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vISIONS OF REALITY

joN THOMPSON

fiRST EDITION
PuBLISHED AND PRINTED BY LuLu.coM
This book and its contents copyright 20 11
by
Jon Thompson.

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be


reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written
permission of the author.

NOT FOR RESALE

If you didn't pay for this book and did not receive it
personally from me the author, you have stolen it.

You are a cancer on creativity.

I wish you nothing less than a life filled with pain, failure
and frustration, ending with a lingering, agonising death.
Good luck with that. You'll need it.
I'm profoundly grateful to the following people past and
present, either for helping shape this book by providing
inspiration, advice, or by generally keeping me fairly sane.

As ever, Celia, Penny and Ricky


Paolo Amira
Theodore Annemann
Chris Beard
lain "Abraxus" Dunford
Enrique Enriquez
Bruce Frey
Jerome "TT2" Finley
Ian Harling & Martin Nyrup
Lewis Jones
Thomas Korelin
Dr Todd Landman
Experimental Psychology
Joe Riding
Ian Rowland
Roni and Larraine Shachnaey
Steve "Banachek" Shaw
Tony "Corinda" Simpson
Matthew "Malchat" Shouten

Thank you. I'm profoundly grateful to you all.


"People like you find it easy.
Naked to see, walking on air."

-Ian Curtis
TABU OF CoNTDTS
Introduction to Volume 111... ............................................. 13
PART I - TOOLKIT FOR CONTROL.. .......................... 21
I. Validating the Self......................................................... 23
2. Confirming to Deceive .................................................. 29
3. Controlling With Meaning ............................................ 37
4. Affording to Act.. ......................................................... .43
5. The Shape ofSound ..................................................... .47
6. A New World Awaits .................................................... 53
PART 2- EFFECTS ......................................................... 63
7. Creating New Naked Effects ......................................... 65
8. The Naked Day Test.. .................................................... 69
9. Naked Horrors ............................................................... 75
10. The Naked Credit Card Test... ..................................... 81
II. Naked Readings ........................................................... 83
12. The Naked Headline Prediction .................................. 85
13. The Naked Quiz Prediction ......................................... 87
PART 3- LEARNING DATA MODELS ........................ 89
14. Overview ofTechniques ............................................. 91
15. F ina! Thoughts ........................................................... I 0 I
12
INTllODUCTION TO VoLUMBIII

W elcome to volume III of Naked Mentalism. Once


again, our theme is the creation of effects that
emulate as closely as possible the natural abilities of the
psychically gifted. So-called Naked effects abandon the
physical methods and apparatus usually available to the
performer. For what might be the first time, there's nothing
up your sleeve, nothing to peek, crib, write, burn, tear, or
erase. There are no electronics, either. So, what do you use
instead? To answer that, we must examine what it is that
people claim as "psychic" insights, for want of a better
phrase.

Psychology says that such experiences are the personal


interpretations of insights provided by the subconscious
mind, which synthesizes them from past experience.
However, such insights are delivered without conscious
access to the thought processes involved in their creation;
they simply pop into your head fully formed.

Such insights are sometimes breathtaking in their accuracy.


It all depends on how much you know about the subject or
situation in question. What's perhaps most amazing is that
you will probably have come by the knowledge used to
create such insights without any conscious effort
whatsoever. You may, in other words, be completely
unaware of how you know something.

In contrast to subconsciously applying this ramshackle


mental storehouse of knowledge, the Naked approach uses
accurate, purpose-built mental maps, deliberately learned

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and accessed at will. You will sometimes fail, but your hit
rate will begin far higher than that of a real psychic's
subconscious guesswork, and that hit rate improves
steadily as you learn more about how to present such
mental feats in ways that suit you, and as you become
comfortable with the idea of performing in this way. The
unrecoverable misses you do encounter will be genuine.
This being the case, your own reactions will also be
genu me.

The Naked approach also leads us to an interesting and


perhaps slightly uncomfortable philosophical proposition.
If the source of a person's professed psychic abilities is
indeed their subconscious mind, then if you become so
versed in a Naked effect that you no longer have to
consciously think about its associated data model to
perform it, are you still deliberately performing an effect
that emulates a psychic ability, or have you deliberately
gained that ability for real?

As well as presenting an array of Naked effects, the focus


of this third volume shifts somewhat to the gentle art of
applying some of the findings of experimental psychology
to enhance existing effects of all kinds. This is deliberate. I
want to help mystery performers in general to enhance
what they do, and not just mentalists. This reason for that is
as follows.

I think just about everyone who has performed magic or


mentalism of some kind at any level will more than once
have been in the embarrassing situation of having to ask a
suddenly sceptical spectator to play along just to get
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through a routine. Something you did or said jolted her out
of the moment. Think back. The more you tried to
convince her that you were doing something in which she
didn't believe, the more she rejected the idea- and you 1

If polite, the spectator may still have been amazed at the


outcome of your routine and may have clapped loudly in
genuine appreciation, but she'll have done so as a
conscious response to a clever show of fakery, and not as a
result of a spontaneous moment of surreal wonder.
Something alerted her mind's critical faculty (her mental
"firewall", if you will). Nothing you could subsequently do
would change her perception, because everything you said
and did raised that firewall a little higher. If you were
aiming for the illusion of reality, then the reality you
created was probably nothing more than the realisation that
you were insisting on a barefaced lie. The question must be
how to stop situations like this happening. Answering that
question is why we're about to delve into the bizarre world
of experimental psychology.

Much of this book starts from the premise that the reasons
people get themselves into sticky situations with sceptical
spectators is that they set out to elicit specific,
predetermined responses, decided upon way in advance of
the performance itself. It is far better to use every means in
your power to elicit a possible response within the
moment. This is where psychology can help us.

Over the past century or so, experimental psychologists


have discovered a long series of what can be usefully
thought of as 'bugs' in the way we think. As we evolved,

1
A few perfonners have successfully harnessed and subverted this to great comic
effect. It is only a few, however, because it is very difficult lo do.
15
so did our brains and the minds that live in them 1 We
became increasingly adept at understanding complex
situations from smaller amounts of information. It's a
cliche, albeit a true one, that primitive man survived
because he could very quickly decide whether the rustling
in the bushes was a friend from his tribe foraging for
berries, someone from another tribe out to do him harm, or
a hungry sabre tooth tiger.

From birth, our ability to infer what's going on from tiny


amounts of information grows and forms the basis of how
we understand the world. It generates what we've come to
know as common sense. Everyone knows what common
sense is, which is in itself an example of the phenomenon
of common sense.

We assume that modern life is safe and predictable.


Because of that, we rely on common sense to autopilot us
through life. The problem is, most of modern life is far
from simple. In many cases, actively thinking through
situations is the best course of action. By comparison, the
virtually free ride offered by common sense is a path we
should be wary of treading without first looking to see
where it will lead us, as Matthew MacDonald says in his
book "Your Brain- The Missing Manual" 4

"The brain is an expert in common sense,


which is the set of knowledge that everybody
knows to be true because nobody wants to
think about it anymore. Common sense has a
pleasant face and a nasty underbelly. The
1
Or run on them, if you prefer.
'To say nothing of his ability to plan ahead and work out whether he could outrun
the tiger or just needed to outrun the person foraging for berries.
'O'Reilly Media Inc 2008, page 15 I
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good side is its blistering speed... The
downside is its paunchy logic. In complex
situations, common sense is all too often
reduced to quick-thinking stupidity."

Advertisers exploit our quick-thinking stupidity all the


time. Think about how difficult it is to work out whether a
supermarket is actually giving you a good deal on a special
offer. No one takes a calculator to the supermarket, and yet
evaluating some offers can only be done using complex
equations. Instead, we go with gut instinct (common sense,
or what "feels" right") and buy a second tube of anchovy
paste that will spoil long before we've used the first.

The concept of "the map and the territory" is a phrase


taken from the world of neuro-linguistic programming and,
despite whatever you may think of NLP in general, it is a
very good analogy for the way in which the mind uses
common sense thinking to form a view of the world.

A map is a simplified approximation of reality. If it's a


road map, it shows highways, junctions, towns and cities.
Because maps are static snapshots, over time, even initially
accurate ones tend to diverge from the reality they model
as that reality changes. A mistake in a road map obviously
doesn't change the geography it models. However, if you
have no reason to believe that your road map is out of date
or contains a mistake, you could be badly misled -
literally!

We've evolved to have no reason to believe that our own


mental maps of reality are wrong, and we can be badly
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misled in ways that are beyond our conscious control.
Phenomena as diverse as phobias, optical illusions and
hypnotic phenomena all amply demonstrate this. To quote
Anthony Jacquin, "reality is plastic". However, the mind is
also capable of accepting new ideas that are at odds with
objective reality without resorting to hypnosis. This is
where things become interesting, and possibly just a little
disturbing.

I want you to imagine you're a prisoner who has been held


in solitary confinement since birth in a soundproof cell
with no windows, and with no way of directly perceiving
the world beyond. Instead, five guards provide you with all
the information you have about the outside world. As they
do so, you naturally imagine what the world must be like -
you build a mental map, in other words. The more the
guards tell you, the more detailed your map becomes as
you slowly learn to trust their individual stories. They must
be telling the truth because what they each say has always
been consistent with what the others say. For you, the
mental map you have built accurately reflects reality. It is
your reality. The problem is that the guards could suddenly
decide to lie to you, and, as long as what they tell you is
still consistent, you'll simply accept and believe what they
tell you as truth.

As you read these words, for example, you can't help the
feeling that you're experiencing first hand seeing black
letters on white. You might even become momentarily
aware of your eyelids as you blink, and of your breathing.
You believe that you are "out there" in the midst of reality,
experiencing these things first hand. There may be a breeze
against your skin, or sun on your head, but in reality these
things are just an illusion. You're not out there at all, but in

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a little bone box on top of your spine. Your guards are
pulses of raw data from sensory neurons all over your
body, transmitting at a rate of around three million
messages per second, or so it's reckoned. These messages
are automatically sifted, filtered and considered, then
analysed for meaning before being presented to you - if
you're lucky. I say lucky because most of the information
coming into "you" is integrated into your storehouse of
common sense or acted upon at a subconscious level or
even before 5

The realisation that our mental maps are not the same as
the territory they model goes back a lot further than NLP.
In fact, it goes back at least as far as the ancient Greek
philosopher Plato. In book seven of his masterwork The
Republic, he asks us to imagine of a group of people forced
to live facing a wall in a cave. To find out about the world,
they must watch shadows made on the wall by events
behind them. From this, they gradually infer what must be
going on. Plato said that because such shadows can be
misleading, we must free ourselves of the desire to simply
accept them as reality.

