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How Mentalists Read Minds 

What is a Mentalist?

How mentalists read minds. A mentalist is a broad term used to describe someone who performs impossible feats of mind control for the purposes of entertainment. They are also known as a mindreader or psychological illusionist. A mentalist uses a combination of psychology, magic tricks, neuro-linguistic programming, sleight of hand, showmanship, and pseudo-psychology to create an environment where it feels like they are able to influence your behaviour and access your thoughts.

When you see a great mentalist perform, they will layer combinations of the above methods. This makes it very difficult for audiences to attribute a rational explanation to what they have witnessed.

Psychological illusionist | Mindreader

How do Mentalists read minds?

As a close up, stage and virtual magician and mind reader, I am regularly asked “how do you read minds?!”.

I have had CEOs, scientists, lawyers, and politicians sincerely ask me “why don’t you just go and win the lottery?”. It sounds absurd but when performed properly, mentalism may impact an audience so profoundly they lose perspective of the fact it is just entertainment.

The truth is, there is no such thing as mind reading!

Spoiler alert!

Anyone who tells you they can read your mind, access information inside your head, or predict what is best for your future is telling you a lie.

In the decades of extensive research on mentalism and mind readers, there is not one case study in support of anyone possessing anything that cannot be explained by solid scientific reason.

James Randi was a keen debunker of those claiming to have supernatural powers. He was so confident no such thing existed that he famously launched his $1,000,000 paranormal challenge. In short, those who claimed to possess genuine powers of influence, telepathy, or clairvoyance could take part in a challenge. Randi would devise this challenge specific to that individual and their “gift”. Should they be successful in fooling him or demonstrate something that could not be rationally explained then they would, you guessed it, win $1,000,000! There was not a single individual who successfully claimed the prize from the James Randi Educational Foundation.

Where Does that Leave Us? 

The significant difference between a magic trick and mentalism is that a magician demonstrates something we know to be impossible, whereas a mind reader demonstrates something extremely improbable.

I know the above sounds counterintuitive, but hopefully, the following will clarify the latter of these statements. If a magician walks on water, that is impossible, not improbable – therefore our mind is able to gently attribute what we have witnessed to trickery.

However, if I tell you the name of someone you are thinking of, that is highly improbable but not impossible. At a stretch, I could have guessed, or maybe I overheard you talking earlier.  Perhaps I am just able to pick up on signals that others cannot. 

You can quite clearly quantify the difference in how audiences respond to the two experiences. In a magic trick, an audience will say “how did you do that”, compared to a mentalism trick where they will say “how did you know that”.

It is a subtle but important distinction.

The former suggests that they know shenanigans have occurred, whereas the latter implies something inexplicable has occurred.

Would You Like to Know More?

My bread and butter remain perfuming as a mindreader and magician. I even do this on platforms such as Zoom (a daily staple in any working environment). As such, I may be transported into your office space either virtually or in-person with a simple push of a button!

Please do hesitate to get in touch!

Mentalism in Magic and Entertainment

So, what sort of tricks might you expect a mentalist to perform?

There are really two types of effects which mentalists or mind readers perform. One where they show you they know what you are thinking and one where they predict what you are going to say.

Obviously, this is simplifying matters dramatically as there are literally thousands of presentations and permutations when presenting a mindreading trick.

As I have detailed in my blog: story is everything.

Regardless if the person is a tremendous magician or a superb mentalist, the trick itself should be secondary compared to the compelling story which keeps us engaged.

How Mentalism Works 

Thus far I have avoided getting into the specifics of how mentalism works and how mentalists read minds.

Whilst I do not intend to reveal my act (or anyone else’s for that matter), I would like to offer some food for thought that will hopefully give you enough of a steer that you’ll feel a little more informed should anyone try and pull the wool over your eyes.

Do not trust anyone that claims that they are the real deal.

Mentalism techniques

Forced Thought – in this example, the mentalist makes the spectator select a specific bit of information before unleashing their performance skills to deliver a compelling reveal. A skilled performer will make this “choice” feel like a totally free one.

Thought Theft – here a performer shall deploy a conjuring technique to gain access to the information that a person has shared in some capacity. If done well, the participant should have no idea that this has occurred.

It’s getting hot in here – the technique known as hot reading is when a magician observes a bit of pertinent information they know to be true by researching audience members or listening for any information which may have been leaked. To that respect, they are coming in hot as they know the info will be a hit.

Barnum Statements and Cold Reading – Barnum statements are a well-documented tool for those claiming to be psychic or clairvoyant, but we magicians and mind readers use them as well. They capitalise on statistical likelihoods as well as broad statements that apply to everyone – although they may feel extremely personal.

To the person reading this blog:

I feel like you are less extroverted than you let on. While everyone may describe you as happy, you find yourself struggling more than those around you might know. I feel like, at times, you are lacking direction and are not entirely sure whom to turn to for help. I believe you have a scar on your left knee and I am also getting the letter J as having a distinct meaning in your life.

Why does mindreading work?

If the above felt remotely meaningful or insightful, I sincerely apologise. How mentalists read minds can often feel deeply personal.

After all, every one of us is struggling, all of us feel that we are lost at one time or another and walk forward through life unsure of how best to proceed. Most people have a scar on their left knee and the letter J may or may not be important to you – that was what we call a hit or a miss. If I got that last bit of information right, then I’ve got you!

If I didn’t, it doesn’t matter.  I will eventually land on something specific.

We are all compelled by a need for belonging.  We all want to relate. On the whole, people want to feel connected so they bend the rules to make this information appear meaningful to them in some way or another.

My brother- in-law is called J, my Dad is called Jim, this week I watched Jurassic Park – I will eventually find some meaning attached to the letter.

For example, a spotter outside might have seen a young couple park their car and have an argument. The performer could use that information to their advantage. 

Are Magicians and Mind Readers the Same Thing?

In a word?  Yes.

If you are deciding whether to hire a magician or mentalist, the likelihood is the person you hire does both.

There is a long-standing argument between pure magicians and pure mentalists (not to be explored here). They argue that you must be one or another, not both. For me, those arguments are taken on by individuals who would rather argue about semantics.

Audiences are not pretentious to think about it like this. Just because you successfully performed a magic trick, it does not mean you would not be capable of reading someone’s mind.

Of course, it goes without saying, a magician performing a mentalism trick poorly may be blood-curdling and excruciating.

Personally, I have loved featuring both magic and mentalism in my close-up magic and within my stage productions. Over many years I’ve never found an issue with the two existing side by side.

How do Magicians Read Minds?

So hopefully now you have acquired a solid understanding of how a mentalist operates and what mentalists read minds.

Whilst I haven’t given you a play-by-play breakdown of the secrets of mentalism, hopefully, you now possess a solid foundation behind the subject.

Is there a particular face that comes to your mind when picturing a mentalist?

Hire a mindreading magician today!