Andy Luttrell - Psychology for the Mentalist

August 28, 2017 | Author: Jhunar John Tauy | Category: Parapsychology, Thought, Psychology & Cognitive Science, Color, Social Psychology
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Psychology Concepts and Mentalism...


Psychology For the Mentalist

Andy Luttrell

Copyright (c) 2015 Andy Luttrell, All Rights Reserved No part of this publication may be reproduced, copied, stored, or transmitted in any form whatsoever without prior written consent of Andrew Luttrell ISBN: 978-1-329-72308-5 Published in the United States by Mind Tapped Productions in association with

Psychological Concepts Foreword ................................................. 7 Introduction ........ ... ............................ ..... .. 9 A Comment on Research Psychology's Applicability ....... 13 Belief Perseverance: The Power of Explanation ............. 17 Bouba and Kiki ........................................... 22 The Meaning of Color ......... ......................... ... 27 Compliance .............................................. 32 "Because ..."........................................... 32 But You Are Free ....................................... 34 Consistency .......................................... 35 Reciprocity ........................................... 37 An Interesting Case of"Dual Reality" ...................... 39 Ego-Centric Biases ................................ .. ...... 41 The Spotlight Effect ......... . ......................... 41 The Illusion of Transparency .. ....... .. ................ 43 The False Consensus Effect (aka "Social Projection") .... 47 Embodiment . ...... ............... ........ ...... ....... .. 49 The Endowment Effect .......... . ... ... .. ...... . .. .... .. . 54 Fluency ...... ....... ......................... ............ 61 The Introspection Illusion ................................. 69 Judgment Heuristics .... .... .............................. 72 Availability ................... ...... ........ .... ... ... 72 Representativeness ................................... 74 Anchoring . ................... ........................ 76 Linguistic Styles ......... ..... ................. ..... ...... 81 Language Style Matching ............................. 83 Memory......... ..... .................................... 85 Mental Imagery ............ .. ............................ 88 The Mere Exposure Effect. ..... . .. .......... . ............. 97

Metacognition .... ......................... . ............ 1oo Name Letter Preferences ............... .. ................ 103 Nonverbal Behavior: Lie Detection ...................... . 11 o Can People Detect Lies Reliably? .......... .. ......... 11 O Who Can Detect Lies? .. ................... .. ... . ..... 111 A Word About Research Methods ..................... 112 Nonverbal Tells ............................. . ........ 113 Linguistic Tells .................... . .......... .. ...... 114 Neuroscience and Deception ......................... 115 When and Why We Lie .............. .... ............. 116 The "Pratfall"Technique ................. .. ............... 117 Making Predictions .... . ....................... .. ..... . .. 123 Failing to Know Our Future Selves .................... 123 Statistical vs. Intuitive Predictions ... .. ............... 124 Priming .... .............................. . ..... .. ....... 127 Assimilation vs. Contrast .. .................. .. .... . .. 132 Rapport .... ............. ... ..................... .... .... 136 Similarity ................... ....... . .. ............... 136 Mimicry ............................ .... ............. 137 Reciprocal Liking ... ................................. 138 Fast Friends Technique ............................... 138 Reactance .............................. .... ............. 143 Self-Affirmation ..... .................. . ....... . ......... 145 Shared RealityTheory ................................... 151 Social vs. Physical Pain ................................. . . 154 The Science of Subliminal Influence ....... . .............. 155 Evidence that Subliminal Persuasion is Ineffective ..... 156 In Support of Subliminal Persuasion .................. 158 Thin Slicing ........ .. .......................... .. ....... 163 Thought Suppression and Post-Suppression Rebound .... 166 Unconscious Thought Theory .. ...... . ... .. .......... .. . . 171

The Power of Ambiguity ................................. 174 Psychology for Cold Reading ............................. 178 The "Frequency Labeling" Principle ................... 178 Situation Dependency ............................... 180 Giving Negative Information ......................... 181 Individual Difference Variables ....................... 184 Population Stereotypes: Updated ................. .. ..... 199 Closing Remarks ... .. .................................... 209 Recommended Reading ................................. 210 References .............................................. 213

Mentalism Applications Psychological Thought Projection (Effect) ................. 15 The Psychology of Dislcaimers ............................ 20 The Maluma-Takete Force ................................. 23 The Because Subtlety ..................................... 33 Gifting the Prediction .......... ...... ..................... 38 Shining a Spotlight on Audience Compassion ............. 43 Transparency Subtlety .................................... 45 Embodied Presentations .................................. 52 Endowment Subtlety #1: Pen Prediction ................... 57 Endowment Subtlety #2: Making a Trade .................. 58 Keeping Displays Fluent .................................. 65 Forcing with Fluency ..................................... 65 Introspection Subtlety .................. . ................. 71 Anchoring Subtlety ....................................... 78 A New Cold Reading System? ............................. 83 Demonstrating False Memory............................. 85 Imagery in Emotional Memory ............................ 92

Thoughts-As-Objects Technique ......... . .............. . 100 Name Letter Force ............. . ......................... 107 One-Ahead Scribble Subtlety ............................ 118 Scribbledeedoo (Effect) .................................. 119 Learning from Our Inability to Predict the Future ... ...... 126 Priming Presentation .................................... 132 Using Priming to Force ....... ................... .... ... . 134 Faux-Priming and a "Circle-and-Triangle" Script ........... 134 Fast Friends Ploy ........................................ 140 Affirmation Print (Effect) ............................... .. 147 Fostering Shared Reality .. ... ... ........ . ................ 153 A Thin Slice of Mindreading ............. . ................ 165 Suppression Subtlety .................................... 169 Spectator-as-Unconscious-Mindreader ................... 172 Die Hard: Psy Force ..................................... . 207

Foreword "This is the book I always wanted to write:' If you're thinking, "who is Andy Luttrell and why should I care about this book?': let me answer both of those questions with three words: information is power. If you're taking the time to read this diatribe at the beginning of this text, I'm sure you're also the type to read the introduction that follows. This is where you'll learn who Andy is and why he's more than qualified to present this work. If you're not the type to read forewords or introductions, then you won't be reading these words anyway. When Andy first approached me with this project, I was excited. Then I watched it come together and I was ecstatic. I wanted to help bring an audience to this text because it deserves to be read. Here you'll find a mix of performance theory, technique and actual cited psychological research to back up the information. Full stop. Cited research? Evidence? Not just theoretical information based on trial and error? All of this in a conjuring arts text!? Yes. Welcome to Psychology for the Mentalist. This is the book I always wanted to write. This book will quickly become a classic important text. Whether you're an amateur performer or a professional, the information that Andy has compiled will help you hone your current material and help forge new territory. With these techniques, you'll not only appear to really be manipulating, influencing, and reading minds but you'll actually be influencing, manipulating, and reading minds. Psychology for the Mentalist is an inspired work. I suspect it will influence the majority of those who spend the time with its text to reap much reward. Combine these psychologica~ principl~s that.A~dy meticulously dissects with the modus operandi of classic conjuring techniques and you'll be have a powerful performance toolbox to create real miracles. -7-

The first section of this book deals directly with belief perseverance and the power that an explanation, when attached to a truth or fiction, has over our mind. It is my belief that as performers (that demonstrate the ability to read and influence minds), we have a great responsibility to take care of our audiences. We have the real ability to influence what people believe and what shapes individuals' realities. It may seem a ridiculous notion that a simple magic trick can shape and influence one's entire foundation of belief, but religions have been started on less. How are you going to use the information in these pages? Personally, I'll choose to use my powers for good. Well, mostly. This book will find a home alongside some of my most treasured books in my personal library, and I trust it finds a satisfying home in yours as well.

-Patrick G. Redford (2015)


Introduction Mentalism and psychology have a close relationship. On the one hand, many mentalists choose to frame their abilities as rooted in a deep understanding of human psychology, and on the other hand, the term "psychology" is used to refer to real techniques and presentational nuances (e.g., psychological forces, psychological subtleties, and techniques that allow you to do mind reading effects "for real"). However, although the term "psychology" gets used a lot, it rarely references the actual research conducted in psychological science every day throughout the world. The kinds of skills that people display under the guise of "psychological illusions" often bear little resemblance to what social scientists actually investigate, and the psychological ploys that have been offered in the magic and mentalism community are not often grounded in the research literature and are instead derived from trial and error experiences in the field. I have no qualms with any of this. Whether the number seven force came from laboratory experiments or from the experience of working performers doesn't matter as long as it's reliable. Similarly, if a presentational premise is not actually consistent with the research, then it probably means the effect is impressive. Social psychological experiments yield fascinating results that inform theories of human thought and behavior, but they don't necessarily make for great theatre. Still, scientific research in psychology remains largely unrepresented in the available literature for mentalists and magicians, and over the last several years, I have noticed an interest in such topics. 1 There have 1 Of course, this interest in the intersection of magic and psychology goes back a long way. I remember reading the "Conjuring Psychology" columns in old issues of Linking Ring magazine that were given to me, for instance. The interest goes both ways; psychologists have often looked to conjuring techniques to gain insight into cognitive and perceptual process (see Lachapelle, 2008) . For instance, Norman Triplett (often credited with conducting the first experiment in social psychology) wrote a treatise in 1900 titled "The Psychology of Conjuring Deceptions:' Alfred Binet, the developer of one of the first intelligence tests, invited five magicians into his lab in 1894 so that he may better understand human perception (Binet, 1984; for more, see Lachapelle, 2008) . Yet another key figure in psychology's history,


been plenty of requests on Internet message boards for books related to psychology, and there are plenty of wonderful books that get recommended in response. What I have tried to do, however, is isolate some of the more interesting findings in the field of social psychology that appear-even if distantly-relevant to the performance of mentalism. Where do I come off writing a book about mentalism and psychology? I find myself neatly situated at the intersection of the two fields, and hopefully I'm able to translate one of them for the benefit of the other. I am a long time magic fanatic, having caught the "magic bug" when I was young. I grew up performing magic on stage, in restaurants, and behind the counter of a magic shop. In college, my interests shifted sharply toward mentalism where I have remained a curious consumer and enthusiastic informal performer. An important point, I should note, is that I am not a professional, so if you are looking for tried and true techniques honed over years of experience, you won't find them here. That said, I have no shortage of performing and communication experience. I teach classes to college students, for example, and I have gotten used to zipping up presentations so that a bunch of tired students are engaged and interested, even at 8:00 in the morning. I am also a stand-up comedian, and I perform regularly, which can come with similar challengesgetting a bunch of intoxicated adults engaged and interested at 1:00 in the morning. I mention this mostly to reassure you that although I do not regularly perform mentalism, I have knowledge and experience enough to talk about such performances. As far as my expertise in psychology, I am currently pursuing my Ph.D. in social psychology. I received my M.A. three years ago and am in the process of wrapping up my time in graduate school, hoping to continue on this journey as an academic. My own research focuses on opinion certainty and the persuasion process, but my education has given me a broad knowledge base in the field, which I hope to share Joseph Jastrow, published a wonderfully titled piece in 1896: "Psychological Notes Upon Sleight-of-Hand Experts:' More recently, cognitive neuroscientists have taken to studying magic tricks to further understand how the brain processes information and visual stimuli (for reviews, see Macknik, King, Randi, Robbins, Teller, Thompson, & Martinez-Conde, 2008; Macknik & Martinez-Conde, 2011 ).


with you. I also teach Introduction to Social Psychology as well as Stereotyping and Prejudice, which has prepared me for translating the research from the cold, boring research reports to a graspable level of understanding without sacrificing accuracy. You can find other examples of my attempts to share psychological science with a broad audience at my website, My knowledge is centered in social psychology, which is a subset of the field that studies individuals' thoughts, feelings, and behaviors in a social context. I think this particular subfield of psychology is especially relevant to mentalism, but I will also draw on what I know from cognitive, developmental, and biological psychology throughout this book. My goal is for this book to be something like a springboard for your own ideas and adaptations. I will review research in a variety of domains across psychology, pointing out individual experiments that gave rise to what we now know about people in their social worlds. I foresee two general applications of this information. The first is as a basis for presentational premises. Psychological scientists have been thinking about human thought for a long time, and t hey have uncovered some fascinating patterns of behavior that are relevant to our everyday experiences. These patterns may inspire new effects, routines, or twists on existing demonstrations. The more we know about actual human psychology, the more varied (and authentic) our mentalism presentations become. The second application is as a basis for techniques and subtleties. This is the application for which I must recognize my role as a mere messenger. Throughout this book, I offer thoughts as to how the research in psychology might be applied to create deeper miracles, but I admit that these are largely speculative. My aim is to provide the seeds for what readers might take and turn into astounding, reliable psychological techniques. For instance, I review research in the field of social compliance whereby simple linguistic touches can increase the likelihood that someone will comply with a request.

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Many of the research studies will not already be applied to the specific conditions that are of interest to a mentalist, so the actual implementation may take a little adjustment. However, when I know about studies that test the conditions under which a phenomenon is more likely to appear (these are called "moderators" of effects), I will be sure to acknowledge them. I offer to take care of the brainwork up front by finding, compiling, and reviewing research that seems applicable to mentalism, but from there, the implementation is up to you. Of course, I can only to scratch the surface of each of these many avenues of psychological research. I cannot create an exhaustive review of social psychology- look to textbooks for that- but I am careful to cite my sources, which should put you on the right path if anything in particular jumps out at you. Also, there have been plenty of books written by journalists and researchers themselves that aim to provide a review of social scientific knowledge for the general public. You can find a list of such books in the appendix, and I do my best to acknowledge these books within the sections of this text where relevant. Please enjoy the following pages. It has been a lot of fun for me to formally write a review of the science that I have grown so fond of and to think about the many ways in which these research programs can enrich and inform our art. If anything in these pages inspires you, I would love to hear about new presentations born out of these concepts or successful applications to true psychological subtleties and "real mind-reading" demonstrations. - Andy Luttrell


A Comment on Research Psychology's Applicability It is worth noting that the research literature in psychology hardly represents a repository of information ready to inform dynamic and sure-fire mentalism methods. Purely psychological methods are far from perfect and rarely achieve 100% accuracy in accomplishing an effect. I agree with Banachek's goal in his first Psychological Subtleties release that these psychological ploys are well suited to subtly strengthening the legitimacy of a mentalist's demonstrations. But as recent interests in the mentalism community highlight, there do exist many methods that rely on "real" methods that produce success more often than not. Therefore, I don't mean to discount the pursuit of such methods, but my point is that research in psychological science does not necessarily already contain these sorts of methods. The reason why psychological research isn't the same as pre-packaged mind-reading methods is that this research deals in averages and tendencies. Psychologists learn about people's thoughts and behaviors by observing how many different people respond under the same conditions. A positive finding is when there's a tendency on average for people to respond in a particular way. By way of a very simple example, imagine a study that manipulates the music playing in a waiting room and examines how it affects people's reports of their mood. For half the people, jazz music plays in the room, and for the other half, pop music plays. Possible results of this experiment are represented in the figure below. Each dot represents one person and how happy he or she feels on a positivity scale. It's clear that the people who heard jazz music report feeling happier on average than the people who heard pop music. As long as the average positivitywasdifferentenough between conditions to be considered statistically different (i.e., not just by chance), this kind of effect could be published as a scientifically acceptable effect: hearing jazz music (vs. pop music) in the environment causes more positive mood. -13-

"O 0 0

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> ·.;:::;

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• •• •• •• •


• I•

• Jazz Music

Pop Music

You will note, however, that some people in the "pop music" condition were happier than some people in the "jazz music" condition. Just because there's a difference on average doesn't mean that this effect applies equally to everyone. This is the point I want to emphasize. The research I share in this book is about tendencies and averages. Thus, it would be a mistake to assume t hat these scientific results can be used as sure-fire, ready-made methods. The value of the purely psychological methods in the mentalism literature is that they are built on practice and tailoring to nuances of particular people and particular situations. What I offer hasn't been tinkered with in this way-it will take inspired and creative mentalists to take this information and use it as a base for exploring its unique applications. It is also worth keeping in mind that the people in these studies may not have been in the same mind frame as they will be as participants in the mentalism demonstration. For instance, participants in a psychology study may have been filling out surveys in a computer lab on weekday afternoons. They may have cared little about the -14-

researcher and had no idea what the goals of the research were. Your participants, however, will be witnessing feats of mentalism in an entertainment context, knowing full well that the performer will try to read their minds, predict the future, etc. That said, do not discount the content of this book. There is a lot here, and its applications are limited only by your imagination. There are at least two ways to deal with the fact that psychological tendencies do not perfectly predict individual responses, and these are by no means unique to my own thinking. One is to use them as subtleties-added convincers aimed to enhance an effect without relying on them for the big moment. The other is to use them as "Major Effects;' in the parlance of Mr. Bob Cassidy. An idea for this follows.

Psychological Thought Projection (Effect) This is just a simple presentation I've come up with for maximizing the impact of the simplest of psychological forces. Of course, having an audience full of people engage in a psychological force procedure has been around for a long time. Its power lies in how it embraces the "tendency"-ness of such forces. Just because most people think of the number 7 when asked to think of a number from 1 - 10 doesn't ensure that any one person will do so. By having a whole group think of a number, you capitalize on the tendency for people to think of the number 7 and minimize the importance of people who happen not to think of that number. This presentation is designed to take this simple effect and address the possibility that people will think, "I'll bet most people think of 7there's nothing psychic or.. . psychological illusion-y about it:'

Effect: You invite someone to the stage to assist you. You pull out a stack of business cards and ask her to take one at random and secretly look at what's written on it. You explain, "Okay, Michelle is thinking of something that she chose at random. Michelle, please continue to think of this, and as you do, try to mentally project that thought out into the audience. That might feel weird, but just imagine that you're standing here and the thought leaves your mind and spreads throughout the crowd." -15-

You continue, "As she's thinking of this, in a moment I'm going to ask you all to 'receive' the thought. The best thing is to not overthin~ it and go with your gut. Ready? When I snap my fingers . .. everyone think of a number between one and ten. *Snap* Any number between 1 and 10the first that pops into your mind. Hold onto that thought. Remember the number that came to you." You show everyone the stack of cards. Adifferent number from 1 - 10 is written on each card. "There was a different number on each card, and Michelle just took one at random to send to you. For the first time, Michelle, show us your card-what number were you sending out? Seven? Out there in the audience-raise your hand please if you thought of the number seven!" If all went according to plan, the majority of the audience should have their hands raised. Explanation: I really like this approach because it takes the performer out of the equation. This is simply an act of mind reading bQtween th~ volunteer on stage and the people in the audience. At no point does it even seem like you know what the number is. It also addresses the potential explanation that "everyone thinks of 7" because presumably it could have been any number that the person was trying to send.

In reality, the only method is forcing the number 7. You can do this however you like, but I like to use a one-way pack of cards in which the number 7 is written on all 10 cards. This makes everything look very free and fair. After the volunteer selects one and thinks of it, you can pocket the stack of cards and later pull out a different stack that does have different numbers written on it. There is plenty of cover for doing this during the business of having the thought projected to the audience.


Belief Perseverance: Tue Power of Explanation As mind readers, we are in the business of dancing around people's beliefs. Moreso than magic, our demonstrations of thought reading, precognition, and influence test people's theories about the world and may even inform their beliefs. If you adopt the psychological angle, you may instill the belief that people can in fact be deeply and powerfully influenced at subconscious levels. If you adopt a psychic presentation, you might create a belief in the supernatural, you might test the strength of someone's non-belief, and you might also provide an anomaly for a skeptic to explain away. Because of this, it is worth spending at least some time discussing what psychologists have had to say about cases where pre-existing beliefs are met with relevant evidence. First, social psychologists use the term "belief perseverance" to refer to times when people hold tightly to their initial beliefs even when new information directly contradicts it. Although this casts a very wide net, belief perseverance is usually studied with respect to information that discredits the basis for forming the belief at all. As a relevant example, let's say I give you a test that's meant to measure your psychic ability by holding up ESP cards one by one and asking you to guess which symbol is on each one. Although I keep the backs of the cards facing you the whole time, I record all of your answers, and at the end of the test, I tell you how you did. I tell you that your psychic abilities are powerful! You guessed 17 out of 20 ESP cards correctly, which is significantly better than what most people do. Now I have you fill out some extra surveys about your previous experience with psychic phenomena, but before you leave, I pull you aside and say, "Thanks for doing the surveys, but I should tell you that we actually just made up your results on the ESP test. Honestly, 1wasn't even paying attention to your guesses. I tell everyo~e they got 17 out 20:' Any rational person in this situation would realize that -17-

since the results he received had nothing to do with his actual ~bility, he should discredit the belief that he'd come to form about h1~self (i.e., having some psychic ability). Instead, e~en though the basis of the belief was firmly and completely discredited, people often come away from an experience like this continuing to think they have some psychic abilities. In psychological research, this can be a . proble_m because_ any experimenters who use deception in th~1r studies are ethically obligated to "debrief" the participants to inform them of the true nature of the study. Indeed, a lot of the research on b~I ief perseverance has been motivated by an interest in the effectiveness of these procedures. An early demonstration of this effect used a situation very similar to the example I gave in the previous paragraph (although I'm not aware of anyone using "psychic ability" as the belief people form about themselves). Participants in this study engaged in a fairly morbid task in which they had to classify 25 suicide notes as real or fictitious. As they did the task, the participants were given pre-scripted feedback. Regardless of how they categorized the notes, they were either told that they were correct most of the time or incorrect most of the time which led them to form beliefs about their ability to discern real note~ from fake ones. At the end of the study, though, even though the experimenters carefully explained that the accuracy feedback they gave was prescripted and unrelated to their performance on the note classification task, the people who had been told they did well on the task continued to believe they were better at j udging real vs. fake notes than the people who had been told they didn't do well (Ross, Lepper, & Hubbard, 1975). Once again, even though the basis for the belief had been totally discredited, people carried on with the beliefs they formed about themselves anyway. This can be an issue in courtrooms as well. Imagine someone provides an eyewitness testimony in a trial that strongly suggests that the person in question is guilty, but it later comes to light that the testimony was made up. According t o belief persever~nc~, discrediting the testimony may not do much to change the Jury s -18-

verdict. In fact, some research has shown this to be the case in mock trial settings (Loftus, 1974). Somewhat similarly, jurors sometimes have difficulty fully avoiding the use of evidence that the judge deemed inadmissible when making their final verdicts (Sue, Smith, & Caldwell, 1973; Thompson, Fong, & Rosenhan, 1981 ). For instance, in a trial to decide the guilt of someone suspected of committing theft, it may come to light that this person had actually been convicted of theft some years ago. In such a case, the judge might rule this information inadmissible as evidence and tell the jury to disregard this piece of information when coming to a decision. However, compared to conditions in which this information never came to light at all, jurors are still more likely to find the defendant guilty when they learn about his previous offense even when the judge specifically asks for that information to be dropped from the consideration. 2 The reason why belief perseverance occurs, however, is almost more interesting than the fact that it occurs at all. The key seems to be in the power of explanation. That is, when we form beliefs, we can do so by creating compelling explanations for why something is true. So if you tell me that I did really well at distinguishing real suicide notes from fake ones, I'm unlikely to take that at face value and instead I start to create a compelling narrative for how I was able to do so well at that task ("I have an eye for detail;'"l'm good at scrutinizing written communication;"'l've been successful in the past at similar tasks;' etc.). At this point, when you tell me that the feedback was fake, you've only discredited the event that inspired my explanation. You haven't discredited all of the reasons I came up with on my own to explain why I'm good at this activity. Even though the "debriefing" appears to undermine the basis for the belief I formed, in reality, the basis for the belief is really the explanation I created on my own and not just the score you told me. Craig Anderson and his colleagues (1980) presented the first 2 Although this is all interesting and consistent with belief perseverance, I do feel it's my duty to also mention other reassuring research that has shown that in many cases, jurors are able to appropriately reject discredited or otherwise inadmissible evidence in forming final verdicts (e.g., Kennedy & Haygood, 1992).


evidence for the power of explanation in belief per~everance. In their studies, they presented participants with informat~on a~d told them that the goal of the activity was to discern relat1onsh1~s betw~en personal characteristics and behavi~ral outcomes. The information they received in this activity was designed such that people formed a belief about the relationship between risk-taking and being a successful firefighter. After the activity, t hough, the experimenters either told the participants that the information in the activity was completely fabricated or said nothing about the fictitious nature of the information. As you would expect from belief perseverance, even when the participants were told t hat the information was fake, they continued to believe in the belief they had formed about the relationship between risk-taking and success as a firefighter. Importantly, this was true regardless of whether their information led them to believe a positive association (i.e., riskier people make better firefighters) or a negative association (i.e., riskier people make worse firefighters). Going one step further, though, Anderson et al. (1980) found that the degree of belief perseverance depended on how much people created their own explanations for the relationships they appeared to uncover in the information. If people spontaneously generated more intri cat~ @xplanations (which they could ti;;ill

by reading explanations

that participants wrote), they held onto thei r initial beliefs more firm ly. Similarly, if the experimenters asked t he participants to come up with an explanation for the relationsh ip, those part icipants held onto those initial beliefs more than participants who were not guided to explain the belief (see also Anderson & Sechler, 1986).

The Psychology of Dislcaimers Th is al~ strikes me as relevant to the common debate among mentalists about the use of "disclaimers:' What do we tell people about our abilities? Do we fess up and say it's all tricks or do we co~~dently pro.claim that. our abilities are true indications of psychic ab 1 ~1ty? According to belief perseverance, it may not really matter, which matches the intuition and experiences of many performers.


Even after a lengthy disclaimer, audience members still walk away thinking that you have a supernatural gift. Therefore, if your performance is strong enough to instill in the audience the belief that you actually can see into people's minds or that you do possess an expert understanding of human nonverbal communication, then even if it later comes to light that you're just a magician with a penchant for holding his fingers to his temples, they may continue to cling to the belief."

Sure, maybe that one thing was just a magictrick,"they might think, "but the way he was able to tell that woman about her childhood memorythat's really something." If your goal, however, is to ensure a persistent belief about you, then you may wish to take a lesson from the power of explanation and encourage people to convince themselves, with their own explanations, that you do have the ability to do what you claim.


Bouha and Kiki

Take a look at these two images. These are Martian hieroglyphics, and the Martians call one ofthem"bouba"and one ofthem"kiki:'Which do you think is "bouba" and which do you think is "kiki"? If you're like 95% of people around the world, you'd say the one on the left is "bouba" and the one on the right is "kiki" (Ramachandran & Hubbard, 2001 ). It's an astounding regularity that doesn't seem to differ between languages and even occurs for pre-literate 2.5-year-old kids (Davis, 1961; Maurer, Pathman, & Mondloch, 2006). The genesis of the link between these shapes and those names is in the work of Wolfgang Kohler (1929) who instead used the names 11 baluma" or 11 maluma" for the round shape and "takete" for the spiky shape. The effect has been repeated by other experimenters (e.g., Holland & Wertheimer, 1964), sometimes with variations on the names (e.g., "uloomu" instead of "bouba" or "maluma"; Davis, 1961 ). Exactly why there is such overwhelming cons istency in the link between those names and those images is still unclear. At first, people thought it was just because the words contained letters that visually resembled the curved vs. angular nature of the images (e.g., the "t" and "k" in takete and the "b;"'m;' and "u" in baluma). However, because the effect has been shown in other languages and using only spoken words, this explanation doesn't account for the findings. Another -22-

explanation is tha~ angular, spiky shapes like the ones in the image resemble the motions our mouths make when pronouncing a word like "kiki" whereas he round shapes in the other image resemble the movements needed to pronounce a word like"bouba"(Ramachandran & Hubbard, 2001 ). Still another explanation is that objects in the real world that look like image on the right are more likely to actually produce sounds similar to "kiki" whereas objects that look like the image on the left are more likely to actually produce sounds similar to "bouba:' Indeed, lower frequency sounds often come from larger, softer objects, and higher frequency sounds often come from smaller, angular objects. Regardless of why this effect occurs, with some presentational tweaking, it can be turned into a reliable psychological force that can be used as a quick, purely "psychological" demonstration that can transition into a larger effect.

The Maluma-Takete Force Print the images from the beginning of this section onto two pieces of cardstock. Alternatively, you can draw them yourself on the backs of index cards or business cards. On the back of the card with the round shape, write the word "Maluma;' and on the back of the card with the angular shape, write the word "Takete:' To present this, set the two cards on the table side by side with the images facing up.

"These are two images that come from an old mythology. They've been found on old parchment in Northeast Africa. I'm not sure exactly what they mean, but one of them was always referred to as "Maluma" and the other as "Takete."/'m not going to tell you which is which- / want you to guess. Just go with your gut and use your intuition to connect with the people who used to draw these pictures. Which one do you think is Maluma and which is Takete?" After they say what they think, assuming they're like most people and correctly assign the images to their names, you can turn the cards -23-

over to reveal the correct name.

"Great job. That~ totally right."

The following subtlety is built into these particular images 3 and allows you to make the effect more unique to the person who registered his or her guess. "/knew you'd get this right. You seem to have a good sense of intuition and ability to connect with others. Oftentimes, people think too literally and make the wrong guess here. As you can see, this image (i.e., the angular one) actually resembles the letter 'M,' the first letter in 'Maluma.' and this other image (i.e., the round one) looks like the letter 't,' as in 'Takete.' But of course, that's just what the letters look like in English. When you get too narrowly focused on your own experiences, your own language, it distracts you from being able to understand the experiences of others. Since you seem to do that pretty well, I'd like to try something else with you . . ."

The last bit is intended to elevate a simple psychological consistency 3 Although the images I am using in this section and to implement the force are not from the ex!sting research on the Bouba/Kiki phenomenon, I have tested these specific images in an on line .surv~y. Regardless of whether the round shape is on the left or on the right, people correctly 1dent1fied the round shape as "Maluma" and the angular shape as "Takete" about 85% of the time. In addition, I asked the participants whether they were familiar with these names or images, and 58 of the 60 respondents said that they were not at all familiar with this experiment.


to something more meaningful. Even though nearly everyone will make the same guess as to which name belongs to which symbol, the framing of this force makes it seem more like this person was able to do something important. Now, this effect alone is not necessarily mindblowing mentalism as there are really only two guesses the person could make, so it's up to you to present this well, take advantage of the psychological "force;' but not rely on it to carry the effect. So what happens if the person gets it"wrong"?You have a few options. The first is to brush it off in the same way any psychological force could be brushed off. I will sometimes turn over the cards anyway to reveal the error. After all, how could you possibly hold the person accountable for failing to guess the words related to an old North African mythology? "That's an interesting guess. As it turns out, it's actually this one that's Maluma and this one that's Takete. I mean, how could you know that? I didn't know it until I read it in a book. After all, this is the problem with language ... the words have a clear meaning to those who speak the language, but to those who don't, it's just another sound that carries no particular meaning."

This could transition into any effect in which you reveal the word someone is thinking of. If there are other people watching as well, you can turn it into a "reading" in the same way people often suggest getting out of other psychological forces that fail. By this I mean you can turn to the others watching and ask whether they thought the same or the opposite with regard to which picture was named what. Most of them will say that they had actually thought the opposite (i.e., as you would have predicted). Now you can turn this into a reading about what makes this person unique. "Well look at that. In fact, it's true that most of the time people think that this one is Maluma and this one is Takete, but I did have a feeling that you would be the type of person who goes for the opposite- that's why I picked you to make the guess. Whether consciously or not, you pick up on nuanced clues that many people miss. Everyone, look at the images again. This one (the round -25-

one) is actually in the general shape of a 't,' the first letter of 'Takete.' In the other one (the angular one) yo~ can clearly see the letter 'M,' the first letter of 'Maluma. Pete, you picked up on this beautifully- just as I thought you might-so I'd like to try something else with you."

Alternatively, you can build a multiple o.uts meth?d for this: Since there are only two possible outcomes, this wouldn t be too difficult. 1haven't done this personally, but it could certainly work for you. In fact, if you are presenting this to several people, having the backup plan could pay off. After the person says his or her guess, you can take the opportunity to ask everyone else what they would say; most of them will provide the "normal" guess. Therefore, your reveal sugge.sts you knew that this person was going to go counter to the norm, which would be pretty impressive. I realize I've spent a lot of time outlining "outs" that you'll probably never need, but I wanted to illustrate some ways you can handle a "miss" to keep things going. Because this micro effect would never stand on its own anyway, the risk is minimal. However, when the person gets it right, you have a very pure demonstration of the person's intuition that would be a nice segue into a prediction effect that's presented as a more sophisticated demonstration of the person' intuition. Note also that I chose to go with "Maluma" and "Takete" as the names for this force. There were a few reasons for this. The first is that it was easier t~ create the images that look like "M" and "t " to set up the alternative route the participant cou ld have taken. The second is that these names sounded more plausible as having come from a real language and mythology than "Bouba" and "Kiki:'The final is that the more recent "Bouba" and "Kiki" names are the ones that popular ~sy~hol?gy authors use when talking about this effect. Although the risk is fairly small because it isn't a commonly reported effect, I chose to use the more obscure names in the event t hat the participant later encounters the "Bouba/Kiki" effect in a book or something. These considerations aside, you are free to use whichever variation you find more comfortable.


The Meaning of Color Several popular premises in mentalism deal with colors and their meaning. Mentalists might give color readings or aim to influence o~hers through strategic use of colors (e.g., Bank Night with ?1fferent colored envelopes). In fact, an emerging body of research in psychology may shed some light on this theme. I have to admit, though, that I was surprised to learn of this research. Dealing with the meaning of colors struck me as an unlikely topic for social psychology, but the more I read, the more the data seem to display a consistent pattern. Despite what many online personality tests might have you believe, most popular conceptions of what different colors "mean" isn't grounded in evidence. Although a keen designer can use color to create a particular feeling, painting your office orange because orange "makes people happier" is probably a misguided decision. In 1942, Kurt Goldstein proposed that different colors elicit different physiological responses and could facilitate changes in focus and attention. This idea is similar to other proposals that the wavelength of a color is tied to its physiological effects on people. Longer wavelength colors (e.g., red and yellow) were proposed to create greater arousal, and shorter wavelength colors (e.g., green and blue) were proposed to create calmness and relaxation. The data for these relationships, though, offers little support for them being true (see Elliot & Maier, 2012). A recent, scientifically rigorous and theory-driven approach to understanding the psychological imp~ct of color, ho'::'ever, .has yielded some interesting results. "Color-in-context theory organizes a body of empirical data to suggest that colors have meaning beyond mere aesthetics and that exposure to those colors has a direct effect of psychological responding (Elliot &Maier, 2007, 2012). In thinking about the meaning of various colors, a natural question is: why do these colors have particular meanings? do th~y come from? The answer, these psychologists suggest, hes both in "nature" and in "nurture:' Given that color vision must have evolved -27-

by serving some adaptive advantage, biological influences are likely to guide the psychological meaning of individual color experiences. By contrast, colors also achieve meaning through learning. Thus, not only might "yellow" serve a biological funct ion, but its meaning may also correspond t o human-created concepts like yellow traffic lights or highlighting markers, whose meanings have arisen through years of mentally associating the color with a particular social purpose. To take another example, depending on whether you grew up in a neighborhood with blue or green recycl ing bins, either of those colors might be differently associated with environmentalism.4 If the meaning was purely biological, your upbringing would have no influence, but because color association s are somewhat learned, these color meanings can depend upon your unique experience. Similarly, you can think about how different sports teams' colors provide different color meanings for fan s of one team rather than anot her. The key to color-in-context theory, however, is the context component. To say that "blue" has a universal meaning is a stretch. Instead, colors likely carry individual meanings constrained within particular contexts. To extend the previous "yellow" example, in the context of transportation, "yellow" may prompt you to slow down. Yellow lights, school buses, yield signs, caution tape ... they all inspire this connotation. In another context, though, the bright hue of yellow mi~ht instead provoke confidence, exuberance, and a go-get-'em attitude. O~ay, so how do we use this? What do the colors mean according to this theory? Well, that's a huge question requiring enormous amounts of research to clarify a full spectrum of meaning across the color wheel in different contexts. As a starting point, however, researchers have documented many effects regarding the color red- a color whose meaning reliably shifts between distinct contexts. In their experiments, scientists carefully control all details of an activity and manipulate only a specific element of color. Therefore, any difference bet ween conditions can be attributed only to the color manipulation. 4 It's only in proofread ing this book that I noticed how t he word "mental ism" is in the word "enviro nmentalism:' Use thi s rea lization w ith caution.