So, just as a mistake in a road map doesn't alter where the


roads lie, our mental maps can also mislead us. We usually
assume the opposite, however. What's most remarkable is
that major discrepancies between our mental maps and
reality itself are often very predictable, and as we'll
discover, anything predictable is exploitable if you know
how.

! Reflex actions are generated in response to stimuli in lhc spinal column, for
example.
19
While there are many works devoted to showing you how
to avoid the mental bugs that cause our maps of reality to
diverge from objective reality, this book shows you how to
invoke those bugs in others. In that sense, this book is
almost unique. All I ask is that you do nothing downright
ugly with what you learn, because unless you stay on your
guard, you're also susceptible.

Jon Thompson.
Darkest Cheshire.
October 20 II.

20
PART 1 -TOOLKIT FOR.
CONTROL

21
22
I. VALIDATING THE SELF

T he personal validation fallacy has to be both one of the


most widely used yet paradoxically least understood
psychological principles in the mystery arts. It makes us
assume that statements that could apply to anyone are
personal to us. People fall for this fallacy so easily that you
can become very skilled in invoking it in others without
actually knowing much about its underlying principles. It is
obviously central to the art of cold reading 6, but dig a little
deeper and you find that it can be used in ways that are far
more creative and compelling. To begin, let's take a
moment to return to the discovery of this remarkable bug.

In 1948, US psychologist Bertrand Forer gave his students


a written questionnaire to fill out, covering all aspects of
their lives. After analysing the answers, he presented each
student with a detailed, individual assessment of their
personality. He then asked each student to rate their
assessment from 0 to 5 in various categories. The
assessments scored a remarkable average of 4.26 out of 5 7
How had he achieved such a feat?

The study of human psychology is a necessarily devious


one. Psychological experiments tend to lull subjects into
believing that one thing is happening, allowing researchers
to study something else entirely. Forer's experiment was
no exception. In fact, the initial questionnaire played no
part in the character assessments at all. It was simply a

6
By which, I mean entering a situation in which you will give a reading for
someone, but with no prior knowledge of the subject herself.
7
Forer, B. R. (1949). The fallacy of personal validation: A classroom
demonstration of gullibility. Journal ofAhnormal and Social Psychology, 44, 118
123
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ruse, designed to distract the students from the true nature
of the experiment". What Forer had actually done was to
assemble a single, general personality reading that could
equally apply to anyone. He did so by copying out
individual phrases from newspaper horoscopes and
assembling them in a random order. He gave copies of the
same text to each student under the guise of their unique
character assessment. The fact that Forer's students scored
the text so highly is a measure of the power of the personal
validation fallacy.

The phrases Forer used are recognisable today as simple


"Barnum statements", after the great showman P.T
Barnum, who boasted that his shows had "something for
everyone". Back in 1948, such statements caused the
students to generate very high scores for their apparently
individual readings, but simply trotting them out today
probably won't fool anyone unless you really dress them
well and make them sound as individual and personal as
possible.

The personal validation fallacy can be invoked in many


different ways. To demonstrate, try urgently shouting,
"Excuse me! 9" in a busy shopping street. Many people will
tum around, believing you're addressing them, even
though they have no logical reason to do so. Try beeping
your car hom as you pass a group of people. The same
thing happens. Some individuals even feel real discomfort
(called cognitive dissonance) if they deliberately ignore
your call 10

8
See also the chapter on the illusion of control.
9
Or even "Hey. you!"
10
Deliberately training yourself to the point where you at least have the ability to
choose whether you ignore such situations is remarkably liberating.
24
lmp1omptu Use
Here's an example of using the personal validation fallacy
as an impromptu influence on behaviour. One Sunday
afternoon four years ago, as I walked home from a friend's
birthday lunch, I saw two young teenage boys having fun
by annoying drivers. They were pressing the button on a
pedestrian crossing to make the lights tum red. When
drivers stopped and shouted at them, the boys returned a
stream of abuse.

As I approached the crossing, I walked purposefully up the


larger of the two boys to make sure he understood that he
was the focus of attention. I stopped right in front of him
and said: "If you keep doing that, I'll tell your mother what
else you've been up to." He looked shocked. I quickly
added conspiratorially: "Get out of here before the police
arrive." The boys immediately ran off.

Like all the anecdotes I tell in these books, this happened


exactly as I have described it 11 Grabbing the boy's initial
attention and making sure he knew he was the unexpected
focus of attention was vital. A stranger purposely walking
straight up to you in the street is enough to convince you
that what happens next will be about you. Forer discovered
that making the situation personal is absolutely vital to
making a subject fall for the personal validation fallacy. I
wanted to frighten the boys into compliance, and the
classic cold reading technique of hinting that you know
more than you're letting on was my weapon of choice. I
placed the lad in a difficult situation, and one that
presented a potentially worrying problem. The second
sentence offered a way out of that situation and a reason to
obey me.
" This particular incident happened on Oxford Road, Macclesfield, Cheshire.
25
Boosting the Effect
In subsequent experiments, Forer discovered several
!actors that turbo charge the personal validation fallacy. As
already mentioned, he realised that the subject must believe
that the information being imparted is unique and personal
to them. Secondly, the information must be delivered with
authority. Thirdly, one should only deliver a positive
message. This promotes rapport, which is essential when
conducting a successful reading, regardless of divination
method.

The two boys above heard a message that was at the same
time personal, delivered with authority and, though the
news that the police were probably on the way was bad, the
overall message was good because it contained an easy
escape route. Dare I say that the paunchy common sense I
talked about in the introduction took over in their minds?
They could have demanded proof that I'd ever even met
their mothers, but didn't. What would I have done in this
situation? Probably faked a mobile phone call!

Use in Acadings
My approach to the tarot is borne of an inherent laziness
and the desire to have readings hit home with the least
effort on my part. It takes the form of a short reading
involving three cards that represent the past, present and
future. The technique I've developed is to get the spectator
to do her own cold reading by having her invoke the
personal validation fallacy herself!

I use the Major Arcana in my readings, and simply


describe in detail the symbolism of the three chosen cards
26
and relate it to general situations in everyday life. This
approach leads the spectator to fill in the details and map
her own memories onto what the cards symbolise. The
personal validation fallacy then allows her to generate a
meaning. All I have to do is ask: "What does that mean to
you?" and agree with whatever she says.

Other Uses
If a random number is to be generated in an effect, make it
one that is coincidentally personal to the spectator. In an
effect where a random card must be chosen, ask the
spectator to think of one that is personally symbolic to her.
Don't explain further, but allow her a second or two to let
your words conjure meaning in her mind. Ask her if she's
thought of one.

Performer: "I need a number between one and ten, but we


all know that most people will say seven or
three if you ask them. I want you to know it's
genuinely random, so I want you to think of
someone dear to you. In what month of the
year is their birthday?"

By making the selection personal, you can increase the


impact of the divination. If you don't mind using cards, try
it with an Invisible Deck. The boost in response is
sometimes shocking. When I first tried it, the woman I
asked chose the nine of diamonds. When she saw the card
she began crying, which really shocked me. It turned out
that her daughter had died aged nine, and she'd always
thought of her as her little diamond. Needless to say, I let
her keep the card.

27
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2. CoNFIIUIING TO DECEIVE
N o matter where you're from, what you believe or how
practiced you are in your thinking, confirmation bias
still has a very deep-seated grip on the way you evaluate
the world. How can I be so certain about that? It's because
you're human!

Confirmation bias causes us to accept new information that


appears to confirm what we already believe, while causing
us to reject that which goes against it. It makes us think
we're being logical and fair, even as we abandon reason for
blind prejudice. Thinkers have accurately described
confirmation bias for several centuries. Here's English
philosopher Francis Bacon in his book Novum organum
inl620:

"The human understanding when it has once


adopted an opinion (either as being the received
opinion or as being agreeable to itself) draws all
things else to support and agree with it. And
though there be a greater number and weight of
instances to be found on the other side, yet these it
either neglects and despises, or else by some
distinction sets aside and rejects; in order that by
this great and pernicious predetermination the
authority of its former conclusions may remain
inviolate.... And such is the way of all superstitions,
whether in astrology, dreams, omens. divine
judgments, or the like; wherein men, having a
delight in such vanities, mark the events where they
are fulfilled, but where they fail, although this
happened much oftener, neglect and pass them by."

29
Bacon wrote this passage nearly four hundred years ago, at
a time when science was still in its early infancy. And yet,
discovering it quoted in a paper written by professor
Raymond S. Nickerson of Tufts University 12 , I was struck
by the depth and modernity of Bacon's thinking. Nickerson
himself has some interesting things to say about just how
much of a hold confirmation bias has over us:

"If one were to attempt to identify a single


problematic aspect of human reasoning that
deserves attention above all others, the
confirmation bias would have to be among the
candidates for consideration. Many have
written about this bias, and it appears to be
sufficiently strong and pervasive that one is led
to wonder whether the bias, by itself, might
account for a significant fraction of the
disputes, altercations, and misunderstandings
that occur among individuals, groups, and
nations."

Confirmation bias is also sometimes called "Tolstoy


syndrome", after a passage in Leo Tolstoy's 1897 book
What is Art?

"/ know that most men, including those at ease


with problems of the greatest complexity, can
seldom accept the simplest and most obvious
truth if it be such as would oblige them to admit
the falsity of conclusions which they have proudly
taught to others, and which they have woven,
thread by thread, into the fabrics oftheir life."
12
psy.ucsd.edul-mckenzie/nickersonConf=ationBias.pdf
30
Thanks to a recent study, we can also glimpse what's
happening physically in the brain when in the grip of
confirmation bias. In 2006, Professor Drew Westen of
Emory University in Atlanta announced the results 13 of
work in which he scanned the brains of 30 subjects while
presenting them with both positive and negative statements
about politicians whom they either liked or disliked. The
results are as much fascinating as they are a warning about
the need to think things through objectively rather than
simply relying on what we'd like to be true.

