Science fiction and fantasy
by Richard Wiseman
When it comes to fortune telling the author looks at the way we remember things selectively. We tend to hear whatever we find the most flattering, and filter out the rest. And when we hear a number of conflicting statements we are inclined to latch on to the accurate ones and forget the others. There's a handy guide to making vague statements and broadening out guesses so you can perform your own sham psychic readings.
This is a book full of charlatans. There's a brief history of spiritualism and the deceit of its founders, as well as a few people who claimed their tricks were the result of something more than practice and cunning sleight of hand. But the author concedes that paranormal experiences aren't always the result of an intent to mislead. People are inclined to believe the impossible due to everything from the tiny movements we make when we're thinking about things, to visual afterimages, or even a failure of experimental techniques.
The book ends with a handful of "superhero" tricks you can use to impress people with, using the principles discussed in the book. They're rather like party pieces, and that sums up the tone of this work quite well. It's entertaining and light, and it covers a wide range of paranormal phenomena in short, sensationalist anecdotes with plenty of pictures. Sleights of Mind covers similar ground in greater depth. Paranormality is highly readable and interesting, but it's an introductory version for readers new to neuroscience.
3rd May 2011
If you like this, try:Hallucinations by Oliver Sacks
The neurologist Oliver Sacks examines the varied reasons why people may sense things that aren't there.
Mistification by Kaaron Warren
His magic is real. But how long can Marvo the Magician keep everyone fooled with his illusions?
Sleights of Mind by Stephen Macknik and Susana Martinez-Conde with Sandra Blakeslee
This book explores the things magicians can teach neuroscientists about the way our minds work.
Review © Ros Jackson
Source: own copy
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