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December 19, 2022 68 mins

Tony Barnhart is Associate Professor of Psychological Science at Carthage College. But just as notably, he's a magician. As a result of this dual identity, he has the unique distinction of being an expert in the psychology of magic. Magicians have long prided themselves on understanding and exploiting human psychology, but Tony actually brings a scientific perspective. He's on the committee for the Science of Magic Association and played a central role in the book Sleights of Mind: What the Neuroscience of Magic Reveals about Our Everyday Deceptions. Today on the podcast, Tony shares his work on the psychology of attention, what we can learn from magicians' expertise in "misdirection," and what science can give back to magic.

Opening the show is a chat with my buddy Erik Tait. Erik has the unique honor of recently placing third in card magic at F.I.S.M., the Olympics of magic. You can watch his winning act below. Erik shares his story of training for the big competition and what he's learned about the psychology of directing attention.

Things that come up in this episode:

  • We mention the "Invisible Gorilla" experiment a few times. You can learn more and see a video here.
  • For a nice overview of Tony's research on the psychology of magic, check out his 15-minute keynote address for the 2020 American Psychological Association virtual meeting (video)
  • Tracking people's attention by recording their eye movements while watching magic tricks (Barnhart & Goldinger, 2014)
  • "Microsaccades" (tiny eye movements) reveal whether people are fooled by a magic trick (Barnhart et al., 2019)
  • How auditory rhythms can direct visual attention (Barnhart et al., 2018)
  • Using "tactical blinking" as misdirection (Barnhart et al., 2022)

For a transcript of this episode, visit this episode's page at:

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