Let's look at some specific examples. First, consider the color red in achievement contexts (i.e., contexts in which one's performance is being evaluated). In this context, what does red signal? You may know the feeling of getting back a school assignment with red pen marks strewn across your work. Similarly, researchers have proposed that in such contexts, the color red signals danger and failing. Through social learning, we can acquire this meaning through the aforementioned red pen experience, linguistic phrases like being caught "red handed;' stop signs, the color of an angry face, red lights on sirens. Over time, these clear instances of red get associated with danger. Biologically, some animals use the color red in various forms as a show of superiority or preparedness for attack. Across a range of studies (see Elliot & Maier, 2012), exposing people to the color red (vs. other colors) immediately before an intellectual test decreases their test performance, presumably by instilling self-doubt and a fear of failure. For example, before participants completed a difficult analogies test, the name of the test ("Analogies") appeared on screen with either a red, green or white background. Compared to the green and white conditions, the participants who saw the red background completed significantly fewer analogies correctly (Elliott et al., 2007, Study 2). In another simple study, participants received their test materials, and the only difference between conditions was whether their ID number was printed in red, green, or black ink. Compared to the conditions with green or black ink, the participants who saw their number in red ink completed significantly fewer questions correctly (Elliott et al., 2007, Study 1). Importantly, though, these effects only seem to happen in achievement contexts-when people think their performance will be evaluated. Other studies have shown that the color red (vs. other colors) leads to hesitation in moving onto the next part of a study when people think the next activity is taking a test, but not when they think the next part of the study is providing a series of subjective ratings (Elliot et al., 2009). In the latter condition, the color red doesn't have any special influence. -29-

So what about a different context? Does red always carry a negative connotation, inducing avoidance and unwillingness to try hard? The other context that researchers have been exploring is an "affiliation" context, or heterosexual cross-gender interactions. In this context, red means something entirely different; it carries a positive connotation that promotes approach motivations. People commonly link the color red with love, romance, and passion. Walking down the greeting card aisle in February gives you a sense of how t hat association may be socially learned. Biologically, though, the color red is often expressed in t he body during mating, courting, and particular moments within the menstrual cycle. In a series of studies, Elliot and Niesta (2008) had men rate women's photos, and all they manipulated was whether the photos had a red background or not. The photos themselves were the same in each condition. Reliably, men rated the women as more attractive, sexually desirable, and "date-worthy" (but not necessarily more likeable or intelligent) when the photos appeared on the red background, compared to when they appeared on a white backgrounrl. In their other studies, they manipulated the color of the shirt a woman was wearing-red in some cases and green in others. Male participants were given a set of questions that they could ask this woman under the guise of a casual conversation. When the woman was wearing a red shirt, the men chose more intimate questions than when the same woman was wearing a green shirt. In a final study, male participants were shown a photo of a woman who would presumably be their conversation partner in the next part of a study. They were taken to a "conversation room" where they would presumably meet the other person, and the researchers measured how close the men chose to sit to where t his woman was going to sit. Men who had seen a photo in which t he woman was wearing a red shirt then sat closer to where they thought this woman would be seated, compared to men who had seen a photo of the same woman wearing a blue shirt. These same sorts of effects also occur for women evaluating men (Elliot et al., 2010). So the evidence suggests that color can have meaning that has a direct impact on human psychology in ways that depend on specific -30-

contexts. You may be thinking, "Great. I know now that I should wear red to the bar, but how can I use this in mentalism? One application, I think, is the mere idea that meaning shifts with context. This premise is intriguing on its own and opens the doors to interesting presentations. By highlighting the unique role of the environment, things can take on different psychological meanings (see also Gawronski et al., 2014). On another level, the meaning of red in achievement contexts could potentially get worked in as a subtle method for an effect. Some procedures that we have participants do carry with them an element of"achievement:' Having people remember things, add up numbers, and even read from a piece of paper on stage carries with it the feeling of a test. So, avoid explicit use of the color red before these procedures to help them go more smoothly. If, however, your aim is to make these tasks a little more challenging for a participant (e.g., to subtly demonstrate how difficult they really are), then using red papers, markers, or notebook covers could subliminally discourage success in those activities. This, of course, is no guarantee of failure, but rather, subtly nudges them away from achieving the task with the same success they might otherwise reach.


Compliance In the domain of social influence, principles of compliance have garnered much attention, especially in the business and marketing sphere. By "compliance" I mean accepting a direct request. 5 For example, if I ask if you would to write down a two-digit number, you can comply by doing as I asked or you can fail to comply by refusing to write down a number. As you will see, there are many techniques that can be used to encourage compliance and increase the chances that people will agree with your requests. In his seminal book, Influence: Science and Practice, Robert Cialdini reviews the relevant research in this field and offers suggestions for marketers who wish to apply the research as well as consumers who may wish to avoid the traps of compliance techniques. It is a fantastic read if you find this material interesting. Cialdini's 2003 paper published in Annual Review of Psychology is also a frequently cited work in this domain. Throughout this section, I will briefly cover some of this research with a focus on the most practical and applicable findings. Although there are sweeping theories that synthesize existing knowledge in this field (e.g., "the focus theory of normative influence"), my goal is to highlight techniques that you can apply directly to your performance and explain a little bit about why they work. Perhaps more than most other types of magic, mentalism relies heavily on successful interactions with individuals. It can be important that they follow instructions and work with you to create the best result possible. Therefore, I hope the following material is of use in facilitating these successful interactions.

"Because ... " 5 You . may also ~e ~amiliar with the concepts of "conformity" and "obedience;' which are ?ther kinds of social influence. They differ from compliance however in that the Conformity merely refers to adopting the behaviors of others coanu 'reOtJouldst yo serving others. Obedience is a response to a demand To "obey'" is to do as Y -not as you are asked. ·

invo~ve.a re~ues~.



w~i~~ ;~~

This is the study that turned me onto social psychology. It is so elegant and simple but reveals something remarkable about compliance. That is, people operate according to simple rules that they have learned over time to the point that even when that rule is no longer sensible, it still induces compliance. In their classic study, Langer, Blank, and Chanowitz (1978) examined people's compliance with a simple request that followed the familiar structure of acceptable persuasive requests (i.e., including a reason) and varied whether or not the content of the request was compelling. Specifically, an experimenter approached people who were about to use a photocopier and asked to use the machine first. This request came either with a reason that conveyed no real information (i.e.,"... because I have to make copies"), a reason that did convey information (i.e.,"... because I'm in a rush"), or included no reason at all for the request. Their results revealed that people were more compliant with the request when it was accompanied by some reason than when the request was made in isolation, even if it wasn't actually a compelling reason. That is, saying "because I need to make some copies" is just as effective as saying "because I'm in a rush. When we don't think too hard about it, just that word "because" is enough to convince us that there must be a legitimate reason why someone is making a request, and the actual reason that follows doesn't seem to enter the equation. Importantly, however, the persuasive advantage of providing a meaningless reason occurred only when people weren't thinking much (i.e., when the request was relatively minor). Under conditions characterized by increased thought (i.e., when the request was much bigger), including a meaningless reason was no more persuasive than merely making the request alone. Thus, under conditions of relatively low thought, simple heuristics such as giving a reason (any reason!) can enhance a communication's persuasive impact.

The Because Subtlety As a performer, you may be able to apply this principle to increase compliance with a request that may sometimes come with resistance. -33-

One instance that jumps out to me is when a participant in a demonstration is hesitantto say his or her thought aloud. In a situation where the participant thinks of a number, you write something down on a pad, and then you ask the person what number she is thinking of, it is not uncommon for the person to say,"You want me to tel/you?" or "Shouldn't you tell me what I'm thinking?" Instead, consider tossing a "because" into the request, and the reason doesn't even have to be that compelling. 6 For instance, you could say, "Now that I've written this down, please say out loud what number you're thinking of because I want them (gesture toward the audience) to be amazed also:' Similarly, many mentalists fear that that participants will be hesitant to write down their thoughts. In fact, the specific "justification" that many mentalists seek out may not matter all that much. To counter any such resistance, you need only offer some reason (e.g.,"And would you please write the word down on this piece of paper because we'll want to show people later if they want:')

But You Are Free ... A relatively new compliance technique is the "but you are free" technique developed by Nicolas Gueguen and Alexandre Pascual. Its power lies in its simplicity. According to reactance theory (see its section elsewhere in this book), people dislike having their freedom threatened and will react negatively when they feel like they've lost their freedom make their own choices.

This compliance techni · h . that their freedom to c~~~~s t. work by reassuring people variant of the phrase b t e is not in Jeopardy. By merely adding a compliance rates con~·ideu you are free to accept or refuse" boosts experimenters approache~ably. In ~he first demonstration of this, asked for money U d passe~s y on the street in France and gave money, b~t ~ae:iyn~~~al ~;rc~:s~ances, only 10% of people experimenters added b P P e gave money when the . . ·. ut you are free to accept or to refuse" at the end of th . e1r request (Gueguen & Pascual, 2000). II



However,"... because I need to write it down with my nail w rit er" may backfire.


In another study, the experimenters approached people in a mall and asked if they would complete a survey. Under normal conditions, people agreed to complete the survey about 75% of the time; however, that rate jumped to 90% with the addition of the simple freedom reminder. Specifically, the request was as follows: Sorry, Madam/Sir, I have something to ask you but you are free to accept or to refuse. We are currently conducting a survey on the perception of the local merchants and craftwork of your town. Would you accept to respond to a questionnaire that will take 5-8 minutes? The underlined section is the only part that changed between conditions and wa s responsible for the giant leap in compliance. In a meta-analysis of 42 studies on this technique, Carpenter (2013) concluded that the effect rel iably fosters compliance. In fact, the technique was no more successful in eliciting compliance for charity appeals as it was for sales messages. The technique, however, was more effective when employed in face-to-face contexts than when used in more distant contexts like over email. The words themselves, though, seem not to matter. The same success has been achieved using "but obviously do not feel obligated:' The important element is to verbally acknowledge the person's freedom to say "no:'

Consistency One of the fundamental motivations in human psychology is the drive for consistency (see "Preference for Consistency" on page 190). This need for consistency can play out in several compliance techniques. At their essence, these techniques work because once people are committed to a thought, idea, or action, they later feel compelled to act consistent with themselves. Perhaps the best known of these is the foot-in-the-door principle. According to this principle, after people agree to a relatively small request, they are more likely to agree with a subsequent, larger request. In an early demonstration of how effective this principle is, people went door-to-door in a neighborhood, asking homeowners whether they would mind displaying a large sign that says "Drive Carefully" on their lawns.The sign itself was big and not very attractive -35-

to look at, so the request was met with considerable disagreement. Under these normal conditions, only 17% of people agreed to display the sign. However, compliance rates increased dramatically when the footin-the-door principle was used. For another set of homeowners, the experimenters first approached them and asked if they would display a small three-inch sign that said "Be a Safe Driver:' Almost everybody agreed to this simple request. Two weeks later, however, when these homeowners were approached again, this time with the request to display the huge gaudy sign on their lawns, 76% agreed with the request (Freedman & Fraser, 1966)! By simply getting people to agree to a relatively small request (getting your foot in the door, so to speak), the odds of those people agreeing to the larger request are much higher. To deny the second request would be inconsistent- they had already committed to issues of driver safety after all-so to avoid contradicting themselves as helpful, safety-conscious citizens, they agree to the larger request. Other cases of consistency-driven compliance principles rely on getting people to commit to something before having all the details. This is the low-ball procedure wherein the commitment precedes being informed of the cost. That is, if there's an element to your request that's somewhat unpleasant, it is advantageous to first get people to agree to help you in general. In a great demonstration of this effect, Robert Cialdini, John Cacioppo, and others (1978) attempted to get university students to come in for a 7:00AM psychology experiment. For college students especially, getting up before 7:00AM can be particularly unpleasant, so it's no surprise that when they simply asked students if they would come in for a psychology study at 7:00AM, only 31 % said yes (and only 24% of the students in this condition actually showed up for the experiment). However, ifthe experimenters first asked students if they would mind participating in a psychology experiment at all, 56% said yes. Once they received an answer to the first question, they mentioned the time of the study and offered the students a chance to change their minds about participating. Amazingly, none of them decided against participating when they were told what time it would be at. When the -36-

7:00AM appointment came, all but one of those who had previously agreed actually showed up. Importantly, a follow-up study in the same paper made it clear that these results occur only when people feel like they had the freedom to commit to the behavior initially. That is, if you felt that I bullied you into agreeing to help me, once I tell you that you'll have to show at 7:00AM, you are more likely to back out than if you feel like you initially had a free choice in agreeing to help me at all. Therefore, be cautious of recruiting people to participate in a demonstration who seem not to want to participate. If they feel coerced into helping and then find out that participation requires something unpleasant (like revealing personal information, for instance), you might expect to see compliance drop. On the other hand, however, if you know that you will be making a large request of someone, it may help to allow people the opportunity to help you with something and only then reveal what that task entails.

Reciprocity Another well-established compliance principle is that of reciprocity. In essence, when you give something to another person, that person feels like they must return the favor in some way. You may have had the experience of someone offering you a gift and following it up with a request for your time-after having accepted the gift, it feels wrong to deny that person the favor. In fact, just recently I ran into the use of reciprocity as a compliance principle. I received a letter asking me to take a survey for some organization, and a $2 bill was enclosed as a gift. Of course, at this point I couldn't deny the gift- it was in my hands and who would go through the trouble of mailing it back? Nevertheless, this small gift urged me to return the favor and take the survey. Regan (1971) provided initial evidence of the power of reciprocity norms. In the context of a study supposedly about art perception, participants believed they were doing their tasks in groups of two when in reality, the other person in the room was a confederate. During a break in the study, the confederate left the room and came -37-

back with two bonles of Coca Cola, offering one to the participant. In the control condition, the confederate came back with one Coke for himself. After the study, the confederate asked a favor of the participant; he was selling raffle tickets and asked if the participant would buy some. In the end, participants bought twice as many tickets from the confederate when he had previously given them a Coke than when the confederate didn't give this gift earlier in the study. The lesson from this and related research is clear: giving a gift, however small, can be enough to encourage greater compliance. The natural response to being given something is to reciprocate with subsequent compliance.

Gifting the Prediction In the context of a prediction effect, consider disguising your prediction in a gift that you give to the volunteer at the beginning of the routine. In this way, you have given a gift upfront, inducing the norm of reciprocity. Therefore, if you have a task that's maybe a bit more demanding than the run of the mill mentalism procedure, a simple gift may nudge the participant in the direction of greater compliance as well as offer an interesting presentational ploy for a prediction revelation .


An Interesting Case of "Dual Reality" I recently saw Dr. Sandra Murray give a talk on her research, and one of the manipulations she and her collaborators used in one of their studies struck me as something mentalists may find interesting. Dr. Murray's research largely focuses on close interpersonal relationships and the predictors of satisfaction in such relationships. In a 2013 paper, she and her collaborators aimed to study the experience of uncertainty regarding how caring one's partner is. The details of this research, while interesting, are beyond the function of this book. I've chosen to share this, however, because of the way in which the researchers manipulated this uncertainty. It is not radical from the perspective of mentalism and its bag of sneaky tricks, but the particular implementation warrants a quick description. The researchers brought couples into the lab and had them sit facing away from one another. Each person was given a one-page questionnaire. Recall that what the researchers needed to do was get one member.of the couple to become uncertain of his or her partner's trust and care. So, in both conditions, the target people in the couples received a questionnaire that asked them to list important aspects of their partner that they disliked. In fact, the questionnaire specified that they "should not list more than one such quality if that was all that easily came to mind" (p. 310). Importantly, these participants believed that they and their partners both received the same questionnaire, but in fact, this was only true for half of the couples in the study. In the control condition, the partner did indeed received the same questionnaire, each person in the couple took about the same amount of time to write down one negative quality in the other person, and the experiment continued. In the experimental condition, however, the questionnaire that the partner actually received asked the person to "list as many of the items in their dormitory room, bedroom, or apartment as they could generate (and a minimum of 25 items)" (p. 310). -39-

So you can imagine a person's distress when he has listed one negative quality about his partner, but he can hear his partner going on and on, writing more and more on her questionnaire. The target, of course, believes that this must mean his partner has plenty to say about his own faults. I hand this off to you, thoughtful and brilliant mentalist, to see if you can use the same principle as a deceptive ploy. This experimental manipulation seems quite similar to what those in the mentalism community have called dual reality in which one person's experience of an effect is slightly different from the audience's experience-a discrepancy that serves to make the overall effect appear more impossible than it actually was. Therefore, one tactic to add to this arsenal is to use how intensely a person writes or draws something as a visual and audible cue that may mean something very different to the audience than it might for participant him or herself.


Ego-Centric Biases The Spotlight Effect According to the spotlight effect, "people tend to believe that they stand out in the eyes of others, both positively and negatively, more than they actually do" (Gilovich, Medvec, & Savitsky, 2000, p. 219). That is, the things that we think stand out about us are not quite so apparent to others. As an example, when I was in fifth grade, I got my first pair of glasses, and after getting them, I went with my mom to the mall to pick up some things. The entire time, I was sure that people were staring at me; I figured they all thought my glasses looked strange on me, but of course nobody had such a thought. It was just the I was so focused on my new glasses that I assumed everyone would be. This is the heart of the spotlight effect. As evidence for this effect, Thomas Gilovich and his colleagues (2000) ran a study in which they made the participants where a T-shirt prominently featuring a picture of Barry Manilow. The participants were escorted into another room where there were up to six other people who were dressed normally and were completing some questionnaires. After a quick exchange in this room, the participant was escorted back out of the room where he or she would answer some questions. In particular, the experimenters asked the participants how many people in that room had noticed what singer was on their T-shirt. Participants vastly overestimated how many of the people in that room noticed the T-shirt. If you put yourself in their shoes (or T-shirts, rather), the judgment makes a lot of sense-if you were made to walk into a room wearing an embarrassing T-shirt 7, of course you'd think everyone noticed. But the reality is not nearly what we think it is. As a side note, this is not just an effect of Barry Mani low T-shirts. The 7

My sincerest apologies to Barry Mani low fans .. . sort of.

-41 -

same study was replicated with a Vanilla Ice T-shirt (Gilovich et al., 2000), and the same effects also occur w hen a grou~ member has to judge how much their fellow group members think_ he or she contributed to the group- that is, we tend to overestimate how much people think we contributed (Gilovich et al., 2000). The same thing happens when we have a "bad hair day;" we think people notice how much our physical appearance changes from day to day much more than people actually notice (Gilovich, Kruger, & Medvec, 2001 ). This is an example of what some psychologists refer to as an "egocentric bias:'This just means that we can be so wrapped up in thinking about ourselves that we mistakenly assume everyone else notices what we pay so much attention to. So the participants who wore the T-shirt are themselves focusing so much on this experience that they expect others to be similarly attentive. The reality, however, is that everyone's too busy focusing on their own selves. To further demonstrate that this effect is really the result of egocentrism, the researchers added a twist to the T-shirt experiment. In a new study, half of the participants had exactly the same experience as the one I descri bed earlier, but the other half of the participants were given a delay between putting on the Manilow T-shirt and entering the room with the other people. By giving these participants a delay, it gave them time to get used to wearing the silly shirt and stop focusing so much on it. The results of th is study showed that compared to the people who went straig ht into the ro om after putting on the T-shirt, the people who were given a chance to get used to the shirt provided much lower estimates of how many ot her people noticed. Because they were not focused so much on th is attribute of themselves anymore (i.e., the spotlig ht had dimmed for th emselves), they weren't as likely to think other people noticed.


Shining a Spotlight on Audience Compassion Such ego-centric biases may be an important consideration anytime you work closely with your audiences. Whether an audience member comes onstage with you and is literally under a spotlight or whether you perform an effect to just one other person and the spotlight is merely metaphorical, realize that there is often a disparity between how much the participant thinks others are noticing about him or her and what the reality is. For example, participants in magic and mind reading demonstrations can be put in potentially awkward orembarrassing situations.Although neither you nor the broader audience might be paying attention to what the participant may find embarrassing (e.g., closing one's eyes, lying down, or even just standing on a stage trying to appear natural), these participants may perceive themselves as committing some blunder that everybody notices. 8 Thus, putting people at ease and focusing their attention away from these distracting elements (like the people who were allowed to get used to wearing the T-shirt) may do wonders for creating a positive experience for the participant and keeping him or her engaged in the focal task that creates a powerful experience.

The Illusion of Transparency Like the spotlight effect, the illusion oftransparency is the phenomenon where people overestimate how much their internal thoughts and feelings are apparent to observers. Consider the potentially frustrating experience of a magician who has just performed a spectacular trick for someone who seems to offer very little in the way of visible amazement. Although the magician may not have noticed any visible signs of amazement, the spectator herself may have thought she did show visible signs of amazement through facial expressions. 8 In fact, ct.her research has demonstrated that people who commit embarrassing acts often overestimate .how much they are being judged by those who witnessed it. This seems to stem from the failure to consider how capable other people are at reacting with empathy (Epley, Savitsky, & Gilovich, 2002).


In one study, participants were videotaped and instructed to ta~te five drinks, four of which were pleasant tasting and one of which was decidedly gross (Gilovich, Sativsky, & Medves, 1998). Critically, however, the participants were told to suppress any expressions of disgust they might have while drinking these drinks. After doing this task, they reported how successful they thought they were in controlling their disgust expressions by guessing how likely a viewer of the videotape would be to guess which drink was the disgusting one. The researchers later showed these videotapes to others and actually had them guess, based only on the participants' expressions, which drink was the disgusting one. In general, these viewers were no better than chance at guessing which drink was the disgusting one; however, the participants themselves guessed that half the people who viewed the tape would be able to detect the expressions of disgust and pick the right drink. In another study that bears resemblance to the classic mental ism ploy of lie detection, the illusion of transparency also leads people to think that others can easily tell when they are lying. Participants were put in groups to play a simple lie detection game and were assigned the roles of "liars" or "truth tellers" for different rounds in the game. They responded either truthfully or dishonestly to simple questions such as which brand of shampoo they use either. After answering these questions for the group, they privately filled out short surveys in which "liars" reported how many people in the group would be able to guess they lied on that question and "truth-tellers" gave their guess as to which group member was the liar for that round. Their results show that although the accuracy rates for guessing who the liar was on each round were no different than chance (i.e., 25%), when liars estimated how many people would be able to identify them as the liar, they overestimated how transparent their lies were, estimating that an average of 50% of the group would correctly identify them as the liars (Gilovich et al., 1998).


Transparency Subtlety This illusion of transparencyis a great opportunity for a subtlety to add to existing thought reading or lie detection eff~cts. That _is, e_ven though a participant may be trying not to give anything away_rn ~'~or her face, that participant is also likely to think that he or she ts giving something away. The reality, of course, is that the person isn't giving much away through body language (or at least not_ as much as he or s~e. t1~!nks) . Knowing this gives you the opportunity to get another h~t. rn a~ otherwise 50/50 guess by being able to pick up on the partrcrpant s internal thoughts. As an example, consider a "guess which hand" routine where it is the performer's goal to guess which hand the participant has hidden a coin in. "My job is to guess which hand you've put the coin in, and of course, your job is to not give that information away in your facial expressions or body language. But I get the impression now that no matter how much you're trying not to, that you think the answer is clear as day written on your face, that you would bet that most of the people here watching already know which hand it's in. I guarantee, though, that most of these people here have no idea which hand it's in even if you think it has to be obvious by now." This additional reading makes it seem like you know way more about what's going on in the mental lives of everyone involved even if all you know is that the coin is definitely in the person's left hand. Also, the way I have tried to word this is such that it's based on the probable state of affairs suggested by the research in psychology (i.e., that the participant would probably overestimate how many people could read her facial expression and that not very many people are actually able to) but that it doesn't bet everything on that probability. It should accentuate that probability by nudging the participant toward believing he or she is revealing the information nonverbally (thus confirming your reading) and merely suggests that most people in the audience don't already know which hand it's in. When the true answer is revealed, enough people in the crowd will have been wrong by chance alone and because you have already made such a -45-

statement, hopefully these people think, "Wow, he was right- I had no idea what hand it was in, but he could tell that she thought I'd know and he was able to guess it correctly:' Consider also a routine in which several people are onstage and you must make some sort of guess like who is holding the black ball (ala Max Maven's Kurotsuke, for instance) or to whom some personal object belongs (ala psychometry). For example, in a psychometryesque routine where you guess who drew which drawing, you might begin one of the reveals by saying: This next one is a drawing of a cat. Again, the chances of guessing who drew this by chance alone aren't great, so we have to rely on other cues-nonverbal cues- and your job in the game is not to give yourself away. This one's interesting, though, because although I'm sure you would all agree that everybody up here looks about equally relaxed, I'm getting the impression that for this drawing, whoever drew th is one really thinks he is giving himself away somehow. Although he doesn't want to believe it, he feels like there's no way I can't guess that it's him.

Suddenly the reveal is no longer just "who drew this one;' but it's (a) I'm picking up these internal thoughts and (b) who are these thoughts coming fro m? Again, this takes advantage of the probability that the person whose drawing it is tru ly feels like he's giving himself away (according to the illusion of tra nsparency without relying on it. That is, there's a chance that this person isn t thin ing this thought, but as long as the drawing makes its way to the person who drew it, the effect is strong; it's just made stronger by ta ing ad antage of what the person is probably thinking as well as wha e aud·ence is probably experiencing.

Tue False Consensus Effect (aka "Social Projection") In our social world, we will often find ourselves estimating other people's traits and opinions, but it's often the case that we use our own personality traits, opinions, and behaviors as a guide to estimating the broader prevalence of those attributes. As an example, very early research by Katz and Allport (1931) found that students who admitted to cheating on exams were more likely to think that others would cheat on exams, compared to the students who didn't admit to cheating. Also, consider this anecdote about one-time Penthouse publisher Bob Guccione. When confronted with a statistic that 83% of adults reported having fewer than two sexual partners in the past year, Guccione expressed his disbelief, saying, "I would say five partners a year is the average for men:' Even when presented with the objective data, this man may still have based his estimates about other people on his own personal behavior. Perhaps the most famous demonstration of the false consensus effect was reported by Ross, Greene, and House (1977). They asked students walking around a college campus if they would wear a sandwich board that said: "REPENT!" After the students either agreed or disagreed to wear the sign, the experimenters asked them how many of their fellow students they thought would agree to wear the sign. Those who had initially disagreed guessed that only about 20% of their fellow students would have agreed, but those who had initially agreed guessed that more than 60% of their fellow students would agree. The point here is that our own personal choices have a huge effect on how we perceive other people; we generally think that other people would think the same way as us. One additional point to make, however, is that these effects are specific to judgments about people in our own groups. For instance, a liberal is likely to generalize his or her likes and dislikes (even on politically-irrelevant topics) to other liberals but not to conservatives (Mullen, Dovidio, Johnson, & Cooper, 1992). Likewise, women will be likely to generalize their attributes to other women but not to men -47-

(e.g., Ward, 1967). Another interesting caveat that you may have started to wonder about is that this phenomenon of social projection may actually be rational. Although many have conceptualized it as an "ego-centric bias" whereby our own preferences color our perception of the world, it may actually be a functional way to make estimates of attribute prevalence. That is, when people use their own preferences as a guide to estimate the preferences of other people, the accuracy of those estimates actually increases (see Krueger, 1998). Finally, my inner experimental psychologist urges me to make this final point about the classic "correlation/causation" issue in this research. I assume that at least one reader will have wondered, "Isn't it possible that people simply base their attitudes and opinions on what they perceive to be the majority position?" In other words, rather than our beliefs influencing our perceptions of others, maybe others' beliefs instead influence our own. While it is certa inly true that that perceived social consensus does influence our bel iefs and opinions and that much of the social projection research is correlational, some studies have indeed demonstrated that people base their perceptions of others on the attributes they themselves have. For example, in one study, the participants took a bogus personality test and were told that their scores either indicated that they were a "Figurer" or a "Grounder;' two completely made up personality types. Once they read a description of which type of person they were, they were asked to estimate which of these personality types was most common in the population. The results reveal that people reliably estimated that their own personality type (which wasn't real and wasn't based on the person's actual responses to the survey) was the more prevalent one. Thus, even for completely unfamiliar and inaccurate perceptions of oneself, people will still assume that others share their attributes.







Embodiment Research on "embodiment" (or "embodied cognition") has exploded in recent years. The idea behind this phenomenon is simple: physical sensations and experiences can have indirect effects on our thoughts and judgments through the mind's use of metaphor. That is, ou r thoughts can be unconsciously influenced by our bodily sensations. For example, putting yourself in a "power posture;' like sitting with your chest puffed out, can be enough to create real feelings of power (e.g., Carney, Cuddy, & Yap, 201 O). To take another commonly cited example, if the specific facial muscles associated with smiling are activated while you read a comic strip, you are likely to find the comic funn ier than if those muscles were not activated. Strack, Martin, and Stepper (1988) showed this by having participants rate cartoons either while holding a pen with their teeth or with their lips. Give this a try- hold a pen in your mouth by inserting one end of the pen into your mouth and biting down with your teeth without letting your lips touch the pen. The pen should be sticking straight out, pointing away from yourself. In this position, muscles that are usually active when you smile have been made active. Now adjust the way you are holding the pen, and rather than using your teeth, keep the pen in place just with your lips. This position shifts muscle activation to muscles usually used to frown. In thei r study, Strack et al. (1988) found that in the first position, people rated the cartoons as funnier than if they were in the second position. The content of the cartoons hadn't changed- just the bodily sensation s associated with smiling or frowning. There are many examples of these processes to date. The facial muscle study is a fairly direct demonstration of the body's impact on thought, but as I had mentioned, these effects often operate indirectly through metaphor. We often turn to physical experience as a metaphor for mental experience. For instance, we say that people are "cold" or "distant:' and everyone knows what we mean. Of course, the people in question aren't physically cold or far away from us, but the physical -49-

experience stands in for a more abstract meaning. We mig~t als~ say that our feelings are hurt, that a card sleight is hard, that an intelligent person is brigh t, or that telling a lie makes us feel dirty. These physical qualities imply more abstract psychological experiences. Although this may be interesting as a general phenomenon of language, it seems as though our minds often treat the physical and the mental as overlapping. As food for thought, I'd like review a handful of cases where researchers have shown embodiment effects. They offer a nice overview of the power of metaphor and how relevant physical experiences can translate to psychological outcomes. First is a study (Williams & Bargh, 2008) that examined the power of physical warmth to make people view others as "warmer" in personality. We often refer to people who demonstrate happiness, generosity, and care as "warm;' so these researchers tested whether having just experienced physical warmth would make participants more likely to see a stranger as generous, caring, good-natured, etc. To do so, they merely had some participants hold a cup of hot coffee or a cup of iced coffee before participating in a person perception study. The participants who had just been holding the hot cup rated a stranger as more generous, caring, etc. than the participants who had just been holding the cold cup. There wasn't any difference, though, for how much they saw the stranger as attractive, talkative, or other traits that aren't tied to the concept of "warm" personalities. As another example, the metaphoric meaning of cleanliness can have its own psychological effects. In a clever study, Zhong and Liljenquist (2006) asked participants to think of a time when they had engaged in a behavior they might consider immoral. Under normal circumstances, recalling such an event produces a sense of guilt, and indeed, participants in the control condition reported feeling this guilt. After thinking about this past event, however, some of the participants were given an antiseptic wipe with which they had to wash their hands as part of a supposed hygiene protocol for using public computers. -50-

Compared to the participants who did not have to wash their hands, those who had the chance to make themselves physically clean did not report feeling nearly the same degree of guilt. It is as if washing their hands "washed away their sins" so to speak. Similar research has shown that exposure to a disgusting video clip led participants to cast judgment more harshly on someone else who had committed a moral transgression unless they were given the chance to wash their hands after watching the film clip (Schnall, Benton, & Harvey, 2008). These embodiment effects include a wide range of metaphorically meaningful physical sensations. Among the more unique, I think, is a recent paper that presented seven studies that showing a link between the perception of "fishy" smells and social suspicion (Lee & Schwarz, 2012). That is, following from the common metaphor of things "smelling fishy" when someone is perceived as suspicious, the actual smell of fish produces perceptions of suspicion. As an example, when participants played a game with one another in a room with a faint smell of fish in the air (vs. another non-fishy unpleasant scent), the participants played a game in a manner that suggested less trust in their opponents. In fact, other research has used incidental smells in the environment to provoke related patterns of thought and behavior. One set of studies showed that the faint smell of citrus all-purpose cleaner (imperceptible at a conscious level) led people to put more effort into keeping their work stations clean (Holland, Hendriks, & Aarts, 2005). In another set of studies, experimenters used "fart spray" to induce mild, unconscious disgust, which led people to make more severe moral judgments (Schnall, Haidt, Clore, &Jordan, 2008). Other recent developments involve the embodied effects of the clothes we wear. Just as people often offer the advice, "Dress for success;' it does seem to be the case that the clothes we wear can affect our mental states. In one recent paper, Adam and Galinsky (2012) show that merely wearing a lab coat caused people to improve their ability to pay attention to information in the environment. These kinds of effects can work in the opposite direction as well. That is, our mental experiences can change our perceptions of the physical world in metaphorically relevant ways. -51 -

To take the "warmth" examp le from earlier, research has shown that not only can physi ca l w armt h pred ispose someone to feel more generous and perce ive generosity in others (Williams & Bargh, 2008), but when people experience socia l rejection, they experience the room they are in as colder than when they have not been rejected (Zhong & Leonardelli, 2010). With respect to the "cleanliness" effects, the opposite can also occur. For instance, when people engaged in an unethical behavior (tell ing a lie), they went on to rate a brand of mouthwash as more desirable and valuable than people who hadn't engaged in the unethical behavior (Lee & Schwarz, 2010). Finally, even newer research looking at the brain mechanisms underlying these effects suggests that the very same brain processes engaged in the physical component of the metaphor overlap with the brain processes engaged in the psychological experience (see "Social vs. Physical Pain" on page 154). With respect to the "physical" vs. "social warmth;' new research has shown that similar brain areas (i.e., middle insula and ventral striatum) are act ive both when people hold onto a "warm pack" (essentially a ball that people can hold while they are in a brain scanning machine-fMRl-that's continuously warm) and when they read positive messages from close friends and family members (Inagaki & Eisenberger, 2014).

Embodied Presentations How might any of th is be relevant to an enterprising mind reader? To start, it's interesting, and mentalists like interesting th ings. I expect that's not what you want to hear, t hough. The following are what I have to offer as ignition for your own brai nstorming: As a presentational device, the notion of enclothed cognition has interesting impl ications. On stage, a parti cipant might put on a lab coat while making a se ries of decisions in order t o put him in a more rational mindset. Somewhat more practical, however, would be a presentational angle whereby two partici pants wear a pair of rings of a particular significance. In so doing, their ch oices while wearing these rings match a "pred iction" that is framed as a description of the person who used to own the ring. -52-

As an added suggestion and convincer during a name revelation, you might incorporate the physical counterpart to the thoughts the person is thinking. For instance, if you are revealing the name of a childhood friend, you might say, "As you think of this person, all of these warm, comforting memories flood back to you. And as you imagine these pleasant experiences, you may even start to feel a little warm yourself-the warmth of the memories taking hold and producing an actual sensation of warmth:' Of course, it doesn't hurt that stage lights can actually make a person feel warmer than usual. Some research has looked at the role of physical weight and the perception of importance. We talk about important issues as "having weight;' and indeed data have shown a real relationship. In a set of studies, merely manipulating the weight of the clipboard on which participants answered the questionnaire affected measures of value and importance (Jostmann, Lakens, & Schubert, 2008). Given this finding and given the use of clipboards and books as writing surfaces in mentalism (either as impression devices or not), perhaps it is prudent to opt for somewhat heavier materials rather than overly light materials as a means of getting participants to take their roles more seriously.