The part of the brain most associated with logic and


reasoning is the Dorsolateral Prefrontal Cortex, which is
located very near the front of the brain. This should have
been highly active while Westen's subjects evaluated each
statement, but the scans showed that activity here was in
fact minimal. Instead, parts of the brain known to handle
emotion, value judgements, and mental conflict resolution
were all very active. Westen's subjects were making
emotional judgements about the statements while believing
themselves to be thinking clearly and logically. They all
readily accepted the statements that went along with what
they already believed, and rejected those that didn't.
Westen said of his subjects: "They twirl the cognitive
kaleidoscope until they get the conclusions they want."

So, we can't seem to help but use confirmation bias to


bolster what we already believe by either consciously or
unconsciously interpreting new information so that it
confirms what we already believe. This may explain why
some people see UFOs where others see Chinese lanterns,
" Westen, D., Kilts, C., Blagov, P., Harenski, K., & HamaM, S. (2006). "The
neural basis of motivated reasoning: An IMRI study of emolional constraints on
political judgment during the U.S. Presidential election of 2004". Journal of
Cognitive Neuroscience, volume IS, pages 1947-1958.
31
and why some people interpret unexpected nighttime
household sounds as spirits rather than the mundane
phenomena they might more reasonably be. Such a reliable
bug in common sense thinking is highly exploitable.

1De Asaonaut Tax


It's been my experience that an interesting and useful side
effect of confirmation bias is that the more you seem to add
to the validity of her mental map, the more likely the
spectator is to accept the subsequent assertions you make if
they're not too far from what she already believes. There's
an underlying rule to using conformation bias, and we'll
come to that later, but first, here's a rather fun
demonstration of it at work.

About 5 years ago, I met a man at a party. He was a bore


and a racist with a particular hatred of Polish migrant
workers in the UK. He cornered me, and accused them at
length of all living the easy life on handouts paid for by his
taxes 14 He was a suitable target for some fun, in other
words.

I gradually got onto the subject of international cooperation


and let the bore tell me how certain counties don't pull
their weight in Europe. From there, I slowly changed the
subject to big collaborative projects like the International
Space Station, and asked him if he knew anything about
that. He didn't, so from seemingly allowing him to pace
me with his views, it was my tum to lead by confirming
what he already believed with new information.

" I have subsequently looked up the UK Home Office's own figures and found
that Polish migrant workers actually have one of the lowest benefit claimant rates
of any immigrant group!
32
!i helpfully said that it had been on the radio 15 that Eastern
European astronauts had, in fact, been running the ultimate
tax dodge for years. I said that the reason they don't mind
long stays in the International Space Station and have set
so many space endurance records is that despite the risks, it
means they're out of their home country for long enough
not to have to pay income tax.

With his odious mind suitably greased, I then delivered my


absurd suggestion. I said that to counter this dodge, the
European Space Agency levied a special "astronaut tax" on
these high-tech freeloaders. To seal the suggestion in his
mind, I finished by saying that I'd subsequently seen the
new tax confirmed on the Financial Times web site. I think
I said the tax rate was something like 40%. To him, I was
confirming what he already believed and providing new
proof of the "problem". He was more than willing to accept
the surreal concept of an astronaut tax, and as far as I
know, still does.

So, we can use confirmation bias to add new nonsense to


what people want to believe, which is all good clean fun,
but what else can we use it for? As mentioned earlier,
confirmation bias can actually cause us to defend our
mental maps over reality itself. In the early days of writing
this book, I had an interesting insight into this
phenomenon.

I play in a league quiz team over the winter months. Just


after I began writing this book in 2008, I was playing in a
match against a team containing an ex-Brain of Britain 16
" An "official" source lends a lot of validity to the belief you're apparently
confirming when actually leading the spectator into a new belief.
"Brain of Britain is a long-running knockout quiz competition run by BBC Radio
4.
33
One question was about the first great white jazz musician,
"Bix" Beiderbecke, about whom I just happen to know a
large amount. Incredibly, the other team had never heard of
Bix, and so the question was passed over to our team to
vacuum up a point. I gave the right answer, and with a
certain swagger added that people said that his comet
playing sounded "like bullets being shot from a bell."

The ex-Brain of Britain responded by saying," No, no, that


doesn't sound right at all."

"Well," I said, "but that's what his contemporaries said


about his playing: that it had such a clear tone that it
sounded like bullets being shot from a bell."

My adversary was adamant, however: "You must have got


that wrong", he insisted.

Me? Wrong about Leon Bismarck 'Bix' Beiderbecke? The


first great white jazzman? Born in 1903 in Davenport,
Iowa, discovered by Louis Armstrong, drank himself to
death aged 28? Does it really seem likely that I'd get a
famous quote about my favourite jazz man wrong?

In the end, we agreed to disagree. Maybe he had already


decided that I, in my usual jeans and a t-shirt, couldn't
possibly know anything that deep about an obscure
musician who, until a minute or so earlier, he had known
nothing about himself. Confirmation bias can make good
men pompous and ultimately foolish.

Confirmation bias can also play a major role in setting the


scene before delivering a reading. By exploring what the
spectator already believes about the method you use (tarot,
34
palmistry, etc.) you can help her into a more accepting
frame of mind by confirming that what's about to happen
is an example of what she already expects will happen.

As Nickerson intimated, confirmation bias also tends to


lead to stubbornness and argument, and this is also
exploitable. It's highly probable that you've had at least
one memorable argument with someone who was stubborn
to the point of idiocy:

Performer: "I'm sensing an earlier time. There's an


argument. You're being reasonable - trying to show
someone they're wrong. But the more you try, the
more they won't believe you. They're being very
stubborn. Did it feel like this person deliberately took
your argument the wrong way and thought it meant
that they were right?"

Spectator: "Yes! I remember that argument! That's


my ex-husband. He was very stubborn." 17

The people who fall for confirmation bias hardest are, in


my experience, the people who seek validation for their
views the most. In a situation where you're faced with a
spectator with a need to believe in the afterlife, it's highly
likely that you can convince her that sometimes, when you
get a particularly strong intuition that turns out to be
correct, you have a distinct feeling of a presence that
reminds you of your late grandfather. It doesn't follow,
however, that you can go on to say that because of this the
Loch Ness Monster is real. This point leads me onto an
important aspect of confirmation bias.

17
Again, a real life example, this time of delivering a reading for my friend Sue.
35
I said at the start of this chapter that there is a rule to the
successful use of confirmation bias. It's something I call
"span". The above shift from believing in an afterlife and
believing in the Lock Ness Monster is an absurd example.
The distance or "span" between the two concepts is far too
wide for the second idea to be seen as support for the first.
Always keep the span between what you're confirming and
the new thought you want to be accepted as small as you
can. It may take several jumps over time to get from what's
already believed to what you want the spectator to believe,
but it's worth it. Spread such jumps out over time rather
than firing them off one after the other. Take the spectator
as your cue, and never directly insist.

Sometimes, confirmation bias can be invoked by mistake.


For example, I thought up a silly joke I thought my friend
Ann would like. The conceit of the joke is that I don't
much like cats. I'd certainly never have one as a pet.
Completely deadpan, I told her that a gang of youngsters
had recently broken into a beauty parlour and had stolen
ear-piercing equipment. The gang had been causing
mischief by piercing cats' ears. The punchline was
delivered in a camp manner: "Poor Snowball came home
this morning positively dripping in diamante!"

I thought the mental image would raise a chuckle, but my


friend only heard the joke up to the point where I said that
the gang had been piercing cats' ears. She's a cat lover and
butted in that she'd heard that cats had been going missing
all over town. She concluded that this must be the reason.
Perhaps it was my deadpan delivery, but I'd managed to
confirm what she already thought of the local youth with
new information.

36
J. CoNTllOLLING WITH MEANING
T he illusion of control is one of my favourite bugs in
common sense thinking. It is certainly one of the most
robust of all the tools and concepts covered in this book,
and has very many uses right across the mystery arts and
beyond. It also works well in conjunction with the personal
validation fallacy. Described in the cold light of day, the
behaviour sometimes invoked by the illusion of control is
clearly illogical, but in the heat of the moment, logic flies
out of the window and superstition asserts itself.

In the right circumstances, everyone is susceptible to the


illusion of control. A man who notices that he tends to
have good luck while wearing a certain shirt may begin to
wear it on occasions when he needs good luck. If your
computer regularly crashes, you might find that you change
the way you physically handle the power button in the
hope that it'll either help or perhaps impress your authority
on the machine. Either way, that's the illusion of control at
work.

The next time you play a board game, watch to see how
long people shake the dice before throwing when they
know they need a high number. They will shake for longer.
This phenomenon has also been observed extensively at
casino craps tables - despite after shaking the dice the
player then throwing them about seven feet down the table!

The illusion of control is perhaps most powerful in


sportsmen and entertainers, who sometimes display
elaborate, irrational good luck rituals. Being prevented
from carrying out such rituals can cause real mental

37
anguish. Some performers will even refuse to go on stage
when prevented from performing them.

If you don't believe me about the power the illusion of


control has over us all, think back to the last time you
pushed the button on a pedestrian crossing. If it was at a set
of traffic lights, the only effect the button will have had is
to tell you to wait until the carefully calculated traffic light
timings could fit your random request into their pattern. So,
pressing the button has no effect over the traffic at all. This
is the illusion of control. Seen the other way, however,
there is no illusion. Pressing the button directly controls
you!

Want more proof? The "CLOSE DOORS" button in Otis


lifts is only active when used in conjunction with the
maintenance key. If pressing the button doesn't
automatically make the doors close, if you're anything like
me, you'll usually choose to blame negligent maintenance
and never even consider that it may be due to deliberate
design 18

It is easy to exploit of the illusion of control in so many


effects. All you have to do is to design the effect so that
you seem to hand the spectator as much apparent control as
possible. This is especially easy to do in self-working
effects and can even open new opportunities to hide a
particularly sneaky psychological force.

