Tag Archives: Kim Silverman

Could You Be Robbed While Drifting Into “Inattentional Blindness”?

Apollo Robbins

Apollo Robbins

Glitches in human  awareness, perception and cognition are memorably illustrated in Apollo Robbins’ interactive Las Vegas, USA show, “The Gentleman Thief.”

He tells “targets” in the audience that he is about to steal from them, then uses visual illusions, proximity manipulation, diversion techniques, and attention control, to complete his imperceptible heists.
Robbins returns belongings to owners, including former US President Jimmy Carter’s Secret Service agents.

Robbins uses sleight-of-hand to help people improve perceptual capabilities.  These skills can reduce traffic accidents, industrial mishaps, and security violations.

He overcame his own motor-skill deficits by monitoring the focus of a target’s attention: “If a person is focused elsewhere, a thief can put his whole hand in [a pocket] and steal.”

Kim Silverman

Like Kim Silverman, Research Scientist at Apple, Robbins creates “false assumptions…that look like reality…

The U.S. Department of Defense deploys Robbins’ skills at its Special Operations Command research and training facility at Yale University, where he an adjunct professor, despite leaving school before university.

Barton Whaley

Barton Whaley

Defense application of these perceptual manipulation skills were identified by Barton Whaley of the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School and Susan Stratton Aykroyd in their Textbook of Political-Military Counterdeception.

Their historical survey of deception and counter-deception practices noted that amateur magicians’ practices were more advanced than those used by U.S. political or military intelligence analysts in the 1970s.

Stephen Macknik

Stephen Macknik

SUNY Downstate’s Stephen Macknik and Susana Martinez-Conde collaborated with Robbins on Sleights of Mind: What the Neuroscience of Magic Reveals about Our Everyday Deception.
Their empirical results supported Robbins’s observation that the eye will follow an object moving in an arc without looking back to its point of origin.
Curved motions may be more novel than linear edges, so they attract greater attention and contribute to illusions.

Susana Martinez-Conde

Susana Martinez-Conde

Perceptual errors in illusions can suggest diagnostic and treatment methods for brain trauma, autism, ADHD, and Alzheimer’s disease.

Observing illusion performances may help patients focus on the most important aspects of their environment, while suppressing distractions that cause confusion disorientation, and “inattentional blindness” (focusing so intently on a single task that one fails to notice things in plain sight).

Richard Wiseman

Psychologist and illusionist Richard Wiseman of the University of Hertfordshire demonstrated inattentional blindness when viewers fail to notice environmental changes while they focused on a card trick. 
Similarly, Transport of London’s Public Service Announcement reminds viewers that it’s easy to miss things you’re not expecting in “Did you see the Moonwalking Bear?

Wiseman suggested that people can “recognise hidden opportunities in … life,” when they intentionally reduce perceptual blindness, in Magic in Theory: An introduction to the theoretical and psychological elements of conjuring.

Daniel Levin

Daniel Levin

Daniel Simons

University of Illinois’s Daniel Simons and Daniel Levin of Vanderbilt University demonstrated that observers miss important details when they observed people passing a basketball someone in a gorilla suit walked through the action.

With Harvard’s Christopher Chabris, Simons reported that half of the observers said they did not see the gorilla when they were counting the number of ball passes by one team.

Christopher Chabris

Christopher Chabris

However, the same people easily recognized the gorilla when they were not asked to focus on a distraction task.

Edward Vogel

This finding shows that most people are unable to effectively “multitask” because they have limited ability to hold a visual scene in short-term memory (VSTM), suggested University of Chicago’s Edward K. Vogel and Maro Machizawa of Hiroshima University and separately by Vanderbilt’s René Marois and J. Jay Todd.

Gustav Kuhn

Gustav Kuhn

Gustav Kuhn of University of London collaborated with illusionist Alym Amlani and Ronald Rensink of University of British Columbia to classify cognitive, perceptual, and physical contributors in Towards a Science of Magic:

  • Ronald Rensink

    Physical misdirection by a magician’s gaze or gesture,

  • Psychological misdirection with a motion or prolonged suspense to distract from the trick’s mechanics,
  • Optical illusions that distort the true size of an object,
  • Cognitive illusions to prolong an image after the object has been removed,
  • Physical force and mental force influence “freely chosen” cards or other objects in magic tricks.

Rene Marois-J Jay Todd

Perceptual and cognitive illusions can cause people not to see things that are present.
This effect can lead to overlooking interpersonal cues, life opportunities.
and more dangerously,  inattention in traffic accidents, and victimization.

Mindful awareness helps people pay attention to the present experience and to opportunities while mitigating potential perceptual misinformation.

-*How to you maintain focus to reduce “inattentional blindness”?

Related Posts

©Kathryn Welds


Action vs Visualization to Improve Performance

Richard Wiseman

Richard Wiseman

University of Hertfordshire psychology researcher and magician Richard Wiseman refuted the popular belief that visualizing desired outcomes achieves results more effectively than direct action.

Lien Pham

Lien Pham

In fact, students who visualized the outcome of a high grade actually received poorer outcomes that those who visualized a better process to achieve a higher grade in research by Orange Coast College’s Lien Pham.

Gabriele Oettingen

Gabriele Oettingen

Similarly, Gabriele Oettingen of New York University asked students to record the duration of fantasies about leaving college and starting a “dream job”.
She found that students who spent more time imagining these positive outcomes, but had lower expectations of actually achieving these goals received fewer job offers and lower starting salaries.