The Endowment Effect According to the endowment effect, people's perception of value is deeply affected by whether or not they already own whatever it is they are judging the value of. If we already have it, we see its worth as being greater than if we don't already own it. This makes perfect sense, of course, but the endowment effect still exists even if the thing has been in our possession for only a couple minutes, it was given to us without choice, and we don't even care about it that much. As an illustration, imagine I show you a mug with the logo from your favorite coffee shop printed on it, and I ask you how much you would pay for this mug. Maybe you'd say $5. Okay, now enter an alternate reality where this time I give you the mug. It's yours now. You own this mug. Now I ask you how much you'd be willing to sell that mug for. Maybe in this reality you'd say something like $8. Suddenly it's worth more! Just because you own the mug (you've been endowed with the mug), you place more value on it. You may think that this is a product of greed-when people have the power to make money, they want to make more of it. Of course, this is still somewhat irrational because any money you could make is pure profit. You didn't have this mug a second ago, if you offer it to someone else for $2.50, they're more likely to take the bait, and you come away $2.50 richer. Rather, the research has shown that the mere endowment plays tricks with our perceptions of worth. To bring us out of the land of thought experiments and into the realm of science, consider some of the first studies to document this effect (Knetsch & Sniden, 1984). In one, participants were given lottery tickets when they entered the room. The tickets were free and could be used for a chance to win $50. After finding out about the lottery, however, they were given the opportunity to sell their tickets back to the experimenters for $2. Given this opportunity, only 24% chose to sell their tickets, meaning 76% instead chose to hold onto their lottery tickets. Compare this to another group of participants, who were told about the same lottery and then given the opportunity to buy a ticket for -54-

$2. In this case, only 50% of the participants chose to buy tickets, indicating that half of these people didn't think it was worth even $2. So, the group that was given the tickets seemed to value them at greater than $2, and the other group valued the tickets at less than $2. That's quite a difference in perception for exactly the same chances of winning $50! For a somewhat less "buying and selling" example, consider another experiment in the same paper (Knetsch & Sniden, 1984). In this study, participants drew a ticket at random when they walked into a meeting room. Half of these tickets were worth $3, to be redeemed at the end of the meeting, and the other half were free lottery tickets that could be used for a chance to win $50 at the end of the meeting. Before the meeting ended, everyone was given a very simple opportunity: they could switch the ticket they had picked for the other kind. That is, if you picked the"Redeem for $3"ticket, you could switch it for the lottery ticket. Alternatively, if you had picked the lottery ticket, you could switch it for the $3 ticket. As you might expect by now, people preferred what they already had, regardless of which ticket that was. Of the people who had picked the lottery ticket at the beginning of the meeting, 82% chose to keep it, and of those who had been given the ticket redeemable for $3, 62% chose to keep it. Mentalists may be somewhat less interested in monetary transactions than social psychologists and "behavioral economists;' however. Although a lot of the work on the endowment effect is conducted to get an idea of how much people value the things depending on whether they are in possession of them or not, value need not always be measured in dollars and cents. Knetsch (1989) extended the effect to choices between two goods that are about equally valued. For participants in this study, the main point seemed to be that they were taking a survey, but the real study was in their choice of which gift they preferred to take home at the end of the study. The choice was between a free coffee mug and a Swiss chocolate bar. In the control condition, the participants were simply given this choice at the end of the study, and about half (56%) chose the mug whereas the other half (44%) chose the chocolate bar. In the other conditions, however, the participants were given one gift -55-

or the other at the start of the study. Some participants were given the coffee mug when they arrived whereas the others were given the chocolate bar. Whichever gift they were given, it simply sat on the table while they took the survey. At the end of the survey, however, the experimenters offered everyone in these conditions the chance to trade the gift they had been given for the other one. Although the results for the control condition showed that the two items were about equally valued, the choices in the two experimental conditions showed a strong endowment effect. Among the participants who had initially been given the mug, 89% chose to keep the mug. Among the participants who had initially been given the chocolate bar, 90% chose to keep the chocolate bar. It should be clear by now that the endowment effect is large and pervasive. It may also beofinteresttoyou that the effect runs very deep and may represent something of an "ancient" bias. Indeed, by varying the procedures somewhat, researchers have found an endowment effect in bonobos, chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans, and capuchin monkeys (Brosnan, Jones, Lambeth, Mareno, Richardson, & Schapiro, 2007; Kanngiesser, Hood, Santos, & Call, 2011; Lakshminaryanan, Chen, & Santos, 2008). In these procedures, the researchers ensure that two different kinds of food are chosen by these animals about equally often and then give them one or the other. When offered the chance to trade the food they were given for the other kind, the animals show a strong preference to keep the food they've been given (although it seem to be specific to food items-the same procedure did not produce endowment effects for choices between tools even though the tools could be used to get food; Kanngiesser et al., 2011 ). To me, this effect calls out for applications by mentalists. By simply giving a participant a gift and later offering him or her the chance to trade it for a similarly valued gift, the odds are heavily in your favor that the person will turn down the trade. This, it turns out, is likely even when the other object is not that much different. Gretchen Chapman (1998) set out to show that the endowment -56-

effect would have little influence over whether people would be willing to trade for a very similar alternative, but what she found was that the influence of endowment was still present even when the alternative was similar to what people had already been given. That is, imagine you've been endowed with a Reese's peanut butter cup and later given the chance to trade for a pack of Dentyne gum-a rather different option. As you'd expect from the endowment effect, most people in this situation prefer to hold onto their candy (about 68%). However, even if they are offered a very similar alternative like a Kit-Kat bar, people still show the endowment effect and are largely reluctant to trade away the Reese's peanut butter cup they had been given (about 63% hold onto the original item).

Endowment Subtlety #1: Pen Prediction Along those lines, consider the following addition to a drawing duplication routine. When you begin, you give your participant a pen as a gift for taking part. Make it clear that the pen is now his, and he can keep it to do whatever it is he'd like to do in the future: write reminders, take notes, or sign autographs when he becomes famous (this is to boost"vividness"- more on that in a bit). Eventually, you ask him to use that pen to draw something on a notecard and fold it up. You realize that you actually have another pen on you-it's essentially the same quality, but it's a different brand and maybe it's blue whereas the pen you originally gave him was black.

"By the way, I also have this pen that you could have as your gift instead. Do you want to trade the pen I already gave you for this one?" Of course, there's a chance he will switch, but as we know from the endowment effect, this isn't likely. To conclude the routine, you open the prediction that's been on the table the whole time, and it says: "Not only will you choose to keep the black pen over the blue one, but you will use it to draw a house:' Now, how to predict the drawing is something I'll leave up to you, ?.ut using the endowment effect as a subtle addition gives you the ability to predict two things rather than one. In the minority of instances when the person does opt to switch -57-

pens, you have at least two options: (1) go for an alternative out that predicted the pen switch as well as the drawing or (2) drop all notion of predicting that choice and pick up with a standard drawing duplication-after all, you must know what the drawing is if you were able to have it written in a prediction. To keep from muddling up your abilities, you can still frame it as a prediction but instead present it verbally (e.g., "Although I can't be sure this is what you actually drew, I will say that what I was hoping you'd draw is a house ... can we see your drawing?").

Endowment Subtlety #2: Making a Trade Another potential mentalism application goes back to the notion of trading lottery tickets. I haven't quite worked out my own routine, but if it's a presentation that interests you, I'll share just a little bit more of the science. One of the surprising effects in the endowment effect literature is that people who are given a lottery ticket are quite resistant to the opportunity to switch their ticket for another one even though the chances of winning are the same for each lottery ticket. This resistance has even been shown when the experimenters offer an incentive for switching (e.g., Bar-Hilell & Neter, 1996). That is, even when people were offered extra cash for switching their lottery ticket with another one with identical chances of winning, they were still relatively unwilling to trade. There have been several explanations for this specific effect, chief among them being "anticipated regret:' When facing the decision between holding onto their ticket vs. swapping it for another one, people can't help but entertain the idea that their original ticket would go on to win the big prize after they chose to swap it for another one (e.g., Bar-Hilell & Neter, 1996; van de Ven & Zeelenberg, 2010). Although it's possible that people j ust th ink that their first tickets are likely to be especially lucky, Risen and Gilovich (2007) offer evidence that instead, people are prone to believe that their original tickets become more likely to win as a function of t rading them away. That is, -58-

people have a superstitious belief that by trading away their lottery ticket, it makes the original ticket more likely to be the winner, and in so doing, it makes people imagine the regret they will likely feel as a result. So to prevent such a negative outcome, people just hang onto their ticket. Finally, and this is what I think mentalists should be mindful of as they try to increase the likelihood of endowment effects, people show greater anticipated regret (and thus greater reluctance to trade away what they've been given) when their current possession is more vivid. The more vividly a person can think about how they value their current possession, the less likely they are to want to trade it for an alternative. For example, if a person can vividly imagine winning a lottery with his current ticket, and he can also vividly imagine the regret he would feel if his ticket won after he traded it away, then he is much less likely to make the trade (Maimarran, 2011 ). Especially noteworth for envelope-loving mentalists is that the "low vividness" conditions in Maimarran's (2011) studies enclosed the lottery tickets in envelopes. More specifically, this study considered a very simple two-outcome lottery. Participants were given either a yellow ticket or a green ticket at the beginning of the study. To run the lottery, the experimenters used a fair coin that was yellow on one side and green on the other. The lottery was simple-if the coin lands on the color of your ticket, you win the prize. Of course, before the coin was flipped, each participant was given the opportunity to switch the colored ticket they were given for a ticket of the opposite color. Importantly, some of the participants were given their original lottery tickets as normal, but other participants were given their colored tickets in sealed envelopes, so they could never actually see the color of their tickets. The results showed that people were much less influenced by the endowment effect when their tickets came sealed in envelopes, which is to say that more people chose to take the trade when they couldn't vividly imagine winning or losing the lottery (e.g., seeing their color come up on the coin). So if you are looking to incorporate the endowment effect into a routine to get some control over whether people are likely to switch -59-

the lottery tickets they were given for different ones, it is in your best interest to make it easier for them to imagine winning with their ticket and easier to imagine the regret they would feel if their ticket wins after they traded it for another one.


Fluency We process lots of different information every day, but sometimes the information is quite easy to process whereas other times it can be rather difficult. This subjective experience of ease or difficulty is what psychologists refer to as processing fluency. When you have a "fluent" experience, it means you are engaging in some activity that doesn't seem to take a lot of effort on your part. Watching a documentary in your living room on a large, clear television without distractions is a fluent experience. Watching the same documentary would be a relatively disfluent experience if it's being played on an old, small television with the sound turned down while you're seated at the back of a large group of people. Although the movie is the same and you could learn the same things from it, the experience is quite different and can have unintended consequences. Fluency not only makes it easier to process information, but it can also inform how true you think the information is, how much you like something, how confident you are in a judgment, and the extent to which you think analytically about it. First, though, let's discuss some of the ways in which information can be made more or less fluent. This can be done by manipulating how information looks and how information is communicated linguistically. Although there are plenty of ways this has been done by psychological scientists, I will review only a subsection of this literature in the hopes that I focus on the variables of greatest use for the curious mentalist. Perhaps the most intriguing way to affect fluency is to alter the visual presentation of information. Take the font, for instance. Some fonts are clearly easier to read than others (as the reader ot an_lj length_lj document written in papyrus will understand). When information is presented in a font that is small, gray, italicized, or very condensed (like this), it makes the experience of reading that information less fluent than when it is presented in a clear, legible font (Alter & Oppenheimer, 2008; Alter et al., 2007; Reber & Zupanek, 2002). Another way to use visual presentation to make information processing less fluent is to vary the contrast between the stimulus -61-

and its background (e.g., Reber & Schwartz, 1999). Black writing on a white background is quite clea r, and processing the information is much easier. However, light gray writing on a somewhat darker gray background is more difficult. Information can also be made more or less fluent by carefully choosing the words you use to communicate. On the one hand, even though people often think that dense, complex communication is a sign of intelligence, it is more difficult to process that information than when the communication is clear and concise (Oppenheimer, 2006).9 On the other hand, some words themselves are easier to pronounce than others, giving rise to greater fluency. For example, Alter and Oppenheimer (2006; 2008) specifically manipulated how easy it was to pronounce company names. A company named "Magyar Tavkoslesi Reszvenytarsasag" prompts a greater experience of disfluency than a more familiar name, for instance.Theyalsoconsideredcompany'sstockexchangetickercodes, comparing companies whose codes were pronounceable as words (e.g., "KAR") to companies whose codes were not pronounceable (e.g., "RDO"). They argued that the pronounceable codes were more fluent than the unpronounceable ones. Finally, the use of rhyming words has also been shown to produce greater fluency. McGlone and Tofighbakhsh (2000) had their participants read various aphorisms that either rhymed or did not, showing that the rhyming versions were processed more easily. Recently I heard Richard Osterlind drop the following bit of wisdom: "After the show, your prestige should grow:' What a fluent piece of advice! It may not have had nearly the impact on me if he had phrased it "After the show, your impact should increase." As we'll see later, everyone watching his lecture probably trusted the veracity of the advice more than if he'd said it without the fluency-inducing rhyme. Still other research has relied upon bodily feedback to create a sense of fluency. One simple way to do this is make people copy a paragraph using either their dominant or nondominant hand. 9 If you' ever thought science couldn't have a sense of humor, th e t itle of this paper is one of the more entertaining ones that I've come across: "Consequences of erudite vernacula r utilized irrespective of necessity: Problems wi h using long words needlessly:•


Doing the copy with your dominant hand evokes a feeling of fluency whereas doing so with your nondominant hand provokes a feeling of disfluency. Another common way of manipulating fluency through bodily feedback is by making people adopt specific facial expressions. Because experiences of disfluency and concentration are often associated with furrowing one's brow, experimenters have induced these feelings directly by having people adopt a furrowed brow while reading information. Similarly, experiences of fluency are associated with more positive emotions, so experimenters induce this feeling directly by having people adopt a light smile while reading information (e.g., Alter et al., 2007). So why is any of this important? As you can see, there are lots of variables that can affect whether people experience fluency, but what's more interesting is that these fluency experiences result in various reliable outcomes. As Adam Alter and Daniel Oppenheimer (2009) argue, these outcomes don't depend on what produces the feeling of fluency in the first place; anything that evokes greater perceived processing ease gives way to the following outcomes, which include judgments of truth, liking, and confidence, as well as influencing analytical thinking. First, when people process information more fluently, they perceive that the information is more truthful than when the process is disfluent. As an example, when statements were in a font that could be clearly seen against a white background, people were more likely to believe that they were true than when the statements were printed in a font that couldn't be clearly seen against a white background (e.g., when they were printed in a yellow typeface; Reber & Schwarz, 1999). In another study, people thought rhyming sayings were more true than non-rhyming sayings even when the words themselves meant 10 the same thing (McGlone & Tofighbakhsh, 2000). Second, when experiences are more fluent, they inspire greater liking for the easy-to-process stimuli. In another section of this book, I review the research on the "mere exposure effect;' (page 97) and one of the explanations for this effect is that encountering the same 1o You'll not that the second author has an especially disfluent name.


stimulus again and again inspires a feeling of fluency. That is, the more you've encountered something, the easier it is to process. Think about a TV show or movie that you have come to love. Part of what makes it enjoyable is that you're already familiar with the characters, the settings, and the plots-there's a sense of fluency. Similarly with pop music, some of what makes it enjoyable to so many people is the simplicity of that genre-it's easy to process. The research supports this relationship. For instance, if people can imagine a travel destination or owning a luxury product more easily, they prefer those items (Petrova & Cialdini, 2005; Lee & Labroo, 2004; Mandel et al., 2006). Also, when deciding between identical circles, people rate the circle that's presented against strongly contrasting backgrounds (e.g., a black circle on a white background) as more pretty and less ugly than the version presented with less contrast (e.g., a light gray circle on a dark gray background; Reber et al., 1998). In fact, some have suggested that a key determinant of what makes something "beautiful" is processing fluency (Reber, Schwarz, & Winkielman, 2004). Third, fluency encourages confidence. For instance, when logic problems are printed in hard-to-read fonts, people show less confidence in their ability to solve those problems than if the same problems are printed legibly (Alter et al., 2007). Similarly, people are more confident in their answers to trivia questions when they answered them while puffing out their cheeks (i.e., high fluency), compared to when they do so while furrowing their brows (i.e., low fluency), even though their answers were actually equally accurate between conditions (Alter et al., 2007). Finally, disfluency promotes analytical thinking. Consider what's called the "Moses illusion:' You may be familiar with the "trick question'~ "How many animals of each kind did Moses take on the Ark?" Although many people respond "Two," the correct answer is that the biblical story of Moses has nothing to do with an ark (that's Noah). Answering this question correctly requires overcoming the default, thoughtless mode and instead engaging in more ca reful analytical thought. When the "Moses" question is presented in a hard-to-read font, people are more likely to answer it correctly (Song & Schwarz, 2008). The -64-

disfluency causes people to shake off their default responses and engage in more careful thought. In a series of four studies, Adam Alter, Daniel Oppenheimer, and their colleagues (2007) show that experiences of disfluency reduced the influence of j udgment heuristics, promoted more careful analysis of persuasive messages, and improved logical reasoning ability. In a practical extension of this research, psychologists manipulated the educational materials used in high school classrooms (DiemanYauman, Oppenheimer, & Vaughan, 201 O). For some classes in the school, they made the learning materials more difficult to process by using difficult-to-read fonts or adding distortion to photocopies. Their results were striking. Across many school subjects, compared to students who used unedited materials, the students who received disfluent material went on to show better retention of the course content.

Keeping Displays Fluent Beyond mere curiosity, the research on processing fluency ha s implications for mentalists. The first is more of a practical concern that presenters should consider. When considering how you will present a prediction, for example, keep in mind how easily the audience ca n read your prediction and whether you want it to be read easily or not. Similarly, if you print out instructions for any reason, be mindful of how fluent those instructions are. Many people use printed cards to collect questions for Q&A presentations. Consider the visual presentation of those cards with respect to the fluency experience you want people to have when providing their responses. Sometimes ornate and fancy design can backfire.

Forcing with Fluency You can also consider the ability of fluency to serve as a foundation for a psychological force. For example, consider the following set-up that takes advantage of fluency to create a surreptitious dual reality that you can exploit. -65-

Two people who agree to participate are handed a card with a logic problem printed on it. You ask them to read the problem and to write their answer on the card. So that the other people who are watching can know what the logic problem was, you ask one of the volunteers to read it out loud and then read her answer. You ask the other person to provide her answer, and it's different. You explain that this is a trick question. It's a question where about half the people answer one way, using more intuitive thinking, and half the people answer another way, using more analytical thinking. You seemed to read your volunteers at the beginning, however, and you knew who would think in which manner. Written on the back of each person's card is the answer you predicted each person would give, and you are correct! This is a risky presentation, of course, but with careful scripting you can work out various "outs:'The main "secret" is that one person's logic problem is written in a clear font and the other person's is written in a difficult-to-read gray font. The question itself is taken from the "Cognitive Reflection Test" (Frederick, 2005), which is what Alter et al. (2007) used in their first study. The questions from this test are such that there's a default, intuitive answer but also another, correct answer that people arrive at after thinking more carefully. The question that seems applicable to a presentation environment is the following : A bat and a ball cost $1.10. The bat costs $1.00 more than the ball. How much does the ball cost? The intuitive answer that first comes to mind is "10 cents;' but it's the incorrect answer. "5 cents" is the correct answer, which most people get after giving the question a little more thought. To set up the prediction, write the logic question on two index cards. On one card, print the question in a clear font (e.g., Helvetica or Arial), and on the other card, print it in a more difficult to read font, italicized and in a gray color. On the back of the clearly written question card, write "1 O cents" and on the back of the other question card, write "5 cents:' The rest is in the presentation. Have each person ·read the puzzle and write his or her answer on the line under the question. If you can get a quick look at each person's answer, you'll know better how to play the rest of the demonstration. If you see that things went -66-

according to plan, you can present it just as I described earlier. There are, of course, ways to play things in case your participants' responses aren't consistent with your expectation. Under such conditions, you can use their answers as an insight into their thinking patterns. This is perfectly sensible because the "Cognitive Reflection Test" is used as a measurement of people's thinking patterns. Frederick (2005) showed that a person's accuracy in answering these questions is a reliable predictor of analytical thinking in general. Thus, if your participants both respond with the "correct" answer (5 cents), you can note that this means both of them are very analytical thinkers, and this will help you get inside their heads more easily. Alternatively, if they both provide the "wrong" answer (10 cents), assure them that it's a trick question and that most people get it incorrect. It does tell you, however, that they rely on intuition, which will help you get inside their heads. You get the idea. Although your prediction should play out more often than not, even if it fails, the demonstration still serves as an intriguing opening to a bigger effect framed as relevant to "intuitive" vs. "analytical"thinking. This example effect also should give you some idea of how manipulations of fluency might help secretly create a scenario where two people have different experiences even when they seem the same to the audience. This is why it's important to have one of the people read out the question because it makes it clear that the content of the question was the same for each person. Nevertheless, you've controlled the situation to encourage a particular pattern of responses.


Please answer quickly. A bat and a ball cost $1.10. The bat costs $1.00 more than the ball. How much does the ball cost?

:JlJJat aru{a /Jal/ cCJt


J/le /Jot

$1. oo more t!itm the liall. '1fowmuc!l dceJ the fiaff co rt



The Introspection Illusion Say "Nisbett and Wilson" to any social psychologist, and he or she will know exactly what you are referring to. In a landmark paper in 1977, Richard Nisbett and Timothy Wilson reported the results of an experiment with implications that reach throughout most-if not all- psychological phenomena. The basic point is this: people have very little conscious access to the psychological processes that guide our choices. That is, although people can accurately report their preferences or their decisions, they have very little access to the higher order mental processes that led to those preferences and decisions. When asked, however, people can readily provide explanations, but the available evidence suggests that these explanations can be more or less made up- or confabulatedon the spot. I want to describe one of the pivotal experiments in this line of research because it so strikingly resembles the procedure of a very basic mentalism effect, and one of the points you can take away is that the psychological forces that have become so interesting to mentalists, surely popularized by Banachek's first Psychological Subtleties book, do in fact induce people to settle on a thought without knowing exactly why. The researchers set up a false "consumer survey" in stores where passersby were invited to participate. They had set up four articles of clothing in a row and asked the customers to evaluate the set of items and identify which one was of the highest quality. After they made that choice, they were asked to explain why they had chosen whichever one that they had. In one version of the study, the articles of clothing were four different nightgowns, and the researchers found that there was a significant effect of position on choice; people overwhelmingly chose the item that was the rightmost one in the display. You may notice that this isn't too different from some "position effect" psychological forces that have been written about. However, although this position effect is an interesting phenomenon in itself, what is more interesting is -69-

that when asked about why they had made their choices, not a single subject (out of 378) mentioned the position of the item in the display even though that was the only reliable variable objectively predicting choices. In fact, when the researchers asked people directly whether the item's position had influenced their choice, nearly everyone said that it hadn't. Even more remarkable, I think, is that the same effect held true when instead of four different nightgowns, the choice given to the participants was between four identical pairs of nylon stockings. That is, when the only differentiating factor was the position in the display, nobody mentioned it in their rationalizing. This extends into other domains as well. For example, when people change their opinions after hearing strong persuasive arguments, they misremember their earlier attitudes and perceive very little actual change in their opinion even when their objectively measured attitudes have indeed shifted (Bern & McConnell, 1970; Goethals & Reckman, 1973). Researchers have also identified a similar phenomenon called choice blindness. The initial demonstration of this has a special place in my heart because sleight of hand was used as part of the method. Participants in the study were shown pairs of female face pictures and asked to choose the one they found most attractive; they had a 2 or a 5 second limit. After their choice, they were given their chosen picture and asked to verbally provide the reasons why they chose that particular picture over the other. Th is was done fifteen times, but on three of these occasions, the experimenters employed some sleight of hand so that the picture the participants were given was actually the picture they hadn't chosen. What is striking is that even when the paired faces were quite different from one another, people still didn't notice that they had been given the picture they didn't choose. Even more amazing, when asked to explain why they made the choice they did, people were readily able to offer explanations even when they were explaining why they chose a face that they hadn't actually chosen. The explanations that people gave were later coded for how much emotion was involved, how much detail was included, and the amount of confidence conveyed; there was absolutely no statistical -70-

difference between explanations of actually chosen and not actually chosen faces on these qualities (Johansson, Hall, Sikstrom, & Olsson, 2005).

Introspection Subtlety Plenty of mental ism plots have people make choices, think of numbers, think of words, draw pictures, etc., but it may be a nice addition to ask people why they made the choices they did. Most of the time, what actually influences these choices is probably more banal than we'd hope if our goal is compelling theatre. However, since we know that people will easily provide explanations for their choices and behavior, it allows a revelation to be even more astonishing. No longer is the mentalist merely revealing a random thought. The power instead becomes knowing the process that the person would take to reach a final thought. Asking "why" can also obscure any covert tactics taken to influence the choice itself while simultaneously making it seem even more impossible that you could know the outcome. Of course, a person's response to such an inquiry can also be "I don't know;' in which case the revelation is just as dumbfounding. As a concrete example that comes j ust from a standard psychological force, you might ask someone to name the first color that comes to mind. They say "red" (along with almost everybody else who's asked to do this). Although "red" might be picked often because it's an easy color to name, if you ask the person why she chose red, she may think for a moment to rationa lize what's really a random choice and respond, "it's always been a co lor I've liked-and my bedroom was painted red as a kid:' Now what would otherwise have been a simple color revelation has somehow become your ability to know this tiny little detail that may not have actually been the reason for the choice.

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Judgment Heuristics Thinking can be hard. If you thought through every decision you make in a day, you'd still be stuck deciding whether to hold your toothbrush with your right or your left hand. While there are some decisions, like buying a house, that people will invest a lot of time in, other decisions, like which brand of canned tomatoes to buy, are made with much less thought. "Heuristics" are the mental shortcuts that people take to make judgments and decision-making operate more quickly. Psychologists love to find ways in which these heuristics can lead us astray, but the truth is, they generally work out pretty well. For example, which of the following cities in Spain is bigger: Pamplona or Valladolid? If you know that the running of the bulls takes place in Pamplona, you might have guessed that Pamplona is the bigger city. In fact, Valladolid is. The heuristic that you used is "if I've heard of it, it's probably bigger:' But even though this heuristic could lead to the wrong answer in this case, it would generally be an effective decision rule. What's bigger: Barcelona or Huelva? Madrid or Marbella? Barcelona and Madrid are the bigger cities- the heuristic would have served you well because overall, bigger cities are ones you're more likely to have heard of. This is the case with the three classic heuristics that follow. Little mental shortcuts that exist because they ease judgment and choicemaking, but we know that people use them by looking for cases when they give the wrong answer. In t he anchoring heuristic, I offer some thoughts about how you could adapt this to a mentalism subtlety, but I admit that I give no application ideas for availability and representativeness. Because these are such foundational ways in which people think, however, I think you are well advised to know and understand them.

Availability Think about all the words in the Eng lish language. Do you think there -72-

are more words that have R as the first letter or that have r has the third letter? If you're like most people, you would guess that there are more words with Ras the first letter. Let's do another one. Which of the following do you think happens more often: people dying of stomach cancer or people dying in car accidents? Most people tend to think car accident fatalities are more common than stomach cancer fatalities. In fact, for both of these questions, the answer that most people give is incorrect. So why is the alternative so tempting? The answer is the availability heuristic. According to this mental shortcut, when examples of something come to mind easily, we assume that they must occur frequently in the world. In general, this is a helpful strategy for making judgments of frequency or likelihood because when something occurs more often, it's easier to think of examples of it. The trouble is that this isn't a completely reliable rule. The availability heuristic can result in incorrect judgments whenever it's unusually easy or difficult to think of examples of something (e.g., words that start with a given letter vs. words with that letter in the third position). For instance, in the car accident illustration above, individual car accidents get way more media coverage than individual stomach cancer deaths. As a result, it can seem like car accident fatalities are much more common than they are. As with everything in this book, this isn't just some idea a psychologist had, but it's supported by data. In one of the first demonstrations of this heuristic, Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky (1973) asked people the first question I posed in this section-are there more words that begin with the letter r or that have the letter r as the third letter? As noted, it's much easier to think of words that start with rthan words with r as the third letter (even though there are actually more of the latter), so most participants in their study wrongly guessed that there were more of the former. As another example with more "real world" implications, Ross and Sicoly (1979) asked couples who were living together to think about how much they each contributed to everyday tasks. Specifically, each person in the couple judged what percentage of household chores and other tasks he or she took care of. It may come as no surprise that when these percentages were added up, they far exceeded -73 -

100%, meaning at least one person overestimated his or her personal contribution. Although this may strike you as an example of people wanting to think better of themselves, some of the tasks being estimated were negative (e.g., "starting fights"), which means there must be more to the story. The availability heuristic seems to be at play- it's much easier to think of all the things that you do because you were there for all of it, whereas it's more difficult to come up with examples of all the things your partner does. As a result, you overestimate your own contributions because they come to mind more easily. Finally, the availability heuristic can come into play when you think about who you are as a person. For example, if it's very easy to think of times when you behaved aggressively, you will judge yourself to be an aggressive person (Schwarz et al., 1991 ).

Representativeness Take a moment to read the following description of a person: Tom W. is of high intelligence, although lacking in true creativity. He has a need for order and clarity, and for neat and tidy systems in which every detail finds its appropriate place. His writing is rather dull and mechanical, occasionally enlivened by somewhat corny puns and by flashes of imagination of the sci-ti type. He has a strong drive for competence. He seems to feel little sympathy for other people and does not enjoy interacting with others. Self-centered, he nonetheless has a deep moral sense. (Kahneman & Tversky, 1973)

If we assume that Tom is a university student, would you say he is more likely to be an engineering student or an English major? You likely perceive Tom more as an engineering student. But what if I also said that only 4% of students at Tom's school are engineering majors whereas 55% are English majors? You still may say that he's more likely to be an engineering student even though probabilistically, the chances are slim. -74-

The representativeness heuristic means that people make judgments based on how well something resembles a prototype and ignore relevant information like base rates. Base rates are the likelihood of something being true when you have no other information. In the above example, the base rate means that if we knew nothing else about Tom, there's only a 4% chance that he's an engineering student. However, because his personal characteristics match what we think of as an engineering student, we disregard the relative unlikelihood of his being an engineering student at this school. Kahneman and Tversky (1973) showed exactly this effect; participants relied on how well descriptions resembled various academic disciplines without adjusting for the base rates of students in those disciplines. This isn't to say that people shouldn't use the individual information-only that people over-rely on it without accounting for basic probability. As another example, imagine I have flipped a coin 1O times. Which outcome seems more likely: "THHTHTTTHT" or "HHHHHHHHHH" (where H is when it lands heads and T is when it lands tails)? The former probably seems more likely, but in fact, both outcomes are equally likely. The first one just looks more "random" than the second one. In terms of the representativeness heuristic, it resembles what we think of as "randomness" more than the other sequence. To use, randomness looks like a mix of heads and tails, but by the numbers, there's no reason to predict that the first sequence is any more likely than the second. An additional implication of the representativeness heuristic is the "conjuction fallacy" (Tversky & Kahneman, 1983). Logically, the probability of two things co-occurring cannot be greater than the probability of either of those things occurring alone. However, sometimes a target of judgment can closely represent such a cooccurrence (or"conjunction"), leading to a judgment that violates the logical rule. Tversky and Kahneman (1983) gave participants what has now become a very famous description in psychology: "Linda is 31 years old, single, outspoken, and very bright. She majored in philosophy. As a student, she was deeply concerned with issues ofdiscrimination and social justice, and also participated in anti-nuclear demonstrations." -75-

Now, think about which of the following seems more likely: (a) Linda is a bank teller or (b) Linda is a bank teller and is active in the feminist movement. Most people, when faced with these options, pick option B (the conjunction). As I just reviewed, however, it cannot be more probable that Linda is both a bank teller and active in the feminist movement than Linda just being a bank teller. However, because the description so closely resembles what we would think of as a feminist bank teller, the logical conclusion is overlooked in favor of what seems intuitively more likely.

Anchoring How tall do you think Mt. Everest is? Is it greater than or less than 1,500 feet tall? You'd probably say it's taller than 1,500 feet, but how tall exactly? Think about it-actually come to an estimate. The correct answer is written on page 80. Go check to see how close you were. Did you over- or under-estimate? According to research on the anchoring heuristic, you likely guessed a number that was lower than the correct answer. If I had initially posed the question differently, however, you might have over-estimated the height. That is, if I had started by asking whether the answer was greater than or less than 60,000 feet, you'd probably say "less than" but then go on to make an actual guess that was higher than the correct answer. The reason forth is is the anchoring and adjustment heuristic. According to this heuristic, when people don't have a confident estimate for something, they can arrive at a judgment by adjusting away from some anchor number. The problem is that people tend not to adjust enough, a phenomenon referred to as "insufficient adjustment:' In the previous example, I gave you an anchor that was either too low or too high; to arrive at an act ual estimate, people start to test whether increasingly high or low values seem accurate. When they hit upon a reasonable number, they stop and provide that estimate. People often stop too early, providing estimates heavily informed by the arbitrary value they sta rted with (e.g., Jacowitz & Kahneman, 1974). -76-

What's interesting is that these anchor values can be totally arbitrary and they still influence people's estimates. For example, when participants were trying to guess the percentage of African countries in the United Nations, the researchers spun a "Wheel-of-Fortune" type of wheel with numbers between O - 100. For whichever number the wheel landed on, participants responded with whether they thought the real answer was more or less than that number and then revealed their final estimates. If the wheel had landed on 10, participants tended to say about 25% of countries in the UN are African, but if the wheel happened to land on 65, they tended to say about 45% of countries in the UN are African (Tversky & Kahneman, 1974). That's a pretty big difference in estimates, and it comes from a random change in a completely arbitrary value. Even more impressive is that not only can these anchors be arbitrary, but they can be completely unrelated to the judgment being made. These kinds of anchors have come to be known as "incidental anchors"-numbers in one's environment that can have a big effect on unrelated estimates (Critcher & Gilovich, 2008). For instance, participants in a study received a description of a college football player and a picture of him during a game. They were asked to report how likely they thought this player would be to do well in a playoff game. Two groups of people made this judgment, and everything was the same between the two groups except for one thing-the number on the player's jersey in the photo was either "54" or "94:' Amazingly, the people who saw the picture with the "94" estimated that the player was more likely to do well than the people who saw the picture with the "64:' As another example, participants were given a description of a restaurant and askedtoreporthowmuch money they would be willing to spend there. Once again, two groups made this judgment, and the only difference between them is that for one group, the restaurant's name was "Studio 17" and for the other group, the restaurant's name was "Studio 97." People reported that they were willing to spend more money when they thought the restaurant was called "Studio 97"than when they thought it was called "Studio 17:'


Anchoring Subtlety If someone has to make an estimate in a situation where they don't know the exact answer, it's very likely that they will start by thinking of a related anchor that they already know and then adjust away from that to come to their answer. This is what's called a "self-generated anchor" (Epley & Gilovich, 2006). For example, if you ask people to estimate what the highest possible body temperature is, they will start at 98.6 degrees (the normal human body temperature) and then adjust up from there to arrive at a judgment. Alternatively, if you ask someone how many days it takes Mercury to orbit the sun, he will likely to start at 365 (the number of days it takes Earth to do so) and then adjust downward. Of course, even in these situations, people don't adjust far enough (Epley & Gilovich, 2006), but this process gives you insight into someone's thinking. Although it may be common sense, this added subtlety gives you the chance to tell someone not only what number they're thinking of but also how they arrived at that number. Here's a basic presentation premise. Ask someone to estimate the number of days it takes Mercury, the closest planet to the Sun, to complete its orbit around the Sun. In other words, how many days are in Mercury's year? The volunteer makes th is estimate and writes down his guess on a small piece of paper (surprise-you peek the number). In a normal reveal, you could just reveal what you think the guess is. Using this anchoring and adjustment premise, however, your reveal can go something like this:

Of course, you didn't already know the answer to the question-most non-astronomers have no idea. Whats interesting, though, is that different people go about coming up their guesses in different ways, and this thought process can signal how you think about things in general. I have a feeling you started by thinking about how many days it takes the Earth to go around the Sun365 days. It seemed like you kept testing smaller and smaller numbers, moving down from 365 until you hit a number that seemed appropria te for little of' Mercury. -78-

What5 interesting, though, is I don't think you went quite far enough. You stopped the nrst time the number felt pretty much right. The actual answer is about 80 days, but I think you stopped at a number higher than that ... something around 150 or 160 days?

This, of course, depends on the person actually having written a number that makes sense with this reveal, which according to the research, should be most of the time. Also, as long as you get the final number correct, it's not as important if you accurately described their thought process. The person may not have been conscious of this process but as you describe it, it might resonate with him, feeling like it is actually how he arrived at that number even if he didn't realize it at the time. You can also play this in a slightly different way. The reveal I've written here is such that it feels tailored the person who came up with the guess. Instead, you could say all of this as if it were a prediction by describing "what most people do:' That is, "here's what people tend to do ... they start with 365 and work their way down, ending up at around 150 or 160:' Although this has a certain intrigue, I think it takes away from making it a unique experience for the person. Instead, knowing what most people do can make it look like you know what one person does specifically. I bring this up, however, to offer you the opportunity to think through what fits with the particular abilities you claim to have.


(The correct answer to the question is that Mt. Everest is about 29,000 feet tall.)


Linguistic Styles James Pennebaker and his colleagues have done some impressive research highlighting the incredible amount of information hidden in our patterns of speaking. Surprisingly, the words we might expect to be important aren't the ones this research focuses on. It's what Pennebaker sometimes calls "junk words" that can be so telling. In more traditional linguistic parlance, these are "function words;' and they are the words that hold sentences together: pronouns, conjunctions, prepositions, etc. (e.g., "and;' "in," "I;' "you;' and "with"). Although these words may not strike you as being all that powerful, Chung and Pennebaker (2007) write: Whereas the average native English speaker has an impressive vocabulary of well over 100,000 words, fewer than 400 are function words (Baayen, Piepenbrock, & Gulikers, 1995). This deceptively trivial percentage (less than 0.04%) of our vocabulary accounts for over half of the words we use in daily speech (Rochon, Saffran, Berndt, & Schwartz, 2000).