In my own Naked Book Test, for example, the force


contained in the patter makes the spectator believe that her
choice of word, and therefore her overt control over events,
has a direct effect on the outcome. She's told that choosing
18
Could this attitude be due to confirmation bias, I wonder?
38
a certain type of word will make the test far more difficult
for me. However, this actually has the opposite effect. It
gives her the illusion of making sure that the situation is as
controlled by herself as possible while actually removing
that control.

Similarly, in my ebook Poker Faced, the spectator has a


free choice from a shuffled deck of five packets of cards.
She only makes a mental note of a card selected from a
chosen packet, and also shuffles the packet immediately
afterwards. The premise of the trick is that she must then
control her fleeting micro-expressions when I show her
some candidate cards and try to spot hers from her reaction
to seeing it. This gives her such a feeling of control over
the test that she can be sure there's no trickery afoot.
However, Poker Faced is a self-working effect. I always
know exactly which is her card right from the point at
which she selects the initial packet.

Finding places to use the illusion of control begins with


breaking down an effect into its constituent parts. As an
example, let's take a random self-working card trick such
as one that uses the basic key card principle 19 In essence,
you glimpse the bottom card of a shuffled deck (the key
card), and have the spectator take a random card. You then
cut the deck into two piles and have the spectator place
their choice of card on the packet formed from the upper
part of the deck. Reassemble the deck with the lower half
on top. The card is now "lost" but is always directly below
the key card.

This hidden knowledge means that the performer can dress


the underlying mechanism in plenty of apparent spectator
1
' Yes, I know this is Naked Mentalism but this makes for a clear example.
39
control. Instead of simply spreading the cards and asking
the spectator to select a random one at the beginning, the
illusion of control can be used in a number of ways. You
could:

Hand the deck to the spectator, have her think of a


meaningful number and count out that many cards,
taking the final one for herself. Peek the bottom card
as she concentrates on hers.

Spread the cards between your hands with the faces


showing to the spectator. Ask her to take the card
that "speaks to her".

Have the spectator bring her own deck of cards to


ensure fair play, remove one, and hand you the rest.

As long as you can peek the bottom card and sandwich it


next to the selected card when it is returned to the deck,
there's enormous scope for harnessing the spectator's sense
of control.

Even returning the card to the deck can have an element of


spectator control to it. For example, you could ask her to
take a card, then when it's time to return it, allow the
remaining cards to fall slowly from one hand into your
palm below. Ask the spectator to say stop at some point.
Hold out the cards that have not fallen yet and ask her to
place her card on top. Throw the fallen cards on top to
"lose" the card next to the key card.

Given that you know roughly where the card and key card
pairing is within the deck, you can safely execute a quick
overhand shuffle taking care to throw the section
40
containing the cards in one go, thereby keeping them
together. This apparently decreases or even destroys your
own control over the deck. You could even introduce an
element of comedy or tension into the routine by suddenly
stopping dead and exclaiming that that you didn't mean to
do that shuffie. Spreading the cards face up will allow you
to locate the chosen card as you show that it's an
impossible task to figure out which card is hers. You could
then abandon the deck and "try something else".

In this case 20 you could simply run through a pantomime of


reading her mind, grab an Invisible Deck that has been on
the table the whole time, or employ a host of other methods
of showing that despite her input and overt control over
proceedings, a revelation is still available from a seemingly
lost situation.

I mentioned in Chapter I that the illusion of control works


well with the personal validation fallacy. When asked for a
random number and subsequently asked to comment on
their choices, people will tend to have chosen numbers that
either conform to stereotypes (3, 7, 37, etc.), or which have
some hidden personal meaning. Asking the spectator to
explain her choice as an afterthought and you can unearth
useful information for a later reading or segment. As a
subtle hot reading technique, there's a lot to commend it.

20
And because this i.'i Naked Mentalism!
41
42
4- A:f:fOllDING TO ACT
Y ou walk up to a door. If there's a brass plate at one
side, you know that the hinges are on the other and
that pushing on the plate will open the door. If, however,
you see a handle, you know to pull if it's vertical, and to
tum and then pull if it's horizontal. Why do you never try
to tum a vertical door handle? The answer is all to do with
affordance.

Affordance was first formally described in the mid 1970s,


despite sounding perfectly obvious when you know what it
means. Put simply, affordance is all the things you could
choose to do in a situation. The amount of affordance
offered by some situations can be very large indeed.
However, when you're placed in a situation in which you
believe you need to act quickly, the affordance of the
situation is limited to actions you can immediately think of.

Have you ever had a spectator question why you want her
to do something, either after - or worse, during an effect?
She may even have insisted on doing something you really
didn't want her to do. By limiting the perceived affordance
of a situation, we can guide the spectator into a single
course of action that feels absolutely normal and
unquestionable to her. All we have to do is to give the
spectator a reason to act, and then spring the only
reasonable course of action on her.

When using an impression device, for example, the


spectator must really want to write down whatever she's
thought of on your pad and also perceive it as the only
available writing surface. To reduce the affordance of the

43
situation to just the device, we need to remove all other
perceived impromptu writing surfaces. The important word
here is "perceived". I mean the available writing surfaces
as seen from her perspective. If the billet she will write on
is palm sized, her hand becomes both writing surface and a
useful way of hiding what she writes. Because of this, it
always pays to overestimate the affordance others have at
every point in an effect and seek ways of limiting or
eliminating it.

More philosophically, it may also pay to think about


affordance in terms of the spectator's perception of you.
The all-time great mystery entertainers tend to give the
impression that they have normal or even limited
affordance when, in fact, they have far more control than is
ever supposed by anyone other than other entertainers 21
Maybe magic is what happens when spectators see a
person with normal affordance produce miracles.

The Crazy Man's Handcuffs, in which taught elastic bands


are seen to pass through each other, creates magic in this
way. Borrowed elastic bands that can be examined
afterwards can't pass through each other, but imagine
performing this effect with wine corks. How little
affordance would be perceived in that situation, and
therefore how much more magic would it create? I can
honestly say that it massively amplifies the effect, having
seen Lennart Green do this with two random corks in a
hotel bar.

This is all just my way of suggesting that affordance is


inversely proportional to magic:

21
A great example is an escapologist, handcuffed and lowered into a taDk of water
by his feet. How can he possibly have any control over that situation?
44
Magic

Affordance

The implication of this ratio is that when affordance


becomes zero, maybe magic becomes infinite - becomes
real in other words. Maybe this also explains the strong
reactions seen when using props such as spirit cabinets.
Affordance when tied to a chair inside the cabinet is
apparently zero, and yet physical phenomena still manifest
themselves. For many people, especially those for whom
such phenomena confirm what they already believe, some
unseen force is somehow literally acting through the
medium. For those people, the magic of the situation 22 has
arguably become real.

"Though I'm sure they wouldn"t call it that!


45
46
.S ThJ SHAl'J or SouND
C onsider the two abstract shapes below. Giving them
their original names, one is a "takete", the other a
"rnalurna", but can you tell which is which?

I think you'll agree that the rnalurna is the one on the left,
but why?

German psychologist Wolfgang Kohler first coined these


two nonsense words and drew their shapes in 1929 23 One
word somehow sounds rounded and smooth, while the
other sounds angular and spiky. The underlying principle at
work here is called phonesthesia 2\ which is the natural
tendency we have to assign certain physical attributes to
shapes, objects and even concepts, based merely on the
sound made by their names - even before we've seen the
things they name.

According to Torn Stafford in his fascinating book "Mind


Hacks" 25 , when we listen to someone talking, we need to
pick up as much information about what's being said as
quickly as possible. If we don't understand a word, then
instead of leaving a blank in our minds to fill in when we
" It's also called the "Bouba!Kiki" eiTect after two other names used to describe
the shapes.
"Also called "word symbolism"
21
"Mind Hacks: Tips & Tricks for Using Your Brain", O'Reilly Books. 2005,
ISBN 0-596-00779-5, page 163.
47
get more information, we instead fill the void with
meaning based on the mere sound of the words being
spoken. This makes phonesthesia an immensely useful
technique for subtly imparting information. It enables us to
construct words that, by their very sound, imply a rich set
of predictable attributes.

An obvious use for pareidolia would be to adapt a living


and dead test to Naked ends. Perhaps we could have the
spectator separate pictures of murderers from victims,
especially when also given their (foreign) names.

As you might expect, the world of advertising discovered


phonesthesia a long time ago, but how wisely it uses the
concept is open to debate. Think, for instance, about some
of the strangely named products you've bought or heard of
over the years. Those names are never chosen by accident,
and we know that the name of the popular Blackberry PDA
was chosen due to phonesthesia.

According to an account from Stanford University 26 , when


marketing executives from Lexicon Branding Inc. saw the
then-unnamed Blackberry for the first time, they were
struck by how the buttons seemed to resemble seeds on the
outside of a fruit or berry. "Strawberry" was the inevitable
first suggestion for a name. "Straw", however, with it's
drawn out "s" and long "aw", is a slow syllable. The
branders wanted shorter, punchier sounds, implying
efficiency, speed, and ease ofuse 27

Interestingly, they decided that the sub-word "berry" was


already punchy enough. Research into the way in which
26
http://www.stanford.edu/classllinguist34/Unit_08/blackberry.htm
27
Seriously, I'm not making this stuff up. Marketing men believe that millions of
dollars ride on getting the name of a product just right.
48
people process sounds for meaning apparently suggested to
the marketing men that we're likely to associate the "b" of
"berry" with solidity and reliability, and a short "e" sound
with speed of action. According to the story, after a few
minutes, the name "Blackberry" was born. The short "ack"
of "black" provided more punch and immediacy than the
slower, more laid-back "straw".

So, phonesthesia allows us to create nonsense words, or


select existing ones, which will cause people to conjure
meaning that isn't necessarily there. If you split the sounds
made in English (or any other language) into syllables, it's
possible to organise these into groups that represent
different sound qualities. For example, you might sort them
into groups of soft, rounded, sharp and brittle sounds.
There are potentially a very large number of ways to "dice
and slice" the possible sounds of speech into such groups.

Here are two groups of English syllables, sorted into those


with two letters and those with three.

