I found an interesting photo on one of the blogs I frequently read. Take a look and let me know if you can spot what’s strange about it. I promise you, it’s not one of those cheap pranks where a zombie face is going to jump out and require you to change your shorts.
Let me tell you, it took me a good five minutes before I realized what’s out of place. I won’t tell you what it is yet, but I will tell you this: if you’re not sure you’ve found it, keep looking. You’ll know it when you see it and then you can’t see it any other way!
So, okay, okay, I can hear your thoughts: “What does this have to do with magic?” Well, this is a perfect example of our brain filling in what we expect to see. As humans, we learn about the world we live in and we condition our brains to expect certain truths and behaviors from our surroundings. As magicians, we strive to break those truths and behaviors in order to create moments of wonder and astonishment.
This is exactly what the people in this photo were trying to accomplish. I’m going to go ahead and tip the illusion now, so if you haven’t already figured out what’s going on in the photo, go back and re-examine it. Otherwise, read on. When you see a group of people sitting down, your brain automatically assumes that they’re sitting on something. They took advantage of that assumption when they staged this scene to create this subtle illusion of sitting without a bench.
What are some assumptions your audiences will have based on what they know about the world? When you place a card in the deck and then shuffle, that card is hopelessly lost. Metal is solid and cannot be easily bent. A solid object cannot pass through another solid object without damage to one or the other. Look for those places where people are conditioned to assume one thing and then shatter that assumption with something completely amazing and unexpected. After all, magic takes place in the minds of our audience.
Photo Source: What’s wrong with the teens in this photo?