Derren Brown, the master of illusion and perception manipulation, reveals his story and some of his secrets in Tricks of the Mind.
Derren Brown needs no introduction for those who have watched his popular TV show on Channel 4 in the UK. He has added a new dimension to magical entertainment. In 'Tricks of the Mind, he reveals some of the aspects of psychology and human nature that make magical illusions possible.
I usually skip the preface, or at best skim it because I am in a hurry to draw out the best a book has to offer. Derren's preface to this book is written in such a provocative manner, I read it word for word. I guess that he chose this style for this part of the book, on purpose.
Can you believe that a magician, operating a card trick, directly in front of you, could so manipulate your attention so that he or she could place a card under your glass, and the glasses of your colleagues, sitting at the same table, without you or any of the others noticing?
If someone did this you could be forgiven believing that some unfathomable magical power had been used. For those involved in demonstrating clever technology, this ability - to distract observers - would come in very handy when the demonstration inevitably goes wrong.
If you feel that understanding human psychology and how people perceive the world would help you to do a better job then you should read this book. If you only read for pleasure and have an interest in how your perceptions might be manipulated by unscrupulous salespeople, then read this book.
Tricks of the Mind is divided into six parts:
- Hypnosis and Susceptibility
- Unconscious Communication
- Anti Science Pseudo Science and Bad Thinking
In part one, Derren debunks the idea of real magic. If, at some level of mind, you would like to cling onto the idea that some things are unexplainable, be prepared for a mental argument with the ideas presented in this book.
In part two, learn how to dazzle your friends, or at least get some free drinks down the pub.
In part three, discover that there are no excuses for a bad memory.
In part four, find out what really happens when someone is hypnotised and how the hypnotist practises the art. There is a lot to learn here about suggestibility. In a strange extension of the subject, the author addresses the propaganda that has arisen around NLP - Neuro Linguistic Programming - and the value of techniques associated with it. This wholly absorbing section of the book, winds up with a tried and tested method for disarming a would be attacker.
In part five's thirty pages, learn how to read people. In particular, how to spot misleading distortions and outright lies. Conversely, learn how to recognise sincerity.
Don't read part six if you want to preserve any kind of belief in real magic, paranormal, or even unfathomable science. Do read it if you have a healthy scepticism about all those freakish hearsay anecdotes that seem to grab attention and gather momentum without ever having any factual basis. Do read it if you want to know about 'cold reading'.
Apart from my professional interest in the subject, I found Tricks of the Mind entirely absorbing and recommend it most highly to all magicians, experts in the art of transformation, and sellers.
I have no doubt that most people would find it a worthwhile read. Some passages where hilariously funny to my mind and this made the book all the more enjoyable. At the same time, Derren seems to reveal his true nature in the pages, such that should we meet, I think I would feel that I had known him for years.
Review by Clive Miller
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