Impress your friends and terrify your enemies by pretending to read anyone’s mind. It’s not as hard as it looks — there are some well-worn tricks that can make you appear telepathic. Screw magicians and their lame fire tricks — we’re way more impressed with someone who can guess your favorite movie just by staring into your eyes.
We spoke with Las Vegas’ resident Mentalist Gerry McCambridge and he broke down the basic steps to wowing people with your powers of telepathy.
McCambridge, who has spent the last 7 years at The Planet Hollywood reading throngs of tourists, doesn’t just pull information from your brain — he’ll also tell you exactly how he got there as well. So we asked him to break down his methods step by step.
Select the right subject.
You can’t just grab any old victim for a good mind sucking off the street. Rather, you should select your prey delicately. McCambridge elaborates:
“Some people want to be the center of attention. So, if I’m asking for people to come up on stage a lot of times it’s those type of people. And they tend not to be the best assistants because they want to have their 15 minutes of fame at my expense. So I’m looking for people who may not come up on stage at the drop of a hat, but aren’t [so] overly shy that they’re going to stay in the audience. The first thing I’m looking for is somebody who is smiling and laughing at the jokes that I’m putting out there. There you have someone who wants to interact. Then you have the over-responders and that’s someone I don’t want necessarily right away. That’s what you look for first, the type person.”
Mirror the subject (make them comfortable).
Once you’ve snared your subject, woo them into a sense of security, by mimicking their ways.
“Make sure you try something that they are comfortable with. Do you have any artistic abilities? Then you can do something where you using drawing. You feel them out based on what you’re going to ask them to do. Then you use an NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) technique called mirroring. Where you get them comfortable with you by mirroring the way that they’re responding to you. People can pick up on that and they feel more relaxed around someone they feel is close to them. If they’re a shy person and you’re loud and obnoxious, they’re not going to feel comfortable standing next to you. If they are a little shy and you back off and act a little timid yourself, introduce yourself nicely, it puts everybody at ease.”
Know the statistics.
Know your stuff. In order to become an excellent Mind Reader, you need to up on the latest trends and tendencies of the mind. McCambridge has spent years documenting his shows, taking notes of the different ages of people in the audience, the cars parked in the parking lots, what kind of event it was. And he makes good use of all this statistical data.
“I know statistically how people are going to respond to certain situations. When I offer you a choice of 4 different objects I know 92% of the time you’re going to choose the third one on your own. When you tell someone to think of a number between 1 and 10, statisically they are going to gravitate towards 7. If you ask someone to respond to a question very quickly, that changes the response. If I asked you to think of a color very quickly 1, 2, 3 — red is the statistical first choice. Blue is the second choice. If you ask for a color quickly, people go for red. If you ask for a color and you give someone a three or four second space, they will go for blue, because they will change their mind thinking red is the obvious choice.”
Look for signs.
But you’ve got to be aware of basic responses!
“Look for reactions. For example [something I might try] is instruct the person to respond to what I say with the word no. No matter what I say, you respond with no. Then I’ll say think of a number between 1 to 10, and I ask is it the number 1? No. The number 2? No. We go through the entire thing with No and I tell them that it’s the number 6 because of the fact that they looked at me different when they were actually lying to me. They couldn’t make eye contact [or something similar to that].”
Utilize the body.
Learn the art of muscle reading.
“Without the people realizing it, I’m touching them in a very relaxed way that they don’t realize what I’m doing. Based on the questions that I’m asking them, I can tell what the answers are by feeling the difference in their muscles. You body echoes what your brain thinks. And I’ve learned how to pick up on the echoes. An example is I tell the person to think of a letter in the alphabet, and then the audience sing the Alphabet Song. By the time their finished I can tell what letter they have because the second the audience said their letter, their brain thinks to itself “that’s it!” That changes the physiological response in your body and I can pick that up, it’s different than the other 25 letters.”
Don’t be afraid to admit failure.
If you fall flat on your face, pick up and try again. The audience will love you even more for it.
“[If the trick doesn’t work] I usually try it a second time. If it’s an important part of the show I may send the person back to their seat and say, ‘OK let’s try something else.’ There is no sure-fire way, things go wrong, it actually adds more credibility to the show when the audience sees that sometimes it fails. What a mentalist does, it doesn’t always work, and that’s OK. “
The easiest trick in the book.
We’ll tell you the name of the trick after you do it, because it spoils the reveal!
- Pick a number between 1 and 10.
- Multiply it by 9.
- If it’s a 2 digit number, add them together.
- Now subtract 5.
- Map the result to a letter of the alphabet, where A=1, B=2 and so on.
- Think of a country which begins with that letter.
- Take the second letter of the country and think of an animal which begins with that letter.
- Think of the color of that animal.
Are you thinking of a grey elephant from Denmark?
Obviously this is titled the Grey Elephant from Denmark. We tried this on 3 people in the office and, one out of three guessed Grey Elephant. Our suggestion, do it in big group and the odds will be in your favor.
By Meredith Woerner / io9.com