Illusionism and science: an existing relationship?

At least once in your life you too have been struck by those magic tricks, capable of enchanting young and old. Illusionism is an art, but how much background of truth exists in what many call a discipline of the mind? And above all, what can science tell us about illusionism, and what can scientists learn from magicians? In this regard, many experts have expressed themselves, and although illusions and magic games have nothing to do with spells and ligaments such as those of, deepen it is not sorry. 


Illusionism can be defined as the art consisting in making optical and sensory illusions in general appear as real. The profession, as we know it now, develops mainly from the 18th century, but magic tricks were already practiced centuries earlier in other contexts, for example in religious ceremonies. Mentalism is a particular nuance of illusionism, where the artist behaves as if he has supernatural powers or knows how to use unknown technologies, for example reading the mind, predicting the future, etc … Simplifying, a standard magician performs tricks like the classic rabbit extracted from a cylinder, while a mentalist amazes us by guessing what we have just read on the page of a book.


Why do we fall into the illusions of wizards? What does this teach us about our mind? There is nothing wrong with that, of course, but why are these things able to attract our attention more than others? Both magicians (ie magicians) and mentalists use ingenious tricks; but what makes the illusion happen is the use of some psychological principles. Let’s take the famous experiments of bending cutlery or keys: the mentalist bends a spoon in the only way possible, that is, by applying a force to the end. To do this without getting noticed, however, he must distract his audience, and this is where the real magic happens. The art of the illusionists, therefore, has empirically discovered how to deceive our senses and our brain; but this empirical knowledge can now also be deepened with scientific investigation. 

In this sense, we would like to underline that there have been many researches carried out by neuroscientists who are themselves illusionists, who have made a mix of rationality and unrealism. One of the greatest lessons that can therefore be extrapolated from these studies is that we live in the illusion that our senses allow us to faithfully perceive the world around us, when instead it is our brain that builds an equally imperfect reality through imperfect senses.

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Last modified: April 22, 2021

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