Chung and Pennebaker (2007) use a very simple sentence to illustrate just how complex these words can be and why they call for such sophisticated social knowledge: I can't believe that he gave it to her. Without an understanding of who the "l;'"he," and "she" is or what the "it" is, the sentence doesn't make any sense. Even more compelling, however, are their data that show that people differ systematically in how often they use these different words, and these differences predict important social outcomes like depression and general health. Take personal pronouns (e.g., "me") for example. People differ in how often they refer to themselves in written and spoken communication. For example, women use personal pronouns more often than men do; however, men use more nouns and articles, signifying a tendency to categorize and think concretely (Newman et al., 2003). Use of first person singular pronouns like "my" also decreases with age, and they are replaced by more fi rst person plural pronouns like "our" (Pennebaker & Stone, 2003). Social status is also a reliable predictor -81 -

such word use; use of the word 1:' for example, is more frequent for people of low (vs. high) social status (Pennebaker & Davis, 2006). Imagine having to send an ema il to your boss and to an employee. The research would predict that the email you send to your boss would have more first person pronouns in it than the email you send to your employee. 11

Thefrequencyof personal pronoun use also corresponds to important social outcomes such as depression. For instance, in an analysis of surreptitiously recorded everyday speech samples, study participants who scored higher on a depression scale used the personal pronoun "I" more frequently than those who scored lower on the depression scale (Mehl, 2004). In an interesting analysis of poetry, Stirman and Pennebaker (2001) compared the language of poets who went on to commit suicide and the language of poets who did not commit suicide. The poets who did commit suicide used significantly more first person pronouns in their poetry than the nonsuicidal poets, suggesting that they were more focused on the self. Although depression is associated with a focus on the self, Pennebaker has also shown that large-scale socia l stressors correspond to a decrease in using ''I:' Examples of such stressors that have been studied empirically are national tragedies like Princess Diana's death and local tragedies like a deadly accident at a university. One of the most compelling studies, I think, examined public blog posts on the website LiveJournal written during the two months preceding and the two months following 9/11 (Cohn, Mehl, & Pennebaker, 2004). Within just hours of the 9/11 attacks, the frequency of personal pronouns in LiveJournal posts dropped significantly and remained below the baseline for the full two-month duration. Importantly, though, these effects were specific to first person singular pronouns (e.g., "I" or "me") because just as these pronouns decreased in frequency, the use of first person plural pronouns (e.g., "we" or "us") increased in frequ ency. Thus, socially shared tragedies shift focus away from seeing ourse lves as individuals, and we instead focus on our embededness in a broader group. Personal pronouns, of course, are just one of many kinds of function words, but I hope that the preced ing review is illuminating. Other -82-

research has looked at the use of positive and negative emotion words tha~ peopl~ use in communications (e.g., Pennebaker & King, 1999), finding, for instance, that personality traits like extraversion and agreeableness are associated with greater use of positive emotion words whereas personality traits like neuroticism are associated with greater use of negative emotion words.

A New Cold Reading System? So what does this mean for mentalists? Well, I don't know exactly, but I find this research very interesting, and the fact that it deals with subtle ways in which people let their personalities and inner thoughts leak out without being aware of it makes it an ideal premise in mental ism. It also strikes me as an interesting vehicle for cold reading. In much the same way that "handwriting analysis" offers an opportunity to read a person through what seems like more "scientific" means (aka less "psychic"), "linguistic style analysis" could offer similar possibilities. A modern type of reading could involve a sitter pulling up an email he or she has written on a smart phone; the reader can then gain impressions from the relative use of "junk words" like pronouns and connectors to develop a detailed reading for the person.

Language Style Matching There's an additional development to the research on "linguistic styles" that is worth mentioning, and that is language style matching. You may already be familiar with the concept of "matching and mirroring;' a technique often attributed to "neuro-linguistic programming" and offered as a means of gaining rapport. In short, by adopting another person's subtle nonverbal behaviors and rate of breathing, you can induce a much stronger rapport with that person. Similarly, the match between two individuals' linguistic styles can serve as a strong indicator of closeness. Molly Ireland and colleagues (201 O) demonstrated this in two compelling studies. In the first, they recorded verbal interactions during a speed dating experience and measured the participants' -83-

interest in going on a date with the other people they interacted with. They then used computer software to extract unique patterns of function word use by individuals during the interactions. The data showed that the more a pair of individuals matched in their individual language patterns, the more likely it was that they later indicated mutual romantic interest in one another. In another study, the researchers analyzed instant message exchanges between couples over a 10-day period and assessed their degree of linguistic similarity. They then contacted these couples three months later to see whether or not they were still in a relationship. Once again, the data showed that the more the couples demonstrated similar linguistic styles during their communications, the more likely they were to still be in relationships three months later. The research on language style matching is still very new, and it is difficult to say whether a person might be able to strategically employ a similar linguistic style to build rapport in the same way that mirroring someone's overt nonverbal behaviors could. It does, however, shed light on the importance of the words you use as a performer and how they might interact with the language styles of sitters or audience members.


Memory Demonstrating False Memory This has floated around the mental ism community now and again, but it is a powerful, purely psychological demonstration of remembering something that never happened. You can use this as a lead-in to a related effect or as a demonstration of your vast knowledge of human psychology and how thoughts can be bent and influenced. Psychologists call the demo I'm about to describe the "DeeseRoediger-McDermott" (ORM) Paradigm. In essence, people are exposed to a list of words and later given another short word list, which contains some words that were in the original set and some new words. The person's job is to say whether each word in the "test" list was in the original one or is new. That is, does the person remember having just heard or seen each of the words? Using specially designed lists, people overwhelmingly falsely say that a word was in the original list when that word is only related to the words that were actually on the list (Roediger & McDermott, 1995). For example, when people are exposed to the original list containing words like "nose, breathe, sniff, aroma, nostril;' and so on, if you ask them whether the word "smell" was on the list, most people will say "yes" (and they will be very confident!) even though it was not actually on the list. People don't have time to individually encode every word on the original list, so instead they encode the "gist" of the list. When I use this as a demonstration for people in a mentalism setting or for students in my class, I tend to use the "sleep" list, which has been shown to be among the more effective lists for producing false recognition (see Stadler, Roediger, & McDermott, 1999). I say, "I'm about to read off a list of words. Your job is to simply pay attention and try to remember the list as best you can. Afterward I'll give you a little quiz. Ready?" Then I read off the following list of words fairly rapidly but not so -85-

fast that it seems like I'm rushing : bed, rest, awake, tired, dream, wake, snooze, blanket, doze, slumber, snore, nap, peace, yawn, drowsy. Finally, I give them the test. If I'm doing this for an individual, I ask them to give me audible responses to whether they think each word was on the list I read out. If I'm doing this for a large group, I usually ask everyone to silently answer in their own minds whether each word was on the list. As a way to make this more visual (and to reinforce how effective it is), you can also ask the audience to give a thumbs-up if they think the word was on the original list or a thumbs-down if they think it was not. Here are the words I use for the memory quiz: Dream. Shoe. Sleep. Yawn. Of course, "shoe" was not on the list, and most people will get that right. Also, "dream" and "yawn" were on the list, which most people will also get right. "Sleep;' however, did not appear on the list, but people will be sure that it was. The sleep-related list that I provided is not the only list you can use. Researchers have developed and tested many such lists. Another list that's been shown to effectively produce false recognition is the "window" list (door, glass, pane, shade, ledge, sill, house, open, curtain, frame, view, breeze, sash, screen, shutter). For more, I would advise you to look at the paper by Stadler, Roediger, and McDermott ( 1999) where they test these various lists for how well they produce false recognition. You can go straight to their appendix on the last page that provides all of the lists they tested. In particular, the lists that produced a greater than 80% rate of falsely recognizing the target words are: window, smell, cold, rough, cup, soft, and sleep. There are a couple caveats that are worth noting with regard to this demo. The first should be obvious, but don't tell people in advance exactly what's going on. That is, don't say that you're about to read off a list of words that are all associated with another word that isn't itself included in the list and that later you'll see if they falsely remember hearing that related word . One study compared the performance of people who received such a warning against people who didn't, and not surprisingly, those who received the warning were less li.kely to falsely recognize hearing the target word (Neuschatz, Benoit, & Payne, 2003). -86-

The other thing to consider, however, is how quickly you should read off the original list of words. In general, the research suggests that reading the list too slowly reduces the likelihood that people will falsely remember hearing the target word. One study compared the results for three different presentation rates: pausing for half a second between words, pausing for one second between words, and pausing for three seconds between words. The results clearly show that shorter pauses between words (i.e., reading the list faster) resulted in higher rates of false recognition (Gallo & Roediger, 2002). So, as I suggested in describing the demo, you're better off reading through the list fairly quickly but not so quickly that it sounds like you're trying to trick them in the memory task. This may seem like a lot of information for what is essentially a quick demonstration of your ability to induce false memories, but I hope this also illustrates a broader point about using the results of psychology experiments to craft micro-demonstrations that lend credibility to your claims (if you adopt the psychological angle) or that shine a light on your audience's thoughts and how malleable they can be.


Mental Imagery Think back to when you were a young child. Imagine a typical day in your life as a young child. Imagine that time; see the memory in your mind's eye and focus on who you were way back then. Just as everyone grows and changes, you can remember, by seeing this image from your past using your mind's eye, just how different you were from who you are now. You should be able to imagine these details from your past-who was around, the environments you inhabited, and so on. Hold onto this remembered image. We'll return to it later. Although the mental "images" that come to us throughout the day can be in various modalities (e.g., sound, as in remembering a song), by far the most common mental imagery experience is visual (Kosslyn et al., 1990). For most people, it isn't difficult to visually see events from the past. And just as our memories can be visual, so too can we simulate imagined events that we have never experienced before, which is a process that depends upon the memories we already have (Schacter et al., 2012). All of this is the mentalist's bread and butter. How many times do you ask people to imagine something t hat happened to them as you proceed to reveal the very image they've built up? Often times this is accomplished by somehow knowing generally what a person will be imagining (e.g., peeking a short written description or relying on psychological tendencies), but reading the image that someone has built up is often a cold read ing of sorts, guided by the mind reader's own associations with the topic. For instance, you ask someone to write down something that represents a childhood memory, they write down "snowboarding;' and you commence a detailed reading by drawing on your own associations with the word •snowboarding:' Some research in psychology, however, has examined the kinds of images people tend to create when recalling events from their past. This section reviews this research in hopes of arming you with extra bits to layer into such "mental image" readings. -88-

First, as a brief background, it seems that visual mental imagery relies on much the same mental processes as regular ol' vision. That is, as far as your brain is concerned, the images we imagine and the images we see in the real world are quite similar-they both rely on many of the same neural mechanisms to be processed. For instance, neuroscientists have long known thatthere are parts of the brain used to process faces when we look at them whereas other parts entirely are used to process places when we see them. It turns out those same specific parts of the brain are used when people are asked to merely imagine faces or places in their minds (O'Cravens & Kanwisher, 2000). Similarly, when people imagine seeing geometric shapes, their brain activity is nearly indistinguishable from the brain activity associated with actually seeing those shapes (Klein et al., 2004). Indeed, when neuroscientists induce a focused magnetic current over an area of the visual cortex, a part of the brain long known to process visual stimuli, it disrupts participants' ability to engage in a task that relies on using imagined visual imagery (Kosslyn et al., 1999). But what are some actual components of visual mental images? One of the more obvious qualities is vividness. Some visual images we can create are much more vivid than others. Mentalists often request that participants make their mental images as "vivid" as possible. With a playing card, the image can only be so vivid. But for our visual memories from the past, there are many details that can be vividly represented in our mental images. Across many different images, however, there are individual differences in how vividly people imagine things, which means some people remember things very vividly (on average) and other people tend to remember them less vividly. Psychologists measure this individual attribute by simply providing study participants with several visual images and asking how vividly they can imagine them. People who tend to form very vivid mental images are also especially likely to remember details of events that they see. For instance, after watching a videotaped interview, so-called "vivid imagers" accurately recalled more details from the interview than "non-vivid imagers" (Swann & Miller, 1982). Besides memory, how vividly people imagine things also has implications for cravings and -89-

addiction. Food cravings, for example, can depend on how vividly people imagine the foods that they crave (Kemps & Tiggemann, 2005). In research that directly reduces the vividness of food imagery, participants demonstrate correspondingly lower food cravings (Kemps et al., 2004; 2005). Before moving onto the next interesting component of mental images, let's test your own powers of vivid memory-based mental imagery. Think of a recent experience when you felt angry or upset. Imagine that time; see the memory in your mind's eye. Take note of the details in the image in your mind, and really try to focus on the emotion that you felt at the time. In particular, as you visualize this event, you could be seeing it from two different perspectives. On the one hand, you may be seeing things from the first-person perspective, meaning that in your memory, you are looking out at your surroundings using your own eyes. On the other hand, you may be seeing things from the third-person perspective, meaning that in your memory, you can actually see yourself as well as your surroundings. According to research on such perspectives, you are likely to have thought of this memory-a recent ti me when you feltangryorupsetusing a first-person perspective. That is, you likely re-imagined this event as you yourself saw it at the time. However, according to the same research, you were likely to have thought of the memory from earlier in this section-about when you were a young child-using a third-person perspective. That is, you were looking at yourself as a child, as if you were a fly on the wall in your own memory. Whether or not you imagined the two scenarios from the perspectives I "predicted;' the research shows that on average, this is the trend. Lisa Libby and her collaborators have conducted extensive research on "imagery perspective" (Libby & Eibach, 2011 ). Much of their research manipulates whether people imagine a scenario using first- vs. third-person perspective. Of greater interest to mentalists, I think, is the research that predicts when people use one style vs. the other. According to this research, there are several reliable predictors of which perspective people take in their memories.

Time: The older the memory, the more likely people are to remember it from the third-person perspective (Nigro & Neisser, 1983; Robinson -90-

& Swanson, 1993; Rozett, 1986; Talarico, LaBar, & Rubin, 2004). This seems to be the most studied association. Memories from long ago are re-imagined from third-person perspective whereas memories from quite recently are re-imagined from the first-person perspective. This is why, in the first memory exercise, I had you remember a time from when you were a young child. The second memory, by contrast, was "of a recent experience." In doing so, I was hoping to nudge your mental image toward one visual perspective over another. Feelings: When people are instructed to focus on the feelings they experienced at the time of whatever event they are remembering, they are more likely to use the first-person perspective. As opposed to describing "concrete, objective circumstances;' re-living the emotions and feelings one felt at the time encourages use of first-person perspective (Nigro & Neisser, 1983). Also, the more the memory is characterized by relatively intense emotion, the more likely people will adopt the first-person perspective (Talarico, La Bar, & Rubin, 2004). This is why I asked you to think of a time when you felt angry or upset (relatively intense emotions) and why I specifically said, "really try to focus on the emotion that you felt at the time:' All of this was meant to encourage first-person perspective. Self-Change: When visualizing a memory, people are more likely to use the third-person perspective if what they're remembering seems inconsistent with who they are now (Libby & Eibach, 2011; Libby, Eibach, & Gilovich, 2005). In the example I used at the start of this section, I was careful to include the following element: "focus on who you were way back then. Just as everyone grows and changes, you can remember, by seeing this image from your past using your mind's eye, just how different you were from who you are now:' By highlighting the differences between who you were then and who you are today (at least as far as you perceive it), I was hoping to push your image further into the domain of "third-person perspective:'

Action Direction: In one study of people's childhood memories, people were more likely to use the third-person perspective when remembering when something specific"happened to them" and more likely to use the first-person perspective when it was a memory of something specific that they "remember doing" (Libby, 2003). Thus, -91-

just by framing the memory as being something a person"remembers doing" vs. something that person remembers "happening to her" is enough to alter how the memory is re-imagined.

Imagery in Emotional Memory In collecting the research for this section, I came across a paper whose findings offer clear application to the mentalist. Given many mind readers' focus on the emotional component of their demonstrations, it would be valuable to know how visual mental imagery changes depending on the emotional content of what's being imagined. There are plenty of effects in mentalism in which someone chooses from a selection of discrete emotions (e.g., anger, happiness, etc.), which serves as the basis for something like a memory that the mentalist then "reads:' 11 Rather than tip these existing methods, I'll just ask you to imagine that you're in a position where your participant is now remembering a time in his or her life when he or she felt a particular emotion (that you sneakily enough happen to already know). As the participant re-imagines this memory, what are likely to be the visual elements of her scene? As I just discussed, it's true that when people are focused on felt emotions in general, they tend to use the first-person perspective to re -imagine the event. However, recent research by Talarico, LaBar, and Rubin (2004) offers us some interesting patterns unique to specific kinds of emotions. In their research, they assessed twenty different emotions, and they simply asked people to recall a time when the felt a particular emotion. That is, a participant in this study might be asked to think of a time when she felt especially disgusted, amused, or lonely. In response, everyone wrote a brief description of the memory and then answered several questions about the individual properties of the memory. The researchers were interested in many such properties, including 11 Surely many will be familiar with Luke Jermay's popularization of this premise in Emotional Intelligence, but similar premises can be found in Sean Waters' Ode to Eckman and Bruce Bernstein's Emotion, to name a few.


vividness and first- vs. third-person perspective, which we've already discussed, but also things like "rehea rsa I" (how often they had thought or talked about the memory since the event itself) and "confidence" (how much they thought the details truly reflect the event itself or are instead mostly imagined). To understand their results, you need to understand just a bit about how psychologists think about emotions. According to many psychological scientists, all emotions can be defined by their valence (i.e., positive vs. negative) and intensity or arousal (the socalled "circumplex model"; Russell, 1980). This view allows us to draw comparisons between discrete emotions. For instance, although being excited and being frustrated are similarly intense feelings, they differ in their valence-one is a positive emotion and the other is negative. In a similar way, even though "anger" and "boredom" are both negative emotions (i.e., same valence), they differ in intensity. So, even though Talarico et al. (2004) assessed memories for 21 different emotions, their results look at how the properties of the memories correlate with valence and intensity, rather than looking at how the properties differ from one emotion to the next. That is, they clump these emotions into four categories: high intensity positive, high intensity negative, low intensity positive, and low intensity negative (see the table in this section for the exact categorizations). Their results suggest that it's the intensity of the emotion that has a bigger impact on these memory imagery properties than the valence. To carry on with the example emotions from before, we might say that the ways in which we visually represent our "anger" and "excited" memories are more similar than the ways in which we visually represent our"anger" and "boredom" memories. Here are some highlights from their results. In general, memories in which people felt relatively intense emotions were characterized by the following: • Greater feelings of recollection. It was associated by more of a feeling of reliving the experience and traveling back to the time -93-

when it happened . • A greater sense that the details in the memory were accurate . • More vivid imagery, including visual, spatial, and auditory vividness. That is, a greater ability to see and hear the m~mory in the person's mind and recall the exact setting where 1t took place . • Greater sense that the scene is being looked at once again through the person's own eyes (i.e., first-person perspective) . • A greater sense of experiencing the same emotion at the moment of recalling the original experience (i.e., reliving the memory) . • Increased reports of having thought or talked about the memory since it happened . • A greater sense of recalling the event as a coherent story rather than as a jumbled mix of images that don't fit together as a narrative. Valence had several effects as well, however. For instance, memories coming from more positive emotions were experienced as having a stronger narrative (i.e., the memory makes a relatively coherent story) whereas negative emotional memories were more fragmented. Valence was also related to greater recollection whereby more positive emotions were associated with a greater feeling of reliving the experience and traveling back to the time when it happened. To give you a greater sense of how to wrap your head around these patterns, here are the emotions these researchers considered, categorized by their relative intensity and valence (as indicated by responses in these very studies). I've included only the highest and lowest "intensity" emotions because there is no strict cutoff; this should be sufficient for you to get a sense of how different specific emotions are likely to be re-experi enced through visual mental imagery.


Low Intensity

High Intensity

Negative Emotions

Positive Emotions

Bored Embarrassed Annoyed

Relieved Amused Calm



Sad Angry

Happy Proud

This information can all be used to weave subtleties into the readings that can accompany an effect that at its core is merely revealing a "randomly selected" emotion. So imagine somebody has selected "excited" and is now thinking of a recent time when she felt excited. Given the qualities that are associated with autobiographical memories of intense emotion, you might begin your revelation like this: Try to see this memory in your mind. As you continue to visually remember this event, I get the impression that you're able to remember this event very vividly. The visual details, the things you can hear, the space you're in ... all of this is really vivid in your mind. Certainly more vivid than any random memory. You also show signs of really re-living this event rather than just imagining it. You can feel tingles of the emotion again, and it feels like you yourself have traveled back in time to see this happen again. I also get the sense that you are re-living this memory from your own perspective. Sometimes people remember events in a way where they are seeing it from a 3rd_person perspective and they can see themselves in the scene, but I get the sense that you are seeing this out of your own eyes-does that makes sense? I'd also say that the vision in your mind is truly what you think happened-you're reason ably confident that this -95-

is what it looked like at the time ... you aren't just making up details for the sake of the exercise. It actually seems like this isn't a private memory, either- this is something you've talked about with other people since it happened, right? Something worth talking about ... a positive experience in your life.

At this point, you move into the specific reading of the content of the memory, moving away from impressions of the person's memory experience. As you can see, the details in the above "reading" are derived from the qualities that tend to accompany memories of high intensity emotional experience ("excitement;' in this case), and it creates the illusion that you're looking into the person's mind and actually seeing the memory. In other words, it shows the process of mind reading rather than just knowing an emotion.


The Mere Exposure Effect You have probably had the experience of hearing a new song and not caring for it much at first, but after hearing it a number of times, you find that you really do enjoy the song and catch yourself humming it when you least expect to. This phenomenon is the mere exposure effect.

Essentially, the more a person is exposed to something, the more that person comes to like it. In other words (and contrary to the catchier saying), familiarity breeds liking. In the original demonstration of this effect, Zajonc (1968) showed his participants stimuli for which they did not already have particularly extreme evaluations (e.g., foreign words, Chinese characters, or faces of strangers). The stimuli were shown for a pre-determined number of repetitions, depending on the group to which the participants had been assigned, so before people rated how much they liked the image or word, they had already seen it anywhere from 1 to 25 times (or in some cases, they were seeing it for the first time). The results were clear: the more they had already been exposed to the stimulus, the more they reported liking it. This effect also occurs across a range of things, including paintings, colors, flavors, and geometric figures (Murphy, Monahan, & Zajonc, 1995). One of my favorite demonstrations of th is effect comes from Moreland and Beach (1992). They arranged for four different women (of similar appearance) to attend a college class a certain number of times throughout the semester. One of these women didn't actually attend at all, one attended five times, one attended ten times, and the last woman attended fifteen times. These women did not interact with the students at all; they only sat in on the lecture. At the end of the semester, the students in the class were given pictures of each of the women and rated them on several dimensions like physical attractiveness. Despite never having interacted with these women, the students showed clear preferences depending on how frequently the women had attended the class. That is, they evaluated the woman who they -97-

had seen 15 times much more positively than the woman they hadn't seen at all. One explanation that has been offered up for the mere exposure effect is what psychologists call "perceptual fluency:' Essentially, we like things that are "fluent" or easy to process (Wikielman & Cacioppo, 2001 ). For example, people might like a simple pop song because of its simplicity-it doesn't take a lot of mental work to appreciate the song and therefore, it gets associated with the positivity of the easyto-process experience. It is similar with mere exposure; the more times you are exposed to something, the more familiar it is, and the easier it is to process, developing a more positive evaluation (Bornstein, 1989; Monahan, Murphy, & Zajonc, 2000). For more, see the section on fluency elsewhere in this book (page 61 ). A meta-analysis of existing work on the mere exposure effect by Robert Bornstein (1989) identified some conditions that are particularly conducive to this effect happening. First, the effect is stronger when the stimulus is presented for relatively brief durations, and the size of the effect tends to level off after 10-20 repetitions, which suggests there are diminishing returns with very frequent exposures. He also found that the effect tends to be enhanced when there is a delay between stimulus exposure and the ratings of the stimuli, and in some cases, there was still an effect of the repeated exposure two weeks later! Procedures that use subliminally presented stimuli actually produce an enhanced effect, compared to ones that use brief presentations where the person can actually recognize the stimulus. It also seems to be the case the mere exposure effect does not work as strongly with children because kids tend to prefer novel (vs. familiar) stimuli. Finally, the effect seems to be especially strong for more complex stimuli (e.g., this effect is stronger for complex line drawings, compared to simple line drawings). It may be possible to take advantage of the mere exposure effect to nudge people toward making a particular choice. That is, when given a choice between four playing cards under the instructions to "choose which one you like the best-go with your gut on this one;' the person may show a preference toward a card that he had been -98-

repeatedly, although unknowingly, exposed to earlier. Mentalists often deal with such complex symbols like playing cards and Tarot cards, so repeated exposure to one of these cards in the context of another demonstration or a set of instructions (and then given the choice after a brief delay), you might find that the increased liking for the force card nudges the participant to choose that one from a small group of options.


Metacognition Metacognition refers to "thoughts about one's thoughts:'The research in this area has some compelling implications for interesting premises in mentalism. In particular, it's interesting to consider how people treat their own thoughts and the implications of this treatment. There are several dimensions on which metacognitions can vary; for example, people can think about their thoughts in terms of how much they like or dislike them, where they perceive their thoughts to originate (i.e., from within their own minds vs. from common cultural beliefs), whether their thoughts are good or bad, and how confident a person is in the validity of his or her thoughts (Wagner, Bririol, & Petty, 2012). Two individuals might have the very same thoughts in response to a film they just saw, but one person may perceive their thoughts to be relatively invalid, so those thoughts won't inform his overall judgment of the movie.

Thoughts-As-Objects Technique As an illustrative example, I will review a recently published set of studies with interesting implications for how people can take their thoughts and turn them into material objects. Some proponents of mindfulness-based therapies have suggested that thoughts can be treated as material objects (Brown, Ryan, & Creswell, 2007). This allows clients to separate themselves from their thoughts by treating those thoughts more objectively. In a recent series of studies testing the application of this approach to attitudes, Bririol, Petty, Gasco, and Horcajo (2013) asked people to write down either positive or negative thoughts about Mediterranean diets. Upon doing so, they were randomly assigned to one of three conditions. I n one, they were asked to take the paper on which they wrote their thoughts and place it in a trash can, "t hrowing away" their thoughts. In the other condition, they were asked to take the paper on which they wrote their thoughts, fold it up, and keep it in a safe place -100-

such as their pocket, wallet, or purse. In the third, control condition, participants were asked to merely fold the corners of the paper on which they wrote their thoughts and leave the paper on the table. After performing one of these actions, all participants then rated their attitudes regarding the Mediterranean diet. As expected, results indicate that when people in the control condition were asked to generate positive (vs. negative) thoughts about the topic, they later reported more positive (vs. negative) overall opinions of the topic. How thoughts were treated (as if they were material objects), however, had a significant impact on how those thoughts influenced attitudes. For people who kept their written thoughts close to them, those thoughts had a more pronounced effect on attitudes than in the control condition. In contrast, for people who placed their written thoughts in the trash, the effect of the thoughts on attitudes was attenuated compared to the control group. This business of when and how thoughts guide judgments can be confusing, but the take-away point is that how people treated the physical representation of their thoughts influenced how they used their thoughts in forming a judgment. When you throw away or destroy the material version of your thoughts, it's as though you invalidate the thoughts and as such, those thoughts are not used to come to a decision. However, when you keep your thoughts close, you imbue those thoughts with greater importance and validity, using them even more when coming to a decision. An example of what it means to see your thoughts as "valid" and then to use them in forming a judgment, consider the experience of watching a movie. Let's say I'm watching The Godfather, and as I watch it, I have thoughts like, "The acting is really good!" Later, when you ask me if I thought The Godfather was a good movie, I will say "yes" but only if I trust those thoughts I was having. If I don't trust those thoughts (e.g., if I don't know anything about filmmaking or I hear that other people disagreed with me), then I might hem and haw and say it was only okay even though the thoughts I was having were extremely favorable. In the land of billets, center tears, and impression devices, the -101-

presentational impact of these studies are obvious. People often wonder how to justify making people write down a thought that they will later reveal. As a presentational device, this may offer an intriguing justification that can be woven into a broader narrative for the performance. Consider a routine in which two people write down a thought, but one of these is burned and one of them is placed in safe keeping. You can of course reveal both thoughts, but the individual experiences can vary between the two participants. You might also apply these results to genuinely create a different experience for someone in a thought reading performance by paying special attention to how you treat the physical representation of the participant's personal thoughts.


Name Letter Preferences On the whole, people generally have positive views of themselves. As a consequence, it turns out, this positive self-regard can translate to a subtle preference for the letters in one's own name. That is, since my initials are "AL;' I have a particular affinity for those letters. Someone whose initials are "JG," on the other hand, wouldn't necessarily care much for "A" or "L'' but would instead be drawn to Js and Gs. This is what's become known as name letter preferences or the "name letter effect:' In a first demonstration of this, Nuttin (1985) designed a special set of stimuli for each of his participants based on the letters in their names. He told these participants that they would be simply rating the attractiveness of a random set of symbols. In the actual procedure, each participant was presented with a sequence of letter pairs. For each pair of letters, they simply indicated which one they preferred. What the participants didn't realize, however, was that each pair contained one letter that was in the person's own name and one letter that was not in the person's own name. The results revealed a clear preference for the letters in one's own name over letters not in one's own name, and these patterns existed both for letters in the first name and letters in the last name. Interestingly, and consistent with the introspection illusion (page 69), when people participate in this task, even though they are biased toward the letters in their names, they do not realize the reason for that preference. For example, in a follow-up study, Nuttin (1987) actually asked 100 people to figure out the pattern that governed which letters were being presented and even offered a monetary reward if they could figure it out. Nobody was able to guess that the letters had anything to do with their names. This preference for one's own name letters has been shown many times and even in many different languages (Nuttin, 1987; Hoorens et al., 1990). There seem to be a few trends in these effects that are worth mentioning. -103 -

First, the patterns are stronger for fi rst names (and especially first initials) than last na mes. Second, the effect is stronger among women than among men . However, some evidence suggests that for men, the preference favors one's last name, likely because men usually keep the same last name for their whole lives whereas women usually change their last names (e.g., Kitayama & Karasawa, 1997). Third, the instructions for the task tend to emphasize that people should use their intuitions in making the j udgments of how attractive the letters are. That is, they are told to go with their first spontaneous impressions, not take too long to make the judgments, and to let their feelings guide them. Finally, the effect also depends on one's level of self-esteem (see Koo le

& Pelham, 2003). As I mentioned earlier, t his effect is likely due to the positive regard people have fo r themselves, but this means that the effect is weaker among people with lower self-esteem. That is, people with higher self-esteem show a much stronger preference for their name letters than people with lower self-esteem. In fact-and th is may be getting a little more technical than I need to- it is one's implicit self-esteem t hat reflects these name letter preferences. In other words, how much self-esteem people say t hey have may not relate to the strength of the letter preferences, but it's the self-esteem they experience automatically (maybe even unconsciously) that's reflected in these preferences. Okay, great. So people li ke t heir names, but what does this really mean? Well, there is some interest ing research that shows just how deep these personal name affi nities can run, and I t hink these results could make an engaging mentalism presentation. In 2002, Brett Pelham and his colleagues reported 10 studies in a paper titled "Why Susie Sells Seashells by t he Seashore:' In it, they use data from census su rveys, social secu rity records, and other national databases to show that our names can bi as us toward certain outcomes. In Study 4, for example, t hey examined social security records for people who died in the Southeast United States. They identified several common names t hat linguistically resemble the names of -104-

southern states and looked to see if people whose names matched state names were disproportionately likely to have lived there. Amazingly, the data support this relationship; there were up to 44% more people who lived in states that matched their names than you wou Id expect by cha nee alone. That is, Georges were disproportionately likely to live in Georgia, Louises were disproportionately likely to live in Louisiana, and Kenneths were disproportionately likely to live in Kentucky (among other name-state matches). These patterns remain even after controlling for age factors 12 and ethnic factors. Another study looking at"Saint" cities shows the same patterns: people named Paul are disproportionately likely to live in St. Paul, and people named Louis are disproportionately likely to live in St. Louis. Of course, it's possible that what is really happening is that people who live in Virginia are just more likely to name their daughter "Virginia:' To account for this, the researchers also took a separate measure of not just who lived in these states but who had moved to these states. Indeed, it's the case that people seem to move to states similar to their own names at rates higher than chance. As another way to account for this, though, in other studies the researchers look at people's last names because these are much less likely to have been chosen based on a location. The results with surnames are much the same: there are more people with the surname "Ohi" in Ohio and there are more people with the surname "Hammond" in Hamilton, Canada than you'd expect by chance. In the final three studies that they report, Pelham et al. (2002) turn their attention to another place where name similarity might matter: occupations. They find similar patterns for occupations as they did with locations: there are more people in a given profession whose names resemble the name of the profession itself at rates higher than chance. For example, there are more people named "Dennis" and "Denise" who are dentists than you'd expect by chance, and there are more people named "Lawrence" and "Laura" who are lawyers than 12 This could have been a potential confound. For example, if people named "Florence" are more likely to be older, and people who live in Florida are also more likely to older, then th ere would be a particularly high proportion of Florences in Florida just because of both variables' associations with age.


you'd expect by chance. Another interesting study looked at people in the geosciences (geographers, geologists, etc.) and compared "Geo" names like "George" and "Geoffrey" to equally common non-"Geo" names like "Daniel" and "Pete:' The data show that among professionals in the geosciences, there are more Georges than Daniels and more Geoffreys than Petes, even though in the general population, those pairs of names are equally common. To take it one step further and to bring it back to simple Jetter preferences, the researchers also considered people whose first names merely began with G vs. people whose first names began with T (in the general population, there are about as many people with "G" names as "T" names). Once again, despite their equality in the general public, there are more geoscientists whose first names start with G than whose first names start with T. 13 Subsequent research has extended these consequences to more social domains. That is, we like people more when their names are similar to our own. Jones et al. (2004), for example examined marriage records in the United States and looked for name matches between partners. They found consistent patterns wherei n, for example, there are more married couples who share first initials (e.g., Steve and Sarah) than you'd expect by chance. In another study and an even stricter test of the hypotheses, they examined only people whose pre-marriage last names were one of the five most common surnames. T he results show another match ing effect: people whose last names are "Smith" are more likely to ma rry another "Smith" than they are to marry a Williams, Johnson, Jones, or Brown. By the same token, people whose last names are "Jones" are more likely to marry another "Jones" than they are to marry a Smit h, Williams, Johnson, or Brown. The same was true for all of the surname matches. Finally, the attraction we have t o the letters in our own names further extends to how likely we are to comply with someone's request. In one of the more devastatingly simple manipu lat ions of compliance, Garner (2005) simply manipulated the name of a person making a request. He mailed a survey to 100 people and asked them to consider 13 As with the first simple name lener prefe ences many of these studies-both locations of residence and chosen profession-s hows stro ger panerns for women than for men.


completing the questionnaire and mailing it back within 1O days using an enclosed envelope. Critically, half of the surveys that were sent included a cover letter signed by a member of the research team, whom the recipients were unlikely to know, but the other half of the surveys included a cover letter signed by someone whose name was similar to the recipient. These were customized for each participant so that someone named "Robert Greer" might receive a survey from a "Bob Gregar," and someone named "Cindy Johansson" might receive a survey from a "Cynthia Johnson:' When the surveys started coming back, the data painted a clear picture: compliance was greater when the request was being made by someone with a similar name. Whereas only 20% of the control questionnaires were completed and returned, 38% of the questionnaires sent by someone with a similar name to the recipient were completed and returned. The take-away point? People are drawn to their own names. Through many studies, we now know that people think the letters in their names are more attractive than letters not in their names, they move to places whose names are similar to their own, they choose professions whose names are similar to their own, they marry people with the same first initials or the same last names, and they help people more when their names are similar to their own.

Name Letter Force I began playing with this psychological force when thinking about the research on name letter preferences. It also incorporates a couple other psychological concepts, meant to nudge people toward the preferred answer. In fact, the name letter component need not be present if you so choose since the letters in this seem to work quite well as it is. Here is the force ... This quick experiment may seem a little strange, but I just want to get a quick impression of how you perceive the alphabet. On the other side of this card, I wrote a few letters, and I want you to do is provide your first


intuitive impression of wh ich one you like the best.

You turn over the card and the following letters are written on it:





Which one do you like? Just pick one.

