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#1
Old 01-26-2015, 10:12 AM
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How does this "mind-reading" trick work?

So I'm at a party recently, yes a bit mashed up and drunk. Guy's doing some jokes and tricks, and then says he can read minds and offers to do me. I'm sceptical of course, even in my state. The way it worked was like this:
He'd ask me a question, tell me I need to shout my answer in my head, he'd write down my answer, I'd write down my actual answer, and then repeat for the next question.
He did three questions, the last being a number guess - he told me to guess one of three. Once all three were done, the big reveal - compare the written down answers for all the questions.
The questions asked were of a simple "What's your favourite..." type. I purposefully chose uncommon answers, for example he asked my favourite make of car, I "thought" Maserati.
We did the trick twice, and both times he got the first two answers correct, and the number guess wrong. He'd said at the start that the number guess is often difficult and blurry. Ok whatever.

I'm embarrassed that I couldn't figure it out. Best theory I got is that maybe I was mouthing my answers unconsciously? I'm pretty sure I did tell myself at the start to keep my mouth closed.
I did kind of toy with the idea of messing about and "thinking" one answer and writing down something different (especially the second time around) but that seemed a little mean-spirited.

Any dopers know this trick?

Editing to add: once the answers were written down the papers (one answer per piece) were put down in front of us so there was no meddling possible

Last edited by Random Design; 01-26-2015 at 10:14 AM.
#2
Old 01-26-2015, 10:54 AM
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If you were a little more clear about exactly how the answers were turned up and compared, we could make a better guess.

But getting exactly two out of three right makes me strongly think that he's somehow swapping his or your supposed answers around. So, something like, he pretends he's writing down your car question answer first, but really he's writing down his number answer. Then he somehow gets a peek at what you wrote for the car question (either peeking at the paper, or looking at your hand while you write? Lots of possibilities), and writes that down while pretending he's writing an answer to the second question (favorite animal, say). Repeat the process so while you're writing down the number answer, he's writing down your answer for the animal question.

The then gathers up all three peices of paper, mixing them enough that you can't tell which was written first, and it looks like he wrote the correct answers simultaneously with you, when really he wrote them after you.
#3
Old 01-26-2015, 10:57 AM
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Just a few possibilities...

1) Did you really just pick a random answer to shout in your head, or did the "psychic" use any techniques to steer you toward certain answers?

I'm no magician, but one card trick I know involves picking a specific card out of a deck that someone in the crowd has "chosen." The trick there is to look at the card right at the bottom of the deck, and steer the chooser into picking THAT card, while making it seem as if that person is doing all the choosing. If all goes well, the person "chooses" the very card I wanted him to pick, and is astonished when I produce it easily.

2) Did the "psychic" use categories that people tend to pick the same common answers for?

To use one frivolous example, if you just ask a person "Name a color," there's a very good chance he'll say "blue." Ask him to name a vegetable, any vegetable, and he's very likely to say "Carrot."

Sure, there are exceptions, but most phony "psychics" have learned which answers people tend to give to such common questions. So... what WERE the categories for which he asked your favorites?

Last edited by astorian; 01-26-2015 at 11:00 AM.
#4
Old 01-26-2015, 11:03 AM
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I strongly suspect that the Quercus has the correct answer. He didn't get your last answer because he didn't write the answers in order. He wrote the number answer first picking a number that people frequently pick at "random", then when you were writing your second answer wrote your first answer, then during your third answer wrote your second answer. Comparing them he mixes them up and we see magically that he got two out of three, and if he guesses right three out of three.
#5
Old 01-26-2015, 11:06 AM
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Sort of. You lay down unconscious prompts, often rhymes. I remember a "trick" when I was little: you ask a series of questions with answers that end in -ost (ghost, roast, etc), then you ask, "What do you put in a toaster?" Kids will answer, "toast," which is wrong, the answer's "bread."