1 AL 35 ALL
2 AN 36 AND
3 AR 37 ARE
4 AS 38 BUT
5 AT 39 ENT
6 EA 40 ERA
7 ED 41 ERE
8 EN 42 EVE
9 ER 43 FOR
10 ES 44 HAD
11 HA 45 HAT
12 HE 46 HEN
13 HI 47 HER
14 IN 48 HIN
15 IS 49 HIS
16 IT 50 lNG
49
17 LE 5I ION
IS ME 52 ITH
19 ND 53 NOT
20 NE 54 OME
21 NG 55 OUL
22 NT 56 OUR
23 ON 57 SHO
24 OR 58 TED
25 ou 59 TER
26 RE 60 THA
27 SE 61 THE
28 ST 62 THI
29 TE 63 TIO
30 TH 64 ULD
31 TI 65 VER
32 TO 66 WAS
33 VE 67 WIT
34 WA 68 YOU

With the addition of extra letters such as S or E on the end,


it's possible to construct a large number of nonsense words
that have specific phonesthetic properties. Other schemes
include starting at AA and working through to ZZ, and
placing the sounds of the letter pairs in lists according to
how they sound.

By randomly selecting syllables from the lists above until


you find combinations with the right attributes, you can
generate words or even create foreign-sounding names that
have distinct sound qualities. These can be used in
variations on the usual "Dead or Alive" test such that you
have the spectator separate foreign names into male and
female. On turning the cards over, you discover that the
female pile contains only pictures of women, and the other
pile men. For make names, pick syllables with sharp,
angular sounds, and for the female ones, pick those with
nice rounded ones.

50
There's also very good evidence that the physical shapes
we make with our mouths when saying certain words
imparts meaning. Think of the word "round" as an
example. Say the word out loud. The "oun" part of the
word has you creating a rounded movement with your lips.
By having your spectator say the words you create out
loud, she'll get (or rather generate) more apparent
information about them.

51
52
6. A Nsw WoaLD AwAITs
I hope that by now the idea of exploiting bugs in
common sense thinking has begun to show you that
there's a new and relatively unexplored world of
possibilities for subtly enhancing effects and situations of
all kinds. Ultimately, their use will enhance you in the eyes
of the spectator. There are literally dozens of useful bugs
we can exploit in this way. In this chapter I'll cover several
of those that are most easily exploited, though there really
are enough others to fill several volumes.

Using The Available


Consider the following statements:

"I don't fly because flying is dangerous. There are


plane crashes every day on the news."

"We moved from Oklahoma because you're more


likely to be killed there by a tornado than by
anything else."

Flying is statistically the safest form oftransport, but that's


not newsworthy. Something as apparently obscure as
lightning kills far more people every year than tornadoes,
but tornado damage makes dramatic footage, and so we see
it far more on the news. In both cases, our cultures prime
us to form incorrect beliefs by making available a skewed
but authoritative view of what's happening in the world.
Selectively representing facts makes us form attitudes
according to something called the availability heuristic.

53
In 1974, psychologists Amos Tversky and Daniel
Kahneman wrote: "There are situations in which people
assess the ... probability of an event by the ease with
which instances or occurrences can be brought to mind.
For example, one may assess the risk of heart attack among
middle-aged people by recalling such occurrences among
one's acquaintances."

I know three middle aged people who have recently


suffered heart attacks. However, one was caused by
cocaine abuse, and the other two were due to genetic
abnormalities - one fatal. In the cold light of day, these
people are not evidence that middle-aged people generally
have heart attacks, but being three people known
personally to me certainly makes it feel that way.

As an experiment, ask yourself whether there are more


words that begin with either "R" or "K" than have those
letters as the third letter. Go with what simply feels right. I
bet in most cases you genuinely had a gut feeling that there
are more words beginning with those letters. After all, you
can easily think of plenty of examples (they're available to
you). However, it's second option is the truth. So, people
can be made to base their judgements on how easily
examples can be brought to mind. It's the old "I knew a
guy once who ... " effect that floors so many people in
online arguments. It's the "exception that proves the rule".

As an example, before I realised that such arguments are a


waste of time, I once had a blazing row with someone who
claimed that anti-gravity devices were possible. I know of
only one that works -a superconductor cooled in liquid
helium will levitate a small magnet. My opponent
produced a link to a patent for an anti-gravity belt. That
54
should have been the end of the argument, but though it
took some work, but I managed to counter the idea that a
patent means a device works with a link to a patent for a
Santa Clause detector.

To lead people into a frame of mind that's more in tune


with the abilities you intend to present in your act, help
them to remember times when phenomena you can claim
are similar happened spontaneously, either to them or to
people they know. Make those experiences available, in
other words, and people naturally reference them when
assessing what comes next. Asking for a visual display of
recognition can even help trigger the availability heuristic
in those portions of the audience who are initially sceptical
of you:

Performer: "On a show of hands, how many of you


have thought about someone you've not talked to for
a while, and shortly after, they've either called you
or you've bumped into them quite by chance? That's
quite a lot of you"

Another method of using the availability heuristic to colour


people's judgments is to make the audience imagine an
event as vividly as possible before asking them to judge
how likely it is to happen in future. You'll be surprised just
how well it works.

The availability heuristic is very closely related to another


bug in common sense thinking called the fallacy of
misleading vividness. This describes why introducing
anecdotal evidence (even fake anecdotal evidence) into an

55
argument at the right time can floor the opposition even
though they know they're right. 2H

We can also use the availability heuristic in reverse to


create an aversion to something (a subsequent decision,
perhaps) by asking the audience to imagine it in vivid ways
that are so upsetting that the very act of thinking about it
leads to an increased refusal to want it to occur.

Pragmatic Exploitation
If you're creating a presentation that exploits the idea of a
well-established method of divination, the pragmatic
fallacy is definitely something you should know about. Put
simply, it grants temporary permission to people to believe
that something you say is true, thereby helping encourage
the suspension of disbelief and entry into the moment.

The pragmatic fallacy works because the spectator is more


likely to accept what sounds like a reasonable explanation
about something when delivered by someone she trusts.
She becomes pragmatic about the explanation, in other
words, and accepts it more readily.

The pragmatic fallacy works particularly well when you set


someone in pursuit of something desirable. Even an
initially sceptical individual may fall victim the fallacy
very heavily in situations where she believes there's a
likelihood of gaining something valuable (see also the
illusion of control).

Whether they consciously know it or not, bizarre magicians


are particularly good at exploiting the pragmatic fallacy.
As they lead the audience into their world, they might
"This is why it's so important to demand proof in online arguments!
56
discuss various divination techniques, making sure to only
mention the ones by which the subsequent effects will
apparently operate. The bizarre magician is seen more as a
responsible gatekeeper to another realm than the producer
of magic, which is where the necessary authority comes
from for the pragmatic fallacy to really kick in.

Another example is in a reading situation, for instance. If


the spectator believes that, say, the tarot has more
credibility than palmistry, agree like crazy and give her a
tarot reading 29 Never insist on your favourite technique
over hers - always adapt. Be pragmatic, in fact. Guide
what you say and do towards what she already believes.

Be Anthropomorphic
The anthropomorphic fallacy is the tendency to give
inanimate objects and phenomena the characteristics of
living, conscious beings. The computer crashes because it
knows the email you're writing is important, and the car
won't start because it knows you're late. The sounds in the
attic are being made deliberately by a conscious entity.

Of course, the computer doesn't really know what you've


suddenly decided is important, and modem cars tend not to
start due to poor maintenance. The sound in the attic is
probably just the joists contracting after a sunny day.
However, these examples, especially the assumption that
the knocking sound in the roof is a ghost, are difficult to
shake for some people, and can be induced in others given
the right circumstances.

19Could this be why you never ~ee mediums on ghost hunting shows ever say: "I
don'tlhink your house is haunted- I'm gening nothing."?
57
One place where the anthropomorphic fallacy is routinely
induced is during a seance. We can't help but conjure an
unseen spirit in our minds when the glass deliberately
moves during the Ouija board session, for example.
Delving deeply by questioning the spirit for personal
details also helps to instil the anthropomorphic fallacy. Go
beyond the usual questions and ask things such as "Is there
anyone else with you?" to enhance the idea in the
spectators' minds that here's a real entity with an unseen
Iife and context.

A Conjoined Fa11acy
Linda is an outspoken 45-year-old graduate in women's
studies who still retains a keen interest in politics. Which is
most likely:

I. Linda is married
2. Linda runs a bookshop
3. Linda runs a feminist bookshop

The chances are high that your gut instinct was to go for
the third option rather than the first two. Being a
conjunction of two facts, it naturally feels as if it best fits
or identifies Linda. In actual fact, it has less probability of
being right. Psychologists call this called the conjunction
fallacy, but it is also known more informally as the "Linda
effect" or "Linda Problem".

The fact is that at 45, Linda is far more likely to be married


and, with a far lower probability, to run any kind of
bookshop. There are millions of married, 45-year-old
women but there simply aren't that many bookshops. Both
attributes have a far higher probability than Linda
specifically running a feminist bookshop. So, why are we
58
naturally attracted to the third, vanishingly less likely
option? Why does it feel more "real"?

When you calculate conjunctions of probabilities, you


multiply them together. Because probabilities are always
expressed as fractions of one (zero being impossible and
one meaning a dead certainty), the outcome of multiplying
them is always lower than the highest of the individual
probabilities. A good example is the difference between
betting on the winner of a single horse race, and having to
bet on a series of horse races to collect.

Imagine a sequence of I 0 horse races, each featuring I 0


horses. The probability of picking the winner of one race is
1110, or 0.1. The probability of picking the winner in two
races is 0.1 x 0.1, which equals 0.0 I or 11100. Picking the
winners in three races carries a I in I 000 chance, and so
on. This is why placing an "accumulator" bet at the
bookies is a really bad idea. When dressed in Linda's life,
however, the conjunction fallacy tends to make the third
choice seem more likely. The conjunction fallacy seems to
make us add the probabilities together to make a surety
rather than multiplying them to reduce it.

Spying Patterns
Pareidolia is a relatively newly discovered psychological
effect. It describes the tendency for vague and possibly
even meaningless patterns to be interpreted as having
greater significance than they actually have if they support
a view we already hold. In some cases, this can cause us to
literally make things up.

