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A message from magic to science: seeing how the brain can be tricked may strengthen our thinking


Österblom, Henrik; Scheffer, Marten; Westley, Frances R; van Esso, Miguel L; Miller, John; Bascompte, Jordi (2015). A message from magic to science: seeing how the brain can be tricked may strengthen our thinking. Ecology and Society, 20(4):16.

Abstract

Scientific discoveries rely on creative thinking, and several authors have explored similarities in and differences between creativity in the sciences and that in the arts. Here we explore possible ways in which science can learn from the arts, focusing specifically on experiences derived from the art of magic and on the limitations of human cognition. Generations of stage magicians or “illusionists” have made sophisticated use of the weaknesses in human systems of perception and interpretation. We highlight three important principles of magic tricks, including: (1) the audience see what it expects, (2) it is blind to all but the focus of attention, and (3) ideas spring predictably from a primed mind. These principles highlight a number of important tendencies, which we argue are shortcomings in the ability of scientists to perceive the world, and which scientists need to be aware of. Consciously addressing these shortcomings may help scientists improve their creativity, and will strengthen their capacity to address complex and global challenges.

Abstract

Scientific discoveries rely on creative thinking, and several authors have explored similarities in and differences between creativity in the sciences and that in the arts. Here we explore possible ways in which science can learn from the arts, focusing specifically on experiences derived from the art of magic and on the limitations of human cognition. Generations of stage magicians or “illusionists” have made sophisticated use of the weaknesses in human systems of perception and interpretation. We highlight three important principles of magic tricks, including: (1) the audience see what it expects, (2) it is blind to all but the focus of attention, and (3) ideas spring predictably from a primed mind. These principles highlight a number of important tendencies, which we argue are shortcomings in the ability of scientists to perceive the world, and which scientists need to be aware of. Consciously addressing these shortcomings may help scientists improve their creativity, and will strengthen their capacity to address complex and global challenges.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies
Dewey Decimal Classification:570 Life sciences; biology
590 Animals (Zoology)
Language:English
Date:2015
Deposited On:05 Feb 2016 14:06
Last Modified:08 Dec 2017 18:03
Publisher:The Resilience Alliance
ISSN:1708-3087
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.5751/ES-07943-200416
Official URL:http://www.ecologyandsociety.org/vol20/iss4/art16/ES-2015-7943.pdf

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