Did he say anything like, "Name a car; Chevy, Ford, Bugatti, whatever." That "led" you to rhyme Maserati with Bugatti?
#6
Old 01-26-2015, 11:23 AM
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Quote:
Sort of. You lay down unconscious prompts, often rhymes. I remember a "trick" when I was little: you ask a series of questions with answers that end in -ost (ghost, roast, etc), then you ask, "What do you put in a toaster?" Kids will answer, "toast," which is wrong, the answer's "bread."
Tricks like this one have about a thousand different setups, but the setup doesn't actually matter. All that matters is that you establish a rapid enough rhythm that the person doesn't stop to think before answering. No matter how you do that, the answer to "what do you put in a toaster" will usually be "toast". The word "toaster" is all the prompting the victim needs.

And I'm another vote that this was probably an off-by-one trick. Though usually those have a lot more than three questions, to make them more impressive. They also sometimes use a wringer for the first question, so as to achieve a 100% success rate.
#7
Old 01-26-2015, 11:36 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by astorian View Post
2) Did the "psychic" use categories that people tend to pick the same common answers for?

To use one frivolous example, if you just ask a person "Name a color," there's a very good chance he'll say "blue." Ask him to name a vegetable, any vegetable, and he's very likely to say "Carrot."

Sure, there are exceptions, but most phony "psychics" have learned which answers people tend to give to such common questions. So... what WERE the categories for which he asked your favorites?
This is amazingly predictable. If you ask a person to pick a number between 1 and 50, some really large percentage of people (I don't remember how many exactly, but close to half) pick 37, and there are just two or three other numbers that, along with 37, account for about 80% of people's picks. A "psychic" can steer people away from certain numbers by saying "pick a number between 1 and 50-- 28 for example." Now almost no one will pick 28.

In Grotonian's example "Chevy, Ford, Bugatti," you would not only be steered toward Maserati, but away from Chevy, Ford and Bugatti.

However, I concur that the answer is probably that he just wrote the answers in a different order and peeked. That's why the one where he had the best chance of getting lucky with a random guess was the throwaway question. With everyone, he gets at least two, and with one in three people, he gets all three.

The fact that you were drinking kept you from thinking to pose any conditions, like keeping your answers in your hand, or writing them all out at the end, none of which should have made a difference if he was really a mindreader.

Also, if he was really, truly a mindreader, he could have said "Your real answer is Nash, but you wrote Citroen." That's what it would have taken to impress me.
#8
Old 01-26-2015, 11:45 AM
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Quercus and Lemur866 are correct - it's an old trick. He asked you what your favorite car was, he wrote down something. What he wrote down his answer to the number question. You then said your favorite car was Maserati. He then asked your favorite breakfast cereal, and he wrote down "Maserati." You then said your favorite cereal is Apple Jacks. Then he asked the favorite number question, and he wrote down "Apple Jacks." At the reveal you just don't know what was written down first.

I have a friend in sales who used to do this trick at customer lunches. He'd be eating with three other people, and after they looked at the menus, he'd ask each one some unrelated question, and write down something on his business card. Then he'd have that person say what he was going to order. On to the next person, same thing. At the end, he'd say "I'm having the club sandwich" and write something down on a card. When the waiter came by he'd hand the waiter the four cards with each person's correct lunch order. Of course, he wrote down his order on the first card.
#9
Old 01-26-2015, 12:43 PM
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One other possibility-if he could see your hand moving when you wrote your answers, he could have inferred your choices by how your hand/fingers move. I often can note which multiple choice answer my students write down before I see what they wrote if I can see how their hand moved.

Last edited by John DiFool; 01-26-2015 at 12:43 PM.
#10
Old 01-26-2015, 01:03 PM
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I have a good friend who is an OB-Gyn. Whenever his patients learn that they are pregnant, he makes a big deal about guessing the baby's sex. Telling them that he's pretty good at guessing. He makes a big deal about waving his hands over the mother's tummy and then declares that it's a boy!. He even tells his patients that he's going to write it down in their chart so that they will all remember his guess. He proceeds to write down the date of the guess and then writes "girl".

Later on, if the couple finds out with an ultra sound or at the birth, whatever the sex is, he always says, "See, I was right!". If it's a boy, the family smile and agree remembering him declare "boy". If it's a girl, sometimes the parents will say, "No, you said "boy". My friend will pull out the chart with the notation of "girl", and tell them they must have mis-remembered it.
#11
Old 01-27-2015, 04:09 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Grotonian View Post
Sort of. You lay down unconscious prompts, often rhymes. I remember a "trick" when I was little: you ask a series of questions with answers that end in -ost (ghost, roast, etc), then you ask, "What do you put in a toaster?" Kids will answer, "toast," which is wrong, the answer's "bread."

