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  Magic, Bayes and wows: a Bayesian account of magic tricks

Grassi, P., & Bartels, A. (2021). Magic, Bayes and wows: a Bayesian account of magic tricks. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, 126, 515-527. doi:10.1016/j.neubiorev.2021.04.001.

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Grassi, PR1, 2, Author           
Bartels, A1, 2, Author           
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1Department High-Field Magnetic Resonance, Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Max Planck Society, ou_1497796              
2Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Max Planck Society, Spemannstrasse 38, 72076 Tübingen, DE, ou_1497794              

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 Abstract: Magic tricks have enjoyed an increasing interest by scientists. However, most research in magic focused on isolated aspects of it and a conceptual understanding of magic, encompassing its distinct components and varieties, is missing. Here, we present an account of magic within the theory of Bayesian predictive coding. We present the “wow” effect of magic as an increase in surprise evoked by the prediction error between expected and observed data. We take into account prior knowledge of the observer, attention, and (mis-)direction of perception and beliefs by the magician to bias the observer’s predictions and present a simple example for the modelling of the evoked surprise. The role of misdirection is described as everything that aims to maximize the surprise a trick evokes by the generation of novel beliefs, the exploitation of background knowledge and attentional control of the incoming information. Understanding magic within Bayesian predictive coding allows unifying all aspects of magic tricks within one framework, making it tractable, comparable and unifiable with other models in psychology and neuroscience.

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 Dates: 2021-042021-07
 Publication Status: Published in print
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 Identifiers: DOI: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2021.04.001
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Title: Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews
Source Genre: Journal
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Publ. Info: New York [etc.] : Pergamon
Pages: - Volume / Issue: 126 Sequence Number: - Start / End Page: 515 - 527 Identifier: ISSN: 0149-7634
CoNE: https://pure.mpg.de/cone/journals/resource/954928536106