Have you ever wished to understand the thoughts circulating inside the brains of your peers before they’ve had the chance to speak them? To be able to read the minds of strangers and friends alike? This feat is nearly impossible to accomplish; however, despite this fact, magicians have been convincing spectators of their telepathic abilities for centuries.
The art of mind reading, commonly referred to as mentalism, has been astonishing audiences since its development in the second half of the sixteenth century. The goal of those who employ this trick is to convince those around them that they can perform incredible acts, such as telepathy, clairvoyance, divination, precognition, psychokinesis, hypnosis and mind control. With the help of a keen eye, they have been able to do so and you can too!
For more information on the methods of mind reading, take a look at this course on professional mind reading tricks!
Now onto the techniques:
Cold reading refers to the techniques used by a mentalist to convince an audience member that his or her thoughts are being read. By analyzing the subject’s appearance, body language, personal style, and manner of speaking, the readers are able to decipher much hidden information about the person. Several techniques used include:
Playing the part of the mind reader is one of the most essential aspects of the trick. It may seem obvious, but in order to convince your audience that you can read their minds, you must act as though you can read their minds. Using phrases such as, “I need a moment to feel the spiritual connection” and employing that time to assess the body language of your audience can improve your credibility and allow easier access to the information your spectators are subtly revealing.
Fishing is a technique used by mentalists to draw clues from their audience members through the use of ambiguous phrases, such as, “I’m seeing the letter M”, which may cause the spectator to mention a family member or friend who recently passed away whose first name started with the letter “M”.
The Forer Effect is a technique reserved mainly for online forms of mentalism and is also heavily used in the field of astrology. Also referred to as the “Barnum Effect” in psychology, the effect consists of a series of statements in paragraph form that could apply to pretty much anyone who reads them. Examples include such statements as, “You tend to be critical of yourself” or “You enjoy seeing the product of your work”.
Hot reading, a technique very similar in form to cold reading, involves reading an audience member with prior knowledge about the spectator, through overheard conversations or doing research. The key to succeeding in hot reading is to avoid being caught observing or eavesdropping on the participant. It’s also advised to observe or research multiple participants in case the first is unavailable when the time comes to perform the trick. A subset of this form of mind reading is warm reading, which also uses the Forer Effect to assess a subject whom the mentalist knows something about prior to the performance.
Careful observation requires the mind reader to watchfully assess visual cues audience members are giving off through their body language. A few easy give-away visual clues include:
When people are exposed to information relevant to their own lives, their pupils often dilate without their knowledge. If you are performing for a small crowd, pay attention to which participants have lighter colored eyes, since the dilation will be easier to detect, and watch them carefully to see which topic triggers this involuntary response.
Functioning similarly to eye dilation, the occasional unintentional twitch made by an audience member often symbolizes much more than an uncomfortable seating position. A twitch can mean that the spectator is relating the clue to his or her own life and should be looked upon as a potential volunteer for the mind reader’s next trick.
Paying attention to how the audience members are positioned is the most important aspect of mind reading, simply because it reveals a vast amount of hidden information about the individual. For example, a spectator who is sitting up straight would make a much better participant than one with his or her arms crossed because the position of an individual’s arms signifies their level of interest in the subject.
The best way to grasp the essentials of this technique is to practice it in your daily life, inspecting friends and family members alike to gauge their interest level through body language, twitches, and eye dilation. After you’ve spent time just observing the visual cues they seem to give off, try to manipulate the conversation in a way that causes the visual cues to be exposed through the topics you bring up. It’s best not to inform the others of your intention until after you’ve grasped the basics, as knowing what you are doing may cause them to change their behavior.
To learn more on the meaning behind the involuntary gestures that audience members give off, take a look at this awesome course on the secrets of body language.
Things to Keep in Mind
In order to perform these techniques with accuracy and credibility, there are a few items that you should keep in mind:
Select an Appropriate Subject
A spectator who looks incredibly skeptical and suspicious of your techniques is not going to make the best subject, so be sure to scan your audience for a particular type of person. The people that often make the best subjects are those who are smiling and genuinely laughing at your jokes. Be sure to choose someone who appears to be sociable and desires to interact with you and the other audience members.
Make the Subject Comfortable
A common method of creating comfort in subjects is through the use of mirroring. Mirroring is when you mimic the position of the subject’s body to attempt to develop a connection between yourself and the other person. This often involuntarily happens in conversations between close friends, so manipulating this technique to establish rapport will be subtle enough to attain the participant’s trust.
Be Aware of Other Causes of Visual Cues
Visual cues, such as the aforementioned arm-crossing example, may not always represent the mental processes and may instead be attributed to external factors, so be sure to look around the area in which you’ll be performing to see what may trigger responses. For example, the cross-armed person may be seated in a drafty room and covering up their arms because they’re cold and not necessarily because of their interest level.
Visual cues are difficult to assess, but the process can be made easier by learning the meaning behind them through online resources, such as this course on body language for entrepreneurs!
Mentalism is a fascinating and amusing technique that is fun for the audience members and the mind reader alike. Through the use of cold reading, hot reading, and careful observation, you can perform a wide variety of tricks, such as those featured in this post on mind reading tricks. Also, if your interest in mind reading techniques has sparked a curiosity for other magic tricks as well, take a look at this course on learning the best simple magic tricks! Now, equipped with the knowledge gained from this article, you’re ready to step on stage and blow the minds of audiences everywhere!