The usefulness of invoking pareidolia when performing


readings or effects that don't have a guaranteed outcome
59
should be fairly obvious. It will help the spectator to see a
deeper pattern of general success, from which, if
questioned, she' II report as far more concrete than it really
was. Rather than promoting accurate recall, pareidolia
creates a false memory of what she wants to believe
happened.
Anchoring ne musion
Focalism (also called anchoring or the focusing illusion)
has nothing to do with the similarly named concept from
NLP. The latter is a form of classical conditioning whereby
associations are made deliberately stronger using strong
imagery in as many senses as possible, whereas focalism is
an easily exploited cognitive bias- but only when someone
wants something. We can have a joke with people over this
distinction using a demonstration of just how silly our
"paunchy" common sense can make people look. If, before
reading this book, someone tells you it contains nothing
more than NLP, you can be sure they've only read the table
of contents and found the title to this section!

Focalism occurs when we latch onto some aspect of a


situation and ignore the others when making a decision.
Used car salesmen make us focus on fairly irrelevant
attributes of their vehicles by placing stickers on them
saying such things as "low mileage" or "one owner".
While these claims are undoubtedly true, we must be
careful that they don't blind us to the overall condition of
the car. Focalism is something to watch out for when
buying something we really want but can't really justify.
We focus on some aspect of the purchase such as the low
price or what it will enable us to do.

When trying to get someone to agree to do something


they're unsure about- such as volunteering for hypnosis-
60
it's possible she can't anchor to something that will help
her make a clear decision. Help her: add a few words
pointing out a good and positive reason for why she should
do as bade and you could find yourself with someone who
is already slightly under your influence before you begin
her induction.

Word Association Football


The association principle shows that no thought is ever
held in isolation. Between our ears is a vast associative
memory, in which concepts are held in a rich mesh of
relationships. These can be used as stepping stones to lead
someone back into a memory, a state of mind, or an
emotion, which is very important in readings.

Imagine a circus elephant. Beyond a large pachyderm with


a feathery headdress, what else do you see in your mind's
eye? Focus on the emotion that comes to mind. Is it good
or bad? Why? Let's suppose that you remember the clowns
not as funny but as scary. What other things scared you as
a child? Spiders? Do they still make you fearful? They're
everywhere, aren't they? There might be one under your
chair right now.

Creepy, huh? That's association!

61
62
PART 2 - EFFECI'S

63
64
7 C&IATING NEW NAKED EPPECTS
M y approach to developing new Naked effects tends
to be to find a data model or principle first, and
build upwards from that. There are the two golden rules to
spotting potential data models:

New sources of data are everywhere


Patterns in data are exploitable

After I've found something, I begin by analysing what I


know about the data using a process I call "dicing and
slicing". As I hope you'll see in the upcoming example
effect, this has the function of revealing hidden information
and connections within the data under consideration.
There's also a good working example in the first volume of
Naked Mentalism. As I began trying to figure out how I
might use raw word probability data to create the data
model for the Naked Book Test, sorting lists of words of a
specific length by frequency revealed that the most
prevalent words with some initials all describe the same
underlying concept. This made it possible to sketch out a
presentation in which, if I know the initial letter of the
word, I can get a hit for the underlying concept. With the
right patter, I realised that this can make it look like I've
scored a direct hit instead of a near miss. None of this was
apparent from the raw data alone.

As an example of this process, let's go through the process


of developing a typical effect. Predicting a card merely
thought of by a spectator is a holy grail for some
performers. Below is a table of the most popular answers to

65
an ongoing web-based survei". When I began developing
this effect in January 2008, 950 people had responded. This
is a big enough population for it to be statistically
significant. Here are the most popular choices:

~ Qrd Colour
14.21 Ace of Spades B
8.03 Queen of Hearts R
4.33 Ace of Hearts R
4.33 Queen of Diamonds R
3.81 Jack of Diamonds R
3.40 Ace of Diamonds R
3.30 Jack of Hearts R
3.19 Seven of Diamonds R
2.37 Six of Diamonds R
2.27 Ace of Clubs B
2.27 Jack of Spades B
2.16 Seven of Hearts R
2.16 King of Diamonds R
2.06 I Queen of Spades B
2.06 Three of Clubs B
2.06 Ten of Diamonds R
2.06 King of Hearts R
TABLE ONE: MosT POPULAR PLAYING CARDS

What's immediately apparent (and potentially useful)


about these choices is the steep drop in popularity at the
top of the table. From 14.21% to 4.33% takes just three
cards ..

What other peculiarities are there? Well, most of the


entries are red cards - in fact, only five are black. By

" You can fmd the portal to the survey at http://anyoldaddress.com/favcard l.htm
66
arranging these cards to show the distributions of values 31 ,
suit and value, an interesting pattern appears:

AC 3C
AH 7H JH OH KH
AS JS OS
AD 60 7D IOD JD OD KD

TABLE TWO: DISTlliBUTION OF vALUES

The values of the cards presented in this table naturally fall


into three distinct bands consisting of low, medium and
high values. The number of cards in each band is as
follows:

