We know that magicians are fooling us, but why can’t we catch them at it? Or is there such a thing a REAL magic?

In LiveScience.com, Charles Q. Choi quotes psychologist Gustav Kuhn as saying, “It made sense to look at magicians to advance knowledge of human cognition, since magicians have been working on figuring out how certain principles of psychology work for hundreds of years.” He studied a magic trick called the “vanishing ball,” in which a ball seems to disappear in midair. It’s done by the magician pretending to throw a ball, while all the time keeping it palmed in his hand.

He video taped himself doing two versions of the trick. In the first one, his allowed his gaze to follow the imaginary ball as it moved through the air. In the second version, he kept his eyes on the hand that was hiding the ball. Then he showed these videotapes to volunteers.

Two-thirds of the people who saw the first version said they clearly remembered seeing the ball leave his hand. Kuhn says, “Often they claimed someone at the top of the screen caught the ball.” Only one-third of the people who saw the second version thought he actually let go of the ball.

Kuhn says, “As we are looking at the world, we have this impression that what we see is the real world. What this tells us is the way we see the world is more strongly dominated by how we perceive it to be rather than what it actually is. Even though the ball never left the hand, the reason people saw it leave is because they expected the ball to leave the hand. It’s the beliefs about what should happen that override the actual visual input.”

Art credit: freeimages.co.uk

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