaching my seven-year-old daughter that many jokes depend
on a word being able to be taken two different ways.
inkwell.vue.318 : Richard Wiseman, "Quirkology"
permalink #69 of 89: Teleological dyslexic (ceder) Fri 18 Jan 08 16:28
Ask her why is seven the scariest number?

{Because 7, 8, 9.}
inkwell.vue.318 : Richard Wiseman, "Quirkology"
permalink #70 of 89: Linda Castellani (castle) Fri 18 Jan 08 17:22

Did you also introduce her to the phrase "double entendre?"
inkwell.vue.318 : Richard Wiseman, "Quirkology"
permalink #71 of 89: It's all done with mirrors... (kafclown) Sat 19 Jan 08 04:50
One of my favorite kid jokes also depends on the element of surprise:

"What's brown and sticky?"

" a Stick"


"What has five legs and flies?"
"A Cow."
"But a cow doesn't have five legs."
"I added a leg to make it harder."
inkwell.vue.318 : Richard Wiseman, "Quirkology"
permalink #72 of 89: Rick Brown (danwest) Sat 19 Jan 08 07:13

I also enjoyed your book "Magic in Theory" Although it is obvious in
presentations like the colour changing card, in what other ways has
magic informed your academic research?

I perform a trick called "Deep Astonishment II", in which a fortune
telling bit becomes a (in my case) precognition reveal. When people are
fried with this, I often wonder what their though process is -- as
they try to reconstruct what just happened. 

Since I have never seen the trick performed by another magician, I
always wonder what is going through the mind of the spectator -- and it
 is hard to fathom that as I always watch other magicians as another
magician (in other words after I am always thinking methods.

It is a canard that if the audience is trying to reverse-engineer a
trick, the magician has failed. I don't believe this, some folks are
always going to try figure out how it was done -- and a spectator who
is going to groove on just the wonder of the magic is a rarity. I have
always wondered about this relationship -- the contract between
magician (or psychic, or whatever). In theatre, the suspension of
disbelief is a place one strives to get the audience too. 

Does this ever really happen in magic? I know that there are folks
who, no matter what I tell them, believe there is the supernatural at
work. What differentiates them from those who can look it as only
entertainment? Are they just more gullible?
inkwell.vue.318 : Richard Wiseman, "Quirkology"
permalink #73 of 89: Linda Castellani (castle) Sat 19 Jan 08 13:27

Speaking for myself, I love magic and magicians.  Whenever I meet one, I 
ask for a pass to The Magic Castle.

Then I'm in for an evening of absolute bliss.

I know that I'm being duped in some way, but that doesn't ruin the magic 
of it for me.  I am vastly entertained by the creativity of the illusions 
and I entertain myself wondering how it was done, but I don't try too hard 
because I don't want to ruin it for myself.

And it doesn't matter what kind of illusion.  From David Copperfield
making the Statue of Liberty disappear to the small parlors of personal
magic that they have at the castle to David Blaine on TV seemingly putting
his hand through a glass window to pull out an item in a display case, or
removing his shirt to reveal the photo of a woman drawn on his abdomen,
I'm thrilled with it all.

I admit, I love to consider the possibility that magic exists, as well as 
ghosts and psychic ability.

But if I knew how it was done, I doubt that I would enjoy it as much, if 
at all.

I used to love David Copperfield, until I saw him at the Opera House in 
San Francisco, a performance I looked forward to with great excitement.  
At the end of that performance, he made it "snow" inside the Opera House.  
I was charmed with the illusion, I knew it wasn't snow, but I loved it 

Until, as we were leaving our balcony seats, I stumbled across the 
"snow"-making cannon camouflaged at the edge of the balcony.  That 
completely ruined everything for me, including my interest in David 

So, I guess you could say that I "want" to be duped.
inkwell.vue.318 : Richard Wiseman, "Quirkology"
permalink #74 of 89: Idea Hamster On Speed (randomize27) Sat 19 Jan 08 13:52
I want to be duped too.  I watch a magician perform, and I know
they're using visual and attention deception, and enjoy the show.  It's
like watching a good science fiction movie.  I know they're not on a
space ship in deep space, but as long as it looks like it, it's okay
for me.

It's all a story, and I enjoy it.
inkwell.vue.318 : Richard Wiseman, "Quirkology"
permalink #75 of 89: Richard Wiseman (r-wiseman) Sat 19 Jan 08 16:03
hi all
yes, the perception of magic is fascinating.  There is a great Penn
and Teller routine where the audience see a trick and have a decision. 
They can either keep their eyes open and see how the trick was
achieved, or close them and never know the secret.  I have always
wanted to know what types of people went with each option.  There is a
concept in psychology called 'need for cognition', and I think people
who score high would want to know how the tricks are performed.  I
think more people just treat it as entertainment.  
The psychic link is also interesting - I suspect that most people
going to psychics simply are not thinking in terms of trickery. 
Certainly, all of the fake psychic work I have seen is terrible, in
that a 5 year old could work it out.
I have heard that Deep Astonishment II is great.  I have spent some
time with Paul H and he is an interesting guy to be around!
There is a bit about the psychology of magic, and my interview with
Jeff McBride, and experiment with Max Maven, on my website at:


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