BAND CAllDs CHOICES


Low 5 22%
Middle 3 16%
High 9 55%
TABLE FOUll: CAllOS IN EACH BAND

Stripped down to the cards that polled over 3% of the total,


an even clearer pattern emerges.

~~~1 II II UI I I:: I~: I I


TABLE THllEE: DISTlliBUTION OF TOP VALUES

Dicing and slicing has already reduced the deck to few


possibilities. For instance, if we can somehow learn
whether it's a low, medium or high valued card, we're in a
position to make a good attempt at naming it. But what
other things do we know about playing cards in general
11
This is an example of what I mean by "dicing and slicing
67
that we can use? Diamonds and hearts equate to money and
love, for example? A spade could, through some trippy
notion of "psychic fog", be a heart upside down - and a
"black heart" gives us a partial out if we get the colour
wrong. The black could indicate lost love.

If it's a low valued card, we might begin describing how it


feels as if it "stands alone" due to the lack of pips. If it's
high, it's an image we're getting of "a boy apart from his
mother" (covering the Queens and Jacks, the latter of
which is naturally assumed to be younger than the monarch
cards). If it's of a medium value, we might comment on its
colour, its suit, and so on.

68
a. 'lint NAKED DAY 'lisT
H ere's a full effect. It's a demonstration of how a
simple data model can produce a disproportionately
potent effect when given the right presentation. It concerns
the day of the week upon which an event, meaningful only
to the spectator, falls. It's a subtle effect whose power lies
in giving you the air of someone with heightened intuition
(think ofpareidolia from Chapter 6).

Let's begin with the data model. To understand it, imagine


that Monday is day 1, Tuesday is day 2, and so on. The
data model consists of a 12-digit number, with each digit
corresponding to the day of the week on which the 7'tt of
that month falls. The following table shows these numbers
for 2011:

I~ITI~I~I~I~I,ITITI~INrl~l
TABLE: 7 DAY OF EACH MONTH IN 2011

From this table, we can see that the 7'h January 2011, and
therefore the 14'11, 21" and 28"', all fall on a Friday (day 5).
It's also easy to work out the day of the week upon which
any date falls. 12"' September 2011, for example, must be a
Monday because the 14'h falls on day 3 (Wednesday). You
can easily memorise the sequence by splitting it into four
groups of three and creating the following picture of the
arrangement in your mind 32 :

lsl1l1l 1416121 1417131 lsiii3


TABLE: DAYS SPLIT INTO GP..OUPS OF THP..EE

" See also Chapler 13


69
Given a random date of 5'h July 2011, we can work out
with no real difficulty that the day of the week upon which
it will fall, because according to the data model, the 7'h of
July falls on day 4, so the 5th must fall two days earlier on a
Tuesday. If we know any date in the current year, we can
quickly and reliably find the day of the week upon which it
falls.
From Model to Fffcct
My original use for this mechanism was extremely simple
and direct. I would hand the spectator an ordinary kitchen
calendar, ask her to select a date and to imagine all the
things she normally does on the day of the week upon
which it occurs. I then had her tell me just the date. I'd
patter for a moment or two about days of the week having
different characters. All the while I pretended to look for
slight flickers of recognition that would betray the day of
the week she'd thought about so hard a moment earlier. As
an effect, it played out fairly well, but it could obviously be
made far better. The spectator could potentially work
backwards and put it all down to some lightning arithmetic.
On occasion, some smarty-pants would consult a calendar
for several years in advance on his mobile phone to
challenge me. I needed some way of making the date and
day of the week float independently of each other and to
make them far more personal. The eventual solution I came
up with is as follows.

First, I decided never to announce this as an effect. At an


appropriate time, I simply begin to talk about how
upcoming dates always have significance for us. They
might be appointments we're dreading, personal
anniversaries, or one-off dates. Whatever their
significance, there are potentially many of such dates every
year. As if grasping for a throwaway example, I ask the
70
spectator to name a meaningful date - just the date and
month name will do (let's assume 6th May. I also asked her
to say why it's significant for her. As she does, I mentally
calculate what day of the week it will fall upon. From the
data model we can see instantly that 6th May 2011 falls on
Wednesday.

I now go on to explore for a minute or two the significance


of the date with the spectator. Is it something she's
dreading, like a dentist's appointment, or something good
that she's looking forward to? I listen to her answer and
take it seriously, sympathising about a dread or sharing the
anticipation.

Next, I change the subject slightly to the idea that not only
dates but also certain days of the week have emotional
significance. I explain that those astrologists who cross into
the arcane field of numerology say that everyone has a
special day of the week, called their "key day". This isn't
necessarily the day of the week on which we were born,
but discovering which is yours is believed in some cultures
to be important for your future happiness. This, I say, is
because if a significant date falls on anything other than
her key day, she might perceive it in an unduly negative
way.

Here, I ask the spectator to think of an example of a past


occasion when she though she'd be happy, only to find that
she wasn't. I explain that in the same way, dates we're not
looking forward to can cause us real anguish if they fall on
the wrong days of the week for reasons we never
consciously understand, and that when they fall on the
right day we get through them without a problem. This
might even be why we're sometimes unaccountably more
71
frightened of a visit to the dentist on some occasions than
on others, even though it's just a check up. This might
even explain, I add, why some birthdays don't seem as
good as others, even though the presents are better and we
have more guests at our party.

I tell the spectator that having talked to her for a while, and
using knowledge of numerology, I believe that I have a
good idea what her key day is. I say that it is almost
certainly Wednesday (in this example). I then explain by
giving a simple character reading for Wednesday. The idea
here is to create a sense of identification with the day.

I then mention a second choice I had for her day before I


settled on Wednesday. I give a slightly less good
personality reading for this second day. The purpose is to
get her agreement that I've identified her key day, and to
get her to buy into the idea that I can "see" personal days
when I get to know people a little.

The spectator still isn't aware that an effect is even


underway yet. I can now ask casually if she happens to
know what day of the week the date she mentioned earlier
falls on. If she knows it, the connection is made and we
have a revelation, but if she needs to, she can consult the
calendar on her mobile phone.

Either way, the spectator learns for herself that by an


amazing cosmic coincidence, the date falls on her key day.
If it's something she's looking forward to, I tell her I think
she'll have a great time. If it's something she's not looking
forward to, I explain that because it falls on her key day,
that in some strange way the universe will be watching

72
over her and that she shouldn't worry unduly about it. All
shall be well.

It's a simple effect - basically a self-worker - but it also


creates a moment of wonder. There's a complete
disconnection between asking for a date and giving the day
of the week, but in the spectator's mind, a cosmic
connection is made, and order jumps out of chaos with a
positive message.
74
9. NAKED Hoa.lU>llS
T he great thing about the Naked approach is that it can
be applied to good effect across the spectrum of
mystery arts. Naked Horrors is a good example.

Naked Horrors is based on an ingenious routine detailed in


Chapter 6 of Theo Annemann' s standard reference work
for mentalists, Practical Mental Magic 33 In the original
effect, attributed to Stuart Robson, you had the spectator
select index cards with her choice of "horror" word written
on them amongst others (corpse, murder, graveyard, and so
on).

The underlying method for divining the selected word has


been used in several subsequent effects. In the original,
each card was a different colour and corresponded to a
number, either 1,2, 4, 8 or "extra". Adding up the numbers
indicated by the colours selected gives a number
corresponding to an entry on a master list, which you palm
and consult at the appropriate time.

Using Naked techniques, however, we extend the original


effect to include seemingly random subject possibilities. In
this version, we're going to use priming categories with
particularly strong mental connections between concepts
(called the forward strength or FSG) for the top item in the
list and relatively weak ones for the rest. Please feel free to
use your own categories if you have a copy of Naked
Mentalism or Naked Mentalism II:

JJ Available from, well, where can't you buy it?


75
The data model for this effect is very simple:

I Lettuce
2 Dog
3 Knife
4 Clown
5 Car
6 Wedding
7 Water
8 Diamond
9 Animal
10 Dinner
TABLE 1: THE "NAKED Hoaaoas" DATA MoDEL

Next, there's the category card, which you hand to the


spectator:

A salad ingredient
A pet animal
A weapon
Something you see in a circus
A form of transport
A ceremony you'd attend in church
A liauid
A precious iewel
Something you find on a farm
A meal you eat everv day
TABLE 2: CATEGOl\.Y CAl\.D

The following cards are also handed to the spectator along


with the category card:

76
Garden Lettuce
Book Movie
Water Animal
Atlas Mother
Gun Car
TABLE J: CAl\.D ""

Televisio Dog
n
Movie Silent
Dinner Gun
Candle Son
Water Wedding
TABLE 4= CAl\.D "2"

Clown Water
Father Atlas
Book Wedding
Car Doctor
Envelope Clock
TABLE .s: CAl\.D "4"
Diamond Fortune
Floor Clock
Silent Dinner
Animal Candle
Book Doctor
TABLE 6 CAl\.D "S"

We also need some way of identi tying cards I, 2, 4 and 8.


In the original effect, the cards were coloured. This is a
77
perfectly good method, but a more subtle marking system
may prevent spectators wondering about the colours. You
could use plain index cards, for example, and work out
what's been taken from what's left from their position on
the table. You could also number the cards I, 2, 3 and 4, or
even letter them (perhaps with Greek letters). As long as
you remember that they have the values I, 2, 4, and 8 that's
the important thing.

To perform Naked Horrors, hand the spectator the categmy


card and ask her to "use her intuition" to think of
something that fits one of the categories. Now hand her the
I, 2, 4 and 8 cards and ask her to select all cards containing
it or something close to it and hand the rest back.

Here's how to work out what she chose. As an example,


the spectator retains cards I and 4. I +4=5. The fifth entry
on the numbered list of targets is "Car". She must have
selected a form of transport on the category card. Being
based on the binary system of counting, no other
combination of cards can make the same total. The other
entries on each card simply pad them out to I 0 entries each
and are essentially noise.

You can add as many extra categories and cards as you


like, but remember to ensure that they bear no relation to
each other, or to the categories on the category card. Extra
cards should have the numbers 16, 32, 64, 128, 256, and so
on.

One idea for those readers skilled in memory techniques


(more ofwhich in Part 3) is to have several sets of cards
covering different subjects sealed in different envelopes.
The spectator has a free choice of envelope and they can all

78
be opened at the end. All you need to do is mark the
envelopes so that you know which set of cards is in play.

The strength of this effect comes from the unspoken


choices made by the spectator. Anneman says in the
original write-up for "Horrors" that it plays out best when
you slowly reveal details about the spectator's choice, and
tease out thoughts and feelings to do with it. "This latter
presentation is by far the best," he wrote, "and should be
worked up as impressively as possible."

There are plenty of alternate presentations you can use


depending on your performance persona. If you're a master
of psychological manipulation, for instance, it could be that
you're subtly influencing the spectator to choose both a
category and an item within it, which can implied in your
revelation patter. Using the pragmagram technique from
Chapter 5 of Naked Mentalism II, you can even weave
bizarre images into your patter that slowly resolve into the
spectator's choice before it's made.

79
80
10. 'lk1 NAKID Ca.JDIT C'.AaD 'lisT
his qu~ck piece is based on something I noticed while
T searchmg for useful patterns of information on the
faces of credit cards. It turns out that different card issuers
use different initial digits in their cards' numbers. Some
cards also have fewer than 16 digits in the card number.
Here's what I discovered:

Initial Number
Card Type digit Length
American Express 3 15
Visa 4 13, 16
Mastercard 5 16
Discover 6 16
TABLE 1: CaEDIT CAli..D INITIAL DIGITS AND NUMBEll..
LENGTH

If you can get a couple of people to take out their credit


cards and just focus on the first digit of the number, you
can divine it if you can see what the card is. After all, the
spectator is holding the card up in front of you to view it.
You could be several feet away and still see type of card
being used.

81
82
II. NAKED llEADINGS

H ave you ever wanted to delve into someone's mind


directly and pull out specific events they've either
forgotten about or have buried for years without any
fishing or other cold reading techniques? This effect
demonstrates how to do just that using what we learned in
Part 1.

To demonstrate, consider the following statements


carefully, and keep score of how many you can link to
specific events in your life:

1. There was someone in your life that no matter how


hard you tried, they couldn't be persuaded to change
their views despite being demonstrably wrong.
There's possibly also a feeling of resentment that
still pervades the memory. Did it end in a row or a
parting of the ways, by any chance?

2. There was something you did, and which, despite


knowing the consequences, you wanted to do
because of the pleasure it would bring. Was it an
indulgence beyond your monetary means, by any
chance?

3. You were once in a situation where you felt in


control, only to be betrayed by events or the desires
of others. I think it embarrassed or even crushed you
for a while, and it's stilJ something you mentalJy
slap yourself over and ask how you could have been
so dumb.

83
4. There's someone in your life about who you know
deep down you need to change your opinion, but
can't bring yourself to see him or her in a different
light.

5. There's someone in the public eye that everyone


seems to like, but whom you just can't stand, but
you have no idea why.

This isn't your average cold reading, and these clearly


aren't Barnum statements. The first paragraph describes
the outcome of an episode of confirmation bias occurring
rather maddeningly in someone else. The second example
recalls an episode during which you anchored to some