In this example, it's statistically likely that people will choose the A. When I ran a short on line survey to test the effectiveness of this force, 21 of the 29 participants chose the letter A. This, of course, is in the suboptimal conditions of an online survey where people need not actually feel pressure to provide a first impression. In performance conditions, this figure should be higher, but these data provide at least initial evidence of its effectiveness. This force was designed with a few principles in mind: Fluency: As described elsewhere in this book, fluency of perception provokes a feeling of liking. Because "A" is a much more common letter in the alphabet, compared to "O:"'W;' and "G;' it is more familiar (see "mere exposure"), easier to process, and thus more attractive. Position Effects: The force letter is not placed on the ends, a position effect that has been demonstrated elsewhere in the mentalism literature (see Banachek's Psychological Subleties). The online data I have collected also show that this particular ordering of the letters produces the most reliable preference for the force letter. Name Letter Effect: Similar to the fluency explanation, these letters were also chosen with the Name Letter Effect in mind. In consulting the data on the most common names in the U.S., "A" is very common letter in these names whereas "Q""W;' and "G" are quite uncommon.

What makes this force particularly interesting is the name letter component. The "A" in the list of letters can be swapped out for the first letter in the participant's name-especially when the name begins with a relatively common lette r. In the course of introductions, you will know the first initial of the person's name. Let's say you're performing for Jennifer. You would w rite out "Q J W G" on the card -108-

and follow the same procedure. The chances are that the force will hit and Jennifer will pick "J" even if she doesn't realize it's because of a name letter effect (see the "introspection illusion"). When the personalized version of this force hits, you have a perfect transition into a name letter effect explanation and corresponding effect. I like to do the force by writing these letters on the outside of an envelope. Inside is an index card on which I've written "You will pick your first initial:'This allows me to reveal a logical prediction and support the prediction by describing the amazing research showing that people named "Dennis" are especially likely to become dentists and so forth. You can then have the person think of a different name that's important to them, write it down on the other side of the prediction, and seal it in the envelope. You of course have accessed the information somehow before sealing it away. Finally, you reveal this name by running through the alphabet, apparently reading which of the letters jump out at the person most in that moment. As with so many approaches to psychological forces, if it doesn't hit, you have the opportunity to deliver an interesting reading based on the letter choice and then proceed by having the person think of a word that starts with that letter, revealing it in whatever way you see fit. The letter-selection procedure thus has significance and logically introduces a real effect. Most of the time, however, you have the opportunity to supplement an already-amazing demonstration with an additional prediction with a logical presence as an introductory reveal.


Nonverbal Behavior: Lie Detection The ability to tell when somebody is lying may be such an intriguing premise because lying is so pervasive. People tell an average of one lie per 5 social interactions (Kashy & DePaulo, 1996). People who lie more frequently tend to be more manipulative, more concerned with how they present themselves, and more extraverted and sociable (Kashy & DePaulo, 1996). Creative personalities have also been linked to a higher likelihood of dishonesty and deception (Gino & Ariely, 2012). The lies that people tell most often tend to be about their feelings, their preferences, and their opinions.

Can People Detect Lies Reliably? As it turns out, people are terrible at detecting lies when they happen. Although it is a common ploy in mentalism to be able to tell when people are lying, in the real world, lie detection is incredibly difficult, and when people are asked to guess when someone is lying versus telling the truth, accuracy rates are barely above chance. Of course, this is great news if you have a technique to appear as though you are accurately detecting lies. The potential problem, however, is that a simple lie detection effect may not seem quite as impossible as it is. People may think that there's a 50% chance of getting it right or that they would be equally able to detect lies themselves. Therefore, consider framing a lie detection demonstration in the context of some data that show just how impossible it can be to detect a lie. Bond and DePau lo (2006) conducted a meta-analysis of 206 studies that examined how accurately people could detect dishonesty and found that the average accuracy rate of detecting lies was just 54%. When they considered only studies in which participants had to detect lies strictly using nonverbal behavior cues (i.e., silent -110-

videos), accuracy dropped to a mere 51%. Another meta-analysis by Aamodt and Custer (2006) echo and extend the previous findings. Although the accuracy rate for students participating in experimental st udies is only 54.2%, the accuracy rates for judges, police officers, customs officers, federal officers, and detectives are barely any different. Surprisingly, one study observing such accuracy among parole officers found an average accuracy rate of 40.4%, which means they were wrong more often than they were right. Contrary to popular belief, however, men and women showed no reliable differences in the ability to detect deception, and this ability also did not differ as a function of age, years of experience, education, or cognitive ability. Finally, the confidence a person has in his or her ability to detect dishonesty is not at all predictive of that ability.14 That is, whether a person is sure or unsure of his ability to catch someone in a lie, he has about a 50% chance of being right either way. Some studies also suggest that an individual's ability to detect lies (low though that accuracy might be overall) generalize across types of lies. That is, someone's ability to detect lies about the opinions people express transfers to the ability to detect lies about information given in a mock trial (Frank & Eckman, 1997). These data also suggest that individuals who are relatively good at detecting lies rely on the ability to detect micro facial expressions, which is a skill that is not specific to any particular type of lie but would generalize across any dishonest communications.

Who Can Detect Lies? So who can detect a lie? Interestingly, criminals show higher degrees of accuracy in detecting lies than even professional lie detectors. Aamodt and Custer (2006) identified a study showing that criminals' accuracy rates for lie detection was 65.4%. This may be because this population has a better sense of what actually gives a lie away. For 14 Technically, the correlation is statistically significant, but it is so small that we can effectively say there is no relationship. If you wanted to be totally accurate, you "."outd. s~y that there's only the slightest, barely noticeable trend for people more confident in their he detection ability to show greater accuracy in t hese guesses.


instance, there is a common belief that lying provokes a nervous reaction that results in touching one's face, shifting one's physical position, and gesturing, but in fact, these are not actually reliable "tells" (e.g., DePaulo, 1988). Indeed, in a study testing how prevalent these beliefs are, both college students and "professional lie detectors" (e.g., police detectives, customs officers, and prison guards) said that they thought these behaviors were indicative of lying, but when a sample of prisoners took the very same survey, they correctly indicated that these behaviors were not related to lying (Vrij & Semin, 1996).

A Word About Research Methods These data paint a grim picture if a mentalist hopes to ever actually learn to detect deception through nonverbal behavior, but the evidence, if incorporated into a performance could really sell the achievement of successful lie detection demonstrations (even when your methods are a little more foolproof). Of course, several approaches that have been proposed in the mentalism community for successful lie detection genuinely rely on reading nonverbal cues (e.g., Patrick Redford's Prevaricator). And all hope is not lost. Even though people on average are bad at making their own judgments of deception, there are reliable cues that accompany dishonest (vs. honest) communication. Of course, the extent to which you can use these cues to actually construct a demonstration of lie detection has yet to be seen. I present them only as a report of the available evidence and not as a tried and true method for such an effect. One thing to bear in mind is that these studies tend to examine lying by comparing the behavior of people who had been instructed to tell a lie to the behavior of others who had been instructed to tell the truth. Also, the content of the lies may differ from the presentational premises often used by mentalists. That is, while many "lie detection" mentalism ploys are based on the participant lying about a simple "yes" or "no" response, the lies that people are instructed to tell in these studies are often less simplistic. -112-

For example, the studies included in DePaulo et al:s (2003) metaanalysis had people lie about a range of topics, including descriptions of facts or opinions, descriptions of films or images, descriptions of people, simulated job interviews, descriptions of personal experiences, and responses to personality questions. Clearly, the range of things about which people can be dishonest is vast! So although the following are reliable indicators of lying, they come from a particular set of scenarios.

Nonverbal Tells First, when engaged in a communication, liars include fewer details in that communication than do truth tellers. It's not necessarily the case that liars spend less time talking (although they might under some circumstances), but the content of the communication is lacking in detail, compared to truth-tellers. Compared to truthful accounts, those of liars tend to make less logical sense; they are judged to be less plausible, less likely to be structured logically, and more likely to be internally inconsistent. Overall, people telling the truth are more likely to make corrections to their stories as they move forward, and people telling the truth are also much more likely than liars to acknowledge an inability to remember something. Liars' speech tends to also be less engaging, showing less involvement in their vocal presentations and using much fewer hand gestures to illustrate the points. Although other research had claimed that lying tends to be accompanied by greater speech disturbances, the meta-analysis didn't find any evidence that such disturbances (e.g., filled pauses and silent pauses) were predictive of lying. It is the case, however, that lying tends to be accompanied by more repetition of words and phrases. Not surprisingly, people who are lying are more nervous and tense, and this tension is manifested in vocal tension, speaking with a higher pitch, and pupil dilation. Interestingly~ tho~gh'. it seems t~at these physiological arousal cues tend to be reliable indicators of l~mg only when the liar is motivated to succeed in his or her deception. That is, if there is a particular incentive to get away with the lie, the liar -113-

will experience this increased tension, but without such motivation, these cues no longer predict lying. 15 One cue that people may already be aware of is that of response time. Research has shown that when people are instructed to respond to questions with false (vs. true) information, they take longer to start responding to the question (e.g., Walczyk, Roper, Seemann, & Humphrey, 2003). In their meta-analysis, however, DePaulo et al. (2003) compared instances in which the participants had time to plan what they would say to instances in which they could not plan how they would respond. Not surprisingly, without the opportunity to plan one's message, lying is related to taking longer to respond to the question. However, when people do have the opportunity to plan what they will say, they begin speaking relatively more quickly when they lie than when they tell the truth.

Linguistic Tells There has also been some work done that looks at the words people use when telling lies (vs. when providing honest accounts). This work comes from research related to "linguistic styles:' which are covered elsewhere in this book (page 81). In an illustrative set of studies, Newman, Pennebaker, Berry, and Richards (2003) compared the words people used when giving honest reports of their prior behavior or their attitudes toward an issue to the words they used when giving dishonest reports. They did this using computer software that extracts particular sets of words that represent different types of thinking. Using these linguistic variab les as predictors, the resulting mathematical model was able to correctly identify liars 67% of the time whereas human judges ma king guesses based on the very same reports could identify liars on ly 52% of the time. A few of these linguistic indicators of lying stand out; t he first is the use of first-person pronouns (e.g., "l;"'me:'"my"). 15 An interesting presentational ploy would be to incentivize com pelling performances. Offer up a prize if the audience can t rick you into hinking they're lying when they're not or that they're telling the truth when t hey're lyi'1g.


For example, if you ask me what happened at the scene of a crime, I could say, "I saw a man run down the alley" (using a personal pronoun) or I could say, "A man ran down the alley" (not using a personal pronoun). Liars used these pronouns significantly less frequently, which is thought to signify distancing oneself from the lies being told. By contrast, referring to oneself may indicate that the person is being honest with him or herself. Liars also used more negative emotion words (e.g., "hate" or "anger") than truth-tellers. This is consistent with other research suggesting that the negative feelings of guilt or anxiety associated with lying can transfer to general expressed negativity. For example, Knapp and colleagues (1974) reported that people were more likely to make disparaging comments about others during a communication procedure when they were lying vs. telling the truth. Finally, the participants in these studies also used fewer exclusive words (e.g., "but" or "except") and more motion verbs (e.g., "move" or "go") when they were lying (vs. telling the truth). Both of these are likely due to the complex nature of lying. Keeping everything straight and inventing new details can take a lot of thought; therefore, words that further complicate this thought process (like exclusive words) are avoided and default verbs become relatively simplistic ones (like motion verbs at the expense of more complex, thoughtful verbs like "think" or "believe").

Neuroscience and Deception Although less informative for application, it is interesting to note that "lie detection" has been of interest to neuroscientists for many years. Neuroimaging technology remains crude, but that has not stopped companies from claiming that they can detect lies using the power of brain imaging (for a fee, of course). This has captured the imaginations of those in the legal field who see this as a bright opportunity for using technology to bypass the liar's attempts to conceal his or deception and look straight into the source of thought: ~he ~ram. While this sounds amazing, we're many years away from this being a viable tool. -115-

There has, however, been research showing that on average, lying (vs. telling the truth) reliably activates a series of brain regions. For those with a mind for the details, these regions include the right anterior insula, the right inferior orbitofrontal cortex, the right inferior frontal lobe, the right middle frontal lobe, and the left middle temporal lobe, regions of the brain that are often associated with overcoming automatic responses and exerting behavioral control (Kozel, Johnson, Mu, Grenesko, La ken, & George, 2005).

When and Why We Lie Finally, I wanted to briefly describe some related work that has shown when and why people tell lies. In particular, some research has suggested that it takes self-control to avoid dishonesty. That is, the automatic selfish response in some social situations would be to lie, and it takes active self-control to tell the truth. In a series of experiments, Mead, Baumeister, Schweitzer, and Ariely (2009) showed that making people feel mental fatigue reduces their capacity for self-control, which leads to a greater likelihood of acting dishonestly. Specifically, in one study, people we induced to feel mental fatigue by being asked to write an essay without using words containing the letters A and N, which is a mentally taxing activity. Try it! They were then given the opportunity to lie about their performance on a math test that would result in receiving an undeserved reward. As expected, the people who had initially gone through the mentally taxing experience were more likely to take the opportunity to lie for a reward than the people who had not gone through the earlier experience. This means that mentally exhausting experiences reduce our ability to override the urge to use dishonesty for our own gain. Surely there is plenty more that could be said about lie detection and the phenomenon of deception, but I hope that this information arms you with some ideas as to how to present a successful lie detection demonstration and maybe helps you adapt the research findings to a particular presentational premise that boosts your chance of accurately detecting your audience's lies. -116-

The "Pratfall" Technique It's common practice to intentionally "miss" in a mentalism demonstration. The disappointment in that mentalist's face when the participant has to say, "no that was not the card I was thinking of;' delivered with as much presentational confidence as possible. Usually, such intentional blunders are meant to make one's abilities appear more "real." Surely if someone really had the power to read thoughts, the results wouldn't be perfect every time. There may, however, be another reason to fail in a demonstration-and to fail hard. Elliot Aronson and his colleagues first showed evidence that when competent people find themselves in an embarrassing blunder, people like them more (Aronson, Willerman, & Floyd, 1966). In their study, participants watched a video of someone auditioning for a competitive trivia team. The person in the video was either someone who was clearly competent or clearly incompetent. At the end of the audition, though, in the critical "pratfall" conditions, the person clumsily spills his cup of coffee on himself. For the relatively incompetent person, the embarrassing pratfall made the participants like that person a little less, but when the person in the video seemed relatively competent, the same embarrassing pratfall actually increased liking for the person. There are a few caveats to this general finding, however. The advantage of the pratfall is more likely under particular circumstances. First, some evidence suggests that a pratfall increases liking for a competent person primarily when a male is judging another male (Deaux, 1972). Second, pratfalls increase liking for a competent person more when the perceiver has average self-esteem. It would seem that pratfalls increase liking for competent people because they humanize a person that may initially come across as extraordinary; therefore, people with average self-esteem are more likely to appreciate this humanization. People who already have either relatively low or relatively high selfesteem, however, actually liked the competent person more when he didn't make a mistake (Helmreich, Aronson, & LeFan, 1970). T he reason for this change in liking may differ for the people with low - 117-

self-esteem vs. the people with high self-esteem. Those who are high in self-esteem already may come to respect the competent person as someone of similarly high accomplishment; any mistake, then, may cause a rejection of someone who they once thought was on equal footing with them. Those who are low in self-esteem, however, may come to admire a person who they see as clearly superior and as such, they may not be able to tolerate any apparent flaws. For the mentalist, being too perfect can certainly backfire-not only because it casts doubt on the authenticity of the claims made but also because it may prevent the audience from liking the performer as much as they could. The results of the studies I've just reviewed, however, point to several important considerations when choosing to commit a mind reading blunder, including the gender of your audience and their collective self-esteem. The biggest point across all of these studies, however, is that it's only competent people who experience a boost in liking from committing a pratfall. In all of these studies, when a person seems incompetent, he is disliked regardless of whether or not he makes a mistake. Therefore, it is important that you demonstrate credibility as a competent mentalist before you commit a true uh-oh. If you miss your prediction by too much too early in your show, you may have set your audience up to dislike you for the remainder. It's only after you've proven your worth that a slip-up will gain you points. If you wantto include a mistake in your act, however, I would caution you not to make it a mistake that you've planned to bounce back from. That is, a prediction that at first appears incorrect but becomes correct after turning it upside down is not a pratfall. You want to re-establish your competence after a pratfall, of course, but I would suggest doing so via a new demonstration or by giving the same feat another try.

One-Ahead Scribble Subtlety In performing Josh Zandman's "Impromptu Book Test;' I developed a subtlety that depends in part on the power of a "pratfall:' The same logic can be applied to other instances of one-ahead based methods, but as you'll see you're restricted somewhat because ultimately you -118-

only "hit" on one of two instances of mind reading.

R~ther t.han reveal the nuances of Josh's clever thinking as it applies to his particular book test, I provide you here with a corollary effect that operates on similar principles, but the point is really to demonstrate the pratfall subtlety.

Scribbledeedoo (Effect) Effect: The performer asks a participant to consider all the cards in a deck and to think of just one of them. Although he tries to pick up on exactly what the card is, he ultimately gets it wrong. When he tries again, however, he gets it just right. In fact, upon later reflection, he wasn't even that far off the first time.

Explanation: This is just a dressed-up one-ahead method. Begin by asking someone to think of any card in a deck and repeat the name of that card mentally, over and over again. The idea here is that they're getting used to the sound of the card's name rather than visualizing it. This is important only in that it justifies part 2 of the effect. The participant truly has the freedom to think of any card at all, and at this point, you just make a guess, and make it a genuine guess. If you've been tooling around with various"real"mind reading methods, you may be pretty good at this. Let's say you guess "Jack of Diamonds:' Write that guess down on an index card, just above the center (see image panel a). Now that you've committed yourself to your guess, ask the participant to say the card she has been thinking of. 16 Almost assuredly, you will be wrong. If you happened to be right, or even close to being right, you have a miracle on your hands. Clean, propless mentalism. Just turn the card around and quit while you're ahead. But in the statistically likely event that your guess is reasonably far away from correct, proceed as planned. Let's say she says that she's been thinking of the "6 of Spades:' It's at this moment that you can apply the pratfall technique. A look 16

"... because I want everyone to be as amazed as you will be." Don't forget the "because"



of embarrassment overcomes you, and you let out an "okay ..." as you scratch out the guess you had just written down. This always gets a laugh. a.



At some level, nobody expected you to get this right anyway, and it's a humanizing moment to own up to what has to be a pretty big failure, based on your nonverbal reaction. In fact, however, although you are genuinely crossing something out on the index card, you're crossing out blank space. What you're really doing is scribbling a line in the space above the guess you had written (see image panel b). Why would you scratch out blank space? Because people can't easily tell the order in which things are written on a piece of paper- we tend not to notice layers of ink and only notice patterns of ink. In a moment, you'll write something on top of this scribble line, and later it will look as though it was written first. "Okay, "you say." Let's try that again. I may have given both of us a little too much freedom to let our minds wander. Playing cards are combinations of numbers, colors, and symbols, so it can be a little slippery to make too much meaning of them when we're just thinking about them. Let's make it a little more concrete."You take out an actual deck of cards, give them a quick mix, and spread them for the participant to see their faces. "These cards are very visual, as you can see by how they appear so distinct from one another. Just take one of the cards at random and really pay attention to how the card looks:' At this point, you control the Jack of Diamonds (or whatever card you actually guessed earlier) to a -1 20-

position for forcing, and force that card on the participant. You can do this however you like. I really don't care how you do it. You again go through the rigmarole of reading the person's thoughts, picking up this time on the visuals (which again is all just an excuse to change up the format of the card selection). Now when you write your guess, you will write something over the scribble you have drawn on the card. But what do you write? Well, don't write what the person actually thought of. It's a little cheap to make a big deal about missing, garnering empathy, and then show off that you actually had it right all along. As far as routining, it also makes little sense to move onto a less impressive demonstration when you actually got the more challenging one wrong. Instead, write a card that's somewhat close to what the person first thoug ht of-something that's wrong enough that you can defend why you felt discouraged by it but that's close enough that people who care to notice would be reasonably impressed. In this case, the person had actually thought of the "6 of Spades;' so I might write "4 of Spades" on top of the scribble (see image panel c). Now ask the participant what card she's thinking of, and ask her to show everyone else the card itself. You can now turn around the card to show that you got it exactly right-"Jack of Diamonds:' For all practical purposes, that's the end of the effect; however, if you have a sharp audience, they will notice that you weren't that far off the first time.

Notes: My only true contribution to this is the scribble technique. The rest is easily composed from very basic knowledge of mentalism. I do think, however, that the scribble technique adds a few important dimensions. First, as mentioned, it utilizes the "pratfall" effect. You create a humanizing moment where you really do have to pick up and move on, but importantly, it's not at the expense of a climax. Second, it provides a visual cue that prevents someone from leaping to a one-ahead conclusion even if it's just a lay notion of one-ahead. The illusion is strong enough that it really looks like everything -121 -

happened in the order you presented it. Finally, the scribble provides a visual guide that orients people's attention to the final revelation. Without the scribble, it is somewhat disorienting to look at a paper with two things written on it and know where to pay attention. The "cross-out" does a good job of drawing attention the revelation that's meaningful in the moment. When you make the scribble, though, don't scratch out the space too much. People should be able to easily read what will be written on top of it. I opt for a gentle wavy line because it (a) allows room to see "through" it, (b) looks more like scratching something out, and (c) obscures exactly where on the page you're drawing the line. It's possible that people could catch on to subtle differences in where you're writing each guess, which is why I keep them relatively close together, and the up-and-down motion of the "crossing out" step makes it less clear where I'm crossing something out.


Making Predictions Failing to Know Our Future Selves In .general, people .no good at the predicting the future. It's a good thing, too, or prediction effects wouldn't be at all interesting. But ~hat's especially intriguing about the difficulty of knowing the future 1s that people can also fail to accurately predict something that they really think they can predict: their future feelings. For instance, think about how you would feel if you lost your job next month. According to research on affective forecasting, whatever intensity of emotion you are predicting now has little to do with how you will actually feel if that happened. Time and aga in, studies have shown that "people routinely mispred ict how much pleasure or displeasure future events will bring" (Wilson & Gilbert, 2005, p. 131 ). These affective forecasting failures often take the form of overestimating how happy or unhappy you will be (and for how long) in response to a future event. This so-called "impact bias" (Wilson & Gilbert, 2003) can take many forms. For instance, if you imagined how you would feel if you lost you r job next month, the emotion you predicted is likely more intense than what you would actually feel. In an empirical demonstration of this, researchers asked college students to report how happy they thought they would be if they were assigned to a particular dorm on campus. Even though students said that they would be really happy in some dorms and really unhappy in others, their actual happiness one year later did not depend on wh ich of those dorms they had been randomly assigned to. Students who were living in dorms that they thought would make them happy were no happier than students who were living in dorms that they thought would make them unhappy (Dunn, Wilson, & Gilbert, 2003). Why do people fail so badly in predicting their future feelings? The research has uncovered several explanations. One is called focalism and refers to the idea that we focus too much on one particular


aspect of a situation when we predict how it will make us feel (Wilson, Wheatley, Meyers, Gilbert, & Axson, 2000). As an example, if I'm trying to predict how I would feel if I won a magic contest, I'd over-focus on the positives that would come from it, but I wouldn't be as apt to consider other things in my life that could limit the elation (e.g., workplace stress, an upcoming trip, etc.). Another reason for the misprediction of future feelings is called immune neglect. The notion is that just like our bodies have immune systems that defend against illness, we also have a "psychological immune system" that defends against threats to our happiness. In other words, we adapt to events in our lives, but we often forget how quickly we adapt (Gilbert, Pinel, Wilson, Bum berg, & Wheatley, 1998), overlooking the power of our psychological immune systems. In the example of loosing one's job, we know that people bounce back from those setbacks. Similarly, if you're thinking about how you would feel following a break up with a romantic partner, you might overestimate how bad you will feel because you don't realize how readily you'll be able to work throug h the setback. With time, you would develop an explanation for the break-up, change your attitudes toward the other person, and so forth. Those things, however, are hard to account for when you are currently in the relationship. All of this is to illustrate the difficulty of predicting the future - even when it's something we think we'd be able to predict. Many mentalists, of course, are in the business of pred iction . It is thus compelling to know just how difficult knowing the future is. We may think that anyone could predict at least their own emotional future, but even this proves challenging.

Statistical vs. Intuitive Predictions Although it's difficult for people to predict the future, mathematical models can do a surprisingly good job. In fact, some research has attempted to determine just how our own intuitions stack up against statistical models in making predictions. Linear regression models-a particular kind of statistical model- has a particular advantage over human judgments when it comes to predicting fut ure numerical -1 24-

outcomes like a student's GPA. However, statistical models have also demonstrated an advantage over subjective predictions for outcomes like anxiety, job performance, and personality (see Grove, Zald, Lebow, Snitz, & Nelson, 2000). This scholarly pursuit owes a great debt to a seminal book by Paul Meehl in 1954 on the comparison of"clinical"vs. "statistical"prediction. By "clinical predictions;' he meant judgments made by compiling data using informal, subjective methods. By contrast, "statistical" (or "mechanical" or "actuarial") predictions are based on formal data compilation, producing fully replicable, objective analyses. Imagine, for example, that you wished to predict how long someone (why don't we call him "Rupert"?) will last at his new job. A clinical approach would involve mentally reviewing what seems to be relevant information: previous job success, personality variables, academic accomplishment, etc. The judge would then mentally juggle these variables and come to a reasoned conclusion about how long Rupert will last. A statistical approach, however, would instead quantify the relevant variables and include them in a mathematical equation derived from previous data assessing the relationships between those variables and the outcome of interest. The resulting computation is the final prediction. Nearly fifty years after Meehl's (1954) work, a comprehensive meta-analysis, testing the reliability of the patterns first presented by Meehl, offers clear evidence that statistical predictions afford greater accuracy than clinical predictions. Across 136 studies, statistical prediction models outperformed subjective predictions by about 10% on average. This advantage was true for many kinds of predictions, ranging from mental illness diagnoses to criminal recidivism. In addition, the superiority of statistical models remained true "regardless of the judgment t ask, type of judges, judges' amounts of experience, or the types of data being combined" (Grove et al., 2000, p. 19). Why is there such an advantage over subjective predictions? One compelling reason, suggested by Dawes, Faust, and Meehl (1989), is that statistical models are built to include only variables that matter in making accurate predictions. These variables are weighted in the - 125-

equations depending on how importantthey actually are in predicting the outcome of interest. Individual people, however, are not as good at understanding which variables are actually important and often convince themselves that certain variables matter when they do not. Going back to the earlier example, it might seem to us like Rupert's degree of extraversion would predict his job success, but it might not actually matter all that much. So when we place emphasis on this variable, we wrongly predict the outcome. The statistical model, though, treats that variable more appropriately. Individuals also lack access to representative samples to build their own mental models of how to predict someone's future. A mathematical model can be built from hundreds of people's data whereas an individual couldn't possibly have access to that many unique cases to establish reliable patterns.

Learning from Our Inability to Predict the Future So what's my point in telling a bunch people who claim to predict the future that math can do it better? That's a great question, and I wish I could just say, "Because it's interesting!" That answer, though, does little to appease people who spent money to learn about mentalism. One way to make use of this information is to set up the impossibility of predicting the future at all. You can share this very real truth with an audience as a means to illustrate how amazing it is that you will be able to predict anything with such specificity (as I have mentioned in the section on affective forecasting) . In addition, though, you might use this as the subscript for your prediction demonstrations. Mentalists have advocated for showing the "process" of mind reading, and one way to do this is to imagine something very particular during you r performance to craft an even more believable presentation. Thus, when writing a prediction, you might mentally simulate filling in a mathematical equation, plugging in the relevant variables and solving for y. But those are just a few thoughts. At the very least, it's good for people who"make predictions" to know what it really means to make predictions. -126-

Priming In a search for a fundamental tool in social psychology, the notion of "priming" and "accessibility" is sure to leap to the top of the list. Much of how we understand the human mind comes back to the notion of a schema, or a network of associations in the mind that links various thoughts, beliefs, and evaluations together. To take an exam pie, consider how the concept of"coffee"is represented in your mind. In my mind, it's linked with lots of coffee-related beliefs like where it comes from, how it's made, what temperature it should be. It's also linked with evaluative content-its pleasant smell, its utility in keeping me awake, and its good taste ... an overall positive evaluation. However, "coffee" is also related in my mind to other concepts, each of which are linked with their own sets of beliefs and evaluations. For instance, the topic of "coffee" might be linked with various brand names and coffee shops. It might also be linked with similar beverages like tea or hot cocoa, and "hot cocoa" is linked to its own set of associations. As you can imagine, this network goes on and on, linking all of my mental content. Of interest to psychologists is what makes some of those thoughts (or "nodes" in the mental network) more active than others. For a set of thoughts to be active is to be at the front of one's mind. It's "ready" to get used, so to speak. At any given moment, however, most thoughts are not especially active-they're stored in your mind somewhere, but you haven't been reminded of them, so they lay dormant. As an example, for someone like me, the concept of "coffee" isn't active in my mind all of the time. It can become active, however, when I see someone drinking it, when I feel myself getting tired, when I walk by a coffee shop, and when I smell coffee being roasted. These events re-activate the concept of"coffee:' For someone who works in the coffee industry, however, the concept of coffee and all those thoughts, beliefs, and evaluations that it's related to are active all the time. This is what we refer to as "chronic accessibility:' There are certain topics that are just very often at the forefront of our minds. Readers of this book are likely to have -127-

"mentalism" as a chronica lly accessible topic. When you encounter some new product at Staples, your first thought might be, "that would be a great method for an effect" even if you hadn't necessarily been consciously thinking about mentalism at the moment. People with only a passing interest in mental ism are unlikely to have "mentalism" chronically accessible and thus their first thought upon encountering the same new product wouldn't be its application to mindreading methodology. As the previous example illustrates, when mental content like the concept of "mindreading" is active or more accessible in your mind, it's not just that you think about it more. Rather, the mental content that's most accessible at any given moment affects many important processes and in particular, it provides a way to interpret ambiguous information (see "The Power of Ambiguity" on page 174). To take an example from social psychology, I'll turn to a domain that I don't address much in this book but that represents a large portion of research- stereotyping and prejudice. Stereotypes are networks of associations just like anything else in a person's mind, which means they can be more or less active at any given moment. For example, someone's stereotype of "teenagers" might include associations with technology, rude behavior, youth, health, little responsibility, etc. So imagine you see a teenage girl talking on her phone. She crosses the street, giving no attention to the fact that there are cars on the road . How do you interpret her behavior? Let's say you hold two sets of stereotype beliefs. On the one hand, as I've just mentioned, you may believe that all teenagers are inconsiderate and think they're entitled to do as they please. On the other hand, you believe that all women are easily distracted and never pay attention to their surroundings. Each of these stereotypes could help you interpret the teenage girl's behavior, but your ultimate interpretation depends on what concept is more active at the time. If the concept of "teenagers" is more active (maybe because this event happened near a high school, which reminds you of your "teenage" stereotype), then you will think her behavior is a sign of disrespect and arrogance. If the concept of "gender" is more active (maybe you just listened to a comedy routine about the differences between men -1 28-

and women, which reminds you of your "women" stereotype), then you will think her behavior is a sign of not paying attention to her surroundings. In this discussion, I've already mentioned a few ways a concept can become active (e.g., walking by a coffee shop makes "coffee" more accessible and driving by a school makes"teenagers"more accessible). In general, social psychologists refer to this process as priming.17 When a concept is "primed," it is made more active and accessible in one's mind. Importantly, this isn't necessarily a conscious process. It's not as if priming the concept of "fear" makes someone say, "Gee, I'm thinking so much about fear right now!" Instead, it's a subtle way of bringing that concept into a mental space that makes it influential for subsequent judgments, decisions, and so forth. Priming can work in two general ways: subliminally and supraliminally. A subliminal prime is one that's presented below conscious awareness. For example, by very quickly flashing a series of fear-related words on a screen, one can make that concept more accessible in a person's mind even though the person wasn't ever aware that the words had been presented. For a special discussion of subliminal priming, see the section in this book about subliminal influence (page 155). Supraliminal priming, by contrast, is when the stimuli used as primes occur with the person's awareness. This doesn't mean that the person is aware of the intent to prime the concept- just that he or she consciously perceived the stimulus. For instance, if I wanted to prime the concept of"beauty;' I could give you a word search puzzle in which many of the words are related to this concept (e.g., "pretty;' "attractive,""brilliant;' etc.). In this case, you're aware of each word but not of the intent to prime a certain set of thoughts. 17 If for some reason you have been following current events in the world of psychology, you'll know that the notion of"priming"has come under fire recently. A prominent psychologist wrote an influential "open letter" expressing deep skepticism of the very concept itself, and in a scientific climate that puts a premium of being able to replicate one's experiments exactly, some specific (and classic) priming studies have been called into question. Although it would be closed -minded of me to just cast this criticism aside, I have to admit that I have trouble understanding the basis of these skeptics' doubts. If there's anything that 's been shown over and over again in the field of social psychology, it's the influence of pri.m ing mental c.ontent. Study after study employs priming as a tool and has documented reliable effects. I ~nclude this footnote, however, in case you caught wind of this controversy and are ready to discount this whole notion of priming.


This is all very abstract, of course, so let's see how these things actually play out in a couple famous experiments. Higgins, Rholes, & Jones (1977) conducted the first study of priming, and the simplicity illustrates its influence well. They had participants first do a simple perception task that required them to remember a series of words. Most of the words in the task were ordinary, neutral words. The sneaky part, however was that the set of words for some participants contained a few positive personality traits (e.g., "adventurous" and "self-confident"). The other participants' word set instead included negative personality traits (e.g., "reckless" and "stubborn"). Other than this subset of words, everyone had to remember exactly the same words. So although participants weren't aware of it necessarily, some had been primed to think more about positive personality traits and some had been primed to think more about specific negative traits. Next, participants were told that they would participate in a "reading comprehension task" in which they read a brief description of a man named Donald. Critically, this description was ambiguous as to what Donald was like as a person. Following this ambiguous description, though, participants were asked to rate how much they liked Donald. What was this all about? This seems like a random assortment of activities for participants to do. In fact, the researchers expected the word memorizing task to prime different personality traits which would help people interpret the description of Donald, thereby biasing what they thought of him. That's precisely what they found . The people who had been primed with positive personality traits like "adventurous" later said they liked Donald more than the people who had been primed with negative personality traits like "reckless;' even though they all read exactly the same description. To get a better sense of how this could happen, here's an abbreviated version of the description participants read : Donald has climbed Mt. McKinley, shot the Colorado rapids in a kayak, driven in a demolition derby, and piloted a jet-powered boat - without knowing very much about boats. He has risked injury and even death a number of times. He has been thinking that perhaps he would do some skydiving or maybe cross the Atlantic in a sailboat.


You can see how that description might mean something very different if you're reading it with the lens of "adventurous:' compared to reading it with the lens of "reckless:'You may thus interpret the very same words to make a judgment of a person differently, depending on what is already more accessible to you. Another example is one that I have adapted to a classroom demonstration of priming, and it surprises me every time how powerfully it operates. There exists a large area of research on the psychology of aggression, and one interesting finding is what's called the "weapons effect:' Very simply, research has shown that merely seeing weapons primes aggression, which can translate into more aggressive behavior. In some studies, researchers show some people pictures of weapons, and they show other people pictures of ordinary objects. Afterward, the people who saw weapons are quicker to identify aggressive words like "attack" and "hurt" than non-aggressive words like "lonely" or "inferior" (Anderson, Benjamin, & Bartholow, 1998). In my classes, I demonstrate this by showing half the room a series of weapons images on the projector and showing the other half of the room a series of everyday objects. Then I have them complete the same set of "word fragments" with the first word that comes to mind. These fragments could be completed with an aggressive or a non-aggressive word. For example, the fragment "K I __ " could be completed with "kill" or "kiss:' Similarly, the fragment "C _ T" could be completed with "cut" or "cat." By the magic of priming, the people saw a bunch of weapons complete more of these fragments with aggressive words than the people who saw the everyday objects. Okay, so I've taken a lot of time to describe the phenomenon of priming (and believe me, I could go on- there's a lot of research and theory trying to understand the nature of priming, its effects of judgments and decisions, and the conditions under which it's most effective; Higgins, 1996) ... but what does it mean for you? There are a few applications, and they circle around methods for psychological forces. You may have noticed that these priming studies resemble the faux explanations given in the "psychological illusion" presentation -131 -

style. That is, pointing out the elements in the environment that subconsciously nudge someone to think of a particular word may have some degree of psychological truth to it. In theory, something like priming could be used to nudge people in a particular direction, but it's to the extent that the primes serve to activate certain mental content. It's nor the case that mentioning words like "circus" and "peanuts" will automatically make people think of "elephant" when you ask them to think of an animal, but it would make the schema of "circus" more accessible and nudge people in the direction of thinking of things in more circus-like ways rather than think of "circus" out of the blue.

