Why Magic Works

05/25/2011 02:55 pm ET
  • Jim Randel Founder, The Skinny On book series and Street Smarts

I have always been interested in magic - especially "close-up" magic, card and coin tricks when the audience is just inches away from the magician. In fact, I have done card tricks since I was a teenager.

Now (a few decades later), as I research a book on the subject of persuasion (how to get people to think as you would like), I see many overlaps with magic and the art of persuasion.

Most of us are so overwhelmed with thinking that we take shortcuts when we can. Some of these shortcuts are conscious, others are not. Great persuaders (and magicians) understand this fact and take advantage of the mind's desire to travel down a logical path from A to B and B to C without really analyzing whether A actually went to B and then on to C.

Let me give you a simple example. A very basic card "shuffle" is cutting the deck. We have all seen or done this maneuver many times. The top half of the deck goes to the bottom burying the card that was on the top of the deck. And, most people cut the deck in a similar style: removing the top half of the deck and putting it below the remaining cards.

Card magicians know that people's minds - ingrained with the image of the top half of the cards going to the bottom - "see" what they have seen tons of times even if the reality actually changes a bit. With almost no sleight of hand, a card magician can make a motion very similar to a traditional cut such that it appears the top half of the deck is now on the bottom (and visa versa). In fact, however, nothing changed. Yet 99% of people "see" what they have always seen.

Great persuaders understand that the mind takes short cuts when assessing the value of any offering. That is because the mind does not have the time or even the flexibility to analyze clearly every proposition put before it. So it looks for the easy ways out.

Psychologists who have studied the subject of persuasion have identified 10 or so "laws" of persuasion - predictable paths that people's minds will take in specific situations. We are going to analyze these paths in future posts.

"Our minds are programmed with automatic persuasion triggers. Most of us experience persuasion situations without realizing or thinking about it. Master persuaders know what these triggers are and how to utilize them to their advantage."

Maximum Influence, Kurt Mortensen

Jim Randel is the founder of The Skinny On book series. These books are receiving enormous critical acclaim from educators, bloggers, journalists and reviewers. Jeff Kindler, CEO/Chmn of Pfizer had this to say about Randel's latest book, The Skinny on Success: "as far as reading goes, this book is as good as it gets."