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J Hist Behav Sci. 2008 Fall;44(4):319-34. doi: 10.1002/jhbs.20327.

From the stage to the laboratory: magicians, psychologists, and the science of illusion.

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Department of History, University of Guelph.


In 1894, French psychologist Alfred Binet published an article on the psychology of conjuring. By observing five magicians perform in his laboratory, he was hoping to gain a better understanding of the psychological processes responsible for inducing illusions in an audience. This article focuses on the subjects of these experiments and their world. It attempts to explain why five men belonging to a profession in which secrecy was vital agreed to enter the laboratory and reveal their tricks. It argues that magicians saw themselves as men of science and that, by entering Binet's laboratory, they were responding to an opportunity to participate in a world to which they wished to belong.

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