Questioning Perception with Illusions

Can you spot the difference between the two pictures in the video above? Most of the packed audience at the “The Neuroscience of Illusion” event at the American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan couldn’t. What if we told you to look for something the men couldn’t leave without? Even with that clue, many attendees were still stumped. One women continued to struggle even when told to look for the man without a hat. If you’re like her and still confused, the engine of the plane is only present in one picture!

What makes it so hard to see what’s right in front of us? The audience’s response to the video illustrates that our field of vision, called the “attention spotlight,” is very narrow, said Apollo Robbins, speaker at the event. Called “The Gentleman Thief,” Robbins is a master pickpocket and illusionist who is said to have picked the pockets of more than 250,000 men and women. When we are focused on something intently, we may miss other important details. Pickpockets manipulate this shortcoming to divert attention and steal, he said.

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Society for Neuroscience posts conversation with magicians

During the Society for Neuroscience (SfN) meeting in
October, I reported
on the “Dialogues Between Neuroscience and Society” lecture, which featured
magicians Apollo Robbins and Eric Mead. SfN has now posted full video
of the magicians’ conversation with Susana
of the Barrow Neurological Institute in Arizona, who studies
the science of magic, and Tom Carew, the society’s outgoing president.

-Dan Gordon

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