Understanding Misdirection - 
A Litmus Test for Magicians

Understanding Misdirection – A Litmus Test for Magicians

Every trade demands a certain skill of its practitioners and in addition to lending a certain charm to the profession it also separates the experts from the average and the novices.

In magic, this requisite assumes the form of misdirection.  For a magician, grasping the essence of this technique is all that stands between unlimited success and dismal failure.

Imagine you are a magician and have embarked upon a career of showcasing magic tricks in front of a sizeable audience.

Misdirection is probably one of the first terms that you would have come across where professional jargon is concerned, and is an aspect that you would need not just to familiarise yourself with but gain mastery over too.

Misdirection is simply the art of distracting the audience so as to enable magicians to conduct their secret moves stealthily. But is it only about distraction?

Understanding Misdirection

As successful magicians would tell you, there is much more to misdirection than simply drawing attention away.

For example, part way through your act, you pull out a brightly coloured scarf or point towards the ceiling with such a flourish in your voice and your gesture, that barring a few exceptions no-one can resist looking in that direction.

So all that you have done is effectively redirected almost everyone’s attention to a point away from where they might have been previously focused on.  In such a situation, what about the few exceptions in the audience who refuse to become distracted and even follow it up with an all-knowing look and smile?

This is where your expertise at carrying out the misdirection stands tested. If you have truly understood the concept, researched it, and worked towards it, then you will be successful in deceiving one and all without exception.

How would this be accomplished?  Fundamentally, you should trick people in such a way that they are not aware of having been tricked and do not realise until it is too late.

From all this, a point that emerges is that misdirection is not only about shifting someone’s gaze to another point, but is a culmination of many other factors. That is fundamental to understanding misdirection. 

To be able to misdirect successfully, it is imperative for the magician to be well-versed with the way people think and behave, namely human psychology and its affect on their behaviour.

It is equally important to be aware of the reaction that different colours invoke in onlookers, and the emotions that they trigger.  This knowledge is instrumental because it would enable the magician to employ the right colour at the right time to achieve the desired results.

Also inherent to misdirection are the concepts of logic, scepticism and suggestion wherein the magician can drop in a suggestion to divert everyone’s mind, plant the seed of scepticism by expressing a doubt and encourage their spectators to deviate from what is logical.

Mind you, the most effective way of using these tools entails a liberal dose of subtlety so that it seems to be a natural part of speech rather than a masked attempt at deception.  

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