As those of you who have attended my programs in the last several years know, we explore in depth the concept and process of attention choreography. So it was fun to listen to an interview (Token Skeptic) of a magician this weekend and hear him use the phrase "attention choreography."
Anthony Barnhart, the interviewee, is an unusual magician in that he is finishing up his doctorate in cognitive psychology, and will be teaching an undergrad course this fall on the psychology of magic. (I have blogged about him before: Good magicians are masters at attention choreography: So are good mediators.) In case you are wondering why I think magic is an appropriate topic for a blog focused on the neuroscience of conflict resolution, listening to this interview of Tony will help to explain.
He will tell you that our senses are easily deceived and fallible, we can miss seeing what is right in front of our eyes, and expectations can greatly influence what we observe. Those phenomena can be very helpful to magicians but, on the other hand, can obstruct the resolution of conflict. If we can understand how magicians deftly fool us, we may be able to watch, maybe even reduce, the ways we—and our clients—are fooled.
In a nutshell, I think that conflict professionals can learn much about what happens in a dispute by learning about magic. As Tony explains, psychologists and neuroscientists have long recognized the knowledge skilled magicians have about how our minds and brains, and have been trying to mine that knowledge. So maybe it's time for mediators to look to magic, too?
There's much to get you thinking in Tony's interview. He looks at such questions as the relationship between intelligence and ease of being deceived, and why humor can play an important role in a magician's trick. Before you listen, make sure you have a deck of cards. Tony will demonstrate a trick with your deck.
To learn more about magic, read Sleights of Mind: What the Neuroscience of Magic Reveals about Our Everyday Deceptions, a book by two neuroscientists. You will run into Tony in the book, too!
Note: Click for previous posts about magic.