Priming Presentation For a great application of this kind of thinking, check out this blog post on Nick Kolenda's blog in which he applies these concepts to improving success in a classic psychological force: http://www. He does a great job outlining the social psychological theory and exploring the ways in which it can be applied to these forces. One of the great points he makes is that the linguistic trickery that mentalists often use as the subtext of their "subconscious influence" is unlikely to actually prime anything. For example, in my faux psychological influence explanation for the circle-triangle force, I use the phrase "images or clues" which I can then emphasize as being pronounced "images-CIRCLE-oos:' In truth, this verbal trickery is unlikely to activate the mental concept of "circles" because it's meaninglessly embedded in other words that the person is likely to actually process as "images" and "clues:' So your psychological forces would do well with embedding the right ideas in the pre-script.

Assimilation vs. Contrast There's one extra detail to go into at this point, though, and that is the difference between primes that have assimilation effects vs. primes that have contrast effects. Sometimes priming someone to think of -132-

"adventurousness" might lead her to interpret information as evidence of adventurousness (assimilation), but other times, priming someone to think of "adventurousness" might instead lead her to interpret information by contrasting it against a standard of adventure (thus viewing it as less adventurous). It turns out that there's one key detail that determines which type of effect happens: awareness. In many priming studies, the priming is subtle; people are not aware that a particular set of thoughts is being activated. That is, the meaning of the primes is incidental. To take an example, in the Higgins, Rholes, & Jones (1977) study, people didn't realize that the words in the first memory activity had any special meaning-they were just words on a list, but just by reading them, the relevant mental stuff was activated. So what happens when people catch on? What if people were aware that the words in one activity had a special relevance to personality types rather than just experiencing them as words on a list? Martin (1986) tried to replicate the original "Donald" study with one key change: he made the priming task more blatant. Instead, he had participants read a set of phrases and explicitly indicate what personality type was exemplified in each one. Now the personality meaning of the primes is blatant- people knew that they were being guided to think more about certain personality traits. When they read the same description of"Donald" and rated how much they liked him, Martin's (1986) results were the opposite; people primed to think of the negative traits rated Donald as more likable than people primed to think of the positive traits. This is a "contrast effect" because people view the target in contrast to the prime. These effects have been shown time and again. For instance, when researchers separated people into two categories-those who remembered specific elements of the priming procedure and those who didn't-they found a strong assimilation effect for those who didn't remember the priming details (i.e., they were less aware of the primes' meaning) and a strong contrast effect for those who did remember the priming details (i.e., they were more aware of the primes' meaning; Lombardi, Higgins, & Bargh, 1987). - 133-

Using Priming to Force So the lesson is that if you're trying to apply priming principles to psychological forces, you'll want to pay attention to how subtle the priming procedure is. If you say, "think about these six pictures of ducks" and then say, fill in these blanks to come up with the first word that strikes you:'_ U C K~' you might end up with an unsavory finale. That you were guiding people to think of ducks is too blatant, thus encouraging contrast. Finally, you may consider using the notion of priming in ways far more subtle than psychological forces. That is, sprinkling words like "incredible" or "amazing" into you scripts (without drawing too much attention to them, of course), you might guide people to activate their schemas for"amazing" and view your performance in line with it. Priming also extends beyond using specific words. Telling a story or asking someone to recall their own experiences can serve to covertly activate mental content. So if you can revive people's mental concept of"amazement" or"wonder:'you may also succeed in guiding them to interpret your performance in that light if they might not have done so spontaneously.

Faux-Priming and a "Circleand-Triangle" Script Earlier I referenced a script I use to bolsterthe"psychological influence" explanation of the circle/triangle force. Here's the full script. I don't use this much anymore, but I offer it here if you happen to be interested. It's unlikely to actually facilitate the force, but we know that people are very likely to think of a circle and a triangle, given the correct instructions (see, among other resources, Banachek's Psychological Subtleties).

At the beginning, I address the audience with this script: Anyone in business knows that there are a number of books and seminars, or classes, regarding influence. -134-

A knowledgeable salesman works around customer hestitation and analyzes the person in order to try and glean information that allows him to present his pitch from the really unique angle the person will respond to.

After a moment, I ask everyone to try something with me. It's at this point that I ask them to think of two simple geometric shapes, following all the subtleties and nudges that can be found elsewhere in the mentalism literature. Once I've shown that I knew in advance that most people would think of a circle and a triangle, I proceed to explain how it worked. "It all goes back to something I said only a moment ago": Anyone in business knows that there are a number of books and seminar--C/RCLE--asses regarding influence. A knowledgeable salesamn works aROUND customer hestitation and analyzes the person to TRIANGLE-eon information that allows him to present his pitch from THREE-fly unique ANGLE the person will respond to.


Rapport The concept of rapport offers a lot of potential to mentalists, readers, and magicians. An effect is deeper, with a more profound impact, when the performer fosters a close connection with the person who experiences it. The application of the following principles that foster closeness and mutual liking will be of particu lar interest to the psychic reader because he or she is more able to invest the time needed to successfully foster rapport. Successful readings depend on a sitter who is open to the reading and trusts the reader. Nevertheless, these are also worth studying for the performing mentalist and magician to help encourage rapport with the people whose minds are being read .

Similarity When I teach this principle to college students, I like to contrast this with the common notion that "opposites attract:' In fact, people tend to prefer others who are similar to t hem. Democrats marry other democrats, extraverted people prefer other extraverted people, and so on. There are a few doma ins where this is especially true. First, there is evidence that people are more attracted to others who look similar to them (Berscheid, Dion, Waister, & Waister, 1971 ). Second, people tend to like others who are similar in personality (Botwin, Buss, & Shackelford, 1997). Finally, a robust effect in research on attitudes is what Byrne (1961 ) referred to as the "law of attraction" in which people tend to like others who hold similar opinions. That is, if you like movies, you will like and respect another person more if he or she also likes (vs. dislikes) movi es. Any of these might be used to your advantage to foster mutual respect and liking in an interaction. An example of attitude similarity playing its role in deepening rapport happened to me many years ago. When I was in high school, I was interested in graphic design and 30 computer modeling. I was looking to buy my own computer, and I went to the on line customer service page of a computer dealer. -136-

During a chat session with one of the company's representatives, I mentioned that I was looking for a computer that would support my interest in graphic design. In response, the person said something like "Oh, I'm really interested in graphic design, too:' That was all it took. We seemed to agree on this simple topic, and I was instantly more trusting. Now, I don't propose that you lie about your interests to "trick" someone into liking you and form ing a closer connection, but be on the lookout for things a person might say during an interaction or reading that resonates w ith your own interests. In these cases, be vocal about your similarity with the person, and be genuine. If it seems that you are merely making such a statement to make a good impression, the technique isn't likely to work (e.g., Friestad & Wright, 1994). With regard to the personality similarity effect, you may find it helpful to match the personality of the other person. If a sitter seems shy and introverted, come down to that level rather than conducting a reading with a great extraverted buoyancy. If someone appears to be very conscientious, approach the interaction with similar conscientiousness. In doing so, you foster liking and offer the person the chance to let down his or her guard in a comfortable environment.

Mimicry This is likely to strike many readers as familiar because it's a concept that has found its way into the mentalism literature over the past several years. Luckily, this is one of those techniques with scientific merit. Sometimes known as "matching" or"mirroring;' many have said that mirroring another person's movements is one way to establish rapport. Indeed Chartrand and Bargh (1999) provided evidence for exactly this effect. In a study where pairs of people engaged in an interaction with each other, only one person in the pair was an actual participant; the other person was a confederate working as part of the study. During the interaction, the confederate either adopted the no~v~rbal behaviors ("posture, movement, and mannerisms ) of the part1c1pant -137-

or merely engaged in neutral body movements. After the interaction was over, the participants rated their experience. Compared to when a confederate in the interaction was making neutral movements, when the confederate mimicked the nonverbal behaviors of the conversation partner, the participants reported greater liking for the other person and were more likely to say that the conversation had gone smoothly. Similar results have been shown in subsequent studies, and researchers have demonstrated many types of behavioral mimicry, including facial expressions, emotion, and verbal patterns like accents and speech rate (for a review, see Chartrand &van Baaren, 2009). Thus, subtle mirroring of a person's nonverbal behaviors can be enough to increase liking and perceived quality of interaction.

Reciprocal Liking People like people who like them . If that doesn't make sense, read it a couple more times, and it will clear up. For instance, if you know that /like you, you will like me more than if you thought I didn't like you. When people believe that another person likes them (accurately or otherwise), they in turn report greater liking for that person and go on to act in a more likable way, thus actually making the other person actually like them more (Curtis & Miller, 1986; Gold, Ryckman, & Mosley, 1984). As a performer-and a mentalist, especially- you should already like people. So don't be shy about showing it. When it is clear to a spectator or a sitter that you like him or her as a person, he or she will respond in kind, feeling greater liking and trust toward you.

Fast Friends Technique When psychologists want to understand the dynamics of a close relationship in a controlled environment, how can they go about doing that? Studying the behavior patterns of actual friends can be difficult-you can't account for how long they've been friends, the influence of mutual friends, whether or not they have recently been in a fight, and so on. Instead, resea rchers have developed ways to take -138-

strangers (usually students at a university) and put them through a procedure that fosters a relatively close social bond. That way, they can look at differences between partners who have vs. have not gone through this activity to see what relational closeness can accomplish. One procedure to induce relational closeness in the lab was first developed by Arthur Aron and his colleagues (1997) and involved the concept of "mutual self-disclosure:' In particular, this selfdisclosure escalated from relatively mundane information about oneself to relatively more personal information. In so doing, partners were expected to develop a temporary feeling of closeness, feeling interconnected with one another. Indeed, engaging in this procedure with a stranger, compared with mere small talk, resulted in greater feelings ofliking forthe other person and better interaction outcomes. Although the original procedure took about 45 minutes to complete, Constantine Sedikides and colleagues developed a streamlined version that produced comparable results after only 9 minutes of interaction. In this task, two strangers came into the lab and were each given the same list of 29 questions, divided into the three groups. They were to go back and forth as naturally as they could, each answering as many questions as they could get through. They had one minute to discuss the first set, three minutes for the second set, and five minutes for the third set; each group of questions was characterized by different levels of intimacy. The first set included relatively simple questions like "What is your first name?'; "Where are you from?'; and "How old are you?" The second set increased the self-disclosure with questions like "What are your hobbies?'; "If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?'; and "What is one thing happening in your life that makes you stressed out?" Finally, the last list increases intimacy even more with questions like "If you could have one wish granted, what would that be?'; "What is your happiest early chil~hood memory?'; and "Describe the last time you felt lonely:' For copyright reasons, I can't share the full list of questions exactly, but the paper by Sedikides et al. (1999) is available as a PDF on line as of this writing. Of course, it's unlikely that you will employ a full 9-minute laboratory -139-

induction before you begin performing or giving a reading. Also, a glance at some of the questions used in the induction may strike you as strange for a mentalist be asking. Why would we ask someone what their hobbies are if we're able to read minds? I'm not sharing this research as a ready-to-go method for increasing closeness but rather to demonstrate the power of mutual self-disclosure. Oftentimes, the experience people have with a mentalist is very one-sided. We learn little about what's happening in the mentalist's mind but everything about what's going on in the other person's. This makes sense, of course, because that's where the entertainment comes from! And certainly in the context of a stage show, there is less time to develop a deep connection with every person who joins you onstage. In more intimate settings, however, this notion of mutual self-disclosure can help create a deeper, more powerful experience for the other person. In addition to having people provide information about themselves, volunteer to answer the very same questions yourself. Give them insight into yourself just as they have been volunteering information about themselves.

Fast Friends Ploy Here's a little presentational ploy that takes inspiration from the fast friends procedure to add depth to an intimate display of mind reading. The procedure I will outline is designed for use with an impression pad that can give you a real -time peek, but it can easily be adapted to other peek methods. On the first page of the impression pad, you've written three simple questions: "What is your favorite color?': "Where did you grow up?': and "Given the choice of anyone in the world, who would you want as a dinner guest?"You say to the other person that it would be good for you to get to know each other. After all, it's easier to get inside someone's head a little easier if you have something to go on first. You go through each question, providing your answer first and then asking the other person provide his or her answer. Take this as an opportunity to genuinely get to know the person and share something of yourself. On the second page of the pad, you've written a list of five (or more) -140-

questions that are a little more personal. Examples could be "If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?'; "For what in life do you feel most grateful?'; "What is one of your biggest fears" or "What is your most treasured memory?" (Of course, you should choose questions that you feel you have an adequate answer for). Because it would take too long to answer all of these, ask the other person to name a number from 1 to 5 and read out that question. As before, provide your answer and then ask the other person for his or hers. On the third page, you've written yet another set of questions. These questions should be ones whose answers could be su~cinctly v:ritten down (and subsequently glimpsed). Examples might be What country would you most like to travel to in the world?" or "What do you consider to be your'lucky number'?" Before showing the person this list, tell him or her that hopefully the conversation you had just been having, however brief, should have been enough to develop at least some connection between the two of you. As a result, you hope to be able to know the person's answer to the next question without him or her saying anything aloud. You again ask for a number between one and five and read out that question. However your impression device works, have the person think about the question and then write his or her answer on a piece of paper, fold it up and keep it. After this has been done, get your peek and provide your own answer. Although the questions are simple, offer some expansion on your answer to provide distance from the participant's writing down of the response. Finally, it's time for the reveal. "Having gotten to know each other a little more, I think I have some idea of what your ideal travel destination is ... " Proceed to reveal this information, now having genuinely established a connection with this person. As a bonus, this is also a good opportunity for a "spectator as the mind reader" type of effect. Through the course of the fast friends procedure, you have been getting to know one another; therefore, the other person should have similar insight into your mind as well. -1 41 -

When I do this, the last question on the third page is: "If you were to

pick a number between 1and 1Othat best characterizes you, what would it be and why?" Typically during the normal routine, the person does not choose the last question to read . If they do, it can lead straight into this if you choose or you can say, "Actually, I'm saving that one for something else we'll do in a minute. Pick another one:' After you finish revealing the spectator's answer in the original routine, say, "That's great. Actually, since we've really been getting to

know each other with these questions, theoretically, you should be able to know what my answers would be at this point too. Isaved an easy one if you want to try this-read out the last question on this list." They read the numbers question, and you write down what your answer would be, just as they had done before. First ask them to reveal what they would choose as their own number and then ask for them to guess what your number would be and why. I think it's important to ask them the why component of the question too because it can make the effect stronger than the person merely guessing a random number correctly. It strongly frames the answer as them knowing something about you rather than guessing a number. Of course, when they provide the number they think you would choose, you turn the paper around to show them exactly that. There are a couple ways to actually pull this off. One is simply a nailwriter that you can get ready as they read the question from the piece of paper. Another way is to have the person write down what they think your chosen number would be, peek it, and then verbally say what your answer to the question is, which of course matches their guess. This method is fine in a pinch, but it's not ideal because it's a little more convoluted and doesn't match the rhythm of the previous instance of you guessing the other person's answer. Methodologically, this routine is nothing that impressive. It's the same set of methods you can find in 13 Steps and the same presentational gusto that all reveals rely on, but it makes use of psychological science to build up a presentation that takes those simple effects and turns them into an intimate (mutual) mind reading experience for the spectator. -142-

Reactance In general, people don't like to be told what to do. As a result, when people feel pressured to hold a particular opinion or behave in a certain way, they experience an aversive state of psychological reactance (Brehm, 1966). Under these circumstances, people respond by trying to reassert the freedom that has been threatened. Examples of this abound in the world of persuasive health messages; the tricky goal of a health advocate is to deliver a message intended to change people's behavior without threatening their sense of freedom. For example, campaigns designed to reduce alcohol consumption among young people may be doomed to fail to the extent that they appear to restrict young people's freedom (e.g., Ringold, 2002). According to some theories of reactance, there are several outcomes associated with such freedom threats (Rains & Turner, 2007; Quick & Stephenson, 2007). The first and most commonly studied is the "boomerang effect."This is when people actually engage in the very behavior that was associated with the freedom threat. In other words, the more we are told we can't do something, the more we want to do it. Another outcome is the "vicarious boomerang" in which people will respond to threats to freedom not by engaging in the behavior itself but by socially associating with other people who engage in the restricted behavior. Finally, there is the "related boomerang" in which people respond not by engaging in the behavior itself but by engaging in a related behavior. As an example, imagine someone who was told that they were not allowed to consume any alcohol. That person might respond by instead engaging more in other unhealthy behaviors like eating high fat foods or engaging more in other risky behaviors like motorcycling. To give you an idea of how experimenters are able to create the feeling of reactance, consider the following introduction to a brief essay arguing for the inclusion of an advertising major at a particular university: "Here are my reasons for wanting a major in advertising at UNCG. They're good reasons, so I know you completely agree with all -143-

of them. Because when you think about it you are really forced to agree with me because this is a universal student issue" (Silvia, 2006, p. 676).

The language in the kinds of messages that often evoke reactance has been referred to as "dogmatic language" (Quick & Stephenson, 2008) and often includes phrases like "you must:"'it is impossible to deny;' and "you have to" (Rains, 2013). In fact, new research suggests that direct eye contact is associated with greater reactance, and as a result, reduced persuasive success (Chen, Minson, Schone, & Heinrichs, 2013). It is also the case that some people just tend to be more prone to responding with reactance to freedom-threatening messages than others (Quick & Stephenson, 2007). What is interesting about this, I think, is that it means that people become more predictable when their freedom is threatened than when it is not, but not in the direction most people would think. People might expect that when someone's freedom is limited, he or she might reliably comply with the request; however, the reality is that the person will reliably go in the other direction. To the extent that people initially believed they had the freedom to make their own choice (e.g., in situations where people believes they are capable of making an informed choice on their own; Wicklund & Brehm, 1968), perceiving a threat to this freedom by another person can cause the boomerang effect whereby they will move in just the opposite direction.


Self-Affirmation Spe~d a mom~n~ thi~king about a value that is important to you. It m.1ght be ~r~1st1c ~kills, a sense of humor, athletics, creativity, your family or relrg1on- Just think of some value or characteristic that is important to you. As you think about it, consider why it is important to you and think of some events in your own life when that value had proved meaningful. If you took the time to do the exercise in the paragraph above, then you have just engaged in a self-affirmation, and according to the research, you are now more open to information that you might otherwise have been resistant to. For instance, if I were to present evidence that challenges a deeply held belief of yours, you would now be more open to hearing me out than if you hadn't just affirmed an important value. By using this self-affirmation technique, you can give your participants a unique, powerful tool to help themselves and also reduce an individual's resistance to you. This topic has received widespread study in social psychology, and its implications are clear, but for the sake of this book, I only aim to convey the essentials. At its core self-affirmation is when people affirm an important value, and this ~revents negative consequences of personally threaten~ng information by reducing defensiveness. The power of self-affirmation stems from people's motivation to"maintain the perceived worth and integrity of the self" (Sherman, 2013). By affirming important values, people remind themselves of their inner integrity, and it reduces the knee-jerk response to get defensive. Some have described it as a "psychological time-out" (Lyubomirsky & Della Porta, 201 O), or a chance to take a step back and re-focus on what really matters. Recent reviews of self-affirmation have noted that affirming important values broadens people's perspectives beyond a particular threat, which puts that threat in the context of a huge, expansive view of oneself, promoting an inclination to move forward rather than actively avoid threatening information (Cohen & Sherman, 2014). So what kinds of "threats" am I talking about? One domain that has -145-

received a lot of attention is health messages. In general, people are motivated not to believe that their actions are unhealthy, so they respond defensively if presented with such information. Selfaffirmation can reduce that defensiveness. In one study, for example, the researchers presented coffee-drinkers and non-coffee-drinkers with an essay about how caffeine consumption is linked to fibrocystic disease. Under normal conditions, the coffee drinkers would respond defensively to the essay- finding fault in it and ultimately not accepting its conclusions (this has been shown before; Kunda, 1987). These researchers found, however, that when participants engaged in a self-affirmation procedure, they were much more accepting of the information and even reported greater intentions to limit their caffeine intake (Sherman, Nelson, & Steele, 2000). This newfound openness to the otherwise threatening information can be traced back to a simple affirmation of an important value. The power of self-affirmation has been documented again and again, even giving rise to effective long-term solutions to education disparities, health issues, chronic stress, and interpersonal conflict (see Cohen & Sherman, 2014). Thus, one reason to consider including a mechanism for having people engage in a values affirmation is that it really is a powerful experience that your participants can come away with and use to protect against self-threats. Another reason to employ a small values affirmation, however, is that your very existence as a mentalist may itself prompt defensive thinking on the part of your audience. Therefore, if you could somehow reduce the threat you pose to someone's worldview and make people more open to your demonstrations, all the better. Across many studies, selfaffirmation has been shown to reduce defensiveness when giving people information that challenges thei r pre-existing attitudes and beliefs. In one early study, for example, people read a "scientific report" on capital punishment, and the researchers orchestrated the study such that people who opposed capital punishment read a report that supported it and that people who were in favor of capital punishment read a report that opposed it. That is, everyone read a report that disagreed with their personal views. Some of these people also -1 46-

engaged in a self-affirmation task whereas others didn't. Compared to those who d id not self-affirm, people who thought about their most important value were more receptive to the scientific report and were less likely to criticize the message or its authors (Cohen, Aronson, & Steele, 2000). This same general pattern has been shown for lots of topics in the doma in of attempts at influence (Jacks & O'Brien, 2004). All of this is to say that if you suspect people may be closed off to your claims and overly interested in figuring out the "tricks" that might underlie your abilities, encouraging something like self-affirmation may serve to reduce this closed-mindedness and open people to the experience you aim to provide them with. I'd like to note one important caveat, however. In the world of self-affirmation, if a values affirmation is intended to open people to your message, the value that people affirm needs to be unrelated to your message. By affirming a value that's related to the attitude or belief that's being threatened, you actually create greater closed-mindedness (Blanton, Cooper, Skurnik, & Aronson, 1997; Jacks & O'Brien, 2004). Thus, if your goal is to increase receptiveness to your act and reduce defensive thinking, "skepticism" should not be a value that you have people affirm. By affirming "skepticism" as a value, someone may be even further committed to rejecting your performance, and I think we'd agree that that's not what we want.

Affirmation Print (Effect) This is a variant of a classic effect in which the mentalist is able to discern the first thing that a person wrote with a pen. Examples include Ned Rutleage's Voice Print, Bob Cassidy's Get the Lead Out, and so forth. The purpose of Affirmation is to maintain the mystery of the existing effect but dress it up with a self-affirmation presentation that genuinely has your participant affirm an important value, giving him or her a positive psychological experience. In fact, the procedure plays out quite similar to how affirmation has been induced in psychological research (e.g., Cohen, Aronson, & Steele, 2000). You hand a card to your participant and ask her to read what's written on it. You explain to her and to everyone watching: "This -147-

piece paper contains a list of characteristics and va~ues, some ~f which may be important to you, some of which may be ummportant. To your participant, you ask, "As you look at this list of values, focus on one that you consider most important. Of course, there may b: ~everal that.~ou would think of as important, but focus in on one. To so~1d1fy your dec1S1on for a moment, write an X on the line next to that particular value. G~eat. Start thinking about what that value means to you, and as you continue to think about this value, go ahead and put Xs next to all of the other options on the list as well. Keep thinking about your most important value, but check the rest of the lines as well.

Now that she's done that, you should be left with a piece of paper with a list of characteristics or values, all of which have Xs written next to them. You take the paper back from her and show it to the audience or other onlookers. You continue: "Now there were a lot of options on this list. People value different things with different importance. It's what makes us who we are-it's what defines us. Reflecting on these important values gives a sense of integrity-a broader perspective on our lives. There were plenty of options here-artistic skills, sense of humor, relationships, social skills, romance, business skills ... and so on:' You say this as you show people the list with all of the Xs on it. Focus back in on your participant, "Jenny, keep thinking about the important value you've been thinking of. Think of an experience in your own life in which this value had been important to you and made you feel good about yourself. Think of this moment and the feelings you had at the time. Now the things that people think of when they think of these values can be very personal, so I'm not going to go too deep in that direction, but if I'm not mistaken, there's at least one other person in this memory. It's not just you alone by yourself. Does that make sense? Jenny, as you keep thinking about this, you should know that this thought exercise is a source of strength for many people. Turning our attention to the important values that define us once in a while can protect us from getting distracted by things that don't really matter. It broadens and expands our perspective, and little things that can seem so threatening and disconcerting at the time suddenly pale in comparison to what really matters. So anytime you find yourself getting bogged down by the little things, come back to this memory, or any other memory, really ... so long -148-

~s you rem ind yourself of how important it is ... to have an appreciation 1or the arts." Now that's quite a build-up for what's essentially a guess of what some?ne t~ou.ght of from a list, but it gives people a powerful ex~en~nce, rt grv~~ you the opportunity to do a quick reading if you're so rnclrned, and 1t.s ve~y pe:sonal without revealing deep personal secrets ..Note that m thrs scnpt, I've outlined the true impact of selfaffirmatron and framed the presentation along those lines. Also note that a simple "pick a word" becomes much bigger by having the person expand it into a personal memory, which is truly how such self-affirmation inductions are done in psychological interventions. If you find that you are quite a competent reader, then you may be comfortable trying to reveal more of the personal memory, but I find that admitting that this can be personal and it's not right to dive too far deep is pretty believable. Plus, based on the value, you could reasonably guess whether it's likely to be a memory that includes others (e.g., "social skills:"'romantic values:"'relations with friends;' or "sense of humor") or whether it's likely to be a memory that's more solitary or self-focused (e.g., "artistic skills:'"musical appreciation;' or "creativity"). But other little bits can be dropped in based on what you already know the important value to be. So what's the method? How do you already know the person's value? There are plenty of methods for this. Existing effects rely ways to make the first thing a person writes subtly different from the rest of what the person writes. Oftentimes this includes some tampering with the pen itself such that the very first stroke stands out in some way. By applying a small bit of grease to the tip of the pen, for example, you create a situation where the first X the person makes is not a bold ink line all the way through. Similarly, in Ted Karmilovich's Penguin Live lecture, he reveals a method of applying a small bit of color to the tip of a differently colored pen. The beginning of the first X written thus has a small bit of noticeable color. There have been many methods proposed, many of which will work just fine for this application. These effects often follow a "Living and Dead" test presentation by which various names are written, one of which belongs to someone who is special in some way. Ratherthan -149-

have the person write several full-length names, however, this routine requires the participant only to make a series of Xs with a pen. The procedure, then, is to hand someone the card, have them mark their value and then mark all the other ones. Upon taking it back, you look over the list to give the audience an idea of what options were available on the piece of paper, but you are really looking for the mark that identifies the first X the person wrote.


Artistic skills/aesthetic appreciation

_ _ _ Sense of humor _ _ _ Relations with friends/family _ _ _ Spontaneity/living life in t he moment _ _ _

Social skills

_ _ _ Athletics _ _ _ Musical ability/appreciation _ _ _ Creativity _ __

Business/managerial skills

_ _ _ Romantic values


Shared Reality Theory Our notion of reality can be deeply influenced by the people around us. That is, what we know to be true can depend on what we think other people know to be true. Shared Reality Theory is a scientific endeavor to understand th is co nnection between social influence and our need to underst and "reality:' In general, this theory maintai ns that people reach a sense of shared reality by experiencing overlap between one's own inner states (thoughts, emotions, beliefs) and other people's inner states (see Echterhoff, 2014; Echterhoff et al., 2009). It's not just that people's beliefs sometimes overlap, but people are motivated to find instances of agreement with others. This motivation takes two forms. One is what's called an "epistemic" motivation, which is a need to establish truth about the world. In other words, people tend to want to have a grasp on what they should believe. The other motivation is a "relational" one in which people want to feel connected with others. It's only when experiencing overlap in one's own inner state and those of others serves these goals that psychologists say produces "shared reality:' Importantly, too, this shared reality is about something. That is, it's when you and I agree that some TV show is terrible that we experience shared reality-we have together become more certain in our sense of truth (i.e., the show is bad). To get a concrete idea of shared reality, consider the experiment al procedure that researchers have used to docu~ent,~his ph~n~menon. They call it the "saying-is-believing. parad1g.m, and it involves providing a participant with some new 1nformat1on ~bout a ~erson or a topic and having that person communicate that mformat10~ ~o an audience (Higgins &Rholes, 1978; Higgins &McCann, 1984). Cnt1cally, the audience apparently already knows about this person or topic and has already formed their own opinion. Not surprisingly, when the communicator knows the. audi;nce's opinion, he adjusts the message and tailors it to the audiences pre- 1 s1 -

existing evaluation. So for example, if I learn a bunch of information about a guy named "Tim;' and my job is to write a description of Tim, based on that information, that will be read by a bunch of people who already think Tim is a bad employee, I'll tailor my message in a way that highlights the negative information about Tim. That part is not too surprising. The interesting part happens when the communicator is called up 2 weeks later. The communicator gets asked to recall the information that he read originally and to report his judgment of the target. In this case, I would be asked to remember what I had learned about Tim, and I'd have to provide my personal judgment of Tim. Reliably, people in this position will show a preference to remember information consistent with the message they delivered (even though they received much more information than what appeared in their messages) and render judgments in line with those messages (e.g., Higgins & Mccann, 1984). Rationally, a person's own judgment should be untied to that of an audience, especially because the person received a lot of relevant information to make a judgment from. Nevertheless, one's sense of truth depends on that moment of shared reality in which a communicator's message overlapped with an audience's belief.

In a more impactful domain, these effects can play out in courtrooms as well. Kopietz and colleagues (2009) found that participants tuned their retelling of an event to the audience's evaluation of the suspects involved in that event. Later, participants' own memories and judgments related to this event were biased toward what their earlier audience already thought. This isn't merely a phenomenon of better memory for what people choose to include in a message. Rather, it's only when people have those shared reality motivations that the "saying is believing" effect emerges. For example, if people are given a monetary reward for tailoring messages to a group, their later judgments are not related to the messages the produce (e.g., Echterhoff et al., 2008). That is, even though they tailor the message just as much, their goal is not to achieve shared reality, so the audience's reality doesn't become the communicator's. -152-

Fostering Shared Reality As I've written elsewhere in th is book (page 17), in the course of a mentalist's presentation, the audience develops beliefs about what's happening. Think about how you might encourage a shared reality among the audience. Although their experiences may seem out of the ordinary, you can highlight the fact that many of them are having the same "inner states!' You can thus encourage your audience (be it a small group or a large theatre) to want to achieve shared reality by evoking a desire to understand what's happening (i.e., epistemic goals) and to feel connected to one another (i.e., relational goals). If these motivations are in place, then you can foster shared reality by highlighting those overlapping thoughts and feelings between people. "Major" effects, or effects that involve a whole audience (Cassidy) are great for this. They highlight a shared experience of receiving your thought, adding legitimacy to the reality you aim to create. Another important point, as with so many things in social psychology, this shared reality is inherently subjective, and there's no need for there to be actual overlap between individuals' experiences. As Echterhoff (2012) puts it,"... for Person A to experience shared reality with Person B, it is not necessary for B to actually have the same inner state as A" (p. 184). Because of this, all you have to do is create the illusion of overlapping reactions. Derren Brown had a wonderful bit in his International Magic Lecture where he created the illusion of a shared experience by asking if anyone had thought a particular thought, and moved his eyes across the audience, nodding subtly to make it look like he was taking note of everyone giving off signs that they thought the same thing. Of course, this wasn't tied to anyone's actual responses, but it made it seem like there was consensus among the audience.


Social vs. Physical Pain Okay-here's a quickie. It strikes me that there's a presentational ploy in here somewhere, but I'm leaving that up to you. Recent research suggests that when we say someone "hurt" our feelings, it may not just be a metaphor (see "Embodiment" on page 49). Although we use words related to pain when we are in fact feeling socially hurt (e.g., being "heartbroken"), evidence from neuroscience

suggests that social pain and physical pain share neural processes. In particular, Naomi Eisenberger has shown that a particular part of the brain- the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex-responds to painful experiences, whether it's the pain of a clamp coming down on your finger or the pain of being socially rejected (see Eisenberger, 2012). In another fascinating demonstration of the social pain/physical pain congruence, Nathan DeWall and his colleagues (201 O) showed that Tylenol, a popular drug taken to ease physical pain symptoms, was also effective in reducing hurt feelings over a three-week span as well. His participants reported how much they had felt socially rejected each day over the 21-day study, and compared to participants who had been taking a placebo each day, the participants who had been taking a dose of Tylenol every day showed a decrease in hurt feelings over those three weeks. In a follow-up study, Dewall et al. (201 O) showed that Tylenol reduced activity in the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex- precisely the region that previous researchers had shown to be important for processing both socially and physically painful experiences.


The Science of Subliminal Influence With the recent rise of mentalism performances that lean toward psychology as the (real or perceived) modus operandi, subliminal influence has crept into many presentations. Many prediction performances can be framed as operating via unconscious influence, and psychological forces can either truly rely on a form of unconscious influence (e.g., Derren Brown's "3 of Diamonds" force) or at least give the illusion of relying on such influence. Surely these demonstrations resonate with audiences, but what does the science say about the power of subliminal persuasion? Not su rprisingly, this has been a controversial topic of study, and the answer doesn't seem as clear as "it works" or "it's a sham:' Given its prominence as a presentational angle and methodological Holy Grail, in this section I will take some time to discuss the psychological research and what it says about subliminal influence. I am warning you up front that I won't reach a satisfying conclusion; to do so would be to disrespect the science. In reviewing this work, however, I hope that you come away knowing more about this topic in a way that enriches your approach to mentalism. Any review of subliminal persuasion must acknowledge one landmark event that instilled a persistent fear of such influence: James Vicary's "study" of subliminal messages in American movie theatres. In 1957, Vicary claimed that flashing messages like"EAT POPCORN" and "DRINK COKE" in a New Jersey movie theatre increased popcorn and CocaCola sales by 18% and 58%, respectively over six weeks (Pratkanis, 1992). Reports of these results reached far and wide, giving rise to a fear of covert persuasion tactics that has persisted to this day. The problem with this fear, of course, is that it's largely unfounded. Vicary ultimately admitted that the results were fabricated and no such messages had ever actually been embedded in the moviesthe whole thing was a publicity stunt for his advertising company -155-

(Danzig, 1962). Nevertheless, Rogers and Smith (1993) report the results of a public survey in which 74.3% of those polled said they had heard of subliminal advertising, and 27.8% said they thought these techniques were "often" or"always" used. Although Vicary's study turned out to have no merit, the level of public interest and investment in so-called subliminal influence begs the question of whether such techniques could ever be successfully implemented. ls it possible to change people's attitudes and behavior using strategies that they are never consciously aware of? This question has inspired a diverse body of research, some of which I'd like to share in these pages. On the one hand, plenty of researchers have had trouble showing reliable effects of subliminal influence tactics. On the other hand, there is at least some suggestion that people do pick up on subliminally presented stimuli and that these stimuli (e.g., images or words) can affect thoughts and behaviors.

Evidence that Subliminal Persuasion is Ineffective In a practical sense, the kinds of subliminal messages that people seem to fear most, like hidden messages on TV or popular music, don't appear to have much of an effect. Meta-analyses that synthesize and test the reliability of statistical relationships across a large collection of studies have generally conclude that although subliminal stimuli affect outcomes of interest, these effects tend to be so small that they aren't practical (Moore, 1982; Trappey, 1970). As one author puts it, "[w]hile subliminal perception is a bona fide phenomenon, the effects obtained are subtle and obtaining them typically requires a carefully structured context" (Moore, 1982, p. 46). The idea seems to be that although subliminally presented stimuli are noticed in the psychological system, so are countless conscious stimuli. At any moment, the psychological system is exposed to stimulation from many sources, many of which are strong enough to overpower any that operate at the subconscious level. Subliminally presented auditory stimuli appear to be particularly - 156-

unlikely to have effects, a conclusion that has been reached in several large-scale reviews of relevant research (e.g., Brooks, Savov, Allzen, Benedict, Fredriksson, & Schioth, 2012; Theus, 1994). These kinds of "subliminal influence" tactics, however, are sometimes the most compelling and frightening. When people think of such covert persuasion, they may think of hidden messages in music and messages being spoken below awareness as we go about our days. The truth, however, seems to be that these kinds of messages have little effect. As an example, consider the claims that messages embedded in music can serve to brainwash people. In two studies, Egermann, Kopiez, and Reuter (2006) show no evidence of a subliminal influence effect for suggestions embedded in popular music. As another example, considerthe"self-help"tapes that claim to change behavior by embedding subliminal messages in audio recordings of classical music or nature sounds. A quick internet search turns up a ton of these with claims including smoking cessation, weight loss, pain relief, and boosting one's self-confidence. When submitted to scientific study, however, these methods just don't work. In their test of these claims, Anthony Greenwald and colleagues (1991) were even careful to ensure that their participants followed the instructions on such tapes exactly, and their participants were people who wanted the outcomes promised by the audiotapes. They tested the claims in a sneaky way-by switching the labels on the cassette tapes. Participants were given audiotapes that were either designed to improve memory or to increase self-esteem; however, some were given these tapes with the correct label whereas others were given tapes with the opposite label (e.g., the memory audiotape with a self-esteem label). After a month oflistening to these tapes everyday, all participants filled out self-esteem measures and took memory tests. If the tapes worked as they were designed, then people should show improvement on the abilities that the tapes themselves were designed to improve, regardless of their label. If it's one big audio placebo, then it's the labels (and not the audio content) that should have an effect. Indeed, there was absolutely no evidence in this study that the content of the -1 57-

audiotapes improved either memory or self-esteem. Instead, when the researchers asked people how much they thought their memory and self-esteem had improved over the last month, the labels on the tapes had an effect. That is, people who thought they were listening to a self-esteem tape (regardless of whether they actually were or not) said their self-esteem improved but their memory hadn't. Those who thought they were listening to a memory tape (again, regardless of the reality) said their memory had improved but their self-esteem hadn't. Similar studies employing placebo controls also show no evidence for the efficacy of such self-help tapes (Froufe & Schwartz, 2001; Pratkanis, Eskenazi, & Greenwald, 1994; Merikle & Skanes, 1992; Moore, 1995).