aspect of a purchase that you knew you couldn't really
otherwise justify. The third example describes you falling
for the illusion of control. The fourth and fifth both
describe confirmation bias again.

We all fall prey to cognitive biases and logical fallacies


throughout our lives, and the results are sometimes
memorable for being painful or embarrassing. They're
fantastic fodder for a cold reading about the spectator's
past, about the people who populate those memories and
the emotions that pepper them with meaning. The
association principle can also help here. By asking what
else the spectator remembers about the memory you help
recall for her it becomes more vivid. Lead her on a path
into the memory and let her rediscover the context.

84
12. 'IHB NAKID HBADLINI
hBDICTION
T his very simple effect allows you to send someone to a
newsagent, buy a magazine, come back, open a
sealed, dated prediction that has been held by someone else
for several days, read the headline and details of several
stories, and find them in the periodical. However, the
periodical only appeared on the newsstand that morning.
The secret is simplicity itself and is, I believe, a classic use
of "ambient" information. Simply find a weekly periodical
(I prefer New Scientist), and subscribe to its publisher's
RSS feed. This is free to do and many web browsers have
RSS readers built into them. If yours does not, there are
also plenty of free RSS readers you can download.

What most people don't realise is that from the day of


publication (every Thursday in the case of New Scientist),
the periodical's RSS feed will quietly begin to trail
headlines and stories that will be in the next issue. One
way you could use this principle is on local radio. Send or
hand over to the show's producer or presenter your sealed
prediction a couple of days before you go on the show.
During the show, have the presenter ask someone to go
and buy a copy of the magazine to prove that it's genuine.
He can then open your envelope and find the stories
throughout the show. The great advantage of this effect is
that it takes up more time on air, which from the station's
viewpoint is why you're there. If you include, say, five
stories from the RSS feed, there are four "callbacks" that
can be made throughout the show. If you're promoting a
performance, this will also keep you in the listener's mind
for longer than a simple five-minute appearance.
85
86
IJ. 'Iks NAKED Q.u1z hEDICTION
Y ears ago, quite by chance, I was talking to a friend of
my sister's. The friend is a TV producer. She told me
that because the contestants are usually very nervous at the
start of TV quiz shows, they tend to tape the introductions
at the end to get a better take.

What good is this? Well, I've watched the UK brain-fest


University Challenge for years After knowing about the
trick of taping the introductions at the end, I started to pick
up on the overall moods and "energy" of each team. The
one that is down and defeated has usually lost. If they're
both very energetic, it's probably been a good, close
match.

You can use information like this to make an impromptu


prediction at the start of a quiz show. Most of the time you
will be right, but because you can see both teams or
contestants relative to each other's moods, you can also
predict whether it'll be a close run thing or a terrible
drubbing for the loser (my records show that I'm right
about 80% of the time).

87
88
PART J -LEARNING DATA
MODELS

H9
90
14- OvJaVIIW OF 'IicHNIQ.UIS
N aked effects can be ideal for performing remotely
with the book in front of you (over the phone, for
example) but to become proficient enough to perform them
in person, at some point, you're going to have to memorise
the data models that go with them.

Since antiquity, it has been necessary for scholars and the


adherents of religions to memorise vast amounts of stuff,
sometimes even entire books. The Freemasons also insist
on the memorisation of lengthy texts for their initiation
rituals as a show of commitment.

All Naked data models are of two basic types: those that
require you to recall them in sequence (serial access - like
a script), and those that require you to be able to access
individual data items in any order (random access - like a
database). There's no single technique that works best for
memorising all data models. The best technique depends
on the structure of the data you need to memorise, and the
way in which you need to recall it. Picking the correct
technique is therefore paramount!

Once learned, recalling data models reinforces them in


your mind by strengthening the physical connections made
when learning them. Recall them to yourself in the shower,
out walking the dog, when you can't sleep, even ironing
your superman outfit- whenever and wherever you have a
few minutes to yourself. Refresh them like this regularly,
and you'll easily gain a level of fluency that far outstrips
what you thought you could achieve, perhaps even just an
hour or so earlier. In theory, there's no limit to the number

91
of connections you can create between concepts, and so no
limit on what you can remember.

When you set out to memorise something using any of the


methods in this chapter, you'll increase your recall
immensely if you use as many senses as possible. This
works especially well with the method of loci. If you can
make the bizarre images you create have a sound, a smell,
some movement and so on, do so!

Techniques for Serial Rtca11


Location, Location, Location
The method of loci 34 is great for memorising data models
consisting of sequences of information. It does, however,
require a little setting up. Once done, however, you can
quickly remember potentially vast amounts of information.

The method makes use of an imaginative mental journey


around a familiar physical path. Along the path, you place
bizarre objects. The path you imagine should be
somewhere you know well, such as going from room to
room around your home or walking down your street. In
fact, the more familiar the place or journey is to you, and
the more detail you can naturally recall about it, the better.

To prepare, spend some time mentally travelling the path


so that it is completely familiar to you. If possible, also
physically walk the route. Think the route forwards, noting
all the significant points along the way, and also
backwards. Try to see it from all angles. Try to experience
all the details of the path in every sense: sights, sounds,

"Loci being the plural of"locus", meaning a location


92
smells, feel, and so on. Use every scrap of imagination to
really bring the path to life in your mind.

This might seem like a lot of work at first, but in Medieval


times, scholars would choose a large public building such
as a cathedral 35 They would walk the same route around
the building every day, pausing to take in each scene as
they went, until they were completely familiar with every
part of it. The amount of information these people could
subsequently store in the mental model of the path is still
truly remarkable today.

To now use the path to memorise a sequence of data, you


walk it in your mind's eye, dropping off bizarre objects at
set points that represent and remind you of each item you
need to remember. When I say bizarre, I mean bizarre too!
Make them rude, shocking, sexy - anything, in fact, that
creates both a vivid image in your mind, and reminds you
instantly of the data item.

One of my own mental locations stores an old '70s stereo,


a soccer player being replaced during a game, a huge arrow
covered in lights, an apple with the phrase "this is an
orange" written on it, a photocopier spewing out pictures
of a face, a plastic politician, a soldier seen through a cross
hair, and someone on his knees begging a secret policeman
not to torture him. These objects correspond to the eight
basic tools of the propagandist: stereotypes, substitution of
names, selectivity, lying, repetition, assertion, pinpointing
the enemy, and appeal to authority. The images are strange,
but they're instantly linked in my mind to the principles
they help me remember. The more automatic you can make
B This is why the tcchni~ue ha~ become known as the "memory palace". The
larger space you map in your journey, the more places there will he into which you
can later drop things to remember.
93
the associations the better. The stereo instantly reminds me
of stereotypes, for example.

What's really good about the method of loci is that when


you become very familiar with a data model stored using it,
you'll find that you can dip in at random to access most if
not all the data it represents.

The Object Alternative


An alternative to basing your use of the method of loci on a
journey around a place you know well is to mentally put all
the things you need to remember on or around an object. If
possible, use an object to which you have easy access and
can study at will, or that is easily conjured in your mind in
as much detail as you can possibly muster. The object
could be anything, an alarm clock, a car, or even the
human body (especially a specific human body!).

Imagine, for instance a freestanding floor fan. It has four


legs at the bottom, a stem, four control buttons half way up
the stem, a mains lead, a plug, the motor casing, various
points around the blade guard, the three blades inside the
guard, and so on. When seen like this, even simple objects
have plenty of locations to which you apply your bizarre
objects.

Mnemonic Sequence Rrca11


The mnemonic method is great for recalling short
sequences of data. It's fast and efficient. Consider the
following two nonsense phrases. What do they have in
common?

I. Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain

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2. Princess Diana Never Shagged36 Prince Andrew

In each case, the initial letters of each word spell out a


sequence of data that must appear in a strict order. The first
lists the colours of the rainbow; from long to short
wavelengths 37 , but the second is more obscure. It's the ISO
7-Iayer model of networking protocols 38 I overheard the
latter being said many years ago by a tutor on a network
security course as she reminded herself of the order of the
layers. She said it just once, but the striking imagery it
produced stuck with me.

All you need for the mnemonic approach is to generate a


nonsense phrase with the same number of words as the
sequence you need to memorise. The phrase itself should
have its own inner logic. Richard of York really did give
battle in vain, and Princess Diana never did go to bed with
Prince Andrew (as far as I'm aware).

Techniques for Random Recall


Pegging
If an effect involves converting a number into an
associated piece of data, pegging is probably the system for
you. Once the pegs are learned, they enable you to
memorise long lists of data for later random access. It
works a little like a computer's RAM. The microprocessor
sends an address representing a memory location to the
RAM. The RAM responds by sending back the value
stored at that address. In pegging, each peg acts as a
memory location. You literally hang your data off each
6
J To "shag" means to have sex with in UK English
17
Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violcl.
31
Physical, data, network, session, prcscnLation, and application.
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peg. Here's the basic method. We'll cover how to make
things easier to remember later. For now, just familiarise
yourself with the method.

Let's suppose we need to memorise eleven unique items.


First, we need to find something that naturally rhymes with
each number. Here's the list I came up with:

NUIIBJ!.JL l.UIYIIIS WITH


Zero Hero
One Bomb
Two Loo
Three Tree
Four Door
Five Live
Six Sticks
Seven Heaven
Eight Weight
Nine Line
Ten Ben

The idea of choosing objects or concepts that naturally


rhyme makes the whole list easier to memorise. Now, let's
store a series of random words using this mental "RAM'.

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NUKBD. OBJECT
Zero Glass
One Chain
Two Life belt
Three Lion
Four Telephone
Five Television
Six Horse
Seven Cigarette
Eight Candle
Nine Book
Ten Hat

To memorise each item, all we need do is create an image


linking the location (zero, one and so on) with the rhymed
word we associated with it earlier, and the word we need to
remember. Here's an example:

ZERO is a HERO drinking from a GLASS


ONE is a BOMB wrapped in CHAIN to stop it exploding
TWO is on the LOO wearing a LIFEBELT to stop
falling in
THREE is a TREE up against which a LION is peeing
FOUR is a DOOR behind which a TELEPHONE is
ringing
FIVE is LIVE, like the show on the TELEVISON
SIX is the STICKS of the steeplechase a HORSE is
running
SEVEN is HEAVEN when you smoke a CIGARETTE
EIGHT is the WEIGHT of a giant CANDLE
NINE is a LINE in a BOOK
TEN is BEN wearing a HAT
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Three is a tree. The tree has a lion taking a pee up against
it. It's a striking image and the association leads you from
three to lion with little effort. With a little practice, you can
remember large amounts of data using pegging, and the
locations in the original list don't have to be numeric.

When I first developed the Naked Book Test that appeared


in volume I of Naked Mentalism, I had to memorise all the
word lists and the orders in which the six words appeared
in each. I decided to use the bizarre imagery conjured up
by the nonsense phrases the lists made when read in order.
This made it very easy to remember the lists. Charles
Dickens in a snowy Victorian London street scene
lamenting that poverty is "the PART the POOR PLAY" is
how I remember the "P" words, for example.

Positional Pictures
Using mental imagery that includes the physical position of
the things you need to remember can vastly improve their
subsequent recall. For example, the Naked Day Test
demands you learn a 12-digit sequence. Presenting the data
as follows is tough to learn:

If you split this long list into smaller chunks of data,


perhaps four groups of three digits each, the smaller lists of
digits suddenly becomes a lot easier to remember:

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1 ~1F~I~I
1

l~l~yl 1~1

These groups split the year into four quarters, roughly


equivalent to the seasons. Patterns also begin to emerge
that are not readily apparent in the original 12-digit string.

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I.S FINAL 'IkouGHTs
That's it for another volume of Naked Mentalism. I
sincerely hope you found something of value in what I've
written. This book took a long time to research and write,
and even longer to distil down into I 00 pages. Above all, I
hope that even if you don't do mentalism as your main
form of performance that you still got something useful
from it. The techniques in Part I are so easily applicable to
other fields that it would be a shame if only mentalists used
them. Why should they have all the fun?

Will there be a fourth volume? I don't know. One thing is


for sure, though: there are still plenty of"bugs" in common
sense thinking that we can exploit. Maybe, because these
bugs can be used in such a wide range of situations, maybe
the next volume shouldn't even be called Naked Mentalism
at all. We'll see. In the meantime, have lots of fun and
don't do anything that could be considered ugly with what
I've written. Remember: you're not immune to these bugs
yourself. ..

I0I
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