James Randi on Magicians and the Security Mindset
Okay, so he doesn’t use that term. But he explains how a magician’s inherent ability to detect deception can be useful to science.
We can’t make magicians out of scientists — we wouldn’t want to — but we can help scientists “think in the groove” — think like a magician. And we should.
We are not scientists — with a few rare but important exceptions, like Ray Hyman and Richard Wiseman. But our highly specific expertise comes from knowledge of the ways in which our audiences can be led to quite false conclusions by calculated means psychological, physical and especially sensory, visual being rather paramount since it has such a range of variety.
The fact that ours is a concealed art as well as one designed to confound persons of average and advanced thinking skills — our typical audience — makes it rather immune to ordinary analysis or solutions.
I’ve observed that scientists tend to think and perceive logically by using their training and observational skills — of course — and are thus often psychologically insulated from the possibility that there might be chicanery at work. This is where magicians can come in. No matter how well educated, or how basically intelligent, trained, or observant a scientist may be, s/he may be a poor judge of a methodology employed in deliberate deception.
Here’s my essay on the security mindset.