In the prior article, Hocus pocus focus, we introduced the concept that magicians and presenters have commonalities. In this article, we begin explaining that concept.
When people watch magicians perform, they see the manipulation of cards, billiard balls, silk handkerchiefs, and other paraphernalia. With trainers, they see the manipulation of logistics, electronic media and classroom materials. There is a level of manipulation that neither audience sees: the performer’s manipulation of the audience. Consider the magician. The extraordinary effort that the magician puts into directing the audience’s attention is hidden from view. The audience sees magic: the magician sees deception. Likewise, the best trainer takes constant care to hide the class mechanics from view so that the trainees can focus on learning. The trainee sees illumination: the trainer sees controlled sequences. The trainer must influence the trainee’s mind in order for learning to occur.
Both magician and trainer must use two fundamental principals to manipulate the audience: direction and suggestion. The story that opened this article made extensive use of both principals. Let’s look at that story again. Only this time, we will examine the illusion from the magician’s point of view.
Hocus Pocus Refocused.
The magician, stands center stage as various assistants enter and exit.
The first time a spectator sees an assistant enter, they notice. They may even notice the second entrance. But soon, the comings and goings become routine, and no longer warrant attention. They become invisible. The magician directs attention away from these entrances, suggesting their lack of importance.
Usually a piece of exotic apparatus is introduced.
The box is not the focus of this illusion, the upcoming switch is. By directing attention towards the box, the magician directs the spectator’s attention away from the various personnel on stage. The magician suggests the box is important. This false focus makes the switch a total surprise.
The story line calls for the magician to don a hood. He does so, as do his assistants.
No magician wants to wear a hood. It’s hot, sweaty and unattractive. The nature of this illusion is a switch, and a switch cannot occur if the magician is easy to spot on stage. The magician dons a hood so that the switch can occur, but audience knowledge of that purpose would telegraph the illusion. A story line that suggests a logical explanation is invented for the hood.
The magician grabs the leading lady by the arm and places her, usually bound, into the apparatus and locks it shut. The assistants make a great show of tying ropes around the box.
The ropes are inconsequential as a barrier to escape, but important as a directing tool. They play no role in the illusion, except to suggest that escape is impossible. In addition, the rope by-play allows the leading lady time to escape her bonds, take off her outer layer of clothes to reveal an assistant’s costume and hood, and slip out a trap door in the back of the box. As the last of the ropes are tied, the leading lady, now dressed as an assistant, exits stage left with the other assistants, who are by now not important enough to watch, as the hooded magician directs attention to him by walking towards the audience.
Once the box is thoroughly tied, the dancers strut around the stage. They turn the apparatus side-to-side and end-to-end as the magician walks around the box.
With all the whirling, twirling, circling, and strutting, it is had for the spectator to remain focused on the critical details. There is just too much stimuli directed at them. At this point, while the spectators are in stimuli overload, the magician boldly walks toward the wings.
When the box stops turning, the dancers prance around it.
The alluring dancers direct attention away from the magician, who, having reached the wings, exits stage left. At that precise moment, the dancers execute their most provocative dance step. Almost immediately, the leading lady enters from the exact area where the magician exited, and by manner of walk and attitude, suggests that she is the magician.
At an appropriately suspenseful moment, the box is opened. Surprise. It’s empty. The magician takes his hood off. Surprise. It’s the assistant.
The suggestion is that the switch occurred at that instant. Of course, the switch is minutes old, but, because the magician purposely directed their attention away from the critical events, the spectators completely missed it. They now begin focusing on possible solutions for the switch, but it is too late. The trail has already gone cold. Besides which, their attention is about to be directed away from the puzzle with an even more enticing stimulus.
But where’s the magician? At this moment, the magician appears, to the breathless amazement of the audience, at the back of the theater and run down the center isle of the theater. He runs to the stage and receives a well deserved round of applause.
To the spectator, the switch is made all the more miraculous by the appearance of the magician at the back of the theater. The unstated suggestion is that the magician has just now magically appeared at the back of the theater. A closer look would reveal his fast breathing. For, he has just run all the way around the theater. But the magician isn’t the only one gasping for air. The audience has been left breathless.
What seemed like a true miracle was accomplished through direction and suggestion.
In the next article, Hocus pocus focus part three, we will overview each of these fundamental principals in turn beginning with direction, and examine the ways they relate to the learning environment.