From these studies, Wiseman argued that action rather than imagined rehearsal, fantasy or visualization leads to successful performance outcomes.

Napoleon Bonaparte

This principle was implied by Napoleon Bonaparte more than two centuries ago as he anticipated battle: On s’engage et puis on voit, translated as “You commit yourself and then you see.”

In the 1880s, William James, brother of novelist Henry James and considered “The Father of American Psychology,” asserted that action precedes emotional experience: “You do not run from a bear because you are afraid of it, but rather become afraid of the bear because you run from it.”

William James

This notion contrasts popular concepts, which led to numerous books encouraging people to change their thinking to change their behaviors and feelings.

Since the 1970s, research has focused on whether changing behavior can change feelings.
To test this relationship, James Laird of Clark University asked volunteers to create an angry facial expression by drawing down their eyebrows and clenching their teeth and to create a happy facial expression by drawing back the corners of the mouth.

James Laird

Participants reported feeling significantly happier when they forced their faces into smiles, and much angrier when they were clenching their teeth.

Acting ‘as-if’” and “faking it until you make it” are examples of initiating behaviors to drive emotional and attitudinal change.

Wiseman offered ten actions – not just thoughts – that can lead to feeling better and improved performance.

David Neal

David Neal


  • Happiness: Smile as widely as possible, extend eyebrow muscles slightly upward, and hold for 20 seconds
  • Willpower: Tense muscles –  Make a fist, contract biceps or press thumb and first finger together
  • Health Eating: Eat with the non-dominant hand to increase “mindful” awareness of eating, based on research by University of Southern California’s David Neal, Wendy Wood, Mengju Wu and David Kurlander of Duke University.
  • David Neal

    David Neal

    Persistence: Sit up straight, cross your arms, from research by Ron Friedman of University of Rochester.
    He found that volunteers who sat with erect posture and crossed arms persisted nearly twice as long to solve challenging problems  as volunteers who didn’t assume this posture

  • Confidence: Adopt expanded chest posture
    Sit down, lean back, look up, and interlock hands behind your head.
    Stand up, place feet flat on the floor, push shoulders back, and chest forward.
  • Negotiation Effectiveness: Use soft chairs
    Joshua Ackerman

    Joshua Ackerman

    University of Michigan’s Joshua Ackerman of  conducted simulated negotiations for a used car, and found that volunteers who sat on soft chairs were more flexible in their negotiations and likely to pay higher prices than those who sat on firm chairs.

  • Persuasion: Nod
    Gary Wells of Iowa State University reported that when volunteers nodded their heads, they were more easily able to learn and retain information with which they didn’t agree or that wasn’t true.
  • Love: Open up
    Robert Epstein

    Robert Epstein

    Cambridge Centre for Behavioral Studies’s Robert Epstein found that eye contact, self-disclosure, sharing vulnerability increase perceived liking, loving, and closeness.


  • Procrastination: Start for Five Minutes
    Do the task for five minutes, and ask yourself if you want to stop or continue at the end of the time.
    Often, it is easy to continue after 5 minutes.
    If not, stop and begin again for 5 minutes several hours later.
  • Guilt: Wash your hands
    Chen-Bo Zhong

    Chen-Bo Zhong

    Chen-Bo Zhong of the University of Toronto found that volunteers who carried out a perceived immoral act, then cleaned their hands with an antiseptic wipe felt significantly less guilty than others who didn’t wash.

Kim Silverman

Kim Silverman

If magic seems more appealing that intentional action, Wiseman’s psychologist-magician colleague, Kim Silverman of Apple, and the Academy of Magical Arts, notes that ma that magic can change the way we think about our lives:

-Things that seem impossible may be possible,

-Things that are separated and broken may be rejoined,

-There is always a way,

-We can get free from something that holds us back,

-When we feel trapped by a problem, it is just an illusion.

He asserts that magic provides a change of perspective from negative thoughts, and provides a broader perspective because “things may not be as they appear.”

These varied streams of research support intentional action over contemplation and magic to improve mood and initiate positive behavior changes.

-*How can the metaphors of perceptual illusion accelerate problem-solving in complex situations?

-*What counterarguments would you offer to Wiseman?

Related posts :

Making Magic Meaningful as a Life Metaphor

Kim Silverman

Kim Silverman

Kim Silverman is Principal Research Scientist at Apple, and holds a Ph.D. in Experimental Psychology from Cambridge University.
Before his academic credentials, he sharpened his skills as a magician and cultivated an appearance similar to that of Hogwarts’ Professor Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore.
He is a president of the Society of American Magicians (Palo Alto), and a Magician Member of the Academy of Magical Arts.

He describes his “hobby” as “performing magic in a meaningful way that gives people something they can take away with them, to make them feel better about themselves and their lives, and thereby thrive more effectively.”

Silverman believes that magic can change the way we think about our lives:

-Things that seem impossible may be possible
-Things that are separated and broken may be rejoined
-There is always a way
-We can get free from something that holds us back
-When we feel trapped by a problem, it is just an illusion.

He asserts that magic provides a change of perspective from negative thoughts, and provides a broader perspective.
He acknowledges that suffering is an intrinsic part of human life and that it brings us together, and through it all, we can experience magic through our relationships.

Silverman concludes that things might not be as they appear, so there is hope, and this is an idea worth sharing.

-*How can the metaphors of perceptual illusion accelerate problem-solving in complex situations?

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