The other day as I was doing a mass delete of my junk mail, I spotted a subject line that halted my finger in mid-click: “Neuromagic : Tricks of the Mind.” I think by now everyone knows of my fascination for the tricks our minds play on ourselves and each other.
So rather than consigning the message to junk-mail heaven (or hell), I opened it. The author, who signed the e-mail with a simple “George,” called himself a “psychologist and Psychological Artist.” I have no idea what a “Psychological Artist” is, so I read on. George, like me, claimed to be intrigued by the human mind, except that he incorporates magic into his formula.
He calls this study or discipline neuromagic: “Neuromagic is a brand new field of neuroscience that is being used to understand how magic affects and changes how we see the world. This in turn informs how we think and what we believe about ourselves and others.” For those interested in pursuing a course of study, George offered a series of workshops. (I might have been tempted to enroll, except they’re all in the U.K.)
Further down the page, George encouraged his readers to check out a website for an example. I can only assume that it was some sort of magic embedded into the e-mail itself that compelled me to ignore my hard-and-fast rule to never click on a link from a stranger. I launched the site.
There I found several YouTube videos, examples of what I’d call tricks of the mind, sleights of hand and misdirections–the type of thing which I routinely fall for even when I know I’m being played. It seems when George used the word “magic,” he meant parlor tricks, which is a whole lot less sinister than what I was picturing when I first opened the e-mail, things more along the line of supernatural forces compelling a desired outcome. To me, our susceptibility to these mind games is just part of our nature.
Still, needing further evidence, I went to YouTube myself and searched for other examples. I found a whole bunch, like these from a series called Brain Games on the National Geographic Channel hosted by “deception specialist” Apollo Robbins:
(Note to self: Look up Brain Games on Netflix.)
So whether or not I agree with George’s definition of these phenomena as magic, I do share his fascination with how the human mind adjusts itself to accept something that isn’t real. After my initial scoffing, I had to admit this is a field worthy of study.
Think of the implications. Could the minds of military and intelligence officers be trained to summarily dismiss attempts at brainwashing?
Or how about self-defense against con men? Could suckers (like me) be trained to know what to look for, and beyond that, to resist?
Or are our minds prewired to accept the con?
If that’s the case, maybe we should turn to our society’s answer for most of today’s ills: pharmaceuticals! We have pills for everything else. Why not a pill that would counteract the brain’s natural impulse to believe what it isn’t seeing?
I don’t know the answer. All I know is that the mind is a powerful tool, whether you call it magic or nature. Which brings to mind another of my hard-and-fast rules: Don’t mess with Mother Nature. She’s way smarter than we are.
Leah writes stories of romance and suspense, and the enduring power of love. She blogs monthly here with her friends at Tea & Strumpets about mind games. Her latest story, Christmas Dance, explores the mysteries of love, marriage and parenthood.