The Magic of Consciousness Symposium

The ASSC11 Co-Chairs are happy to announce a Special Symposium that promises to showcase the “Magic of Consciousness” to even the hardest-nosed skeptic. Please join us and five of the world’s premier stage magicians on Sunday June 24th, 2007, between 5:30pm and 7:30pm, so that these world-class performers may share their deep intuitions and insights on the covert manipulation of attention and awareness with the research community.

The five magicians joining us will be:

  • Teller, of Penn & Teller, will discuss the mechanisms of: “Disguising one action as another” Such as the difference between motion and action (“Action is motion with a purpose”)
  • Apollo Robbins, Professional Thief and Pickpocket, who successfully pickpocketed the presidential secret service guarding Jimmy Carter, will discuss: “Misdirection is the story that you make them remember”Or how the audience believes what they are tricked into believing, despite evidence to the contrary
  • Mac King, headliner at Harrah's on The Strip, will speak about why:“It’s a bad idea to do the same trick twice”And why magicians never announce their tricks in advance
  • James Randi, aka The Amaz!ng Randi, and Founder of the James Randi Foundation will present: “Implying data that isn’t there” Or how an audience can be lulled into eagerly accepting suggestions and unspoken information
  • Johnny Thompson, from The Great Tomsoni and Co. will talk about:“Closing all the doors” Or the importance of reducing all potential explanations to nothing but magic

Just as visual scientists study visual art and illusions to elucidate the workings of the visual system, so too can cognitive scientists study artists of cognitive illusions to elucidate the underpinnings of cognition. Stage magic shows are the manifestation of the deep intuition and understanding of human attention and awareness held by the accomplished magical performer. By studying magicians, and learning their techniques, researchers can hope to learn the skills necessary to manipulate attention and awareness in the lab, at a quantitative level. In this spirit, each of these performers will describe an aspect of magical technique that serves as a powerful tool to manipulate attention and/or awareness, either on a large scale (to a large audience) or a small scale (such as a card trick, or other close-up manipulation). They will demonstrate an example application of each technique, and then discuss why/how they believe the technique may work, in terms of human cognition.

The presentations will be followed by 30 minutes of Q&A with the audience.

The goal of the event is to help raise awareness among ASSC delegates about the powerful tools that magicians have already developed to manipulate awareness. And the magicians themselves have also expressed their wish that the information flows both ways! The performers deeply hope to learn from the consciousness research community about new principles in cognitive science that can be exploited to entertain and amaze their audiences.

This event is the first of its kind, but we hope that it will become a regular event at future ASSC meetings, just as visual illusion demonstrations have become a regular event at visual science conferences.

DON’T MISS IT!