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Why we see what isn't there

Richard Wiseman

How to convince strangers that you know all about them:

First, choose area they like - if they are into astrology, ask them date and time of birth; if palm reading, look at their hands; or if they are sceptics, get them to draw pic of house.

Flattery: Start by telling them what they want to hear. They are well-balanced, caring, responsible, friendly, creative and kind.

Double-headed Statements: 'At times you can be imaginative and creative, but are more than capable of being practical and down-to-earth when necessary' 'You value a sense of routine in some aspects of your life, but at other times you enjoy being spontaneous and predictable.'to, but sometimes 'You can be outgoing when you want to but sometimes enjoy nothing more than a quiet night watching TV'

Keep it vague: (tell them it's sometimes hard to understand thoughts, so you'll need their help) 'I'm getting an impression of significant change, perhaps a journey or change in yr workplace'

Fish and Fork: it's impt to touch on a wide range of topics then change yr patter depending on the reaction you get. If subject responds, elaborate. If a blank stare, move on. Use THE SCAM to remember to cover Travel, Health, Expectations (about future), Sex, Career, Ambitions, Money.

Predict the Likely: say things that are true for most people 'I see you getting an award - you can still rem feeling of pride when yr name called' 'something happened abt 2 years ago, didn't it? A major change?' And age group concerns are quite predictable: young people concerned abt identity and exploring sex; mid-20's on worry more abt career and finances; mid-30's on usually child strains and stresses, 45+ health and whether relationship becoming stale.

Prepare Your 'Outs': imposs to fail because you can broaden yr statements ( doesn't apply to you directly, but to someone close like friend, colleague or relative) or you can broaden into past or future.

One common ghostly dream, more so in past, was of incubus. This was a demon who forces himself on sleeping women with his unusually large and cold penis (Merlin, the Arthurian wizard, was allegedly the result of one such encounter)The incubus lies on the victim's chest to prevent movement.

In fact, the sensation due to how our brain works during sleep. There are 5 distinct stages

Stage 1 when drifting off to sleep and brain still very active. Can manufacture bright lights and loud noises. Stage 2 29 min transition phase brain calmer but still spikes of activity. Stage 3 another 20 mins until enter deepest sleep in Stage 4. Then 30 mins in, REM and dreaming, during which 2 curious things happen. First, genital arousal for both men and women. Second, yr brainstem completely shuts down all physical movement. This is where the incubus comes in. You can easily 'break the spell' simply by trying t wiggle yr finger or blink.

Idea of 'agency': our brains work very hard to figure out reasons for everything; and we are very reluctant to think that events are meaningless.

Cults all have similar modus operandi. The first step is 'Foot in the door'where start with very small commitment and then gradually ratchet up involvement. Second step is to remove any dissenting voices from the group. Sceptics are driven away and the group is increasingly isolated from outside world. Then the cult leaders convince acolytes that they have direct access to od by performing apparently imposs miracles. Finally there is self justification, usually by putting members thru strange or humiliating rituals. The effect of these is to strengthen resolve of those who get thru them - I have to stay here bc I've put in so much effort.

Marian Keech sect Dec 1954 which believed there wd be a huge flood but they wd be saved by alien spaceship. When it didn't show up leader convinced them that world had been spared by their peity. People far rather come up with a silly explanation than change their cherished beliefs. Whereas before the group had stayed by themselves, afterwards they started an active campaign to spread their message. Trying to convince themselves that they were right by convincing others.

People have long believed that dreams cd forecast future. Aristotle considered it, but rejected on grounds that forecasts had to come from gods, and since many of people having dreams were commoners, gods wouldn't bother casting pearls before swine, so cdn't be true.

"Other than that, did you enjoy the play Mrs Lincoln?

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Martin Gardner thought expt. Imagine someone had found a river of wine, or invented a way of making an object float in air without power. How much wd you pay to see them? Yet a river of water is just as remarkable as a river of wine, and an object being attracted to the earth (by gravity) is no less remarkable than being attracted to the sky.

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