In Support of Subliminal Persuasion Although subliminal influence as it is often portrayed has come to be called pure pseudoscience or "Cargo-Cult Science" (Pratkanis, 1992), there is plenty of evidence in the social psychology literature that supports the role that subliminal perception can play in consequential processes. Here I'll review some evidence that subliminally presented stimuli can affect people's attitudes and behavior as well as evidence that such stimuli are registered at the neural level. I'll then turn to some recent work that offers new insight on the controversy. To begin, many of the phenomena of interest to social psychologists have relied on subliminal presentations. As a simple example, consider the phenomenon of "evaluative conditioning:' Evaluative conditioning is when a person's attitude toward something new is influenced by the co-presentation of other things that are already liked or disliked. For example, I will come to like a political candidate much more if there's a puppy on screen every time I see that candidate. The positive attitude I have toward the puppies is eventually transferred to the politician. This effect also occurs when people aren't even aware of the positively-evaluated stimulus (the puppy, in the case of the example). Krosnick and colleagues (1992) attempted to use evaluative conditioning to change people's attitudes toward other people they'd -1 58-

never met. To do so, they showed participants a series of pictures of the person doing everyday tasks. Before each picture came on the screen, however, the researchers quickly flashed another picture that was either positive or negative. The participants didn't notice these other pictures, but they still affected evaluations of the person in the main pictures. More specifically, when pictures of the person were preceded by subliminally presented positive pictures, participants ended up liking the person more than when pictures of that person were preceded by subliminally presented negative pictures. As another example, consider a study that used scent as an agent of unconscious influence (Holland, Hendriks, & Aarts, 2005). In this study, the researchers used the scent of citrus all-purpose cleaner to affect how clean the participants kept their work stations. After spending some time in a room that either contained the scent of the citrus cleaner or not, all participants were taken to another room where they had to eat a crumbly cookie as part of the study. Even though the participants were not aware of the scent in the previous room, those participants who had spent time in the clean-smelling room went on to clean the cookie crumbs off their desk in the second room to a greater extent than the participants who hadn't been subliminally exposed to the "clean" scent. Finally, consider the phenomenon of "mere exposure;' reviewed elsewhere in this book (see "The Mere Exposure Effect" on page 97). According to mere exposure research, simply being exposed to something for a while fosters greater liking for whatever has been presented. When researchers deliberately expose people to a stimulus on a subconscious level, the exposure still fosters greater liking. For instance, when participants were subliminally exposed to a photo a person several t imes, compared to exposure to another person or a blank screen, they later expressed liking for the person and favored him when he and another person disagreed (Bornstein, Leone, & Galley, 1987). In fact, even when people do not consciously register subliminally presented stimuli, their brains do. Take, for example, an early fMRI study in which participants were subliminally exposed to faces of -159-

other people. These faces were either expressing fear or happ~ness, and they were presented at a rate of 33 milliseconds, immediately followed by a face making a neutral expression, which stayed on the screen for 167 milliseconds. Participants didn't report awareness of the emotional faces-only the neutral faces. In spite of this unawareness, their brain still registered the emotion. When they had been subliminally presented with fearful faces, there was increased activity in the amygdala, compared to when they had been subliminally presented with happy faces (Whalen, Rauch, Etcoff, Mcinerney, Lee, & Jenike, 1998). These results have been reliably replicated in at least nine published studies since then, showing a strong amygdala response to subliminally presented negative emotional faces like fear, sadness, disgust, and anger (see Brooks, Savov, Allzen, Benedict, Fredriksson, & Schioth, 2012). These results are particularly interesting because the very same part of the brain has been consistently shown to react to the same kinds of emotional faces when they are presented with awareness (Costafreda, Brammer, David, & Fu, 2008). This suggests that our brains react to subliminal stimuli in much the same way that they react to stimuli presented with awareness. It seems clear by now that people do indeed react to subliminally presented information and that these reactions affect their opinions and behavior. The key question, however, is when is it most likely that these subliminal influence strategies will actually result in behavioral effects? Recent research has begun to address this question, focusing on the unique contribution of a person's motivational state. That is, the relevance of the subliminal stimulus to the person's goals at the time plays a key role. To illustrate this point, consider the famous "study" that James Vicary claimed to have conducted to increase popcorn sales at the movie theatre. If everyone in a movie theatre had just come to see a film after enjoying a large meal, would flashing the message "Hungry? Eat Popcorn" really drive people to the concession area? Likely not. The problem is thinking that subliminal influence makes people mindlessly comply with any command that is presented. Instead, the truth seems to be that subliminal influence depends on whether the -160-

subliminal information is consistent with what the person already needs or want s. Plenty of research has now converged on this particular point: subliminal influence can exert effects on behavior and opinion change but only when it's particularly relevant to what the person already needs. In one of the first demonstrations of this important consideration, Strahan, Spencer, and Zanna considered how subliminally presented stimuli could affect how much Kool-Aid people drink. They subliminally presented words related to thirst or neutral words like "pirate" and told people that they would engage in a taste test for a consumer products study. The participants were allowed to taste a Kool-Aid product and evaluate it, but the researchers were only interested in how much the participants drank in the course of their evaluation. Critically, when the participants began the study, half were already thirsty and half were not. All of the participants were instructed not to eat or drink anything for three hours before the study, but when they came in, half of the participants were given water to drink, relieving their thirst, but the other half was not given water, further extending their thirst. Overall, you would expect that the people who were subliminally exposed to the "thirst" words would drink more of the Kool-Aid than those who were exposed to the neutral words. That's exactly what happened, but only for the people who were thirsty to begin with. It seems that the subliminal "messages" worked to activate the goal these people already had (i.e., to drink fluid). In the absence of th is need to drink, the sublimina l stimuli don't drive you to drink more fluid because there is no true need to begin with. Other research has shown the same results by instead just measuring how long it had been since participants had last had something to drink instead of manipulating the level of thirst directly (Veltkamp, Aarts, & Custers, 2008). In a similar vein, when experimenters subliminally flashed the brand "Lipton Ice" (compared to flashing nonsense words), participants were more likely to choose to drink that brand over another brand, but only when they were already relatively thirsty (Karremans, Stroebe, & Claus, 2006). If they were not very thirsty to begin with, the subliminal information was not relevant -161 -

to their needs and thus didn't inform their choices. And lest you think that these results are only useful when it comes to influencing thirst-quenching choices and drinking behavior, other research has shown the same results for products that relieve fatigue (Bermeitinger, Goelz, Johr, Neumann, Ecker, & Doerr, 2009) and for music choices depending on one's need to relieve negative mood (Strahan, Spencer, & Zanna, 2002, Study 3).


Thin Slicing If you read Malcolm Gladwell's popular 2005 book, Blink, then you know about the power of th in slicing. Essentially, people are able to make astonishingly accurate judgments of people and situation based on fleet ingly brief exposures to them. The lesson is that first impressions can take mere seconds to form (see Ambady, Bernieri, & Richeson, 2000). A seminal 1992 paper reported the results of a meta-analysis of 44 studies in which people formed impressions based on brief exposures. The results demonstrate a large and reliable pattern; when perceivers have less than 5 minutes of observation to form an impression, the predictions they make are quite accurate (Ambady & Rosenthal, 1992). Interpreting the size of the effect, the authors write that their results mean, "correct classifications can be made using thin slices of behavior nearly 70% of the time, compared with about 30% of the time when no thin slices are available" (Ambady & Rosenthal, 1992, p. 267). What's more, the actual amount of time didn't seem to matter. Impressions formed with less than 30 seconds of information to go on were no less accurate than those formed with a full 5 minutes worth of information. This pattern of data inspired a specific set of follow-up studies to even more rigorously test the power of thin slicing judgments. Nalini Ambady and Robert Rosenthal (1993) acquired 1O second silent clips of university instructors teaching a class to college students. They showed these brief clips to a sample of participants, who all rated these teachers on a number of dimensions, including warmth, empathy, competence, likability, professionalism, etc. In addition to these subjective ratings, the researchers also acquired data from these instructors' own students who, through a typical university system, provided evaluations of their teachers at the end of each semester. The question was: could people's judgments of these teachers, based only on 30 seconds of footage, predict the evaluations made by actual students who had spent full semesters with these teachers? The answer was yes. -163-

The participants showed strong consistency with one another in their ratings of the teachers, and these ratings, on average, corresponded to their end-of-semester evaluations. These results were found yet again for a new collection of teachers (this time high school teachers). In fact, a final study showed that people were just as accurate in forming first impressions when they only saw three 2-second clips of each teacher. Clearly, not only are first impressions easy to make, but we seem to be very adept at making them. In another example, researchers showed participants 1O second clips from 1O different up-and-coming rock bands, and after each clip, the participants rated how cohesive the band seemed. These clips were from full 15 minute videos available on YouTube. As a measure of how objectively successful these new bands were, the researchers recorded the number of views each YouTube video had received. Their results show that individuals' ratings of group cohesivenss, based on 10-second video clips, significantly predicted how popular each band was, as indicated by total number ofYouTube views (Stillman, Gilovich, & Fujita, 2014). Across many domains, thin slices have proven powerful. People's thin slice judgments of telephone operators' voices were correlated with how long these operators were able to keep customers on the line (Hecht & La France, 1995). Personality judgments based on less than 5 minutes of video corresponded to objective personality assessments of the people being judged (Carney, Colvin, & Hall, 2007). Participants who watched 15 second cl ips of opposite-sex college students interacting were accurately able to distinguish between couples who were strangers, platonic friends, or romantically involved (Ambaday, Conroy, Tobia, & Mullins, 2000). For both 1 second and 1O second video clips of people talking about neutral topics, participants were able to distinguish between heterosexual and homosexual individuals with greater-than-chance accuracy (Ambady, Hallahan, & Conner, 1999). Finally, based only on brief exposures to a courtroom judge's instructions to jurors in actual criminal trials, people were able to detect the judge's expected outcome for the trial as well as the defendant's criminal history (e.g., Blanck, Rosenthal, & Cordell, 1985). -164-

This is on ly a brief overview of the literature, but this thin slice should give you sen se of how strong t hese results are!

A Thin Slice of Mindreading As mentalists, if you present any of your material under the guise of non-verbal behavior, t his research offers a compelling premise. The astonishing nature of the real scientific effects means that a simulated version is likely to capture an audience's attention as well. Rather than doing a full reading of someone, you can base your impressions on some fleeting glimpse of that person. Listening to a few seconds of that person describing her day, for example, could open up a world of information about that person. If you perform a Kurotsuke-type effect, or any demonstration in which one person in a handful of volunteers is holding a target object, perhaps you could deduce its location by turning to face the row of volunteers for mere seconds, able to extract all the information you need in those few moments. In essence, thin slicing is the stuff of premonition-taking a small amount of information and being able to extrapolate out into the future. Consider these possibilities. I think they hold a wealth of opportunity.


Thought Suppression and Post-Suppression Rebound If you've ever had an intrusive thought or a bothersome worry, you know how difficult it can be to consciously stop thinking about it. In the classic demonstration of this, Dan Wegner and his colleagues (1987) instructed people to not think about a white bear. We can assume (and there are data to support th is) that most people wouldn't normally think about white bears very often; however, when they are specifically instructed not to think of this, people report thinking quite a lot about white bears. This can be indicated by having people ring a bell any time the thought crosses their minds or by providing verbal reports. One piece of evidence, however, that is likely to be of interest to some mentalists suggests that hypnosis can be one route to successful thought suppression. During a normal waking state, Bowers and Woody (1996) found that people generally had difficulty suppressing thoughts on command, but under hypnosis, people who had demonstrated high hypnotizability during a pre-test reported almost no intrusions of the thought being suppressed; relatively less hypnotizable subjects, however, continued to report high levels of thought intrusions even under hypnosis. Perhaps more intriguing than this simple inability to consciously suppress thoughts is what happens after the thought suppression exercise. It turns out that trying to suppress thoughts initially actually makes those thoughts return even more forcefully after the suppression exercise. In the early white bear studies, Wegner et al. (1987) found that people who were told to suppress the thought of a white bear later went on to report more white bear thoughts during a new task than people who were first told to think about white bears. Plenty of other research (e.g., Wenzlaff & Bates, 2000) shows similar patterns for ~ther thoughts: compared to focusing on a particular thought, a:t1ve~y suppressing the thought makes that very thought more accessible in -166-

your mind. This "post-suppression rebound," as it is called, has also been applied to the domain of stereotyped and prejudice thoughts. 18 Essentially, when people actively try not to think in stereotypical ways when encountering someone from a stereotyped group, it can actually backfire and cause increased stereotype-driven thoughts later on. In one study, participants were given an image of someone from a negatively stereotyped group and told to spend five minutes writing an essay about what they thought a typical day in this person's life might be. Critically, the participants were either given the freedom to write this essay in any way they wished or they were warned that people often let stereotypes guide their impressions of others and were explicitly instructed to avoid letting stereotypes influence their essays. After they completed this task, the experimenter took them to another room where they were going to meet the person in the photograph (i.e., who they had written about). When they got to this room, though, the person was not there but instead there were eight chairs along the wall with a jacket and backpack on the leftmost chair, presumably belonging to the person in the photograph. The experimenter explained that the person must have stepped out and so the participant should take a seat and wait for him to arrive. Stereotype-driven prejudice has been shown to influence how close a person chooses to sit to someone from the stereotyped group. The further away someone sits, the more they expect to dislike the person. So would the person who was given the freedom to use stereotypes in the essay task sit closer or further away than the person who was told not to use stereotypes? The results rev ea I that those who initially suppressed stereotype-driven thoughts chose to sit further away from the person in the photo than those who didn't have to suppress any thoughts even though their 18 In general, I have overlooked a lot of social psychological research on this topic when preparing this collection for mentalists because I'm not sure how relevant this research is to mentalism. However, it is a fascinating body of work that is worth looking into if you are interested. A good review for the public is Claude Steele's book Whistling Vivaldi. This example here, however, just seemed too good an illustration of post-suppression rebound not to include.

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actual essays didn't differ at all in stereotype content. Of course, this is a rather crude (though compelling) indicator of post-suppression rebound, but the researchers also provide evidence that suppressing stereotype-driven thoughts also increases the stereotype content of essays written in a new task (without suppression instructions) and makes stereotypes more accessible in people's minds (Macrae, Bodenhausen, Milne, & Jetten, 1994). Finally, these suppression effects don't just apply to thoughts themselves but also to behaviors. Surely you've caught yourself when you've begun to laugh only to realize that you're in a situation in which laughing is completely inappropriate. The more you try to suppress your laughter, though, the more you find yourself laughing. Similarly, if you are on a diet and a plump piece of pie is staring you in the face, the more you try to avoid it, the more tempting it may become. One recent study demonstrates this phenomenon. Participants were given the task of watching a Coca-Cola ad and talking aloud about it. Some of these participants were able to talk freely about the ad whereas others had to talk about the ad without making reference to thirst or drinking (a tricky task indeed). After this phase of the study, they moved into a separate waiting room where they were offered cold soft drinks during the break. The researchers measured how much the participants consumed and found that the participants who had previously suppressed thoughts about thirst and drinking consumed significantly more during the break than the participants who hadn't needed to ·suppress those thoughts. Before moving on, I want to keep my psychologist hat on for just a few moments longer and describe one theory that accounts for why thoughts become more accessible after suppression attempts. Dan Wegner (1994) proposed the theory of ironic processes to account for these suppression effects and other effects relevant to mental control. The idea is simply that successful mental control depends on a mental monitoring process that keeps an eye out for failures at such control. This process, however, remains vigilant for detecting the occurrence of unwanted thoughts, which ironically draws even more attention to those thoughts. Thus, under the instructions to not think of a white bear, this ironic monitoring process does exactly what we - 168-

wish it wouldn't do: activate the very thoughts we want to suppress. The moral of the story here is that thought suppression is difficult and results in an ironic backfiring effect. In the performance of mental ism, we ask audience members to do many things with their thoughts, manipulate them, make them "big" and "bright;' and so forth. It may be interesting, however, to ask people to suppress certain thoughts because the experience is a powerful one. People are likely to be struck by how difficult it is, and following the suppression task, they will find that these thoughts are now even more accessible.

Suppression Subtlety A spectator has thought of the name of a childhood friend, and you are about to divine it. In the spirit of making the task especially difficult, you ask the person to not think about it.

Do your best to cast this person from your mind. Don't think of this name, don't picture this person's face, don't remember anything about this person. But try as you might, the more you try not to, the clearer this person becomes. And what was meant to make this hard for me-you not thinking about this person-actually makes it easier for me. Seriously-try not to think of this person, don't think of this person ... you just thought of her didn't, you? You just thought of Rachel, is that right? Then later on in your interaction with this person, after this phase is over and done, you can say: You still keep thinking about Rachel, don't

you? You haven't thought of this person in ages, but the minute you actually try not to, you start thinking of her more than ever. Again, this is an example of taking some of what we know from research in psychology and layering it into a fairly typical effect. The chances are that the suppression and post-suppression rebound effects will indeed play out, but even if they don't actually hit for a given person, they contribute to a more nuanced performance, and perhaps the mere suggestion of these thought processes will be enough to trigger the experience itself. Also consider that because -169-

this is a phenomenon that strikes us in our everyday lives-trying to suppress thoughts and noting how difficult it is-when audience members experience this phenomenon themselves, it may just serve as a reminder of you and your performance.


Unconscious Thought Theory Because many mentalists who take a psychological angle in their presentations often make mention of the "unconscious" in one way or another, this body of research struck me as able to add some depth to such performances. Although this particular body of research has grown quite nuanced, the basic gist of unconscious thought theory is that complex decisions, judgments, and predictions are better when they are the result of unconscious thought. Suppose you are looking to move, and you have to decide between two different apartments. Each apartment comes with a list of positive qualities and a list of drawbacks, making your ultimate decision difficult-which of those positives and negatives are most important? You might come to your decision in two different ways. In one, you sit down and really think through your options for a while. In another, you distract yourself for the same amount of time and register your decision after the distraction, without ever giving much conscious thought to it. A study that essentially put participants through this decision under these conditions found that the people who made the decision after a distraction (via unconscious thinking) were more likely to make the objectively better choice than the people who spent time consciously weighing all the options (Dijksterhuis, 2004). What unconscious thought theory ultimately proposes is that for relatively simple decisions and judgments, conscious tho~ght is better. For complex decisions and judgments, however, unconscious thoug~t produces better outcomes (Dijksterhuis & Nordgren'. 2006~. ~his difference is due to a particular strength of the unconscious thinking system: it is better able to weigh the relative importanc~ of sp~ci~c attributes. For the apartment hunting example, the conscious mind IS less able to identify which apartment features are most important to a happy living experience; the unconscious system, however, is better at identifying the most important features that distinguish the two options. To illustrate that the unconscious thought system produces better -171 -

outcomes because of smarter use of all of the available information, one set of studies looked specifically at the judgments of soccer experts, whose experience in their field has given them a complete understanding of teams and their various statistics (Dijksterhuis, Bos, van der Leij, & van Baaren, 2009). Their task was to predict the outcomes of four randomly selected soccer matches from that season. Not surprisingly, soccer experts were much more accurate than nonexperts in their predictions. More interestingly, though, is that it was only the experts that had an added advantage of making their predictions after a period of unconscious (vs. conscious) thought. They also provide evidence that unconscious thinking allowed experts to make better predictions because they were more likely to rely on information that is actually highly predictive of soccer outcomes (i.e., their world ranking).

Spectator-as-U nconscious-Mindreader Overall, this is research that you can point to in making the case that a participant should clear his or her mind and allow for responses that come straight from their "subconscious:' I see this as particularly interesting in the context of a prediction method reframed as a "spectator is the mind reader" premise. Imagine telling an audience that you have two numbers, between 1 and 100, written on a piece of paper in an envelope. You choose a volunteer and say that she will guess what those numbers are but that there are a few ways to make such guesses. Before making the guess, you ask the volunteer what her name is, some information about herself, and then suddenly ask her to say a number from 1 -100.

"That's the unconscious thinking way of guessing a number. As soon as I said that you'd have to guess the numbers, your unconscious mind got to work and started forming a guess while you were distracted. Now I want you to guess the other number with your conscious mind. Really think about this now... think through your options. What do you think the other number is?" At this point you talk about the differences between conscious and unconscious thinking as I just reviewed, pointing out that -172-

unconscious thinking tends to produce more accurate predictions than conscious thinking (the soccer matches study would be a good one to note). Sure enough, when you open the envelope, the number that the volunteer guessed through conscious thought is wrong, but the one that she guessed with unconscious thinking is exactly right. This quick demo could then lead into a bigger effect with the same "unconscious thought" theme. The method for this would be up to you, of course, but something as simple as a nail writer and a window envelope would be enough to pull it off. Before putting the paper in the envelope, write a random number on the side that won't be exposed in the window-write this with a nail writer, too, for the sake of consistency. When the participant says her first guess, write it on the paper through the window, and you're set. If you get really lucky and the person guesses the number that's already on the paper, you have the opportunity to make her "conscious thinking" guess close but not quite right. Mentalism premises have often taken advantage of the "power of the unconscious" premise, but now you have some firmer scientific backing to make such claims. It turns out that "sleeping on it" may be an effective strategy after all.


The Power of Ambiguity One recurring concept in social psychology that I have noticed throughout my training and education is that of "disasambiguation:' By that, I mean the process of interpreting information that is objectively ambiguous. Many principles in social psychology are most apparent in conditions where a person is met with objectively ambiguous information. In such a circumstance, people use many different mental shortcuts to figure out what the information means. On page 127, I discuss the concept of "priming. One of the classic studies in that area is the "Donald" study. The description of Donald, objectively speaking, is ambiguous. Without any additional information, this description of a person whom you've never met doesn't give you a clear understanding of who this person is or what he's like. But it's a mental concept that just happens to be more accessible to you that pushes your interpretation in one direction or the other. That is, whether the memory task included words that highlighted the concept of either"recklessness" or"adventurousness" changes the way you interpret the relatively ambiguous information. Here's a mental exercise I often have my students do, and it highlights the simplicity of this concept. Think about the following statement: "His only complaint was that the music wasn't playing at the appropriate volume:' So was it too loud or too quiet? The information alone doesn't tell us. But if I add one single detail, it clears up the whole story: "The librarian's only complaint was that the music wasn't playing at the appropriate volume:' Ah, now we understand; the music was being played too loudly. All of the stereotypes and beliefs we have about "librarians" fills in the gaps and "reveals" the meaning of the sentence. Perhaps the meaning is incorrect, but we at least feel like we understand the story now. Imagine I went the other direction and instead added a different detail: "The rock star's only complaint was that the music wasn't playing at the appropriate volume:' Well now the information has been disambiguated in a different way. Now it would seem that the music wasn't playing loudly enough! Again, the stereotypes and -174-

other thoughts that we associate with "rock stars" help clear up the meaning of the statement. The point here is that we know there are plenty of biases in human psychology, but they only result in correspondingly biased judgments and conclusions when the real answer isn't clear. If the answer is clear as day, then it doesn't matter what biases might be rooted in human psychology; a person is likely to appropriately encode the information. With respect to the above example, if I said, "The librarian, who happens to favor music played at loud volumes, had one complaint: the volume of the music being played at the concert, which was set at 85 decibels:'Well now the "librarian" element doesn't really bias our understanding of the information in the same way it did before. The information is very clear, with or without the stereotypes that would have otherwise come into play. I'll relay a few examples from social psychology to even more directly make this point. First is the concept of motivated perception. Research by Emily Balcetis and her colleagues has shown that people see the world the way they want to see the world. One experiment led participants believe that they would engage in a taste test, and that they would either sample something delicious or something disgusting (Balcetis & Dunning, 2006). What they tasted would be determined by whether the computer randomly selected a letter from its database or whether the computer randomly selected a number. In fact, the computer displayed the same thing to everyone: an image that could either be seen as a "8" or a "13" (see the figure) . When people thought a letter would allow them to sample the tasty snack, they saw the image as a B, and when people thought a number would lead to the pleasant outcome, they saw it as a 13. Other studies in this line of research have shown that this wasn't just that people said they -175-

saw what would lead to a good outcome-they truly saw what they wanted to see. Other studies also used different ambiguous stimuli (e.g., an image that could either look like a seal or a horse). The point here is that our motivations and desires affect our perceptions especially when the true answer isn't objectively clear. In the motivated perception studies, the stimulus could reasonably be interpreted in either of two ways; however, in conditions where participants were clearly shown a "B" or a "13;' all participants reported seeing what was shown to them (Balcetis & Dunning, 2006, Study 1). Motivation is not enough to create clearly incorrect perceptions, but it will nudge our perception when there is freedom to move it. Our memories are also ambiguous to a degree that makes them open to bias. For most memories of our past, any objective record of the past events is unavailable- especially at the time of recall. As such, our memories of the past can be biased in many directions. One memory bias studied by social psychologists is stereotypes. Interestingly, these stereotypes can apply to ourselves and influence memories of our own past. For example, Chatard and colleagues (2007) asked boys and girls to remember their standardized test scores from two years prior. They were able to access the participants' real test scores to see if gender stereotypes reliably influenced how people remembered their own academic performance. Indeed, girls remembered doing worse on the math section than reality, and boys remembered doing better on the math section than reality. And lest you think this is because men are just likely to overinflate their performance all the time, the stereotypes also applied to memories of art performance; boys remembered doing worse on this section than reality and girls remembered doing better. Similarly, our memories are often guided by our own beliefs about how life should work. That is, we apply our beliefs about change over time to reconstruct our past. For instance, there are some traits about which we have a "theory of increase" or the belief that the traits apply to us more as we age (e.g., intelligence, being willing to stand up for beliefs, and being worried about physical health). When older people are asked to recall how well these traits characterized them when -176-

they were younger, they tend to say that they didn't apply to them very much (i.e., "I was much less willing to stand up for my beliefs than I am now") even if this has no grounding in truth (McFarland Ross & Giltrow, 1992). The same patterns are true for traits with a "theor/of decrease" (e.g., being active, memory abilities, and ruggedness). As another example, Conway and Ross (1984) recruited students to participate in a 3-week "study skills" class. Before beginning, all of the students evaluated their current study skills. At the conclusion of the class, they asked students to again evaluate their current study skills and report what they thought their level of study skills was before the class. Of course, our belief would be that our study skills were worse prior to taking an improvement class. In fact, people in this situation remembered their study skills as having been worse than they originally said they were. Thus, although the experimenters had access to the objectively "right" answer, the memory was ambiguous for the participants themselves, so their memories were free to be pushed in a certain direction, consistent with expectations. Of course, this concept is not news to mentalists. Common perceptions of cold reading involve the ambiguity of statements. Although this perception is not well tied to best practices in cold reading, using ambiguous statements can be quite effective. The key, however, lies in the difference between "ambiguous" and "vague" statements. Bad cold reading involves vague statements, transparently saying almost nothing at all. Rather, ambiguous statements are those that can be confidently interpreted in many ways.


Psychology for Cold Reading The essence of personal readings depends deeply on human psychology. Not only is it helpful to know how people think of themselves in order to more effectively reflect those thoughts back on them, but knowing about the dynamics between individuals is an important consideration as well. Note that the earlier section on "rapport" (page 136) is relevant to readings, so you might benefit from revisiting that section with this new perspective. What follows are bits of wisdom and knowledge from social psychology that could be applied to improving cold reading success. They constitute both subtleties of execution and a broad understanding of what features of individual people might be relevant for highlighting in a reading.

The "Frequency Labeling" Principle Experimental psychologists can be a crafty group. Sometimes it is necessary to lead people to think of themselves in certain ways, but figuring out exactly how to do that can be tricky. One elegantly simple method, pioneered by Salancik and Conway (1975) is to merely change the wording of personal questions. Specifically, when asking people whether or not they engage in a particular behavior, you can ask whether they do it on occasion or frequently. People are much more likely to say they do something "on occasion" than to say they do it "frequently:' Importantly, these leading questions can get people to actually think of themselves differently. To put it more concretely, Salancik and Conway wanted to test the effects of religiosity on attitudes toward religion. To do so, they asked people to report their religious behaviors and to indicate their attitudes toward religion, but importantly, half of the people were asked whether they do a set of religious behaviors "on occasion" or "frequently:' For example, one person might be asked to answer whether he "goes to a church or synagogue on occasion" or whether he "goes to a church or synagogue frequently:' Their results show -178-

that when t he question is framed as "on occasion," people are more likely to agree that they do those behaviors than when it's framed as "frequently:' This reporting bias is consequential, too; people who responded to whether they do a series of religious behaviors occasionally then reported feeling more positive toward religion than people who responded to whether they do the same behaviors frequently. Others have used this concept to get people to think that they are more or less certain in a bel ief by phrasing the question as either "I am sometimes certain of my opinion on this issue" or "I am always certain of my opinion on this issue" (Rios, DeMarree, & Statzler, 2014). Because people are averse to saying that they always do something, they disagree with the latter question, which can make them start to doubt their opinion. Still others have slightly modified the procedure by manipulating the standard response options in questionnaire items. You're probably used to filling out surveys and marking your responses on a scale of"Strongly Disagree"to"Strongly Agree:' Some researchers have adjusted these labels systematically to get people to respond in certain ways. For instance, I might ask you how much you agree with the statement "I like to take extreme risks;' but I could make you respond on a scale from "agree somewhat" to "agree completely:' On this scale, any response forces you to think of conditions under which you might agree with the statement. Indeed, using exactly this procedure, people who were led to agree with statements about themselves as risk-seekers went on to take more risks in a subsequent gambling task (Petrocelli, Martin, & Li, 2010). This technique can be easily integrated into readings to maximize "hits" in a way that echoes a lot of common wisdom among people who write about such readings. Although extreme revelations are likely to pay off, they also run the risk of not being as accepted as true. Instead, framing readings in terms of "sometimes" or "on occasion" can maximize the likelihood that the sitter agrees with the statement and can then lead him or her to search for times that validate the occasional nature of the behavior rather than lead him or her to th ink of times that disconfirm your reading. For example, "/get the sense -179-

that you at least occasionally respond poorly to criticism. Would you say that's mostly the case or only sometimes?" Also, beyond the language of your statements themselves, you might apply this frequency labelling principle when seeking affirmation from the sitter. This would take the form of the latter example in which the response labels are manipulated to boost agreement. For instance, in the context of a handwriting analysis reading, you could say, "The way you cross your 't' suggests that you can be very ambitious

when starting new projects. Would you say that's sometimes the case or often the case?" By constraining the response options, you essentially force the person to agree with the reading because either answer is a hit. Also, because neither "sometimes" or "often" are extreme in themselves, you also increase the odds of having the person agree with the answer that's relatively more extreme because that answer itself isn't absolutely extreme.

Situation Dependency This isn't any news to cold readers, but I wanted to shed just a little bit of light from psychology on this idea. There has been a debate between personality theorists who believe either that personality represents stable traits and those who believe the personality is more fluid than that. ls someone an extravertthrough and through in every situation? The traditional model says yes, but an alternative approach wouldn't be so sure. Walter Mischel was a key player in arguing this position. In his 2004 review of the literature, he proposed that rather than thinking of people as having a stable personality across situations, we can instead think of them as having stable "behavioral signatures:' By this he means that people do have stable personalities, but they are specific to different situations. For instance, the same person may be reliably gregarious at parties but also consistently introverted on weeknights. How could this person's personality be classified? As an introvert or extravert? According to Mischel, this "either/or" classification is not as helpful as identifying a person's reliable behavior depending on particular -180-

situations. It's as though we all have our own scripts that we can pull out ".if, then" format. For example, "If I'm at my job, then I play my consc1ent1ous character" or "If I'm home for Thanksgiving, then 1 play my rebellious character:' Through a similar logic, Anderson and Chen (2002) proposed the notion of "relational selves:' According to their analysis, our sense of self can change dramatically by which of our significant relational partners are most accessible to us at the moment. My sense of self in relation to my father can be different than my sense of self in relation to my best friend . Depending on which of these people is most accessible in my mind (such as when I'm actually on the phone with my father or I'm out to lunch with my friend), I engage in somewhat different behavior, dependent on the sense of self that's most accessible. Therefore, similar to Mischel's (2004) analysis of personality, Anderson and Chen (2002) maintain that we don't have a singular self-concept but rather that we have several relational selves that come to the surface during the course of different interactions. Various Barnum statements have been great at picking up on these potential dualities, and cold reading experts have long offered similar advice. By saying, "You are at times very extraverted but other times prefer to keep to yourself;' you describe people who are predominantly extraverted or predominantly introverted, but because few people are exclusively one or the other, the statement is met with little resistance. If you had instead made the bold move to say, "I get the sense that you are an extravert;' it can invite the opportunity to counterargue the statement, searching for times that prove otherwise. Understanding the situation-dependency of "personality" can help make a reading more nuanced and more specifically tailored to one individual and his or her unique behavioral signatures.

Giving Negative Information The common wisdom in cold reading is to give the sitter only glowing wonderful information about him or her. In general, this seems like sound advice and puts you in the best light. After all, you don't want to be the psychic who just picks up on everybody's faults. In general, this -181 -

advice is in line with what social psychologists call a self-enhancement motive. According to self-enhancement, people generally want to hear good things about themselves and bolster their positive feelings toward themselves (Leary, 2007; Taylor & Brown, 1988). A commonly cited example of the self-enhancement motive is the "better-than-average effect:' That is, when asked to judge where they stand on any number of attributes, people tend to see themselves as "above average" for positive qualities. For instance, most college students claim that they are better than average drivers (Svenson, 1981 ). Of course, any time most people claim to be above average, we're dealing with a pretty strong bias to view oneself favorably. Amusingly, when people are told about such biases, they tend to say that they are less susceptible to them than most people (Pronin, Gilovich, & Ross, 2004). However, despite the apparent pervasiveness of self-enhancement goals, there may be another way to explain the data. That is, people generally view themselves positively-people's self-esteem is routinely rather high (on average), especially among college student samples. Therefore, even though it seems like everyone wants to hear nice things about themselves, it may actually be the case that people want to confirm the beliefs they already have about themselves (even if it's negative). This is to say that people who desire positive feedback may do so not because of a need to feel better about themselves but rather because of a need to maintain a coherent sense of themselves. Such a motivation has been called the self-verification motive. If true, however, it would mean that people who already have negative selfviews would actually prefer negative feedback about themselves. I'll turn to the words of William Swann, the originator of this research, to describe the fundamental concept in self-verification: "Selfverification theory assumes that, out of a desire for social worlds that are coherent and predictable, people want others to see them as they see themselves" (Swann & Bosson, 2010, p. 608). 19The implication 19 In fact, this strikes me as a compell ing statement to make during a reading. One thing you might intuit about a person is that she might hope that others see he r as she sees herself- sometimes that means she wants others to take note of the positive qualities she



is that when people view themselves positively, what you see ~s what ~ou'd expect_ from "self-enhancement"-a desire for positive information an~ a bias toward viewing the self positively. However, wh:n people view themselves negatively already, there is in fact a desire for confirmatory social feedback. A few examples of how this plays out might be in order. Much of the early research from this perspective looked at people's preferences for social partners who either provided positive or negative feedback about the other person. People tend to gravitate toward others who provide self-consistent (rather than purely positive) feedback (e.g., Swann, Wenzlaff, Krull, & Pelham, 1992). When given the option to read favorable vs. unfavorable information, 64% of the low self-esteem participants in one study preferred the unfavorable information whereas only 25% of the high self-esteem participants preferred the unfavorable information. In a striking illustration of self-verification, however, 82% of the participants who were clinically depressed preferred the unfavorable information (Giesler, Josephs, & Swann, 1996). People also tend to behave in ways that are meant to elicit self-verifying feedback from others (Swann & Hill, 1982; Swann & Read, 1981 ). Of most interest to mentalists and readers, however, is that people can interpret feedback so that it fits how they see themselves already and show biased memory for self-consistent social feedback compared to self-inconsistent information (Swann & Read, 1981 ). Two things are worth noting here, especially because self-verification can seem counterintuitive. Can it really be that people want to hear the negative things they already believe about themselves? One thing to note is that this preference is especially the case when people hold their self-views with confidence (Swann & Pelham, 2002) and when they hold particularly extreme positive or negative self-views (Giesler, Joesphs, & Swann, 1996). It also seems to be the case that this preference is especially likely when people are fully mentally capable of processing the information knows she has but other times that can mean that she wants others to acknowledge her faults instead of pretending they don't exist.