Did he say anything like, "Name a car; Chevy, Ford, Bugatti, whatever." That "led" you to rhyme Maserati with Bugatti?
No, it was just "What's your favourite make of car?" There were no leads or attempts to seed my answer, as such. Only the number guess question was a choice of three.

As far as switching the written answers or copying mine, that wasn't possible - we only had one pen and he went first each time. After he wrote his answer it was placed between us. I placed my answer papers far away from his on purpose (as if that would change anything).

The only other hint I can offer is that there was another guy there who claimed to know the trick too, and after the car question he asked me if I'd chosen "Mazda", which is why I suspect it has to be lip reading somehow. Or my mind is just easily read.
#12
Old 01-27-2015, 06:25 AM
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Originally Posted by Random Design View Post
No, it was just "What's your favourite make of car?" There were no leads or attempts to seed my answer, as such. Only the number guess question was a choice of three.

As far as switching the written answers or copying mine, that wasn't possible - we only had one pen and he went first each time. After he wrote his answer it was placed between us. I placed my answer papers far away from his on purpose (as if that would change anything).

The only other hint I can offer is that there was another guy there who claimed to know the trick too, and after the car question he asked me if I'd chosen "Mazda", which is why I suspect it has to be lip reading somehow. Or my mind is just easily read.
Are you certain he didn't ask you for answers after each question was answered, only to compare at the end? Absolutely certain? (Because people tend to forget important details of tricks like this.) That's the standard version of this trick that I know.

For example, here is the standard way this plays out. It perfectly explains why he only gives you three choices for the number at the end, and why he was wrong both times (because the last question is the one the magician is actually guessing at when they write down their first answer.)

Last edited by pulykamell; 01-27-2015 at 06:29 AM.
#13
Old 01-27-2015, 06:48 AM
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Originally Posted by Random Design View Post
The only other hint I can offer is that there was another guy there who claimed to know the trick too, and after the car question he asked me if I'd chosen "Mazda", which is why I suspect it has to be lip reading somehow. Or my mind is just easily read.
Could they see even part of the pen while you were writing? "M" is pretty distinctive.
#14
Old 01-27-2015, 06:50 AM
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Originally Posted by SmartAlecCat View Post
Could they see even part of the pen while you were writing? "M" is pretty distinctive.
I'm guessing this isn't it, because then the number part of the trick should be easy. Have your mark pick from 3 numbers that are very distinctive in their pen strokes, and that question should be the easiest of the bunch to answer, not the hardest.
#15
Old 01-27-2015, 07:00 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Random Design View Post
The only other hint I can offer is that there was another guy there who claimed to know the trick too, and after the car question he asked me if I'd chosen "Mazda", which is why I suspect it has to be lip reading somehow. Or my mind is just easily read.
I think he was watching you write the answer, that's how Mazda guy was able to make his guess, he saw you write the M, but didn't realize you wrote more than 5 letters.

If he was doing anything like reading lips while you were thinking, there's no reason the number question (the last question) would be a "hard" one. If he's watching you write, the last question is going to be VERY hard, since he writes his answer first.
#16
Old 01-27-2015, 07:10 AM
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Originally Posted by Cheesesteak View Post
I think he was watching you write the answer, that's how Mazda guy was able to make his guess, he saw you write the M, but didn't realize you wrote more than 5 letters.

If he was doing anything like reading lips while you were thinking, there's no reason the number question (the last question) would be a "hard" one. If he's watching you write, the last question is going to be VERY hard, since he writes his answer first.
Ah, I missed that detail. If the magician is writing first (and they usually are in this trick), then my comment about the guessing the number being easy doesn't make sense, so scratch it.

Whatever is going on, it's clear to me that the first answer the magician writes down is the answer to the last question, the second to the first, and the third to the second. How he figures out what you wrote the first and second time is the crux of the question here.

