Thursday, 10 September 2009

Derren Brown - Brilliant illusionist

First off, I'm a skeptic. I don't buy into the fact that mediums have supernatural powers or that they can talk to the dead. They're mentalists who mostly use techniques like cold reading to deceive their audiences.

Derren Brown

Derren BrownDerren Brown is a brilliant illusionist, magician, mentalist. The difference though is that he openly admits that he tricks his audience by using a variation of techniques. He'll even explain afterwards exactly how he did it. Of course, his explanation is (sometimes) a further deception since he may have used a completely different technique to fool the guest, than the one explained to you. The bottom line is that he's first and foremost an entertainer and admits it freely. He has great skill and his illusions can leave you mesmerised. It's also fun to try and figure out how he actually did the trick in question.


Here's a YouTube video of Brown deceiving comedian Simon Pegg, using a technique called NLP (Neuro-linguistic programming). Pegg first had to write down what he wanted as a gift, on a piece of paper. However, after Brown spoke to Pegg, he proceeded to ask Pegg what he wanted as a gift and Pegg said a BMX bike. What he earlier wrote down on the piece of paper though, was 'leather jacket'. So Brown effectively convinced Pegg, using NLP, that he wanted a BMX bike without Pegg realising it.

Throughout the conversation Brown deliberately played with words, e.g. saying "what to saddle for" (instead of "what to settle for") or "bike creating a strong desire" (instead of "by creating a strong desire"), therefore continuously influencing Pegg using terms that specifically applied to a BMX bike, which eventually led to Pegg choosing that as the answer.

Of course, it could also be that NLP is 'sold' to the audience as the solution to satisfy their curiosity, while Brown used a completely different technique to do the trick, perhaps subtle hypnosis. Or it could be that Pegg (who is an actor after all) is in on the act from the start. Nevertheless, it is quite entertaining!

Richard Dawkins's interview with Derren Brown

In this interesting interview, Brown discusses and explains to Richard Dawkins how so-called mediums and other charlatans do all their tricks and the techniques they use to deceive the audience. Defintely worth watching!

Part one of the interview

Part two, Part three, Part four, Part five, Part six

Derren Brown predicts numbers of the UK National Lottery

Derren Brown predicts LOTTO numbersIn his latest feat, he appeared to successfully predict the numbers of the midweek draw last night (9 September) live on TV. Of course, I'm sure Brown cannot see into the future so it would be interesting to see how he did that. Some illusion! He'll explain it on Friday. Usually everything can be logically explained in some way but this could be considered so far-fetched that it perhaps is just a case of boisterous showmanship with some camera tricks involved? He is an entertainer after all. Of course, if there's any truth in it, then how will they prevent him from predicting the numbers again, and becoming an instant millionaire week in and week out? :) I'll remain a skeptic, for now.

Here's the video of his lottery prediction


People who claim to be psychic have it easy; if they guess it correctly, using all the known manipulative techniques, then everyone who is gullible is in awe; if they get it wrong, then they simply use the excuse that "the channel is blocked" or "nothing is coming through". They just use some excuse that refers to anything supernatural and that makes it impossible for anyone to disprove it. People who believe in psychics usually want to believe in them, so they're easy targets. They don't bother to look for tell-tale signs which could prove the contrary.

Barnum statements are often used by these people to gain the person's trust. "You're having problems with a relative or friend". Well, that is so vague that it could obviously apply to everyone. So it's a certain hit. Or asking a very old person in the audience if he/she knows someone with heart problems. Chances are quite good that he/she does, simply due to their own age. They also spend a lot of time pushing the audience to reveal bits of personal information about themselves, which is then used by throwing it back at them, as if the "psychic" knew the facts all along.

There's no doubt that some of them are very good at what they do and have mastered a lot of techniques to manipulate the person they're doing the reading for, it's just sad that they pass it off as them having supernatural powers. When they don't possess any. Playing with someone who lost a loved one in this manner is cruel but I suppose if the audience member finds solace in this, who I am to say it was wrong?


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