As promised, I’m emailing you with the details of my course on the psychology of magic. I’ve attached a flier that the department is using to advertise the course around campus, but I also wanted to provide you with a more specific description of what the course will entail. Here goes:
PGS 394: “The Psychology of Magic”
Recent years have seen a renaissance in the psychological study of magic. Famous psychologists around the turn of the 20th Century were keenly interested in using magic to study psychology. Alfred Binet (of IQ test fame) and Joseph Jastrow (founder of the psychology program at the University of Wisconsin) both wrote treatises on the psychology of magic. Unfortunately, the advent of behaviorism all but extinguished this field of study. Psychologists are beginning to once again see magic as a truly multi-disciplinary research interest that can be applied to the study of social, cognitive, educational, developmental, and possibly even clinical psychology. This course will provide a comprehensive overview of the newly-established “science of magic,” examining its implications across psychological subfields. Students will be introduced to some of the methods that magicians use to deceive their audiences and to the psychological tendencies and limitations that these methods exploit. Along the way, the psychological intuitions that magicians have derived through centuries of perfecting their art will be examined in light of recent advances in the experimental study of the mind.
This course was added to the books rather late, so I’m trying to spread the word so that it will fill up. Unfortunately, lots of kids have already registered for the Fall classes, so adding a course is the last thing on their minds.