Last edited by pulykamell; 01-27-2015 at 07:13 AM.
#17
Old 01-27-2015, 07:18 AM
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Originally Posted by pulykamell View Post
Are you certain he didn't ask you for answers after each question was answered, only to compare at the end? Absolutely certain? (Because people tend to forget important details of tricks like this.) That's the standard version of this trick that I know.

For example, here is the standard way this plays out. It perfectly explains why he only gives you three choices for the number at the end, and why he was wrong both times (because the last question is the one the magician is actually guessing at when they write down their first answer.)
You are correct, all this lip reading and looking at the pen nonsense should be ignored. This trick has been fooling people since Noah was a boy. I saw this done when I was only a kid, 60 years ago.
#18
Old 01-27-2015, 07:27 AM
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Originally Posted by Duke of York View Post
You are correct, all this lip reading and looking at the pen nonsense should be ignored. This trick has been fooling people since Noah was a boy. I saw this done when I was only a kid, 60 years ago.
Yeah, it looks like it's classified as a "one-ahead trick." If you Google that phrase, you can find various ways it can be done. The simple way is having your mark give the answers aloud to each question after it has been written down, but there are methods involving confederates and who knows what else. You can be creative with it, but the basic mechanic remains the same.
#19
Old 01-27-2015, 08:12 AM
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It was almost certainly the one ahead trick. As to how he knew what you wrote down, could he have been using something like this?

http://hugoshelley.com/magic/mindpad/
Quote:
Mind Pad 2 uses a powerful bluetooth transmitter to send drawings and text up to 100m away. When paired with an Android smartphone or tablet, everything written on the pad appears instantly on the screen.
#20
Old 01-27-2015, 08:17 AM
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Originally Posted by Chronos View Post
Tricks like this one have about a thousand different setups, but the setup doesn't actually matter. All that matters is that you establish a rapid enough rhythm that the person doesn't stop to think before answering. No matter how you do that, the answer to "what do you put in a toaster" will usually be "toast". The word "toaster" is all the prompting the victim needs.
I have had funny experiences with clairvoyants and Chronos is right on the buck. This method however fails horribly for non-native English speakers (like me) because I tend to think in my native languages and then translate. So for the toaster example, I will always reply bread. However, if you asked me "What do you put in a flour grinder" - I would say flour. (I know its not flour grinder but grain mill)
#21
Old 01-27-2015, 09:51 AM
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Once when I was in high school, I was the guy in the audience that the magician called upon. He asked me for a flavor of soda. I was quite intent on answering "sarsaparilla", but for some reason "root beer" is what came out of my mouth, and indeed that's what his guess was. I walked away convinced that he had somehow steered me into root beer, but I could not figure out how he did it. I really wished the whole thing had been taped so I could review it and see where the steering happened.
#22
Old 01-27-2015, 10:11 AM
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It sounds similar to a trick a teacher told me about that made her students think she was a mind reader.

She'd hand each student a quarter of a sheet of notebook paper and ask them to write down their name and favorite color. She then had them fold their answers in half and put them in a bag she passed around. She picked out the first one and said she couldn't read it. Then before she picked out the second answer, she'd hold her finger up to her forehead like she was receiving psychic signals and say "I see Charlie likes red." She'd then pull out the second answer and unfold it and show it to the class.

Actually, she read the first answer just fine. She kept that answer in front of her, repeated what she read while doing the psychic act, then pulled out the second answer and switched it with the first. She had the bag in front of her so the class couldn't see her switching. Then she'd remember the second answer she pulled out, say "I see that Lily likes yellow" and repeat the process.

That's the way to hide things in plain sight: make the setup and your actions look normal and use that to conceal the switch.
#23
Old 01-28-2015, 02:35 AM
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Originally Posted by pulykamell View Post
Are you certain he didn't ask you for answers after each question was answered, only to compare at the end? Absolutely certain? (Because people tend to forget important details of tricks like this.) That's the standard version of this trick that I know.

For example, here is the standard way this plays out. It perfectly explains why he only gives you three choices for the number at the end, and why he was wrong both times (because the last question is the one the magician is actually guessing at when they write down their first answer.)
All right, I think it must be a version of this one. Thanks everyone!
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