(Hixon & Swann, 1993). The second thing to note is that there's a difference between appreciating self-consistent information because it's factually accurate vs. because of the way it makes you feel. In fact, even though people show a cognitive preference for self-consistent feedback (i.e., they believe it more), they don't particularly enjoy getting negative feedback even when it matches their existing selfviews (Swann, Griffin, Predmore, & Gaines, 1987). So what can psychic (or otherwise intuitive and bright) readers learn from the research on self-verification? Hopefully something! The real reason I review this research is to offer some justification for when and why you might want to highlight negative information about someone during the course of a reading. It would seem that this may be effective when your sitter already holds negative self-views and does so with confidence. However, know that such self-confirming feedback is likely to be met with cognitive belief and agreement but not necessarily lift the person's spirits. That said, following from some of the experimental results (Swann & Read, 1981), by using ambiguous revelations or a mix of positive and negative readings, the person is relatively likely to preferentially remember the information that's consistent with his or her existing self-concept and to interpret the reading as confirming whatever their existing self-view is.

Individual Difference Variables As a reader-psychic or otherwise- you have plenty to talk about with a sitter. It would be hard for me to offer new fodder for the conversation since countless cold reading books have been written over the years. These authors often highlight several dimensions (e.g., finances, romance, travel, etc.) that can be touched upon during the course of a reading. Similarly, when a reading moves into the arena of a "personality" reading, many other authors in the mentalism world have covered this. In years past, readers might have looked to the MyersBriggs personality test (or the "MBTI"), which put forward various combinations of letters (ESTP, ENTJ, ISFJ, and so on) that encapsulate -184-

personality, for an understanding of personality. This test, however, rs now largely out of fashion. Instead, personality measurement now tends to center on the "Big 5" dimensions of personality (extraversion openness to experience, agreeableness, conscientiousness and neuroticism; Costa & Mccrae, 1992) although even this approa~h has its faults. These common "personality" dimensions, however, are only a subset of the vast array of "individual differences" that social psychologists measure, so I offer a selection of those here as further inspiration for thinking about other things that you might read in a person that reflect actual characteristics on which people vary. By way of quickly clarifying what I'm talking about, an "individual difference" measure is simply any characteristic on which people reliably differ from one another. In this way, the personality types you are probably already familiar with are examples of "individual differences:'They are stable reflections of how a person is likely to react across situations. These measures are helpful in research because many effects in the psychology can depend on the person. When this is the case, we sometimes call it a "person-by-situation interaction;' which just means that environmental pressures can influence a person's behavior differently depending on that person's own characteristics. The simplest individual difference to consider is gender. Even though all people, on average, react in a certain way when they're in a certain situation, men may react more strongly than women or women might react totally differently than men, etc. There are plenty of ways, however, in which people diff~r be~ond j~st their gender and their broad personality types. My goal rn th rs sectron is to review a handful of these individual differences that you may not already have heard of. They likely match your intuitions as. t~ how people can differ, but 1 offer you names for these charactenst1~s as well as a quick review of what kinds of outcomes can be pred.1c~ed when you know how well a person is defined by these c~ara~ten~t1cs. They cover a lot of conceptual ground, so let's just get rrght rnto 1t.


The Big 5 Hopefully many readers are already familiar with various dimensions of personality as they are understood by psychologists. I just alluded to new developments where the classic "Myers-Briggs" assessment of personality has fallen out of fashion, replaced by the so-called "Big s:' Although there are critics of the Big 5 approach, the criticisms are beyond the scope of this treatise. A lot of the criticism centers around the psychometric properties of the personality questionnaires- both the questions used to assess the traits as well as the data analytic methods applied to the question responses (Brock, 201 O). A larger criticism takes issue with the proposition that all of personality can be boiled down to these five factors (e.g., De Young, Quilty, & Peterson, 2007; Paunonen & Jackson, 2000).

Nevertheless, the Big 5 can be a useful way of thinking about personality and can give you, the reader, an opportunity to organize your mental repertoire of human personality traits. The Big 5 are commonly remembered using the acronym "OCEAN:' OCEAN stands for: Openness to Experience, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism. I'll review a bit of the research on each of these traits, in the order that they appear in this helpful mnemonic device. Interestingly, though, despite a lot empricial scientific convergence within the data, there's a less clear understanding of what each personality type actually means, even though their effects are so consistent (see also Digman, 1990). Openness to Experience. There seem to be a few things going on that characterize people as high or low in openness. Overall, this dimension of personality has been defined as "cognitive exploration:' which relates to learning about both the world and one's own experience in it.

People with a high openness to experience often look for and understand more information than people with low openness. On the one hand, openness is related to intellect, and people high in openness to experience might use words like "intellectual" or "clever" to define themselves. On the other hand, openness is relevant to - 186-

creativity, and words like "artistic;' "imaginative;' and "curious" might be used as descriptors. Higher openness to experience is strongly related to vocational preferences for artistic pursuits, including writing, drama, and music (Larson, Rottinghaus, & Borgen, 2002). People who are relatively high in openness to experience tend to express themselves well, using humor and expressive verbal content. They also express their creativity by decorating their living and working spaces in unique ways, displaying various books and other reading material (Gosling, Ko, Mannarelli, & Morris, 2002). In the domain of relationships, finding someone who matches you on openness is the most important personality match for people, on average (Figueredo, Sefcek, & Jones, 2006). That is, when it comes to thinking of their ideal romantic partners, most people say that they would prefer someone with a level of openness that matches their own (even more so than matches in traits like agreeableness or extraversion). Note, though, that this is just preferences for an ideal romantic partner- this doesn't play out as reliably in predicting the traits of someone's actual romantic partner. Of interest to a psychic reader, people higher in openness are more likely to report mystical, transcendental, and transpersonal experiences (MacDonald, 2000). In addition, openness maps onto social and political attitudes; people higher in openness to experience tend to be less politically conservative (e.g., Van Hiel et al., 2004). So who's open? Early studies failed to find any gender differences in openness to experience, but gender differences do emerge when you consider two separate components of openness. That is, women tend to be more open than men in the sense of creativity and aesthetics, but men tend to be more open than women in the sense of intellectual curiosity and puzzle solving (Weisberg, DeYoung, & Hirsh, 2011 ). Not surprisingly, people who have had more education demonstrate greater openness in the sense of intellectual openness (Goldberg, Sweeney, Merend, & Hughes, 1998). One cross-cultural analysis found that people in French-speaking Switzerland, Serbia, Austria, Germany, and German-speaking Switzerland were highest in Openness to Experience. By contrast, people from Spain, Hong Kong, Malaysia, and India scored lowest in openness (McCrae et al., 2005). -187-

Conscientiousness. This personality trait has been defined as the tendency to exercise self-control, to follow the rules of society, and to plan for meeting goals and desired outcomes. In general, Roberts et al. (2009) write that "a conscientious individual will be likely to show up to appointments early, follow society's rules, keep a clean and tidy room, work hard, and cut him- or herself off before he or she has one too many cocktails" (p. 371 ). In fact, because conscientious people conform to social norms, they are likely to live longer due to a decreased risk of alcohol use, obesity, drug use, lack of physical exercise, risky sexual behavior, risky driving, tobacco use, suicide, and violence (Bogg & Roberts, 2004). Conscientious people are also those who are most likely to find job success because they have leadership skills (Judge, Bono, llies, & Gerhardt, 2002), they don't come skip work very often (Ones, Viswesvaran, & Schmidt, 2003), and because they apply for more appropriate jobs in the first place (Mount, Barrick, Scullen, & Rounds, 2005). Although men and women don't seem to differ in conscientiousness overall, they do differ on the specific aspect of conscientiousness that represents "orderliness;' in which case women score higher on orderliness than men (Weisberg et al., 2011 ). That is, women are more likely to put importance on maintaining order and organization (including perfectionism). This gender difference, though, isn't present at older ages. That said, however, conscientiousness does appear to increase with age-older people score higher on measures of conscientiousness than younger people (Goldberg et al., 1998).

Extroversion. Of all the personality variables that exist in the literature, extraversion seems to be the one that people are most familiar with. We talk about people as being "extraverted" or "introverted" more than we characterize others as agreeable or open to experience, for instance. Extraversion, of course, refers to how much someone enjoys being with people and experiences high social energy. One of the best established extraversion effects is that extraverts, compared to introverts, experience high degrees of positive emotion and see things in a positive light (e.g., Costa & McCrae, 1980; Uziel, 2006). More extraverted people show more optimism and are less responsive -188-

to negative feedback (DeNeve & Cooper, 1998). This seems to happen because of extraversion's relationship with "relational esteem." That is, more extraverted people tend to be happier with their friend and family relationships, and as a result, they experience greater overall subjective well-being (Benet-Martinez & Karakitapoglu-AygOn, 2003). More extraverted people not only demonstrate greater helpfulness in altruistic volunteering initiatives, but they also are more likely to assume a leadership role (Carlo, Okun, Knight, & de Guzman, 2005; Judge & Bono, 2000). Also, in relation to vocational preferences and ideal career matches, extraversion tends to relate to enterprising activities like sales, leadership, or politics and to social jobs like teaching or nursing (Larson et al., 2002).

Agreeableness. At an abstract level, agreeableness refers to how much someone is "likeable, pleasant, and harmonious with others" (Graziano & Tobin, 2009, p. 46). In general, more agreeable people are more motivated to have positive relationships with other people (Graziano & Eisenberg, 1997). Women tend to score higher on agreeableness than men, both at relatively young and relatively old ages (Chapman, Duberstein, Sorensen, & Lyness, 2007; Weisberg et al., 2011 ). Those who are more agreeable are generally more easily persuaded (Habashi & Wegener, 2008), but they also tend to engage in more constructive ways of resolving conflict in everyday interactions (Jensen-Campbell & Graziano, 2001) and tend to be less competitive overall (Graziano et al., 1997). More agreeable people also tend to feel greater empathy and also tend to offer help in a variety of settings (G raziano, et al., 2007).

Neuroticism. This trait reflects the tendency to "experience negative emotional states" (Widiger, 2009, p. 129). These feelings include anger, guilt, anxiety, and depression. Often self-conscious and shy, neurotic people don't respond adaptively to stress. Overall, neuroticism has been linked to feelings of well -being (Steel, Schmidt, & Schultz, 2008), job satisfaction (Judge, Heller, & Mount, 2002), leadership (Judge, Bono, llies, & Gerhardt, 2002), and depency (Bornstein & Cecero, 2000). In each case, greater neuroticism corresponds to more negative outcomes. Similarly, neuroticism has been linked a number -189-

of psychopathologies (see Widimer, 2009). As with agreeableness, women tend to score higher on neuroticism than men, both at relatively young and relatively old ages (Chapman, Duberstein, Sorensen, & Lyness, 2007; Weisberg et al., 2011 ). It seems, though, that this gender difference is specific to neuroticism in the sense of anxiety and self-consciousness and less relevant to neuroticism in the sense of emotional volatility.

Preference for Consistency People who have a relative preference for consistency"value personal consistency and strive to respond to most situations in a manner consistent with prior attitudes, behaviors, and commitments" whereas people with a low preference for consistency "demonstrate a preference for change, spontaneity, and unpredictability in the way they respond to social stimuli" and don't necessarily care if their current behavior corresponds with what they've done in the past (Guadagno & Cialdini, 2010, p. 153). To get a sense of where people are on this variable, psychologists ask them how much they agree with statements like "I prefer to be around people whose reactions I can anticipate" and "I want to be described by others as a stable, predictable person:' In general, the data have shown that preference for consistency tends to be higher for older people, and younger people show lower average scores on this individual difference (Brown, Asher, & Cialdini, 2005). People who have a greater preference for consistency have been shown to more often follow through on commitments, to be more affected by the "foot-in-the-door" effect (see "Compliance" on page 32), and are more uncomfortable when thinking about topics that they are ambivalent about (Guadagno & Cialdini, 2010).

Need for Cognition Need for cognition is an indication of how much people enjoy effortful thinking (Cacioppo & Petty, 1982). Those who have a relatively high -190-

need for cognition are much more likely to think deeply about information than people who are lower in need for cognition. To measure this variable, psychologists ask people to rate how well they think a series of statements describes them, including ones like "I really enjoy a task that involves coming up with new solutions to problems" and "It's enough for me that something gets the job done; I don't care how or why it works." In their review of the large body of research that has considered this variable, Richard Petty and his colleagues (2009) offer a concise summary: as need for cognition increases, "people are more likely to think about a wide variety of things, including their own thoughts. This enhanced thinking often produces more consequential (e.g., enduring) judgments and can sometimes provide protection from common judgmental biases. At other times, however, enhanced thinking can exacerbate a bias or even reverse it" (p. 318). At its inception, however, need for cognition was developed as a way to measure how much people were likely to think about persuasive messages specifically because the amount of thought people attack such a method with determines whether and how they are persuaded (Cacioppo, Petty, & Morris, 1983). Since then, it has been shown to affect amount of thinking across many domains, including personal relationships, legal proceedings, and person judgments.

Independent vs. Interdependent Self-Construals This individual difference comes from research on cross-cultural differences in how people define themselves. Although its origin is in cultural psychology, know that this distinction can apply just as well to different people within a culture. In essence, people with independent self-construals see themselves as individuals whose set of behaviors and attributes reflect their own internal thoughts and feelings (Markus & Kitayama, 1991 ). Indeed, these are people who view the self as autonomous and independent of others. Those with interdependent self-construals, however, emphasize the connectedness of people and see themselves "as part of an encompassing social relationship" and recognize that -191-

their behavior "is determined, contingent on, and, to a large extent organized by what the person perceives to be the thoughts, feelings, and actions of others in the relationship" (Markus & Kitayama, 1991, p. 227). Although it's true that people from East Asian cultures tend to have more interdependent self-construals and people from Western cultures tend to have more independent self-construals, there is also variance within those cultures. That is, even within Western cultures, some people have more interdependent self-construals whereas other have more independent self-construals. For more information about this variable and the demographics that reflect it, Hazel Markus and Alana Conner (2013) have written a great book for a public audience. In it, they discuss eight "culture clashes" that reflect eight different instantiations of a difference between independent and interdependent self-construals. Each of the following pairs reflects this distinction, the first in each pair being a group that tends to view the self as independent and the second being a group that tends to view the self as interdependent: Western vs. East Asian cultures, men vs. women, Black vs. White Americans, middle vs. working class, American west coast/northeast vs. south/ Mid west, profit vs. nonprofit sectors, northern vs. southern hemisphere populations, and various religious groups. Of course, these categories are not perfectly overlapping with the two self-construals, but in the context of a reading, they might be reliable cues as to how the sitter views him or herself and the independent vs. collective values he or she might endorse. Singelis (1994) developed a measurement tool to assess the degree of independence vs. interdependence within a population. For instance, a question that's used to assess independence is "I enjoy being unique and different from others in many respects. Questions used to assess interdependence, however, are"My happiness depends on the happiness of those around me" and "I should take into consideration my parents' advice when making education/career plans:'


Dialectical Self-Concept Here's another individual difference that has its origin in cultural research. In the late 1990s, some evidence emerged, suggesting that people in East Asian cultures report lower self-esteem than people in Western cultures (Heine, 1999). Although this was taken as evidence for the fact that such cultures view themselves more negatively, newer research offers a different perspective. In particular, this evidence showed that it isn't a difference in overall self-esteem but rather a difference in how mixed people's self-evaluations are. In other words, people from East Asian cultures are more likely than people from Western cultures to view themselves both positively and negatively, which can look like more negative self-esteem on average even though the two groups actually see themselves just as positively as one another (Spencer-Rodgers, Peng, Wang, & Hou, 2004). The lesson here is that some people demonstrate what's called a "dialectical self:' Those with a dialectical self are those whose selfconcept is not very clearly or confidently defined, isn't very consistent from one situation to the other nor from one time to another. Nondialectical self-concepts, then, are those that are internally consistent, stable over time, and stable over various situations and relationships. Generally, people from East Asian cultures demonstrate greater dialectical selves than people from Western cultures, but as with independence and interdependence, people can also vary within a culture in the extent to which they view themselves dialectically. Questions that are used to measure dialectical self include: "I am the same around my family as I am around my friends:"'There are always two sides to everything, depending on how you look at it;' and "I believe my personality will stay the same all of my life:' In their review of the research on dialectical self, Julie SpencerRodgers and her colleagues (201 O) identify many outcomes of seeing the self dialectically or not. For instance, as reviewed already, people who view the self dialectically tend to endorse both positive and negative qualities of themselves. People with dialectical selves are also relatively more able to bounce back from negative life events and show a greater tolerance for experiencing mixed emotions. -193-

Need for Cognitive Closure The need for cognitive closure is the extent to which a person desires clear answers and demonstrates an aversion to ambiguity (Kruglanski & Webster, 1996). Originally, this motivation was studied by manipulating it in a lab. Researchers did this by putting people under time pressure (Kruglanski & Freund, 1983), creating environmental noise that renders information processing difficult (Kruglanski, Webster, & Klem, 1993), and making people experience mental fatigue (Webster, Richter, & Kruglanski, 1996). All of these were intended to motivate people to reach quick conclusions. More often, though, the need for closure has been studied by measuring it as an individual differences variable. The measurement instrument that's frequently used asks people to rate their agreement with statements like "In case of uncertainty, I prefer to make an immediate decision, whatever it may be" and "I find that establishing a consistent routine enables me to enjoy life more Whether studied as a manipulation or as an individual difference, need for closure is often described as being associated with two primary tendencies: an urgency tendency and a permanence tendency (Kruglanski & Webster, 1996). These tendencies are often also referred to as "seizing" and "freezing;' respectively. Seizing is the tendency to jump to a conclusion quickly, and freezing is the tendency to hold onto attained closure so as not to return to a state of uncertainty. In social psychology, this variable has been used as a lens through which to study a number of topics. Applied to attitudes and persuasion, people with a relatively high need for closure have demonstrated greater confidence in their judgments, (Mayseless & Kruglanski, 1987), greater striving for a group consensus (Kruglanski, Webster, & Klem, 1993), and greater persuasion via superficial characteristics of a message like the mere number of arguments (Klein & Webster, 2000). So who are these high or low need for closure people? Well, the literature seems pretty mute on this point. What's clear is that this is an individual difference that makes a difference for many outcomes, but exactly how to predict a person's place on the continuum is still unclear. -1 94-

There are a couple hints, though. One is that in a study comparing accounting majors and studio-art majors atthe University of Maryland, the art students had a lower need for closure than the accounting majors (Webster & Krug lanski, 1994). The need for closure scale also tends to be negatively correlated with the need for cognition (i.e., higher need for cognition is associated with lower need for closure) and positively correlated with characteristics like dogmatism (Webster & Kruglanski, 1994).


and Satisficers

Similar to the need for closure is an individual difference in decision strategies known as "maximizing" and "satisficing:' To maximize is to compare and analyze every available option whereas to satisfice is to aim at choosing an option that is merely good enough (Schwartz et al., 2002). Maximizing represents an ideal of rational choice, but satisficing is the more common strategy. Iyengar and Lepper (2000) report that people are more likely to avoid making a choice when confronted with many (vs. few) options. Such a finding suggests that, in the context of simple choice situations, too many choices requires the relatively involved maximizing strategy that seems too time- and energy-consuming to pursue. Taking the distinction between decision strategies further, Schwartz et al. (2002) developed an individual differences scale to assess peoples' tendency to engage in either maximizing behavior or satisficing behavior. This scale includes items like "No matter how satisfied I am with my job, it's only right for me to be on the lookout for better opportunities" and "I never settle for second best:' Two consistent findings emerge from research on maximizing and satisficing. First, maximizing strategies, unsurprisingly, result in the consideration of more units of information before making a choice (Iyengar, Wells, & Schwartz, 2006). Second, maximizing strategies are often accompanied by negative feelings of regret and unhappiness (Iyengar & Lepper, 2000; Iyengar et al., 2006; Parker, de Bruin, & Fischhoff, 2007; Schwartz et al., 2002).


Self-Compassion I've avoided a discussion of "self-esteem" here because it's become such a common variable, and you are no doubt familiar with it and how to work it into a reading if you were so inclined. You can also see the section on self-verification elsewhere in this book for a brief discussion (page 181 ). You may be Jess familiar, though, with research on what psychologists call "self-compassion:' There are three components of self-compassion (Neff, 2003). The first is "self-kindness;' which is the tendency to be caring and understanding with oneself instead of resorting to harsh critical judgment. Even though people tend to think they are kinder to others than they are to themselves, those who are self-compassionate report being just as kind to themselves. The second element is the "sense of common humanity;' which is the understanding that all humans are fallible, make mistakes, and so on. Although some people can feel isolated when thinking about their individual flaws, those who are self-compassionate see their personal struggles as reflective of a common human experience. Finally, self-compassion is associated with "mindfulness;' which in this context reflects a focus on the present moment and a sense of non-judgment. By keeping a distant perspective on oneself, a self-compassionate person can not only identify times of personal hardship but can do so without being "swept up in and carried away by the story line of one's own pain" (Neff, 2009). On the one hand, self-compassion is a powerful predictor of anxiety and depression, whereby reduced self-compassion predicts a greater likelihood of anxiety and depression (Neff, Hseih, & Dejitthirat, 2005). On the other hand, self-compassion is associated with positive outcomes like feelings of social connectedness and life satisfaction (see Neff, 2009). Similarly, relatively self-compassionate women are more comfortable with their bodies and have less anxiety about how their bodies would be evaluated than less self-compassionate women (Magnus, 2007). Indeed,




increase -196-



compassionate mind training; Gilbert &Procter, 2006). These programs have been effective in increasing self-compassion (resulting in reduced depression, feelings of inferiority, etc.) by teaching people about what it means to have self-compassion (discussed above), facilitating discussions of fears people have of being too self-compassionate, and helping them to non-judgmentally understand their own tendencies to be self-critical.

Self-Monitoring Self-monitoring refers to the "regulation of expressive and selfpresentational behaviors in social situations" (Fuglestad & Snyder, 2009). Basically, some people are pretty interested in monitoring and controlling their public behavior whereas other people aren't as interested. People who are categorized as "high self-monitors" are those who are very aware of social norms and cues and who respond accordingly. Their behavior is thus strongly informed by the social situation. By contrast, people who are categorized as "low self-monitors" are those who pay less attention to such norms and social pressures and instead behave in a manner consistent with their unique, individual point of view. When it comes to predicting people's behavior from their unique set of attitudes and opinions, low self-monitors display much greater consistency between how much they like or dislike something and how likely they are to engage in relevant behavior (Ajzen, Timko, & White, 1982). That is, people's attitudes may or may not correspond to their behavior. I might have very favorable attitudes toward high-quality clothing, but I may not actually purchase that clothing. Whereas a high self-monitor might show that disconnect, the research would predict that low self-monitors in that situation would actually purchase the clothing that they like. Other research has shown that high self-monitors are more likely to adjust their behavior in group discussions, depending on whether the group norms encouraged individuality or conformity; low selfmonitors, however, were not affected by the group norm (Snyder & Monson, 1975). This individual difference also highlights a difference -197-

in consumer behavior. Low self-monitors seem to care more about the quality of a product, whereas high self-monitors attend more to the image or status of the brand, its packaging, and its popularity (e.g., Snyder & DeBono, 1985)


Population Stereotypes: Updated In their popular reference book, Psychology of the Psychic, the authors present an appendix of "population stereotypes:' By this they just meant the responses people are likely to give to a particular question. Such data are instrumental in constructing popular psychological forces like the number 7 or 37, and a triangle in a circle (although they aren't quite forces per se and rather questions to which people generally provide the same responses). Although the aforementioned psychological forces are evident in the data provided in that appendix, I wondered if there might be more to gain using their very simple polling strategy. To establish these population stereotypes, David Marks and Richard Kamman surveyed hundreds of people merely to ascertain their responses to things like generating a number between 1 - 10. Jon Thomspon, in his first Naked Mentalism book, provides a similar data-driven strategy to construct propless mentalism demonstrations. Surely others have attempted similar projects. The following is my own contribution to the available literature. Using Amazon.corn's Mechanical Turk program, I conducted brief online surveys for people across the United States. Three pre-written questions were displayed at random, and people merely entered their responses. Importantly, these were free responses and they weren't given options to pick from. They freely wrote the thoughts that came to mind in text boxes. Below you will see the exact questions these participants saw along with the number of people who responded with a particular answer. 300 people (48.7% men, 50.7% women) responded to the survey, and through random presentation, about 100 people responded to each question, which provides a decent sense of what people tend to say in response to these questions. Some of the questions resulted in clear patterns of responsesbut others did not reveal clear patterns, but I present those data as well in case you find some meaning that I did not find. -199-

Also, because about 100 people responded to each question, these numbers in the following tables can easily approximate the percentage of people who gave each answer. However, the numbers in the table represent the absolute number of people who gave each response.

Number from 1 - 20 Think of a random number between 1 - 20. Write that number below.

1 2 3 4

s 6 7

8 9


11 12 13 14 15


0 1

5 8 4


17 18


5 5 7

3 11

7 3 6 4 13


5 0



Note that the most frequent responses are "1" and "17.'' Given the present data, this constitutes 26% of the responses.

Color Think of the first color that comes to mind. Write the name of that color below. Black



5 43















2-Digit Number Think of a random 2-digit number. Write that number below.

10 11 12 13 14 1S 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 2S 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39

1 2 5 3 6 3

1 1 3 3 1 3 8

4 3 8 2 1 2 0 0 1 3 2 0 1 0 1 1 0

40 41 42 43 44 4S 46 47 48 49

so 51 52 S3 S4

SS S6 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69

0 0 2 2 0 5 1 1 1 0 0

0 0 1 2 1 0

0 2

1 0 0 1 0 1 0 1

0 0 1

70 71

72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99

0 1 0 0 1 1

0 1 0 0

0 0 1 0

0 0 0

0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0

0 0 0 0

An observation ... most responses are relatively low in the range of possible values. 28.6% of responses are lower than 20, 61.2% are lower than 30, and 82.7% are lower than 50.


Coins Imagine you have a pocket full of coins. You reach in and pull one out. What coin did you pull out?

Penny Nickel Dime Quarter SO Cent

6 11

12 63 2

Imagine tossing that coin in the air, watching it land on the table. Does it land heads-up or tails-up?

Heads Up Tails Up

68 30

NOTE: Separating the sample by gender suggests that these coin-based biases (for whatever reason) appear more strongly for men than women. That is, among men, 75% said Quarter, and 75% said Heads Up. Among women, however, 60% say Quarter and 63% say Heads Up.


Dice Imagine you've picked up some dice, and you roll one of them. What number comes up? 1


2 3




5 6


7 8


27 3 1

Two interesting observations about this pattern: (1 J Some people think a normal die has up to 8 sides and (2) people overwhelmingly imagine a higher number coming up. See my use of this observation in the "Die Hard: Psy Force" effect at the end of this section.

Room Think of any room in a house. Please write that room below.

Bedroom Living Room Kitchen Bathroom Dining Room Basement Oen Family Room Hall Library Multipurpose Room


31 28 20 10

6 1 1 1 1 1 1

European Country Think of a country in Europe. Please write that country below.

19 15

France Germany England

12 11

Italy Spain


Poland United Kingdom


Austria Denmark

3 3


The following were mentioned by two people: Latvia, Norway, and Scotland. The following were listed once: Albania, Armenia, Belgium, Greece, Ireland, Lichtenstein, Portugal, Ukraine, and Venice

Letter of the Alphabet Think of any letter in the alphabet. Please write that letter below.

A 26 B 5


5 0 6 E 2 F 7 G 3

H 1 0 J 3

0 0 p 4

L 1

Q 4 R 4 s 4

M 3

T 0

K 8

N 3



0 v 2 w0 x 2 y 0 z 8

Vegetable Think of a vegetable someone might buy in a grocery store. Please write the name of the vegetable below. Carrot






Lettuce Onion

8 7






3 3 2 2 2

Corn Eggplant Green Beans Zucchini

The following were mentioned once: Asparagus, Butter Beans, Cauliflower, Cilantro, Kale, Okra, Peas, Pepper, Pickle, Red Pepper, and Squash.


Month Think of any of the 12 months in a year. Please write that month below.

January February March April May June

10 15 10 6

July August

16 8




6 3 10

4 7

November December

An observation ... three of the most often listed months end in ''y" (January, February, and July), 45% of responses were months that end in "y" even though 33% of months end in ''y."


Die Hard: Psy Force Based on an observation regarding people's answers to the "rolling a die" question, I developed this quick way to deduce the number of a person has imagined.

Version 1 Begin by simply asking someone to imagine that they've picked up some dice, and then they roll one of them. Ask them to think about which number came up on the die. As we see in the table, it's likely that the number they're thinking of is a 4, 5, or 6. You thus begin by asking, "It's a relatively high number, isn't it?" If they say "yes" very quickly, then you know it's probably the 5 or 6 because those are obviously "high" numbers as far as dice are concerned. From there, probabilistically, it's the 6. If they say "yes" somewhat more hesitantly, then they're likely thinking of the 4maybe the 5. Finally, if they say "no" flat out, then they're probably thinking the 3. 1 and 2 are pretty uncommon in this scenario.

Version 2 You can also use this information in a nailwriter application. The key benefit is that you can use the basic probabilities get a hit before asking the person what he's thinking of (and thus, before the dirty work). You also get to use the basic probabilities to make the actual nailwriting moment very minimal. To being, you pull out a "prediction" card. As in the previous version, you simply ask someone to imagine that they've picked up some dice, and then they imagine rolling one of them. Ask them to think about which number came up on the die. Again, you begin by asking, "It's a relatively high number, isn't it?" Because you're likely to get this right based on probability, it lends credibility that you truly knew in advance what number they would roll. Assuming they say yes, you continue by asking, "and which -207-

number was it that you rolled?" When they say their answer, you turn the card around and show that you were right. To do the prediction part, you start wit h a prediction that looks like the 4 side of a die (see Figure 4a). If the person rolls a 4, then you have no work to do. Just turn the card around. If, however, the person rolls a 5, you just need to nailwrite a dot in the center of the prediction. Finally, if the person rolls a 6, you just need to nailwrite two dots in the correct places. Obviously, if they actually guessed a low number, you're pretty screwed here. If they think of a 3, then your pre-written 4 is pretty close, but in the less likely event that they say "l " or"2:'you'll just have to own up to being wrong. You could, of course, leave the prediction totally blank and nailwrite whatever they say, but accurately drawing the 5-side of a die quickly with your thumb might be a little tricky.

Pre-written Prediction

• •

They say "5"

They say "6"

Red dots indicate nailwritten dots.


Closing Remarks Thank you again for pu rchasi ng and reading this book. This project has been something of a "labor of love," and one that I've been meaning to finish for many years now. Hopefully the finished product is worth your time and money. It is a joy for me to share the world of academic psychology with anyone who's interested in knowing about it. Its applications to mentalism are surely far wider than I can even see, and if you come up with new ideas or innovations based on what's in this book, please let me know! I'll be excited to see what you come up with. Please also check out the books listed on the following few pages and learn more about social psychology for yourself. There is plenty of fascinating research beyond what I could include in this book. Be wary, however, of information passing as "psychology" if it's not backed by solid scientific methods. Although it's plausible that their claims are true, it's too easy to make claims without the burden of solid research evidence.


Recommended Reading If you any of the material covered in this book interested you, then you may be interested in reading more about the wonderful world of social psychology. Here is a list of books that are written for the public and cover many of the topics I have discussed. These books also cover topics that I may not have touched on here, but they serve as good resources to continue your psychology education. Most of them are books I have read, but I have to be honest and say that some are ones I haven't read myself but that have been well reviewed. Also, most of these books are written by social psychologists themselves. This gives me more comfort that the reviews are accurate as some journalists have a tendency to occasionally misrepresent the data. Malcolm Gladwell, for example, writes beautifully about social science but might sometimes sacrifice scientific accuracy for the larger narrative. Just be aware of this as you read . Stumbling on Happiness (Daniel Gilbert) - Daniel Gilbert pioneered research on "affective forecasting:' According to this research, people often fail to accurately predict how they w ill respond to future events. Blink (Malcolm Gladwell) - Although Malcolm Gladwell is not a social psychologist, this book got me interested in psychology. He talks about how people can make automatic, snap judgments that t urn out to be accurate. Much of this premise comes from research popularized by Nalini Ambady on "thin slicing:' Mindwise: How We Understand What Others Think, Believe, Feel, and Want (Nicholas Epley) - Although he calls it "mind-reading;' the term might give the wrong idea of what Epley's research is about. In reality, Epley studies the process through which we come to know other people's minds. When shopping for a birthday present, how do you know what your friend will enjoy? Through theory of mind, we develop a sense of how others' minds work. Mindfulness (Ellen Langer) - This isn't the kind of "mindfulness" you hear about in relation to Buddhist practice but is instead more like the difference between "automatic" and "controlled" processing in -210-

social cognition. Ellen Langer is the person behind the Xerox study highlighting the power of the word"because"in inducing compliance. Strangers to Ourselves: Discovering the Adoptive Unconscious (Tim Wilson) - Here, Tim Wilson discusses the problems with relying on introspection as a way to attain self-knowledge. Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength (Roy Baumeister) - Written by the researcher behind "ego depletion;' this book considers research on the psychology of exercising self-control. Clash!: 8 Cultural Conflicts That Make Us Who We Are (Hazel Markus & Alana Conner) - There are many ways in which the difference between "independent" and "interdependent" self-concepts influence everyday life, and the differences go further than just Western vs. East-Asian culture. Geography of Thought: How Asians and Westerners Think Differently... and Why (Richard Nisbett) - This book focuses on the difference between "analytic" and "holistic"thinking and how different cultures can perceive the world in distinct ways. Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less (Barry Schwartz) - This is perhaps one of the more popular books related to social psychology. I hear people reference this research often. It reviews work that shows having too many options can get in the way of making choices that people are truly happy with. Predictably Irrational (Dan Ariely) - When it comes to making decisions, people can rely on heuristics that aren't entirely rational. Dan Ariely helped popularize a new field of psychology referred to as

behavioral economics. How We Know What Isn't So: The Fallibility of Human Reason in Everyday Life (Thomas Gilovich) - This book discusses reliable errors in reasoning and judgment. Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People (Mahzarin Banaji and Anthony Greenwald) - This book is written by the developers of the Implicit Association Test (IAT) and covers the ways in which people can have unconscious biases against people of various social classes -211 -

(based on race, religion, sexuality, etc.)

Delusions of Gender: How Our Minds, Society, and Neurosexism Create Difference (Cordelia Fine) - This is a great book about the difference between how different people perceive men and women to be and how little evidence actually supports these differences. It ends with an interesting discussion of t he role neuroscience research can play in wrongly reinforcing these stereotypes. Whistling Vivaldi (Claude Steele) - Claude Steele pioneered a program of research on the unsettling phenomenon of "stereotype threat:'This is when members of stereotyped groups behave in a way that inadvertently confirms stereotype-consistent beliefs because of the fear of confirming those stereotypes. Influence: Science and Practice (Robert Cialdini) - This book seems to come up the most in recommendations for mentalism-related psychology books. Robert Cialdini is the big name in compliance research and in this excellent book, he outlines six norms of compliance and discusses research on many compliance techniques, including ones that I have reviewed here. Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending (Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton) - These authors discuss a body of research that shows the benefits of spending money on other people. According to their research, spending money on others makes the spender happier. Social: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Connect (Matthew Lieberman) - This new book about research in social neuroscience reviews the neurological counterparts to fund amental social processes. Matt Lieberman is one of the foremost experts in this field. The Social Animal (Elliot Aronson) - This is t echnically more like a textbook and many intro to social psychology classes use it as a textbook, but it is written more like a popular nonfiction book and covers a lot of ground in the field in an engaging way. The Secret Life of Pronouns (James Pennebaker) - This book expands on the research I reviewed inthe section on linguistic styles. Seemingly unimportant words like pronouns and conjunctions turn out to be reliable predictors of a range of social outcomes. -212-

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