Can Magic Explain Our Daily Decisions in Life

jay-olson1Magicians are masters of illusion, but psychology may also play a big part in the success of these tricks. Jay Olsen, 28, wants to delve deeper into the psychological impact of magic tricks. As a graduate student at McGill University, Mr. Olsen is using his background as a professional magician to break the scientific code of magic.

Mr. Olsen is using this study to answer questions about psychological influence in magic, and then how they affect our day-to-day lives. Mr. Olsen believes that the psychology behind magic also influences our daily decision-making skills. He used a restaurant menu as an example of simple everyday decisions. He said that the items at the top and bottom are more likely to grab the customer’s attention, so these items are ordered more frequently.

Mr. Olsen started the study by performing a card trick on 118 people and then published the results in the journal Consciousness and Cognition. This simple trick led to some astonishing results. The magician showed one card intentionally longer than the others in the deck, and 98% of the participants ended up choosing this card. Most participants felt that there was no suggestive pause by the magician, and that they had chosen the card of their own free will.

The co-authors of the study are helping Mr. Olsen find practical uses for the results that go beyond magic. Ronald Rensink, a professor of psychology at the University of British Colombia, Amir Raz, a neuroscientist at McGill, and Alym Amlani, an accounting instructor at Kwantlen Polytechnic University in Surrey, B.C., have teamed up with Mr. Olsen to test what influences people when making daily mundane decisions.

“The hope is that the same kind of principles that influence people in magic can also explain some of the decisions we make throughout the day,” he said.